Have you ever stopped to consider your to-do list in terms of one-off items which are a stepping stone on the way to a goal, and recurring tasks which don’t necessarily move you closer to an outcome? In other words, which are repeaters and which are completers?
I adore this concept and few people I speak to have heard of it. So, since I’m constantly referring to this split, here’s a dedicated post on the topic. To be clear, I didn’t coin this term, but despite repeated searching, I can’t find who did. So we’ll just carry on regardless, with this adapted excerpt from my book Indie With Ease:
What are repeaters?
A repeater is a task which, no matter how many times you do it, will need doing again. Most household chores fall here: laundry, ironing, cleaning, grocery shopping. But so do posting on social media, checking your website analytics and updating your book sales figures.
What is a completer?
A completer, on the other hand, is done once, or at least only once in a long period of time. So buying a house, writing your will, or painting your bedroom would all count as completers in my mind. Likewise, buying a domain name, setting up an email newsletter opt-in page, and pressing publish for your book are specific, finite tasks.
Why does the distinction matter?
It’s often the case that higher value tasks are completers, while repeaters have less value, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Healthy habits are definitely repeaters, but they clearly move us toward important long-term goals. However, it does seem that many adults find it more rewarding to work on a completer (example: finalize a book cover design) than a repeater (example: do laundry because your toddler threw up again).
How can the difference help with productivity?
If you feel you have too much going on, take a careful look at your repeaters. These might be your low value, dispiriting time sucks. And usually, if you delay a repeater, it will wait until you’re ready. If you skip pulling weeds in your garden this Saturday, I’m pretty sure they’ll be waiting there for you next weekend instead. Many of us set standards for how often a repeater needs to happen but, if we’re brutally honest, we could get by with a lower frequency. You might not want to compromise with how often you put fresh sheets on your bed, but perhaps you could get away with only sporadically dusting the tops of your picture frames.
- If in doubt, skip a repeater.
- Try to work on at least one small completer each day.
- Limit your time on repeaters and/or work on them when your energy is lower.
I’d love to know which repeaters are on your list and how you choose to contain them!