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Getting things done, even the ones we dread
How a shift in perspective can free us from inner struggle.
I have a long list of tasks I need to complete.
There are fun, challenging, and exciting tasks, and then those that bring on the dread. Let's call them unwanted tasks. The very thought of working on those tasks brings dark clouds and amplifies my procrastination.
Sometimes I can get my tasks done quickly, and it feels terrific, but there is always that one unwanted task that I keep pushing off. I keep delaying it as if it will magically disappear. I try to ignore it and not think about it, but the task comes right back. I justify not spending time on it, but unfortunately, the unwanted task won't disappear.
Days go by, and the unwanted task remains undone, constantly being pushed aside, delayed, and ignored.
The unwanted task finally receives my attention. At the last minute, I end up working on the unwanted task I have been procrastinating on for so long. I don't particularly appreciate working on it, but the work must be done.
That was my old approach to working on tasks.
Now, whenever I am starting to ignore a task and feelings of resistance and procrastination show up, instead of ignoring it, I imagine it is something I love to do and can't wait to work on it.
As a result, I move the unwanted task up in my list and work on it with a joy that was not there before.
I learned this approach from Sam Harris in the Waking Up app, who said this about the approach:
"At some point today, It's likely you will think of something you need to do but don't want to do. Something that is nagging you. An email you need to write. A conversation you should have with someone in your family. A houshold chore you have been putting off. You'll recognize that you really need to do this thing but for whatever reason you have actullly been avoiding it. The moment something like that occurs to you, just race toward it and resolve to make it the clearest experience of the day. The instant you think of some necessary thing that you have been avoiding, greet it like a precious object that you feared was lost. And give it your fullest attention." - Sam Harris - Waking Up. Listen to the mindfulness moment
What if we rushed toward the unwanted task and worked on it with all our hearts and mind?
At work, my dread comes on when I need to work with PowerPoint. So I tested out this approach at work. I needed to make changes to a deck, and as I thought about spending time in PowerPoint, I began to dread the work. Right then, I remembered the message from Sam Harris and changed my perspective to look at the task with joy, as if that was my favorite task for the day.
Lo and behold, as I started working on the task, I realized that I enjoyed it and even went into the zone. I know this all sounds strange, but it worked. I was surprised at how effective it was.
What if we looked at our unwanted tasks with a renewed perspective and valued them instead of running away? How would that feel?
That is a great way to look at tasks, experiences, interactions, and anything we are not looking forward to. Why not change our perspective and enjoy what we will either way?
If we change how we look at things, we can learn to love them.
As with meditation, any object intensely focused upon can be an opening to reverie. Everything depends on the quality of attention that we can apply to our perceptions. The humblest expressions can be a source of insight and wonder. - Shaun McNiff, author of “Trust The Process”
A shift in mindset is what we need to keep resistance and procrastination from showing up. If we look forward to doing even the unwanted tasks, we can complete those tasks and move on.
As with many of our inner challenges, our perspective matters. The way we look at things matters. A simple shift in perspective can help unlock and unblock us from procrastination, indecision, and dread so we can finally get things done.
What do you think about this approach? Please let me know if you try it out; I would love to hear about your experience.
Till next time, stay strong!