What do you call that thing?

Naming the goals & tasks that matter most.

We have all kinds of language to talk about business and career outcomes — goals, tasks, assignments, stakeholder, objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), just to name a few. Yet when it comes to our aspirations outside of work, we’re left with terms like to-do, chore and duty to label our various goals and tasks. (Raise your hand if you are also guilty of saying the phrase “parenting duty”.)  

Let’s face it: when you’re busy, the words might not matter as much as taking action. We’ve been there ourselves. We also know how important clear communication is to any working relationship and to achieving the outcomes. Just think of how much weight the business world puts on terminology, documentation and interpersonal reviews! 

So when it comes to our non-work lives, it comes down to “tasks” and “goals”. Task is a great descriptor of the finite to-do items on our plates, things like running to the post office or completing insurance enrollment forms that make up a good portion of the mental load. Then we have our goals, like finding a new job, planning a family vacation and turning the basement into a home gym. These goals are the outcomes of a series of related, additive tasks. 

And if we don’t know what to call them, can we effectively communicate the what, why and how?

The words do their job, but we lack a good term to encompass both goals and tasks. Think about your big aspirations, those ambitions that often lack a clear beginning or end like being a present parent or making more environmentally responsible choices. While these are technically goals accomplished by a series of tasks, we don’t talk about them in that way in reality. And if we don’t know what to call them, can we effectively communicate the what, why and how? No wonder they get lost in the shuffle across urgent to-do items and more tangible goals. That doesn’t mean they should be destined to languish at the bottom of our priority list. 

Because if we can name these, we can better work with the people in our lives to make them happen.

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