“If I don’t do this task, no one will,” my client declares about another item on her endless to-do list. She’s working to rank and assign household tasks, but can’t quite resolve it. I’m concerned that she’s taking on too much—and won’t see the changes she wants to make.
“You’re not Frodo Baggins,” I tell her, “You’re not going to Mordor to destroy the One Ring.”
“Even then, Frodo had his Fellowship to help.”
If it’s difficult to sort and transfer responsibilities around your home, use these tips from Middle Earth to rank your tasks, recruit your fellowship to help, and motivate them with purpose and clear expectations.
1. Is Your Task the ONE Ring? Or One of Many?
There were twenty rings of power in Middle Earth, but only one could control them all. When you’re looking at everything you have to do, it’s important to start with the must-dos. Ask yourself:
- Is this the ONE task to “rule them all”?
- Will this have a notable effect on my family if it isn’t completed on a certain schedule?
- Do I need to complete this now? Will anyone notice if it isn’t completed for a couple of days?
Focus on defining and delegating critical tasks first: basic needs such as meals, grooming, and school activities. Once you determine these core tasks, move on to lower priority items. Failure to complete these lower duties will leave the Shire intact for a day or two. If you get stuck, this activity is a quick first pass that you recommend to your Council of the Ring in the next step.
2. Form a Council of the Ring to Identify Your Fellowship
Hold a weekly family “council” meeting to review responsibilities and priorities. Check the progress of chores, assignments, school needs, upcoming events, and a shared family calendar to reduce the mental load on any one person.
Brainstorm trusted fellowship members to help—such as grandparents, extended family, neighbors, teachers, coworkers, other parents, friends, and service providers (to outsource to).
3. Power Your Fellowship with Purpose
In weekly council meetings, you’ll want to discuss your family’s big picture vision and goals. If everyone down to the smallest hobbit understands how to contribute to the shared vision, they’ll be on board to help. Setting up a family economy (assigning everything a value) is a big step in reinforcing family goals. You can do this when you assign the number of S’mores to your tasks within the S’moresUp app.
Middle Earth’s inhabitants are more motivated to do things they want to do. Start with rating the task and passion level of each person in your fellowship. If your child loves to be outside and active, consider adding pulling weeds and lawn care to their list. Focus on establishing a strong motivation first, then consider cross-training and rotations later.
4. Recruit Your Fellowship Members
Recruiting help can be hard if you’re hesitant to ask. You may communicate in anger or soften your ask with apologies or modifiers such as, “I just need you to pick this one thing up,” or “I’m sorry, we got overwhelmed with work this week.” Including angry tones or limiting words doesn’t motivate others to help.
Practice using a compliment and a simple ask instead: “We love your chicken casserole. Would you be willing to set up a meal trade once a week, or have our daughter weed your lawn in return?”
Be prepared with backup requests in case a fellowship member says no to the first. If grandparents can’t babysit the kids due to social distancing, ask if they can run specific errands, or prepare a meal to drop off.
5. Train Your Fellowship with Clear Expectations
When transitioning a task to your fellowship, train and do the chore with them at first. Collaborate on expectations to define the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, and why). You can set this up with a due date and instructions within the S’moresUp app. Provide resources such as photos of the desired result, a checklist, or a video of the process to help.
Talk with your children about obstacles to finishing their chores, such as weather, schoolwork, practices, and other responsibilities. This will help them to identify potential issues and develop much-needed time management skills. It’s also a good time to establish boundaries on your time and help. For example, offer to help with questions or training, but only if you’re asked more than 24 hours before the task is due.
If you follow the above steps to rank your tasks, identify and train your fellowship, and set clear expectations, you’ll be well on your way to destroy the ONE ring and back home to the Shire in no time.