Are you rearranging your sock drawer?

Have you noticed that when you are facing a big challenge, your productivity plummets? Let me give you some examples.

  • In college, finals week was the time I’d choose to catch up on all my laundry.
  • When I’m about to start a new project, the first thing I need to do is switch my task management software.
  • With the deadline for a big deliverable looming, I will frequently decide it’s time to get to “inbox zero.”

Why does this happen?

When I have something significant to accomplish, why do I focus on trivial things instead?

When we’re faced with a significant task, there are two counterbalanced forces at work. The positive feelings of accomplishment and competence coupled with your drive and desire to get it done are pressing against our fear of failure, the uncertainty of imagined rewards, and our limited energy and focus.

These counterbalanced forces make achieving a simple, straightforward task with zero risks (like laundry) seem extremely attractive. Low effort but high likelihood of an endorphin payoff? Sold!

But avoiding that risky thing isn’t getting us closer to our mission. It’s not making our life any easier either.

What to do.

So if you find yourself with significant work on your to-do list that keeps getting pushed back, you’ve got to do something different to keep you out of your sock drawer and focused on your life’s work!

You can:

1. Increase the certainty of the reward.

  • Find a group of peers with common challenges who can cheer you on.
  • Get feedback on rough drafts from a kind audience.
  • Create a clear vision for how completing this task will benefit you, your clients, or your community. How is it helping you to move your mission forward?

2. Decrease the effort required.

  • Break up your project into smaller sub-projects. Commit to working on it for 10 minutes.
  • Eliminate distractions. Take your writing project to the library and leave your phone at home.

3. Get help!

  • What could others do for you so that you can stay focused on the most important tasks?
  • Where is there a community that can provide feedback and cheer you on?

How do you stay focused on your mission when there are a million distractions? Hit reply and let me know!

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