Relationship hack: Work off the same to-do list

Amazon: Things You Must Do to Make Me Happy PadDuane offers a simple and thoughtful "spouse hack" — the essence of good communication and partnership.

Surely my wife and I are not the only parents of toddlers who are tired at the end of the day and just want to sit down despite the list of chores yet to be done.  One has worked all day at the office and sat in traffic for the last hour trying to get home, one has been cooped up in the house all day with 3 kids, one of whom won't let herself be put down … you get the picture.  Yet the dishes need to be done, the floor mopped, toys put away, baths for the kids, and so on. Some days, naturally, are better than others.  But some days it just…piles….up.

My hack?  When you find yourself about to begin a new item from the to-do list, ask your spouse which of the two tasks he/she would prefer to do. "You want to stay down here and clean up the dishes, or get the kids started on their baths?"

Underneath a mountain of "stuff that's gotta get done whether I like it or not,"  such moments are a brief opportunity to feel like you've gained back a bit of control. Maybe I'm not ready for the commotion of giving the kids a bath and would rather stay downstairs with the dirty dishes for an extra few minutes to unwind.  One of us gets a choice.

Also, it's an audible update that a) you're both working off the same list (one spouse is not off doing his own personal list of things he wanted to get done), and b) the list is getting done twice as fast.

Who else is moved by the thoughtfulness and loving generosity embodied in Duane's hack? Resentment is a silent, gradual contaminator of any relationship, and this simple tweak can help keep it at bay.

More: To-do list hacks

More: Marriage and relationship hacks


  1. says

    LOVE IT! What a great plan. I want to print this out and hang it on the fridge. It is a great way to reinforce the whole team work theme. In the words of the Wonderpets, “What’s gonna work? Teamwork!”

  2. says

    We have just implemented a Google calendar where we schedule all our stuff. We each have a personal calendar that populates (and color codes) the main calendar. The main calendar has everything scheduled down to baths and dinner so we know who is doing what each night. This has been helpful but our laundry is still piling up. I love the idea of a community task list. :)

  3. Jen says

    This is a great hack! It doesn’t sound like you’re being too in control, but you’re giving choices as well, for your spouse to be involved. I love this..

  4. Jean says

    We already do this! It’s really very nice to be able to “choose your poison” once in a while.

  5. says

    We do that a lot. And that exact same task, dishes or baths! I usually take baths and hubby takes dishes. We’ll see how that works when number three arrives!