Task Chains: A Way of Speeding Up Your Tasks

Task chains are a simple technique. Their objective is to optimize your time, efforts, and motivation. It's a method whereby you can circumvent those obligatory and annoying activities that you have to carry out.
Task Chains: A Way of Speeding Up Your Tasks
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 09 May, 2022

Task chains help you organize your work, hence you get it done faster. They’re particularly useful for carrying out tasks that are a nuisance or, for some reason, you tend to resist. For the same reasons, this method helps you avoid procrastination.

However, task chains aren’t a way of making radical changes to your tasks, that’s not their aim. Task chains only help you make some tasks easier and save you time with certain activities. They’re not exactly a life-changer but they’re handy in certain instances.

As a matter of fact, task chains are useful for introducing new habits. The idea is to identify and join together the small actions you have to complete to adopt your new habit and assume them as a single activity. Let’s take a  look at this in more detail.

Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.”

-Richard Branson-

Man looking for information on cognitive ergonomics at work
Task chains help beat procrastination.

Task chains

A task chain comprises a series of activities that are grouped and linked in order to create a fixed sequence. It’s as if each task were a link that joins with other links and subsequently forms a chain. The idea is that these tasks should always be carried out in the same order.

How does this technique work? Well, as you know, there are always monotonous, boring, or irritating tasks that take a great deal of effort. For example, paperwork or organizing your accounts. However, by bundling those activities into a single chain, you avoid having to repeatedly overcome your resistance to them.

There are also activities that you have to do every day and that aren’t particularly pleasant. For instance, leaving your workplace clean and tidy at the end of the day. By making chains of tasks with those activities, you introduce what’s known as ‘productive inertia’. In other words, momentum kicks in and one activity follows on from the other, and so on.

There are also certain activities that you have to force yourself to do. For example, difficult or complex tasks, or the adoption of new habits. If you tie these activities into fixed sequences, it’ll be far easier to start and finish in less time and with less resistance. This also helps you to stop procrastinating.

How to make them

To design your own task chains, you first have to think about your routines, with a paper and pencil to hand. You must then identify those tasks that you find really boring, or you always tend to postpone or forget. You should also think about the activities that you’d like to start doing and that aren’t currently in your daily routine.

Once you’ve identified the situation, moment, or place where you want to introduce a chain of tasks, specify the links. For example, if you want to apply it to the daily arrangement of your workplace, think about the sequence of actions that this requires. For instance, collecting the papers, storing them in a certain place, collecting the other supplies and putting them in their place, cleaning, dusting, etc.

You determine the order. Ideally, you should also define a precise time. If you only need to carry out the task once a week, choose the day that works best for you. In the example above, we took a simple task chain, but you can also do it with two or three activities. For example, doing your daily self-assessment, sending all your pending emails, and arranging your desk.

woman writing
The first step is to identify the links in the chain so that they can then be linked and carried out.

Using task chains

The essence of task chains is to form blocks of analogous activities and carry them out sequentially, in such a way that you manage to mechanize them. By automating these actions, you’ll avoid exerting yourself.

In addition, and this is the most important thing, you won’t have to repeatedly motivate yourself to carry out those tasks that are annoying or boring for you. In fact, you’ll optimize them and leave yourself more energy to carry out other activities that are more interesting or that require more attention.

Ultimately, task chains involve introducing positive automatism in activities that allow or even demand it. You can start with a task chain for some of your really simple activities. If it works for you, you can then apply it to others and start making the most of your productive inertia.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Pazmiño Ostaiza, J. L., & Benites Arias, J. C. (2022). Procrastinación, el problema del nuevo mundo.
  • Socorro Llanes, R. (2012). Optimización del uso de pivotes en tareas de búsqueda y clasificación.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.