How my husband and I use productivity apps to share the “mental load”

Last week, it seemed nearly every woman I know was sharing a viral comic by a cartoonist named Emma called “You should’ve asked,” which explained the concept of “mental load”: the idea that in every partnership or household, there’s the actual household chores to complete, but there’s also the “mental load” of remembering what needs to be done and when. In hetero relationships, this responsibility usually falls on the woman, while men say their partners should ask for help if they need it. Women by default are in charge of the to-do lists, the shopping lists, and remembering every other task that needs to be done, while men are “helpers.”

My husband and I both have very demanding jobs, and there’s no way I could ever be the sole manager of all the tasks at home. My husband Renan is committed to splitting household duties with me, but he’s also committed to managing the mental load.

Over the three years we’ve lived together, we’ve developed a system for managing mental load using a variety of productivity apps. Using these apps to manage and track shared household duties has given us both transparency into what needs to be done at home, and as a result, both of us feel ownership of the to-do lists and the task management.

Here are the apps we use and how we’ve made them work for us.


Sharing Google Calendars

I’m still kind of surprised that every couple doesn’t share their Google Calendars. What are you waiting for?

Sharing our calendars — which we did years ago — was life-changing. We each have our own calendar and have shared access to them with each other. When one of us schedules an event, makes a dinner reservation or appointment, or just wants to block time for both of us to get some household project done, we send a calendar invite so it’s on both of our calendars.

We frequently check each other’s calendars when making plans to save time on having to ask the other if they’re available on X date to do Y thing. If one of us thinks we both need to set aside some time on Saturday morning to do household chores or go grocery shopping, we just block it off on both of our calendars.

We also have a third Google Calendar just dedicated to cooking, where we schedule out which nights we’re going to cook dinner and what we’ll cook — and block off time for Sunday meal prepping for the week ahead, too.

Every single thing we do goes on both of our calendars, and it makes organizing our shared life much easier.

Todoist

Todoist is a to-do list app that lets you create shared to-do lists for various projects, so both partners can view lists on their phone, add tasks and assign to themselves or each other.

We have one main “Renan and Nisha To-Do List” where we both continuously add tasks that need to be taken care of as we remember them, and several secondary lists to organize other information we both want to remember: home improvement projects, restaurants we want to try.

We both check Todoist regularly through the day on mobile and desktop, and also have push alerts enabled, so we’re always aware of what needs to get done. Todoist also recently launched a Google Calendar integration too, so tasks with a deadline will show up on your Google Calendar for an extra reminder.

Anylist

This is the best all-in-one app for shopping lists, meal planning calendars, and saving and storing recipes. If my husband notices we’re low on paper towels or hot sauce or coffee or clorox wipes, he adds it to the Anylist on his phone right then and there, and I do the same.

If I’m working late or have plans, he’s fully capable of handling grocery shopping without me because he’s got the Anylist that we’ve been adding things to throughout the week — he doesn’t need me to remember anything for him. Anylist also allows us to store recipes we want to try, make meal plans, and easily add the ingredients from those saved recipes to our shopping list — all in one app.

Google Docs

Todoist, Anylist, and our Google Calendars cover nearly every task management need that we have. But for anything else that doesn’t fit into one of our existing productivity apps, we set up a shared Google doc and both start throwing in notes.

Vacation planning? We each do research on our destination and drop our research and recommendations into the doc.

Moving apartments? We create a Google Sheet.

Planning a wedding? We had an entire folder full of shared Google Docs and spreadsheets that we were both frequently editing.


So, that’s our setup: between Google Calendar, Google Docs, Todoist, and Anylist, we are both the “task managers” of our household — both of us can see all the lists and add things to them — both of us see what needs to get done at any time. Using collaborative productivity tools has helped us to effectively split the “mental load” — it’s like project management for your marriage.