How can I help my husband stay focused and on track with things that are important to both of us
October 2, 2012 1:40 PM   Subscribe

How can I help my husband stay focused and on track with things that have to get done and are important to both of us. I don't want to nag and just want us both to be happier.

My partner is amazing in so many ways, but has trouble following through on things because they are boring, doesn't see it as a priority or just discouraged from a few attempts that didn't go his way. These things are important to both of us and would make our life much easier and happier in the long run. How can I be supportive while asking/reminding him about the tasks at hand. A few examples are taking care of his health when something is bothering him; following up on boring paperwork that will make life easier for both of us; planning ahead so we are more relaxed in the long run; and financial planning are just a few things. Mostly it is following through with things he said he'd do or wants to do with me and for me. He has shown initiative and a quick response with some things, but if it's not a fire that needs to be put out he'll likely procrastinate and forget about it. I have tried simply asking him calmly, teasing him about it and showing my honest frustration. None have helped and he ends up feeling bad, sulking and miserable. How can I help him accomplish things that affect both of us in a healthy positive way?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Does he have a smart phone or an iPad or just like web apps? Get Astrid, make a list of tasks together, and assign specific tasks to him (phone for doctor appointment, file insurance, etc.) with dates and time. Then sit down once a week and have a "How are we doing on our Astrid lists and what's coming up for next week?" review.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:47 PM on October 2, 2012

You have a problem (you get anxious about tasks being completed but you don't like how the anxiety makes resentful, worried and nagging). For the good of your relationship you need his help in coming up with a better approach.

Brainstorm together - make a long list of ideas, practical and impractical, weed out the ones that are unacceptable and then let him decide what he thinks might work. Make sure that the plan includes what you are supposed to do if he isn't following through.

Specific Ideas:
You read Getting Things Done - particularly with regard to effective to-do lists. Get some GTD or todo software and break each task down into small discrete steps. Example: 1. find number of doctor (assuming he has one, otherwise identifying a doctor will have several steps of its own) 2. put number where he can access it during day 3. set up tickle reminder during the workday to call 4. call and make appt. My guess is that it will be easier for him to do small tasks that give him the quick gratification of being able to check it off as complete.

Set aside some "Anti-Procastication Time" where you both spend, say 2 hours doing stuff that you don't like to do (together or separately but at hte same time) Celebrate the completion of the 2 hours ( food or sex or both comes to my mind. YMMV)
posted by metahawk at 1:58 PM on October 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Hi. I am your husband (not really). The smart phone didn't work for us. Metahawk's list idea and anti-procrastination time did.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:08 PM on October 2, 2012

People may jump on you for this question, but I totally TOTALLY get it. This is an issue that I have given substantial thought. I have a couple of recommendations:

We keep a google doc that we both share with a very detailed to-do list. I highlight me, him, and us tasks with different colors. We iniitial and date the entry when we complete the task. I send him the link every couple of days with no editiorializing.

I think it works ok. He can see how much stuff I take on alone, and he can see when he's not pulling his weight. It also feels more collaborative because he can add to it, edit and prioritize. Used effectively, it's not one person dictating to another, it's two people working together to manage a house, finances, whatever.

I think sometimes one person tends to internalize the "to-dos" and assume the other person is on the same page without consulting. I'm super organized (mentally at least) and plan for everything. "Plan" isn't even in my husband's vocab.

When one person internalizes the plan or the to-dos, they tend to get stressed and overwhelmed. This stress translates into dictating tasks to your partner like you are the boss and he is the employee. This is ugly and leads to resentment in both directions.

I think the google doc works because my vision of our to-dos is laid out on the screen for him to edit and make our own. I'm not just giving him a list--we are both holding each other accountable for our mutual responsibilities.

Lastly, remember that you love your husband (I assume) for lots of his qualities that may not be tied to his motivation and productivity. I think it's key to remember that different people bring different attributes to a marriage, and he may never ever ever be on top of stuff like you are.

I accept that I can't change my husband's personality. (Why would I?). So if I really need something done, or need it done a certain way, I DO IT. For example, I take care of the finances so I don't have to remind him to watch the balance in the checkbook. Your work is never going to be exactly equal, because you are not identical. Sometimes, you just have to accept that they bring other things to the relationship, even if you end up taking on a lot of the practical stuff.

