The Difference Between a Habit and a Task
Here’s a helpful distinction. When is something a task, and when is it a practicing a habit?
The first thing to understand is every small action we take is a task. From brushing our teeth, to taking out the trash, to writing a thesis… all are either a task or composed of tasks.
Taking out the trash might decompose into one task (take it out). Writing a thesis might be composed of 438 tasks (write an outline, draft first paragraph…etc)
A habit is an enhanced task. It comes with intentionality. It is the result of someone seeking change in the world or in their world.
A task that is a habit might be small, especially if one is trying to implement or install a new habit. It might be doing one minute of meditation or working on your novel for 30 mins.
A regular task is best managed through a to-do system, like a check list or an app like Todoist or a OmniFocus. Do the quantifiable thing, check the box.
But a habit is best managed by a system like Jerry Seinfeld’s don’t break the chain system. In this system, Jerry writes a new joke every day and marks off the day on his calendar. After that, it’s a matter of not breaking the chain.
If you do break the chain? If you miss a day? Start a new chain and move on like nothing happened. This is different than a run of the mill task because I don’t need to practice jazz guitar every day. I don’t need to read. My life will continue without these habits. But if I don’t turn in that report or schedule that meeting, I might lose my job or my customer’s trust.
A quick way to remember: habits are things you want to do, things you want to integrate into your life as second nature; tasks are things you have to remember to do. Roughly.