Setting Recurring Tasks: What Comes Next

I’ve talked before about adding your own recurring tasks in anticipatory service—or proposing them—and thought I should elaborate a bit on what it can look like after that new task gets added. 

I recently went to a lovely Zoom class on anticipatory service, and discussion covered ways to serve throughout the day—from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. 

We also spoke of parental versus celebrity dominance, an example of the parental side being the slave’s bedtime; I said we skewed so far to the celebrity side, we’d had a protocol for a while in which I came and knelt by Mistress’ desk to remind her of her chosen bedtime. 

Parental dominance often leans towards the control oriented, and has tasks and rules that are for the slave’s own good—self care, diet, bedtimes, exercise, productivity.  Celebrity dominance often leans towards the service oriented, especially anticipatory service, and has tasks and rules that are for the M-type’s convenience—cooking, housekeeping, secretarial tasks, body work, when to disturb them. 

Thinking through my routines again, with that story floating in my mind, I saw a place in the evening I could potentially be useful.   

The above protocol had been dropped; the idea of it was still desired, but it had become too inconsistent as her sleep schedule (and mine) shifted.  As they have settled for a while, and settled much closer together, it seemed more realistic now to try something like that. 

I also noted she’d become prone to getting a snack before bed.  The bedtime in mind was nine-thirty, and dinner was at six, so there was a decent gap there.  And I could start properly turning down the bedroom given that timing. 

I ran the idea by her and she enthusiastically agreed.   

Night one.  I was in a Zoom munch when my reminder alarm went off.  I bade everyone farewell, and logged off, then went downstairs to find Mistress in the kitchen getting a snack.  She wasn’t going to bed, either.  All right, but no go. 

Night two.  Dinner had been light and after a late store trip, she’d gotten food from a drive through and was understandably not interested in a snack or bed by nine-thirty.  Turning down the bed, a quick tidy, a spritz of linen spray, and the usual laying out her pajamas and next day’s clothes still happened. 

Night three.  Nearing nine-thirty, ice cream was requested.  After doing all of the other bits, I arranged the snack—ice cream, strawberries, pretzel Goldfish, in little glass bowls, a bigger one for the ice cream with spoon, complete with a cocktail napkin I’d recently finished crocheting—on a tray downstairs, brought it up and set it on her nightstand before going and getting her.  Success.   

Night four.  Friend from out of town was happily but unexpectedly in the neighborhood and stayed late.  Largely no go. 

Night five.  Unthinkingly, I changed into pajamas at eight something, including taking off my watch that had my reminder alarm set.  I was writing and thought it might be approaching that time—9:24 and I ran to get the minimum ready so fast I was sadly still panting when I told Mistress it was done.  She said she’d be in soon.  She took long enough I even managed to get the rest of the things done. 

And so it goes. 

Tasks and protocols sometimes come and go with practicality; things happen; ideas get tweaked.  Here, things often get codified either out of her dictating it, me proposing it and her agreeing, I just start doing it regularly and she comes to expect it, I do it once and she decides she wants it to happen regularly, she dictates it case by case repeatedly and I propose the pattern, etc.  Sometimes things get combined—a daily task recently set of me rubbing lotion into dry spots for her seemed a prime thing to combine with the nightly snack and turndown, and I’m going to try to integrate that. 

In the end, even once tasks are added, service is always a learning process and a work in progress.  And so it goes. 

On Service Settings and Headspace

My service research brought me to Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service in April 2019, and parts of the book have stuck with me ever since.  Basically the manifesto of customer service at Disney, it has many points that can be applied elsewhere, and that was what I was hoping for as a service slave going into reading it.

One such point was this: setting changes expectations.

The manifestation of this belief at Disney resorts is obvious.  Almost anyone who’s ever just realized they stepped over the border between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland could tell you that a different set of things now seems appropriate or out of place.  Disney’s underground tunnels to keep cast members in costume from going through the lands where they don’t belong—no Buzz Lightyear in Frontierland—are somewhat legendary.

It’s about more than theme, though.  It can also mean convenience, organization, flow, cleanliness, formality.  Things placed without thought can mean they are inconvenient to find.  Lights on and doors open in certain rooms and halls can guide guests to where they should be.  A cluttered and slovenly front entry makes a certain impression.  A well set table can give an air of formality.  Even virtual spaces aren’t immune to the need for a good setting.

