Invisible Anticipatory Service, Setting Your Own Recurring Tasks, and Some Advice

Recently I proposed extending our meal plan, currently based around dinner, to include a light brunch.

Like dinner, on the dining table at the same time daily (9:30 AM instead of 6 PM).

I came up with this independently, though when Mistress approved, she said she’d been thinking of dictating something similar in the future anyway, once she thought of the way to do a brunch plan.

After a day or two, she mentioned my proposing of it as, “Anticipatory service on a new level,” being anticipatory setting of a new recurring task rather than taking a single action.

I thought about that distinction and said I might do more of that behind the scenes than she realizes, but that I got the idea.

“Do you like that most of your work goes unnoticed?” 

“Yes, Mistress,” I smiled.  

And I do—I hold that good service—in most of the types I provide—should be unnoticed.  Not that it’s always bad to be noticed, but that the point is to quietly handle and prevent problems and smooth out friction points, thus sparing the annoyance of noticing the problem.  To be noticed, much of the time, means that something went wrong or didn’t get done.  Of course, sometimes it just means a touch was appreciated or something was done especially well.

I found a quote recently while reading Butlers & Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals that says: “A butler exists essentially to smooth the lives of his or her employer and/or family by taking over many household and personal functions they would otherwise have to perform themselves, thus freeing them up for more worthwhile pursuits.” 

Slaves, too, I think.

Which means you don’t want your M-type still paying attention to those things in just a different way—managing you—but to take them off their plate altogether.

And the very reason a lot of those little tasks are nuisances to be delegated is frequently that they are recurring.  It’s not arduous to do some things once.  But those little things add up, day in and day out.  Restocking items, cooking, cleaning, making coffee, mending clothes.

So those problems can get solved sooner by a slave—but ideally, also solved for the long term.  

This requires the room in a dynamic to do these things, the right permissions—but assuming those are in place if this is desired, it also requires a few skills.

Mostly, routine observation.  To get ahead of a problem you have to notice it before it happens and before the M-type notices.  It might not even be a problem to you if you were acting only for yourself, so you have to look from their perspective as well (and maybe know them better than they know them).  An eye for detail, the memory to do something with that information, the system to keep it in long term.

Then, effective problem solving.  Something to keep in mind—it helps to have a willingness to implement an imperfect solution sooner rather than an obsession with the perfect solution that will come late or never.  

For example, the brunch idea I mentioned above.  I had the idea, and pretty much immediately came up with an approximate time, made a list of recipes, printed off new meal planning templates, etc.  Ready to go to pitch the idea, knowing there might need to be modifications in the future or unknown problems might be found early on, but it was worth a go (and it solved the problem long term—it wasn’t “making brunch that day”).

Mistress, as said, had noticed the same need for a brunch meal plan, but was waiting for the exactly right idea, which in the meantime, meant no order given to handle brunch.

Which worked out perfectly fine since this time I got ahead of it.  If both of us had been doing that, however—no brunch.  Problem/need still in place until Mistress came up with something, and thus no anticipatory service happening. 

One other thing to keep in mind—saying, “There is a problem,” is not problem solving.  That’s an observation, and possibly not a new one.  Offering to help doesn’t really add much to it since that’s your job and is just another form of observation.

So, a piece of advice: offer help specifically.

Avoid lines like, “What can I do?” or, “I’m here if you want anything.”  This still leaves problem noticing and problem solving and then communicating that on the other party, and if an M-type had an answer to something like that, they could and likely would say it regardless of your asking.

Instead, offer something specific they might not have thought of.  Come equipped with both the notice of a problem and a proposed plan to solve it (long term).  When someone’s just having a rough day, offer a specific drink or meal or helpful task rather than, “Whatever you want”. 

It leads to less looping conversations of bringing things back into being noticed, and to more potential action of getting things solved for the long run.

Which is, here at least, the overall goal. 

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