One of my favorite writers is Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits fame. I recently read his piece on productivity and staying focused, and he used a term that I hadn’t used before: Most Important Task, or MIT.
I’ve always been pretty resistant to this kind of thinking, since one of my favorite methods of productivity is what I call the “snowball” – I do something fairly easy, and I ride the wave of my success by getting other, harder things done. However, the truth is quite the opposite: having an MIT selected, and focusing on it for a set amount of time seems to be the best way to start a day well and get going on something difficult.
So how do I identify MITs? I pick based on a few elements. The first one is time sensitivity; if it’s a small or large task, if it is the next thing that needs to be completed, that makes it super important. I tell my students all the time that “good enough and on time” is better than a hypothetical perfect thing that you will turn in late. Expectations go through the roof when you are late, and usually whatever was not ready at the deadline was still not ready after.
My next criteria is how it contributes to something difficult or important: with my writing work, I sometimes have harder assignments that are longer and more complex, as well as assignments that are about topics I really believe in rather than more generic content. I try to prioritize my meaningful, long-form work over my more day-to-day writing tasks; writing blog posts is sometimes my first MIT of the day. This goes for any kind of work, however; we all have those big-picture things that we know will take our strength and problem-solving. Tackling one of those face-on at the beginning of the day does wonders for the rest of the day’s productivity.
So here I am, saying what today’s MIT is: I’m writing a magazine article, and I need to get it finished so I can move on to other work. What’s yours, and how will you make sure you get it done first thing today? (Feel free to read up on Zen Habits for suggestions!)