Productivity for Writers, Time Management

Repeaters and Completers

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:

Repeaters and Completers | Pauline Wiles

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.

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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.

Conclusion:

  • 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!


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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    Hilary S
    March 27, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    This is an interesting way of viewing tasks and I’m certainly conscious of the depressing effect of repeaters where you don’t seem to get anywhere with them and the satisfaction when you complete a task. Does achieving an empty ironing basket count as a both?😉

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      March 28, 2019 at 3:32 pm

      Ironing is definitely a repeater, but you’re right, we can get satisfaction from both types of task!

  2. Reply
    April J Harris
    April 8, 2019 at 3:45 am

    I love this concept, Pauline! I’ve never thought of repeaters and completers in this way, but this is so true! I feel empowered to ease off a bit on my repeater tasks now so I can actually get on with the completers (something you already know I have issues with!). Thank you so much for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. It really is incredibly helpful!

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      April 8, 2019 at 6:12 pm

      So glad this is a useful distinction for you, April. Yep, those repeaters can definitely undermine valuable progress with completers!

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