I think about this frequently when I’m serving brunch.  Here, brunch is supposed to be light and simple.  The big question almost every day is, “Toast or bagel?” and it’s usually served with something on the side along the lines of strawberries, homemade applesauce, or bacon.  Really nothing complicated.  Something that could easily be eaten at one’s whim on the couch, at the kitchen island, at a desk in front of a computer.

But that’s not where we eat brunch—we have brunch at the long dining table, covered in a clean tablecloth, bathed in morning sunlight from the windows, with fresh flowers perched in the middle.  Everything is served on real dishes, table set properly, with napkins I crocheted myself.  Every morning, at 9:30, excepting conflicting circumstances, with conversation as the main entertainment.

This makes some toast and bagels feel a lot more significant.

Even time can be a part of setting—the consistency of meal times can add a bit of ritual.

Recently someone mentioned being charmed by the fact that we always had a bouquet on the table, citing that it was something she did only for special occasions, and it felt like adding a special touch to the everyday.

All of these are pieces of setting and atmosphere.

To keep a good environment for service, I try to keep things clean, organized, intuitive, and err on the formal side.

To keep things convenient, we have clearly labeled stations.  In the kitchen, one for coffee, tea, cocoa, and general hot drinks, and one for soda, with straws and napkins.  A guest manual in the living room, with local recommendations and a guide to household features.  A box of first aid supplies and toiletries in the guest bathroom.  

Maintaining this environment means it sets the expectations for me, for Mistress, for guests.  Our friends, kinky and otherwise, know what to expect when they get here.  Mistress knows what the brunch table is going to look like.  I know what my standards are to maintain.  And with the expectations of environment change the expectations of service—lackluster service in a sparkling environment wouldn’t be the expectation and would be even more out of place.  

In a well maintained environment, it is easier to feel that need to maintain other standards as well.  

There’s also something to be said for the headspace of the actual tasks of maintaining that setting.  Cleanup from brunch sometimes includes changing the tablecloth and pruning the bouquet, and those tasks themselves are a reminder of the setting.

It feels different to kneel at the end of an unmade bed than it does to kneel at the end of one carefully made with hospital corners and fluffed pillows, and it feels different to know that you made it that way yourself.  It makes keeping your posture just so a little more intuitive.

I think Be Our Guest was right—setting does change service expectations—and it might be an underestimated headspace game changer. 

Service Is an Ephemeral Art

Service is an ephemeral art.

I was thinking this recently as I realized exactly how much of my job is doing the same thing over and over again.  Not so much one special project so much as do the dishes, every day.  Do the laundry, every day.  Cook brunch and dinner, every day.  Make the bed, every day.  When there are more dishes or more laundry, do them again.  When it’s nine-thirty or six again, cook again.  When someone gets in the bed and out again, make it again.  So on.

The effects disappear quickly and that is why the service here is really doing it every day, not once.  I’ve talked about the real burden of little tasks being that they add up and that they recur—and it’s true.  In the end, they add up to quite a bit to be allowed to take off an M-type’s plate.

As an example, Mistress likes to cook.  She doesn’t like to cook to have dinner on the table at six every day, but she likes to cook.  So I have dinner on the table at six every day, because I am more comfortable with those routines.  And she gets to have the energy to cook when inspiration strikes.

The book Cooked by Michael Pollan talks about the idea that when something is mandatory, it’s work, and when something is an option, it’s leisure—that the distinction is not innate to the task itself.  So when you had to hunt your own food, cook your own food, so on—it was work.  In a world of pre-packaged meat and even frozen dinners, those become leisure activities. 

So for me, cooking (having dinner on the table at six) is work.  Required.  Not because I live in a dimension without frozen dinners, or because I don’t enjoy it (I usually do enjoy it), but because it’s a requirement that Mistress set.  For her, cooking is leisure—something she doesn’t have to do, but sometimes does.  And when I bake cookies from scratch in the middle of the afternoon without being ordered to, it’s leisure, and my job is to shift as many things as I can from being work for her to being potential leisure.

