Division of Labour
iStock IMG #1135022174

Division of Labour

People have frequently heard me say that I believe everyone should have the experience of living alone for a period of time.  When there is a mess in the residence you know who made it.  And you know who has to clean it up.

When I am working with couples, on the other hand, I often see a negative pattern of behaviors that hurt the relationship by introducing arguments and stress.  It usually goes something like this:  One person thinks a certain task should be done and the other promises to do it.  It doesn’t get done for any number of reasons – fatigue, busyness, lack of motivation or time.  The person who had the idea loses trust and becomes resentful.  Then, rather than waiting for the other person to fulfill the promise they either nag or do it themselves.  Of course, this causes further problems because the promiser then is upset that they weren’t allowed to fulfill their promise.

Rather than repeating this pattern over and over again, there are some communication skills that can help.

My daughter and her husband have an interesting way of dividing up tasks.  They have had conversations in which they determine who has specific skills and abilities.  For example, she is an excellent cook and very organized.  So they call cooking and planning “pink jobs”.  He is an avid gardener and always ensures that the vehicles are serviced.  These are called “blue jobs”.  The things that they do together are the “Purple jobs”.

Now this system works for them but there are times that there are tasks which neither is trained or interested in doing – like plumbing.  That is when they call in a professional or purchase an item to do the job.  I call that choice the “Golden boy”.

As we age or face circumstances where we are unable to do the tasks that used to be achievable, we might use the “Golden boy” more often.  My daughter, for example, who is a very accomplished business manger is extremely busy.  Ordering  a meal to be delivered to the house therefore makes good sense at times.

Setting up a workable division of labour plan requires communication.  It is important to not just talk about things but to actually make a written “to do” list.  I suggest that you draw three columns labelled “TASK”,  “COMPLETION DATE” and “PERSON RESPONSIBIE” on a paper.  Including a COMPLETION DATE column provides a reasonable sense of urgency that will combat procrastination.

If you want to take this a step further, agree in advance that if the completion date is not met, you will immediately arrange for a “Golden Boy” solution.  If you agreed to cut the lawn on a weekly basis, for example, and this isn’t happening, perhaps hiring a lawn care service will be your next move.  Didn’t get the garage cleaned by the deadline?  A professional organizer can do the job for you and prevent you from having to leave your car out in the cold for the winter.

It really doesn’t matter what system you adopt.  The important thing is that you have one that works – one that will replace the dysfunctional pattern that you keep repeating.

Time to make a positive change when it comes to division of labour.  It just takes a pen, one piece of paper and two people who are committed to developing a plan.

Back to blog