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When I make task lists, some tasks are important, some tasks are urgent, and some are neither. I need a word to describe tasks that are not urgent, not so important, but can't be ignored because they really do need to be done at some point. Like filing of personal papers, or cleaning the windows.

I wish to emphasize these are tasks that aren't urgent enough to be called urgent or important enough to be called important; but they are not so little of either that I can just forget about them.

I'm also looking at maintenance task, filler task, staff task, or housekeeping task.

Note: The kind of task I'm talking about may be a prerequisite for some other task, then again, it may not be. Prerequisite status is on a different axis than urgency or importance; although if it is a prerequistite for something else, it has to have at least as much importance, urgency, or necessity as its postrequisite, and therefore might no longer be able to be described by the kind of word I'm looking for.

(As I usually do, I will wait 24 hours before selecting an answer to give enough time for everyone to respond.)

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8 Answers 8

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I am editing my answer to be more appropriate:

You might consider saying side tasks, Macmillan defines "side" as:

less important or less central

Also minor tasks, which are "comparatively unimportant" (M-W), and its synonyms might do: (synonym.tech)

I particularly like trivial tasks. Cambridge defines "trivial" as

having little value or importance; easy to solve

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  • 'Accessory tasks' gets too few hits on Google (and some in scare quotes, some non-relevant) to qualify as an answer on a site devoted to standard usages. It's not good to cite strings which aren't idiomatic as if they were. Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 17:50
  • Ok, I will edit.
    – fev
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 18:20
  • Yes, a lot more hits for 'auxiliary tasks' and even at least one definition, showing a move towards compounding. Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 19:01
  • The OP did not say anything about the tasks in question being parts of some larger process; for all we know many of them may be stand-alone tasks.
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 22:05
  • "Auxiliary" implies it's assisting with a more important task, which isn't really the case with a standalone task like cleaning the windows. Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 7:33
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They're tasks that are put on the back burner.

Back burner [noun]

a condition of low priority or temporary deferment (usually used in the phrase on the back burner):

  • Put other issues on the back burner until after the election.

[Dictionary.com]

The noun has been verbed, and attributive usages are quite common, for example:

  • At Trump-Kim summit, human rights is a back-burner issue.

[APNews, 2018]

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  • This is great. Just check the examples if you want to improve your comprehension: examples from lengusa. Just one question, is this related to hob ? Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 15:03
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Chore

What you have described fits the definition of a chore. This is defined as:

A recurrent and tedious task

[The Oxford Reference Dictionary 1986]

When I think of window cleaning, filing and other such necessary but non-urgent tasks, I think of them as chores. They have a way of piling up!

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  • 6
    I don't think chores are necessarily non-urgent. On the contrary, in fact.
    – user405662
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 21:55
  • In addition to there being urgent chores, its may be that some of the tasks that the question is about are, in fact, pleasant, in which case one wouldn't call them chores. Calling something a chore has more to do with its not being intrinsically rewarding than with how urgent or important it is.
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 22:12
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    It may be an interesting fit: The OP's examples are chores perhaps not coincidentally. Many chores have this characteristic: You can postpone them, but not indefinitely. Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 8:41
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    @user405662: "Cleaning the windows" is never urgent, IMHO. "Chore" fits well for OP's description. Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 10:56
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    Chores are more usually those tedious jobs that have to be done, but are regarded as pains.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 11:17
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A routine task is not urgent or important, but still must be completed.

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Idiomatically, you might simply describe such tasks as being on the list, or (in relation to a list held personally) on my list.

The implication being that you are aware of them and they are at least important enough to record, but that they are amongst many other tasks on a list, and will only be dealt with in turn, or at an unspecified time later.

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Since Conrado didn't make his comment an answer let me jump in because I think it's a good suggestion. It is a computing term describing a long-running program fragment which is paused when more important code is ready to run. Both priority and task are, of course, much older than electronic computing, so the expression is readily understandable in any context. By applying this computing metaphor to our household it has come full circle:

Low-priority task, or short low-prio task.

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A nagging task is a task that's not so urgent but still needs to be done, otherwise it will keep coming back.

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  • Hello, and welcome to the EL&U. Your answer can be improved by providing a dictionary definition or an instance from a reliable source. Thus, other users will profit more from your input.
    – fev
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 12:45
  • I couldn't find a dictionary definition, though it's a widely used term on the web. A source example is found here stating "It’s usually a one-off task that isn’t urgent but still finds itself onto your checklist" Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 12:47
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Busy-work

Busy-work could apply. It generally specifies work or tasks that are beneficial, productive but not seen as important or urgent. It can also convey unimportant, so take care. Cambridge lists a few example uses.

While he waited, he organized his files. The busywork helped take his mind off the terrible events of the past few days.

The big automakers are reluctant to lay off engineers during downturns and tend to give them busywork.

Students say that the program allows for too many open-ended questions on exams and that many assignments amount to busywork.

Some of the policy procedures are seen as busywork and cause resentment among the staff.

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  • Busywork usually implies that the tasks are not particularly beneficial or productive; the quoted examples confirm that.
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 17:15
  • @jsw29 Not sure I follow. IMO none of the examples show labor or tasks that are not beneficial nor productive.
    – Stian
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 8:09

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