Bob Galen: A pious reply to his son’s heresy


Last week I shared some thoughts about how tasks can be oppressive. My dear father, an inveterate list-maker and task-completer, emailed me this thoughtful reply.

Dear Jer,

You challenge the Task Model with a concise, rational and appealing argument. You ask, “isn’t life little more than the sum of the tasks you complete?” Further, you say, “tasks are pragmatic because they can be completed. And people clearly derive satisfaction from completion.” People aren’t the only ones.

If you came from an Abrahamic religion and have the Old Testament as your theoretical framework of life, you can’t help but notice, in the very beginning of this Holy Book, that according to Genesis, God had a list to work from and it was very clearly spelled out in terms of what would be done and in what order.

In fact, God derived so much satisfaction from completion of all the tasks that s/he called the final day Holy. Now if you follow this framework, you no doubt will recall that God said, “Let us make a being in our image, after our likeness, and let it have dominion…” Thus God created us in the divine image. So who are we to challenge this model? To make lists of tasks and complete them and derive satisfaction from their completion? This is embedded in our very DNA and divinely inspired!

All that said, I have to agree with your three elegant corollaries. Tasks not only feel oppressive, they are oppressive. The list most certainly breeds all sorts of counter productive neurotic behavior. It is actually worse than you can imagine! What to do to change this is a non-trivial task. For example, when I awoke this morning and had coffee, I reviewed my flip chart (see above) and the first item on the list for today was “reply to Jeremy”!

So there you have it, now what do we do?

Have a nice weekend,




Now read this

Thoughts on “Over-Thinking”

Courtesy of Gabriel Schama If momentarily granted dictatorial control over parlance, the first phrase I’d eradicate is “You’re over-thinking it.” It’s a vile phrase. In most contexts it amounts to little more than a verbal tic, a way for... Continue →