Experiment No. 15: The Handoff

Blog Post
Jan. 27, 2020

The Basics

We’re Trying to Solve: The unequal work of rebalancing the load
Target Audience: The whole household
Ages: 3 and up
Category: Mental load
Estimated Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy

We asked you to take a moment to check in with your household on your progress in sharing the load so far and offer us some feedback, and you delivered! 

As beta testers, you’re in the critical position to give us feedback about what’s working and what isn’t to help us build a better and more useful tool to nudge equality on the home front. One of our testers had a recommendation so critical to the project that we wanted to put it into action right away! It’s the inspiration for this week’s experiment. The tester wrote:

This [BLLx] email really needs to go to all family members individually. When only one person receives it, the responsibility to share the email, ask the other people to read it, print it out for others, start the conversation, etc. all falls on the same person (normally the one trying to foster change). Finding a way to have families choose to sign up others so that one person doesn't feel like they are constantly "nagging" others to read, do something would be helpful.

Our beta tester feedback was right: It’s time to sign up someone else in your family to receive our emails every week. The burden of thinking about these experiments and asking everyone to try them out cannot fall on one person’s shoulders. But you probably don’t want to sign them up covertly, without asking them. Ideally, they should sign themselves up and initiate following through with the experiments, not just because you’ve asked them to, but because they see experimenting with the division of labor as important and that taking that burden off one person — you — is important. That’s the goal any time you decide to handoff a piece of the mental load. It’s one thing to write up a chore chart and reassign physical tasks, but handing off the things you have to think about can seem far more complicated. In reality, they’re not so different. Here’s how you can begin.


  1. Identify the issue area you’re ready to hand off. Whether it’s managing the after-school activity schedule, or how to keep in touch with family, or receiving these BLLx emails and thinking about implementing them every week, you’re allowed to hand off some of your mental burden to someone else in your household. 
  2. Give your notice. When you decide it’s time for you to leave a job behind, it’s important to give clear notice of your departure. That applies to managing the mental load at home too. So let the person or people you’d like to hand the mental burden of some area know that the time has come to shift responsibilities. Maybe this needs to start with the basics--letting them know how overwhelmed you are or how unfair it feels that you’ve held this mental burden so long. Maybe you’ve already had that conversation and it’s time to be more direct. “Honey, it’s time for you to start getting these weekly emails too. I want you to take initiative in implementing these experiments when they’re relevant to us.”
  3. Talk with the task’s receiver(s) about the values behind the way you’ve done this task before, as well as the values behind handing it off to them. If you haven’t had these conversations already, make sure the person you’re handing off the task to understands why you think someone needs to do it and why that person can’t be you any longer. Remind them that this mental burden takes a toll, just like it does if you’re the one doing all the chores. Now, hand it off, the Conception, Planning, and Execution
  4. Hand it off, and be ready to learn from what happens next. Maybe the person you’ve handed off this mental task to thrives. Maybe they do it differently, but it works nonetheless. Maybe they drop the ball. No matter what happens next, handing off this mental burden to someone else will help advance the conversation you’ve been having at home about sharing the load. If you’ve asked someone else in the house to think about experiments that might work at home, and nothing happens for a few weeks, check back in and ask what’s gone wrong. At the very least, can they now see the energy you were putting into taking it on? And that a little support would be welcome? Can you find new strategies for shifting part of the mental load to them?

Connect With the Better Life Lab

Are you going to try this week’s experiment? Do you have a story about how you and your own family solved a problem with the work at home? Is there a specific challenge you’ve been trying to tackle? Can this experiment be improved? Please let us know via this form, at bllx@newamerica.org, or in our Facebook group for BLLx Beta Testers.

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