“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task” (William James).
ALL OF US SUFFER FROM TASK-RELATED FATIGUE, BUT THE INTERESTING THING IS THAT MOST OF OUR FATIGUE COMES FROM UNFINISHED TASKS. Emotionally, we exhaust ourselves with the weariness that comes from putting off our tasks until tomorrow.
Strictly defined, a task is simply a piece of work that one must do. But we normally think of tasks as unpleasant work or work that we don’t want to do — and those are the tasks we procrastinate.
Yet very few tasks are inherently unpleasant. They’re only unpleasant because we make them so; having erected mental barriers against them, they are unwelcome. But if we looked at our tasks in a more positive light, we would find them less tedious. “The difficult tasks to be performed are not the ones that mean physical and mental labor, but the ones that you dislike, or the ones that you do not love. There are unpleasant angles to nearly every important job to be done in this world, but there must be an overall love for doing each, else precious time and effort are uselessly wasted” (George Matthew Adams).
One of the best gifts we can give to those around us is learning to have a brighter, more grateful view of our tasks. As Helen Keller expressed it, “This world is so full of care and sorrow that it is a gracious debt we owe to one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks.”
But how do we learn this way of thinking? We do it by connecting our tasks to our vision in life. If there is any task that duty calls us to complete, then that task is linked, however remotely, to our purpose in life. To finish that task is to take one step toward our vision, and truly, there are no small steps if they are connected to our reason for living. This point was captured beautifully in the inscription on an eighteenth-century cathedral in Sussex, England: “A vision without a task is only a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, but a vision with a task is the hope of the world.” There is, indeed, no limit to the energy that can be unleashed by putting ourselves into our tasks.
“Set me a task in which I can put something of my very self, and it is a task no longer; it is joy; it is art” (Bliss Carman).