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March 12, 2022

Together Triage: The Case for a Sloppy List

Much like everyone else on the East Coast, the first week “back” from school in January, was a bit. . . messy, shall we say? Whether you are figuring out school transportation, teacher coverages, quarantines or snow days, it seems harder than ever to be Together. Or is it? Maybe we just need to redefine what we mean by Togetherness when it feels like things are going south fast. Let’s call this Together Triage. . . 

I bet you actually have your own Together Triage method. Maybe it is Post-its? Perhaps it is holding space in your brain for the top priorities? A quick list in a notebook? In my case, let’s say you find out on a Sunday night, January 2, that your kids will have a snow day on Monday, January 3. You still have to work and the snow looks fun. Your kids are big enough to go find friends on their own. I take that back… ONE of the kids is. You can still do SOME work and get things done. It would have been very easy to throw my hands up and call off the day, but I had some work that desperately needed to be done, especially after my household was taken down by Covid before and during the holidays. 

In a situation like this, I quickly pivot from having things carefully listed in my Outlook calendar for the day (a classic When-er move) to creating a paper-based list categorized by physical location and cognitive load (shifting to the What-er in me). 

Why is this my Together Triage method, you may wonder? I’ll tell you why this is my go-to when I’m feeling sorely tempted to throw up my hands and toss Togetherness out the window. 

  • Pivot to writing by hand. This is helpful because I’m often adding things throughout the day when not in front of my computer. Additionally, I’m getting texts from children, from other parents, and even a phone call from the 8-year-old tattling on his sister that she wasn’t sharing the sled ramp. (I shut that one down right quick.)
  • Shift to categorizing tasks by cognitive load. I predicted, accurately, that my kids would be gone most of the morning and then come back begging for hot cocoa and demanding frozen pizza (PS I was 1000 percent correct). Even though I wasn’t enthused about jumping directly into design work immediately, I forced myself to dive in because I knew I wouldn’t get a chance later in the day. I managed to handle the lighter work after making pizzas and sandwiches for six children. 
  • Consider physical locations. This was not a day that I could hide in my home office all day. I needed to be mobile, running outside occasionally, down on the main floor helping children remove snowy outerwear. It was helpful to define which work needed to be in front of my computer versus what I could do in other places when duty called to other areas of the house. 

And you know what? My Together Triage worked. I had to bump some items, and delay a few more, but that was okay because I communicated it in advance to people. And, this system held for the SECOND snow day. . . and the THIRD. I mean, I did pause to brew some mom friends a bit of Maia’s Maine Moonshine, but hey, it was on the list!! 

So, what is your Together Triage method? When do you decide it’s time to activate it? 

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