Suppose that your job is an academic, then you may need to: 1. perform the research, 2. apply for a research grant.

The tasks of the first kind contribute directly to your becoming a better researcher. The tasks of the second kind have to be performed otherwise you will not have funding to conduct the research, however, applying for a grant does not make you a better researcher, hence acts more like a distraction than as a relevant part of your research.

What are the names for the first and second kinds of activities? I thought of words: 1. main, 2. support. However, these two words are only a bare extraction of the meaning to be expressed, moreover their meaning may be even misleading in the context I descri

  • 1
    1. core activity, 2. paperwork
    – some user
    Nov 25, 2013 at 7:48
  • Goal tasks & Enabling tasks: 'otherwise you will not have funding to conduct the research,' makes the task 'apply for a research grant' contributory/ supportive to research, though in a secondary/ indirect way, it's not a 'goal task', but an 'enabling task'.
    – Kris
    Nov 25, 2013 at 8:21

2 Answers 2


I would describe them as:

  • I'd say ancillary task rather than role, with an ancillary role being e.g. that of office admin staff who don't do the primary business of an organisation, but are vital to it getting done. That said, definitely a +1 for ancillary. Informally, some ancillary tasks get called housekeeping, but not all, and ancillary remains the formal word to use.
    – Jon Hanna
    Nov 25, 2013 at 10:29

Another word which may be of interest is 'perfunctory', meaning that you carry out a task without real interest, feeling or effort. Because a task is ancillary to your main one doesn't necessarily mean you carry it out in a perfunctory manner. However the PO's mention of the second task being 'more like a distraction' did lead me to think that 'perfunctory' might be the word they were looking for in this case.

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