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How to ‘drop the ball’ part two: Introducing MEL
October 16, 2023

by Angela Lovell

Glenn Carstens-Peters at Unsplash

When Tiffany author and speaker, Tiffany Dufu realized she was suffering from Home Control Disease (HCD) – a compulsion to have to micromanage her household, career and life, and it was causing her to be burned out and unhappy, she decided things had to change.

So, Dufu went home and created an Excel spreadsheet. In the first column she made an exhaustive list of all the tasks she could think of that were required to manage the home she shared with her husband, Kojo and her infant son, Kofi. In the three columns beside that list, she put the headings Kojo, Tiffany and No-one.

“Little did I realize this last column would turn out to be the most important,” Dufu said.

Dufu began to populate the cells in her column with X’s against the tasks she currently performed, but when she got halfway through the list, she realized that ‘presenting my husband with a list of household duties that made it obvious how much more I did was not a winning strategy.’

So, she left the three columns completely blank and sat down instead with Kojo so they could begin to assign these tasks as a team. Before they began, she was surprised that Kofo wanted to add a bunch of items she hadn’t thought of (and some she hadn’t realised he was even doing or thought of as tasks essential to the household). As an example, he wrote down technology manager: “When have you ever programmed your phone or laptop”, and botanist: “The last time you watered a plant was in 1996 before we were even married. It was a cactus and it died.”

This is how the couple populated their list together, naming it their Management Excel List (MEL for short). It was the dawn of a new era in their lives. MEL would prove to be the most useful tool the couple had for negotiating and tracking household responsibilities, but the most revealing part of the MEL exercise was deciding which tasks should go in the ‘No-one’ column.

“This column represented our acknowledgement that there was more to running a household than both of us could ever accomplish,” Dufu wrote. “We would stop making assumptions about what the other person was doing – or should be doing – and we would not blame each other for what didn’t get done.”

MEL has given them a flexible mechanism to negotiate their expectations of each other. Assignment of the roles and tasks may fluctuate as time goes by depending on changing circumstances and practical needs, but they just retool MEL and carry on.

“By removing the tension that stems from misaligned expectations that are never fully discussed, a MEL can help a couple with busy schedules better navigate the domestic sphere.” Dufu says.

The MEL was Dufu’s first and most enduring tool to help her and her husband ‘lean in together’ and better manage their multiple roles, but she has also developed four ‘Go-Tos’ that she says are vital for women to incorporate into their lives to help them achieve their purpose, professionally and at home.

Checkout our next blog: The importance of networking for women.
Read our previous blog in this series: Women need to learn how to ‘drop the ball’ instead of trying to do it all.

Excerpts taken from the original Country Guide story: The Equitable Farm.

One of the things we love to do the most at MWAF is share the inspiring stories of Canadian women involved in all aspects of the agriculture and food industry. We celebrate common values, a shared passion for the industry and a commitment to supporting each other's goals. You can also learn what our stakeholders are doing to support the advancement of women in our industry. Be sure to come back often.