The difference between a habit, a plan, and a task

I know it seems obvious. A habit is… well, a habit, something you do regularly. A task is one small thing you complete. And, a plan is something you make to get more stuff done. Right? Maybe.

I have had a task on my TO DO list for about four months. It’s one of those tasks that keeps getting pushed back every time it’s due. The task was to plan to start having a regular devotion time with my family. Do you see the problem? I had a task to make a plan to create a habit. Every time the task would come up as due, I wouldn’t know what to do about it or how to make that plan, so I would just push it back another week.

Then, the other day as I was unproductively pushing back my task (to create a plan to create a habit), I realized something. I should just create the habit and be done with it. And, that is what I did.

As much as I think about habits, productivity and the like, I didn’t realize that I had taken what should be a simple habit and made it into something complicated. Unfortunately, I think this is pretty common. So, it’s helpful from time to time to think through what should be a habit, a plan and a task. Here are a few examples of things that I can see getting confused:

  • I want to declutter my house. Best to create a habit. No complex plan needed here, just create a habit to spend 10 minutes per day decluttering and it will be done in no time.
  • I need to get my oil changed before this trip. This is a task, it’s a single time event because it’s before a specific trip.
  • I want to rotate my tires every 5,000 miles. This is a habit, every time you see your odometer roll over a numeral of 5 it’s time to change the oil.
  • I want to clear out my garage and have a garage sale.  Time for a plan. There are a lot of moving parts to a garage sale, so a good plan will help you execute well.

Sometimes what should be a habit gets assigned as a task, or worse, sidelined into something that we need to “plan” and then never do. Often these aren’t things that need to be planned out in detail; we just need to decide to set a habit and do it.

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