Aspects of Task Completion

What are the aspects of a task that make it more likely to be completed?

  • Effort involved: An easy task is more likely to be completed. Make tasks as easy as possible.
  • Uncertainty: Tasks whose progress is predictable are more likely to be completed, than those that have unknown components in them.
  • Benefit gained: This is a complicated aspect. The benefit may be long or short term. In general, tasks with higher benefits, and in particular, those with short-term benefits, are more likely to be completed.
  • Habit: If a task becomes a habit, it is completed more often. Else, it is liable to be forgotten.
  • Sessions required: Tasks which require only a single session, as opposed to those spread across multiple sessions. One tends to lose focus over time, forget the task, etc.
  • Cost of non-completion: This is a very important aspect. If there is an immediate cost of non-completion, it is more likely to be completed. However, if the cost of non-completion is gradual, then it is likely to get postponed immediately.
  • Uniqueness: If a task is unique, then it is more likely to get completed than one which is repeated. A friend’s marriage happens only once, but visiting his home for lunch can be done anytime.
  • Novelty: If a task is boring, you may want to skip it.

These aspects can be used to design mechanisms to make tasks more complete-friendly. For example, a one time task, such as fixing the cupboard door does not have an immediate cost of non-completion. Hence this will be postponed indefinitely. Reduce the uncertainty involved by gathering information and the tools required, schedule a single sitting to complete it, and associate a reward with it.


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