Checklist and Fitness Tasks

There are two types of tasks in the world: checklist tasks and fitness tasks. The key difference is whether you can be done.

checklist tasks

You can be done with these! Once you are done you can stop thinking about them forever! Some examples:

Video game speed runs and Guinness world records are exhibition spaces for checklist tasks. If you set the world record for finishing Mario 1, you could walk away and never play Mario again but you still did the task.

fitness tasks

These you are never done with. There’s no end point, you can just be better or worse. Some examples:

The Olympics tests fitness tasks. It doesn’t matter if you threw a discus super far once; you have to do it during the competition. Performances also showcase fitness tasks: I don’t want to go see a juggler who juggled 7 balls once; I want to see the juggler who is good enough at juggling 7 balls that they’ll do it for a paying crowd.

Checklist tasks are about doing a thing. Fitness tasks are about becoming a person.

this matters because childhood doesn’t prepare you for fitness tasks

As a kid, you almost don’t have any fitness tasks! Arguably school tests are fitness tasks (you have to know math very well, not just be able to accomplish a math thing once) but in practice they almost act more as checklists. (tests become more take-home or open-book, or reward one-off studying.) All your assignments are certainly checklists. You can pretty much get through school and even college only being good at checklist tasks.

There’s maybe even a bias against fitness tasks! I remember in high school gym class we were tested on how well we could do the thing (e.g. how well we could throw a football, if we were playing football), and I thought that was so unfair1. In retrospect, it was just a rare instance of testing fitness tasks.

but fitness tasks are more important for life

Look at those example fitness tasks above! These are most of our life’s work! Maybe one key skill of being an adult is learning to be good at fitness tasks. Learning to do something that you can’t complete; learning to take on tasks that you’ll have to work on in some form for your entire life and not just be overwhelmed by their enormity.


  1. well, the specific tests were indeed unfair, because our teacher was an idiot. In one example, we had to shoot free throws and our score was our percent made; 3 people in the world could get as high as an A-. Another example involved bowling with a cheap plastic ball and pins. Though, we did score ourselves, so maybe they were good opportunities to learn when lying was ok and good. ↩︎


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