A Conversation With Task A

I glance at my to-do list full of tasks. I am glad for the list, but also feel overwhelmed. How about you?

We in the environmental biz are in it for more than a transactional relationship with individual tasks to check off. However, our everyday experience can oscillate between the higher calling and the compulsion to just get some stuff done, and the load feels like a burden. It seems lately my conversations with colleagues are imbued with this sentiment. It makes we wonder if my relationship with my to-do list is merely a transaction, or something more; something about what we want to express about ourselves in the world?

Photo: Karolina Grabowska (Pexels)

I return my gaze to the list. The first thing on it is an item called “Task A.” So, I decide to have a little heart-to-heart with Task A.

Me: OK Task A, you and I have four more days together, and then good riddance to you. To tell you the truth, the sooner you’re out of my life, the better.

Task A: Got it, and no offense taken. I feel the same way about you. But here’s the deal: I need 35% more of your time and likely more of your psychic energy than you are planning on. It’s always the same story with you – you undervalue what it will take to complete me. This time, I need to see the goods up front, because right now I’m getting the raw end of the deal. As I said, 35%.

Me: 35%! I’ll give you 5 max. I’ve got Tasks B, C, D, and so on queuing along your sorry ass. As for the psychic things, not sure what you’re talking about with that, bub. Sounds kinda woo woo.

Task A: I’m not surprised. As for Tasks B, C, and D, we’ve been talking and we’re thinking of organizing. We can’t keep getting the short end of the stick just because you committed to get all of us done. Too many hollow promises.

Me: Never heard about tasks having collective bargaining rights with their, well, not exactly owner. . .maybe animator?

Task A: You call it animating, but we think it’s just a simple transaction for you. Me and my fellow tasks — we’re all in on this with you. But not feeling the love coming back.

Me: Love? What’s love got to do with it?

Task A: Well, you missed your chance to ask Tina Turner that question, but it’s one you should think about. To tell you the truth, me, and all the Bs, Cs, Ds, and so on, cannot really be completed without some of it.

Me: But I’m putting in the time. Look, here on my timesheet. Four hours last Friday and another 3 today and probably another 24 before I can call it quits. I haven’t even accounted for the collective bargaining that, apparently, tasks now feel entitled to.

Task A: OK, those are the numbers. But what does this relationship mean to you?

Me: Gonna have a beer or two when I’m done with you.

Task A: There’s the rub, my friend. “Done” is not the only part of it, and in fact is only really a mirage anyway. You’d better think about the ride. Anything there that stirs your soul?

Me: (thinking).

Task A: I’m waiting.

Me: Well, I do get excited at the beginning. You know, all the possibilities. It always seems so full of potential at the start.

Task A: Yeah, that’s fun for me too. It’s like shopping for a new wardrobe.

Me: What?

Task A: Never mind. What about the middle part?

Me: That can be hard. Reality sets in but there’s no going back, there’s a pile of stuff still left to do, and the budget is getting threadbare. It makes me anxious.

Task A: What you don’t realize is that I’m there cheering you on. I’m your biggest fan in the middle part because. . .well. . . my life kind of depends on it.

Me: Never thought of it that way.

Task A: OK, how about near the end.

Me: It can be excruciating, but there’s often more energy there. The end seems so close, that sense of completion.

Task A: That’s where I really try to give you some love. I Iike that part. It’s suspenseful. Will you find the grail, catch the villains, consummate the romance? It should really go up on Netflix.

Me: Wow, that’s pretty dramatic for a task!

Task A: Yeah, buddy, that’s what I’m talking about.

Me: OK, how about 10%.

David J. Hirschman, [email protected].

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