Good luck.
posted by murfed13 at 2:09 PM on October 2, 2012 [16 favorites]

It helps my husband and me to have an occasional scheduled evening or Saturday morning during which we work. I write down a list of all the things that we both need to do. Some of them are things that I need him to do, some of them are things either of us could do, some of them are things I've been meaning to do. We talk about the list, divide up the tasks, and crank things out for four hours. Even if all the tasks don't get done, a lot of it does, and it gets him into the "accomplishing things" mode that makes him more likely to follow up and finish the task later in the week. It's a crucial point that we're both working the whole time, we both have lists, I'm not just delegating stuff to him, he can barter and swap tasks with me, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 2:26 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not an answer but a question: Does your husband have ADD or exhibit any traits of someone with ADD?

I only ask because your question sounds like it could have been written by my mother (a very organized planner/list-maker) about my father (who has struggled with ADD his entire life). They both attribute his lack of follow through, especially on "boring" tasks such as paperwork, on his ADD.
posted by Kevtaro at 2:34 PM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am married to your husband (not really). It might help to ask yourself where this is coming from in your husband. It's not that my husband doesn't want to help, it's just that he is incapable of thinking in the form of lists or tasks. So I can come up with the most glorious solution, but if it involves him managing a list of things to do at all, it might work for a day and then he'll forget about it.

Like metahawk above says, it's important to ask your husband how he likes to accomplish things. I think that murfed13 may have the best solution so far, because it's something that is relatively blameless and there's buy-in from both people. And remember that there are things your husband is taking care of that you never want to have to deal with but you may not realize it.

Also, most importantly - be patient. Try something out, see if it works, it not, try something else.
posted by bibbit at 2:58 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

"3 o'clock in the afternoon is always either too late or too early for anything you want to do." Well, if you're a procrastinator, this means all you have to do is wait it out until 3pm and then you can write off another day. "Well, missed my chance today! Maybe tomorrow!"

So perhaps set aside some routine time slot as 'dreaded chore hour'? Make a deal that he has to do paperwork from, I dunno, 7-8pm on Wednesdays or 12-1 on Sunday, but only then? It's surprising how much one can get done in a single hour; especially if you know it's only going to be an hour, so you can't drag your feet and think of it as some huge thing that's going to suck up the whole weekend or whatever.

Even if you end up having to 'gently remind' him about it, it's possible that "Nope, don't you sit on that couch, it's Wednesday dreaded chore night." could be less acrimonious than 'You promised you were going to X' / 'I will get to it /'When?'/'Later!"....or maybe not, everyone's different.
posted by bartleby at 3:36 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Chore Wars might be useful if he is a gamer. It's an online "game" in which chores are equivalent to quests and you get points and levels as rewards. Some people find it a helpful motivation to accomplish routine boring tasks.
posted by conrad53 at 8:29 PM on October 2, 2012

I can relate; I show some of the same symptoms as your husband.

It's not totally clear where the rub is for him, whether it's in keeping the chores on his radar or in making him overcome his aversion to doing the tasks. I'll toss out some things that help me.

Scheduling the time to do these things helps. Like suggestions above, my partner and I have at times scheduled regular "chores nights" when we focus on getting unpleasant busywork done, often each our own tasks, sitting side by side, no other activities allowed. (This assumes there is already a well-documented list of things that need attention.)

Aside from that, and more generally: I tend to have "to-do list aversion". As soon as I put something on a todo list, it becomes a chore. I look at it and think "ugh, don' t wanna do that", or even worse, I turn away from it before I have a chance to consciously think that and I do something else instead. I've found it helps to phrase items in ways that help me see the desirable outcome. So instead of writing "pay insurance bill" I might write "Avoid insurance expiring"; instead of "declutter desk" I'd write "create enjoyable work environment". Sounds cheesy, but often works for me.
posted by myotheraccount at 10:57 PM on October 3, 2012

« Older Should I accept a position at a company under a...   |   not spreading yourself too thin Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.