How to Manage Your Recurring Tasks

Recurring tasks consume more time than it might seem at first glance. However, if you stop doing them, they cause you problems. How can you deal with these kinds of chores without wasting too much time?
How to Manage Your Recurring Tasks

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 15 November, 2022

Recurring tasks are those that are performed on a routine/periodic basis. They’re the kinds of activities that must be done but aren’t particularly rewarding. Nor do they tend to be connected with the most creative or decisive aspects of work or life. However, if they’re not done, they do have an effect.

Much of your daily life is populated by recurring tasks. For example, dressing, bathing, brushing your teeth, etc. They’re activities that you do every day and that might seem insignificant. Nevertheless, if you were to miss any of them out, there could be important consequences.

In reality, you’re almost never aware of what the recurring tasks are that you must perform. You’ve mechanized them and, therefore, you perform them automatically on a daily basis. You’re not even sure how long they take and you probably haven’t figured out if there’s any way you could manage them better.

The more tasks you can set and accomplish later, the better you’ll feel and the more momentum you’ll give your life. That’s how you go from ‘procrastinator’ to ‘actuator’.

-Emily Dumas-

Woman washing her face
Recurring tasks often become automated in our daily lives.

Recurring tasks

The concept of recurring tasks isn’t always clear. They shouldn’t be confused with typical tasks which are normal work activities. For example, for an accountant, they’ll involve the updating of records. In the case of an attorney, they’ll be reviewing files or attending hearings. These activities are repeated because they form part of their basic daily work routines.

There are three characteristics that differentiate typical tasks from recurring tasks:

  • Recurring tasks are predefined. This means that they’re part of a method that’s been established in advance. They’re fixed parts of a larger machine.
  • They have the same content. What needs to be done is always the same or almost the same. They’re routine tasks.
  • They’re periodic. They have to be done regularly, at fixed intervals. This might be daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

Some examples of recurring tasks in the home would be paying bills, cleaning the house, shopping for groceries, etc. At work, it would be matters such as daily or weekly planning, putting files in order, delivering reports at the end of the month, etc. Each job or profession has its own routines.

Manage recurring tasks

The first step in managing recurring tasks properly is to identify them. It’s highly likely that a good part of them will go unnoticed, except for the fact that they’re time-consuming. Later, you find yourself asking where did the time go? Or, you wonder why you never seem to have any free time.

What you need to do is first make a list of recurring tasks, whether at home or work. Once you’ve finished, classify your tasks by periodicity. Eventually, you’ll have a group of daily tasks, another weekly, another monthly, etc.

Once you’ve completed this step, assign yourself specific days, times, and dates to carry out these tasks. They should be as fixed as possible. The idea is to mechanize them as much as possible so that you don’t have to think too much about them. It’s all about saving time.

Associate and process

Ideally, your recurring tasks should be linked to each other, so that you get the most out of your time. For example, you might want to assign a specific day to everything that corresponds to cleaning. Include those cleaning tasks at home and work. Try and make it a day when you’re feeling a little tired, like a Friday.

It’s also worth analyzing the recurring tasks that take more time. Is there any way to simplify them? Can any be deleted or made a part of a larger activity? Is there a way of making a template that allows you to organize the activity more successfully and make it easier to carry out?

You should try and systematize your recurring tasks as much as possible. A good technique for achieving this is to dissect the activity. Work out what steps you must complete to carry it out. By outlining your tasks in this way, you’ll be able to discover new ways of carrying them out, thus saving time. The problem with recurring tasks is that they tend to override reflection. For this reason, you end up repeating actions, without asking yourself if there’s an easier way to do them.

You can find many programs for organizing and managing recurring tasks on the Internet. In these programs, the tasks that remain outstanding are usually visible and marked in another color. This visualization means you don’t overlook them. They can also help you design more effective strategies to manage them.

Man working on the computer
In many cases, recurring tasks can be systematized to save time.

It’s all a matter of habit

Research conducted by Dr. David Neal of Duke University (USA) concluded that at least 40 percent of the activities that are carried out on a daily basis are habitual. These include recurring tasks. This is helpful because your brain has a limited capacity. Moreover, it looks for ways to save energy and routines are a good way to do it.

The key is to design smart routines and turn them into habits. If your recurring tasks are structured as automatisms, with hardly any reflection required, you can mechanize them. So, you should analyze the tasks that you must do repeatedly in the same way, but introduce a method that’s reasonable and practical to carry them out. This achieves two objectives. Firstly, you leave your brain alone to dedicate itself to something more meaningful. Secondly, you save time.

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