How the theory of “tasks to be completed” can change so much

Original author: Chris Bailey
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We continue to acquaint you with translations of Chris Bailey's articles in which he shares the tips he learned during the “a Year of Productivity” project . Previously, we published articles by this author, they are available on our blog in the section " personal productivity ".

So, give the floor to Chris!

Today we would like to talk about the theory of “tasks to be completed” by Clayton Christensen and how this helps to make sense of our own lives. Indeed, an understanding of the benefits that these or other actions that you perform can bring you, and the purpose for which you perform them, will help you to realize your own life and, as a result, increase productivity.

Theory (with examples)

In her Life Strategy book, Clayton Christensen talks about his own theory of “tasks to do.” According to this theory, when a consumer (like me or you) buys a product, he does it to perform a specific task or work.

The theory says that the seller should present his product in such a way that the consumer can clearly see the ability of the product to perform the necessary task; then the product will directly meet the needs of the consumer and will be sold even more successfully. Christensen cites a fast food company selling milkshakes as an example.

“The company began by segmenting its market both by product (milkshakes) and by demographic characteristics of the consumer (in the seller’s view of a typical buyer of milkshakes). Then the marketing department turned to people who were in the target segment for demographic reasons with a request to list the characteristics of an ideal milkshake (thick, liquid, with slices, uniform, fruit, chocolate, and so on). Future customers gave as honest and accurate answers as they could, and the company reacted accordingly. But alas, sales of milkshakes have not increased. ”


Instead of trying to make the milkshake even tastier, Christensen's team advised the company to position the product according to the task that it should fulfill: make travel more enjoyable. Milkshake began to supplant other food products due to its ability to maintain a fresh taste for a long time (therefore, it is very convenient to buy with you on the road). Sales increased dramatically after the company introduced the “morning cocktail, which has become even thicker (in order to be better preserved during long trips) and tastier (thanks to pieces of fruit).” When they presented their product in accordance with the task that it should perform, sales simply skyrocketed. If you are trying to increase sales of your product, make sure that it is in demand in the market,is no longer relevant .


Dutch Boy is an example of another company that has made changes in the positioning of its product in accordance with the task that it must fulfill.

How theory works in practice

I firmly believe that a person can benefit from the fact that he will question various aspects of his life. After I learned about the existence of the above theory more than a year ago, it made me think about a number of aspects of my life, as well as about the tasks that they perform for me. Ultimately, I think that you yourself must determine what aspects of your life you should think about (and the decision about whether you should think about anything at all should belong only to you).

Here are some of the considerations that have helped me change some aspects of my life; I hope they help you too!

For what task do you need social media?

Only with a good understanding of the task for which you need social media, you can understand: does the actual use of these services coincide with your intentions. For example, do you use Facebook to stay in touch with your relatives and friends, and ultimately end up looking at photos of attractive girls you were unlikely to know for at least an hour or two?

That was one of the main reasons why I deleted my Facebook account; I discovered the following: it is highly doubtful that I use it to perform useful tasks. I recently opened a new Facebook account in order to stay in touch with volunteers and campers for children and adolescents affected by cancer. Now I use Facebook exclusively for this purpose, and kindly reject friendly requests from friends who have nothing to do with this activity.

In the same way, I use my Twitter account primarily to maintain and develop new connections around the world with those interested in Buddhism and meditation. Although some of my friends (from real life) follow me on this service (I'm not sure that I understand why some of them do this, because Buddhism and meditation are not in their sphere of interest), I consciously try not to change the subject of my messages in order to meet their expectations. After all, I use Twitter to perform other tasks.

What are you using your phone for?

I use my iPhone to perform a wide range of tasks. This (in random order): a tool for working with text messages and e-mail, a device for video games, a scheduler, a calendar, the ability to log in to Twitter and Facebook, a photo / video camera, an MP3 / audiobook player, as well as a tool for budgeting.

Realizing that I use the phone to perform a wide range of tasks, I chose a more advanced tariff plan and bought a new phone, offsetting the costs with a less expensive tariff plan for the Internet. In the end, I use the phone to perform a very wide range of tasks, so why not improve this tool?

About the next experiment, when Chris used his smartphone only an hour a day, read here .

Why do you need a girl / boyfriend?

This question may seem a little strange: shouldn't you love your soul mate? Should they be treated as a means to an end?

Yes, of course we all know the right answers, but there is another reason why my girlfriend is in my life. I know that I do not need her to pay rent for an apartment; she is, above all, my love. Understanding this fact allows me to focus on really important things, and not on those that are not very important for our relationship. Understanding this fact also indicates to me what I should spend my time and attention when it comes to our relationship.

And vice versa, realizing why she needed me, I discovered for myself that we can develop our relations even deeper. Why do you need a soulmate? What about the family? What about brothers and sisters? Why do they need you?

Why are you going to work?

No, the world will not explode if you answer this question. Do you only work to pay bills? To help people? In order to change a situation?

Analyzing the tasks and the reasons why you go to work, you will have to abstract a little to see how it fits into the overall picture of your life. If you need it in order to receive a salary, does this work cope with its task? If you are building a career in order to help people or change something in the world, does it cope with its task? Or maybe it is worth finding another job so that she begins to cope with her tasks even better?

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