The “Invisible Task List”

to-do-list-managers-hive-1I know we all have “to-do lists” running through our minds. Exercise. Work projects. Home improvement ideas. Items to pick up at the store. That’s life, right?!

But I often wonder if someone took a peek inside my mind, would they think I’m totally mad?

Take for instance this week.

  • Our dryer went out, which is catastrophic with an active family of five. Must research new dryers, comparison shop, find time to buy and then coordinate delivery.
  • I have a slightly crazy project going on at work – and things are simply not falling into place. Must alert boss. Must pass along screen shots. Must get legal counsel to approve copy.
  • My daughter was sick, so I needed to remember to give her the twice-a-day antibiotic treatment.
  • Summer is months away. Must decide on vacation plans, research, book trip.
  • Oh yeah, my son needs me to fill out some items for cub scouts.
  • Wait, did I remember to bring in a dessert for the going-away party for our departing work colleague.
  • Crap, when was the last time we vacuumed this house?

I could go on and on.

And then I started thinking about the post I wrote last week, trying to hang with the boys in the office, specifically the ones who have stay-at-home-wives.

I received several interesting comments, but one really stuck with me from fellow blogger Savvy Working Gal. She wrote about a recent moment in her life when her husband ended up being laid-off from his job, and as a result he started handling the household chores while she continued to work. He did the errands, made the meals, took care of the general management of the home.

She in turn reported, “Not having to think about these things freed up my brain power to focus more at work and get more done. So yes, the men at your office do have a clear advantage. They not only have more time to work, their minds are clearer, allowing them to focus more on work.”

Now I have to say my husband does handle a great deal. He makes the kids’ lunches, shuttles them around in the afternoon, keeps the endless stream of laundry moving.

But I do tend to handle the scheduling, financing, tax prep, filling out forms for the kids, organizing outgrown clothes, RSVPs to parties, meal planning and beyond.

In Liz O’Donnell’s Mogul, Mom & Maid, she refers to this work as the “invisible task list.” So while couples who are really trying to split the housework 50-50 may think they are succeeding, both men and women might forget to capture all of these “invisible tasks.”

To be honest, I’m not sure if I just tend to take on the “invisible task list” because I function like a Type-A planner, or if it’s because I’m the wife/mom.

What I do know, is that my mind is always streaming an insane to-do list.

Does this necessarily translate into being “not as effective at work?” I don’t know.

I do know I’ve grown to become very efficient with my time and “roll with the punches.” While work might consume some individuals, motherhood has given me perspective. I’m used to dealing with unplanned events and tantrums and setbacks, which actually makes me a pretty stable force – at home and in the office.

Still, this “invisible task list” can be all-consuming. It might be time to re-negotiate with the mister. 😉

Who handles your “invisible task list” at home?

  1. I handle the invisible lists and those on paper. My guy is great at “helping out”, but not great at identifying the mandatory yet mundane tasks that need to get done to make our world go’round. The thought it takes to make the lists can feel like an imposition…

  2. Since my husband and I are both full-time professionals, we have a pretty even division of labor. But, I still feel there is a never-ending invisible to-do list, with a lot falling to me. Scheduling the girls’ dr appts, daycare payments, and other things that can only be done during biz hours. To be fair, my husband handles a lot of the other bills & finances. I don’t know if there is a way to ever conquer it all! Personal assistant?

    • Totally! I need a personal assistant! I’ll add that to my list – find personal assistant, or figure out how to clone myself! 🙂

  3. Oh totally me. I take care of ALL of the outside things – registrations for stuff, bills, presents for all occasions, hotel reservations or flight or whatever when we travel, taxes, and so forth. It’s that constant “invisible list” that nearly drives us all bonkers! And even though my husband helped out a lot more with chores and kids when I was working full time, I still took on all of these things… at least now I am on my own time frame (for the most part.)

  4. Thanks for featuring my comment Kerry I appreciate the shout-out. Last month I read Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection by Debora Spar. She mentions in her book that her husband has never made a dental appointment for their kids. It seems as though he is unaware they have teeth. In the end she says we have to just let some things go. Like buying that going away desert rather than making from scratch.

    • I’ll need to add that book to my list. And regarding the cookies, I couldn’t even find time to get to the store. Sometimes I just need to cut myself some slack, right!?

  5. You hit the nail on the head Kerry. We have to learn to negotiate and renegotiate at home. We can’t have it all if we’re too busy doing it all.

  6. I think this is the reason I’m so frustrated with my husband right. When I was working from home, it was obvious that I should be the invisible list master but since we switched 3 years ago, it’s STILL me which means I’m completely overburdened. How am I supposed to schedule doc appts for the kids when it’s based on HIS schedule? Can’t you just pick up the phone and call?? Same goes for the plumber, tree guy, chimney sweep and driveway repair people who have needed to be here for almost a year but I refuse to do it anymore and sadly, our house is starting to look like “the house” in the neighborhood. See? Frustrated.

    • When my husband stays home for the summer – since he is a teacher – we definitely need to recalibrate and get him doing more of the list stuff. I still often need to create the list and give it to him – he just isn’t going to be the one to think about the kid’s appointments and such, but it’s a work-in-progress. 😉

  7. As much as my hubby is amazing and does his part, I have the invisible list… which I end up having to make visible so I can “unload” my brain and not worry about forgetting stuff. I like seeing it, as I can then SEE what I can delegate to others (including my husband). It does consume so much energy though…

    • This is such a great tip. Writing that “invisible list” down and making it visible to others helps spread the accountability. As I’ve often said, I can’t expect my husband to read my mind!

  8. “I do know I’ve grown to become very efficient with my time and “roll with the punches.” While work might consume some individuals, motherhood has given me perspective.” Amen! I have learned to be super efficient too. Otherwise it would be impossible to squeeze a 28 hour day into 24 hours. LOL! Chris definitely helps out for which I am incredibly grateful because there are definitely husbands who do not. But still, Moms seems to have a never-ending list of things to do while husbands only have that honey to-do list. 🙂

    • I suppose it is a work-in-progress with the husbands. It’s funny. We had friends over for dinner the other night and after dinner my husband went straight to work cleaning the kitchen and doing the dishes. The wife of the couple we had over was shocked and said her husband would never jump in like that – so I guess in our 13+ years of marriage, my husband has definitely learned he is just as responsible as me when it comes to all things house.

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