Monday Motivation: Doing Your MITs First!


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!)

5 Comments, RSS

  1. 10centsofdates October 30, 2017 @ 8:10 am

    Exactly what I needed to read this morning. I am newly managing a guy with wandering focus. This may help.

  2. teacherturnedmommyblog October 30, 2017 @ 8:17 am

    I see both sides of this and I believe it depends on the situation. When it comes to simple things like say cleaning the house, I try to do the easy things first to click down the list to a more manageable list. But, when it comes to more complex tasks I try to do the most important things first because typically the other items fall into place from there.

  3. My Way Home Life October 31, 2017 @ 3:32 am

    I generally tend to follow the “snowball” approach as you said, but when writing deadlines approach, I have to set that aside and use the MIT approach. If I REALLY need to get something done, it must be the absolute first thing I do when my feet hit the floor in the morning–sometimes even before breakfast!

  4. Faith October 31, 2017 @ 11:54 pm

    The snowball approach usually leads to too much procrastinating for me! I think that once I snowball everything will happen faster than it really does and I’ll be the epitamy of success, whereas I should really focus on an MIT and force myself into something. Great introspective post!

  5. Cindy Anderson November 1, 2017 @ 9:57 pm

    I really like this term, MIT. I will have to remember that one. I like to do the hardest tasks first. That way when I get to the easy ones I almost feel like I am being rewarded. 😊

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