Q&A Wednesday: my husband’s urgent projects conflict with mine

One of our boot camp participants recently reached out for help, frustrated by an issue that is more common than most people realize: conflicting spousal organizational agendas. Because she’s participating in our Kickstart Boot Camp, she had a very clear roadmap to follow and was focused on allocating her time in a way that would enable her to complete the daily tasks.

Her husband, on the other hand, had gotten a bee in his bonnet about a “little” project. He felt it HAD to be done immediately. She feared it would not be so little and would throw her off track. She ended up capitulating, and the result was exactly as she feared. The unplanned project took an entire weekend day and threw her off track in multiple areas.

What would you suggest I do in this case? I’d really appreciate your input, because so often [my spouse’s] priorities take over, and it’s my stuff that gets “blown off.” I really want to change that pattern and develop a better process. Any ideas?

Living with another human being is always going to be a complex dance.

It sounds like what happens now is that your husband’s priority activity usually “wins.” Maybe that happened because in the past you either haven’t had strong convictions about your own priorities or because you weren’t clear on them at all. Now that you do have clarity and you do feel strongly about them, you can feel the pinch.

Here are some ideas for finding a middle way

Whenever there’s a conflict, split the difference.
If his priority can take you off your path one time. Yours should win next time. Or 2 and 2. Keep track on the fridge or piece of paper that you keep in a kitchen or office drawer.


Agree to take a beat before a final decision.
Whenever you disagree, take a step back and articulate the follow-on implications of acting or not acting immediately (both sides have to do this). What are the implications if you shift gears and push your competing priorities back? What happens if he has to wait a few days before you can get to his? The implications can help you make a decision.


Divide and Conquer
If you can’t agree – there’s no reason why each of you couldn’t work on your respective projects solo. What would have happened in this situation had you said, “That project doesn’t fit in to my schedule today. If you can’t wait until ___ date, then you’ll have to tackle it by yourself.”


Address the elephant
Consider that his imperative to act may be driven by a fear that if it’s not done NOW it somehow won’t ever get done. Help him let go of that fear by working with him to schedule the task in the near future.

Do you and your spouse ever disagree on organizational priorities? How do you navigate that?/