Defining "Done"

As my kids get older and life gets busier the expectation that they will do chores and finish tasks without being double-checked has grown considerably. There are the basics that we do every school day (brush teeth, make beds, care for pets, unpack lunches, etc) and then there are other items that are needed too - vacuuming rooms on weekends, cleaning up the yard, putting away bikes and cleaning out the car after a marathon day of sports shuttling. And I can tell you that there are fewer things that make me want to fall to my knees and shout, "WHY?! WHY?!" at the skies more than what usually happens when these jobs are doled out. My kids will dutifully march off to do whatever was asked, then, after a period of time they'll call out that "______ is done. I'm gonna go play/read/whatever." And then I'll walk into their room an hour later to see that the floor is vacuumed, but the vacuum is in the middle of the room, still plugged in. Or they swept, but left the dustpan full of bits. A car that was recently cleaned out will sit in the driveway with every door open and a bag of trash in the back seat. Bikes put away? Yup! Shed closed. No. Dishwasher loaded with dishes and soap? Done. Start button pushed? Uh, probably not.

It is this vexing problem that led me to start thinking about how I, and they, define when a job is truly done. As frustrating as it is to see my kids suffer from not quite finishing a job I also realized that I am also guilty, too, and more often than I'd care to admit. The last steps are usually the most tedious and least desirable but those are often the pieces separating a job well done from something that stays on a list. I've noticed little and big things I do with varying frequency that I really struggle to finish and how much those loose ends weigh on me. Compound that with loose ends from three kids and it quickly becomes a ball of knots. 

The more I've thought about this the more clear it has made me want to be when handing out little jobs or asking favors from not just my boys but others, too. I think about what a finished job looks like to me and that becomes part of the ask - so, "Can you please vacuum your room then empty it out and put it away?" So simple but it keeps us on the same page. Generally, this expectation becomes the norm pretty quickly which is good because if done too much, it can feel like too much micro-management. In doing this, it's also made me come to the uncomfortable conclusion that my definition of done is not the one that others share and that I sometimes need to let go of that ideal. Less so with kids, more so with adults. Specifically spouses. ;) There are times when it matters and times when it doesn't. Starting to put tasks in these two columns of those that need extra instructions and those that don't frees up mental space and takes so much less time. 

As we quickly barrel towards summer and all the communication and planning those eight weeks involve, I highly recommend putting some thoughts around this as a way to preserve sanity and keep the peace.