And in that example, it’s easy to tell when the leisure task is done.  A once off meal you were just inspired to make, once eaten, is done.  The work version of a meal being on the table at a certain time is also kind of done when eaten, but it’s only done until you need to start the next meal, which might vary based on what you’re making or how far ahead you’re prepping, and that feeling of being done is a lot more ephemeral, a lot more caveats of for today or for this meal

Meanwhile, I was reading Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing, and it mentioned the Manifesto for Maintenance Art.  I looked it up, and noticed a quote:

“—after the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?”

It speaks to a very real thing: that to change the world, you need the basics taken care of.  That to keep that change made to the world while it keeps going even further, someone needs to maintain it. 

And this makes that maintenance a world changing thing in itself, because it enables that change.

It enables leisure activities instead of work, and world changing instead of world maintenance. Because world changing might happen at once—but world maintenance happens every day, or else that maintained state fades away—an ephemeral way of being.

I find it very satisfying to be that enabling support.

It does mean, however, that your work never really feels done, because it’s only done until a point where it is undone that could come at any moment, especially when it’s domestic and thus you live surrounded by potential tasks.

On the other hand, it can be nice to always be able to find something useful to do.  There isn’t room for terrible boredom or feeling unhelpful.  The reason the effects disappear quickly is because the service is engrained in a person’s life that is an aggregate of all of those quick little tidbits—and the privilege of making all of that flow smoothly is something to be valued.

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. 

Balancing Control and Decision-Making as a Service

I’ve touched on the spectrum between control-oriented and service-oriented dynamics before.  Dynamics based at their core in the active exertion of power, authority, and structure, enforcing rules, protocols, and routines, versus dynamics based on the idea of being useful, helpful, and completing tasks, chores, and assignments.   

There is no reason a dynamic can’t include all of those things—I know mine does—though it’s a useful distinction when talking about M/s philosophy and can have an influence on how some things get implemented.  And some dynamics do skew a lot more one way or the other.

However, there are some trade-offs to be made that fall under this spectrum, and here is a big one I see:

Decision-making.

A lot of s-types talk about wanting their M-type to decide everything for them.  Everything.  What they eat, when they eat it.  What they wear.  When they wake up, when they go to bed.

And a lot of s-types (including a lot of overlap) talk about wanting to be as useful as possible for their M-type.  Cooking, cleaning, managing a calendar, doing the shopping, making travel arrangements.

A lot of this is compatible, especially given just a little bit of compromise.  Say, I wear a uniform, and that doesn’t stop me from cooking dinner.  Now, if Mistress had wanted my uniform to be something too impractical to have me cook in, there would’ve had to be a trade-off.  But we went with something simple I can wear equally to volunteer at the library, go to my mom’s house, or attend a munch or play party.  That little line about keeping it neat means general permission to wear an apron when cooking, though.

But some parts of this are not necessarily going to be compatible.  It is unlikely you will give up all decision-making and remain equally useful, or that keeping the power to make too many decisions will give much of a feeling of being controlled.

The service of meal planning is not going to be compatible with very tight control over someone’s diet.  The secretarial task of making appointments is not going to happen easily with the s-type never being allowed to speak for their or the M-type’s time.  The s-type managing the shopping is not going to be any more convenient than the M-type doing it themselves with purchase-by-purchase financial control.

Now, there are still some things in between.

I do meal planning as a service, but there are loose limits on what I can do, like keeping dinner healthy, homemade, and protein-based most of the time.  I have to have it on the table at six o’clock and the table settings have to be done a certain way, and the kitchen has to be clean again by the time I go to bed.  But at the end of the day, I chose what we ate.  And for Mistress, not having to do the meal planning, shopping list-making, cooking, and associated tasks herself is well worth giving me the choice of what we eat.  Of course, she retains the power to tell me to change it if she wants to.

Besides the feeling of looser control, there can be other complications in handing some decision-making back to the s-type.  In a lot of the examples I gave, the M-type basically wants the decision made by the s-type to be the same decision they would have made themselves, or at least within certain guidelines (making that appointment at a time that works for them, for example), simply so they don’t have to make that phone call, that trip to the store, that meal plan, moreso than they want to hand off the decision itself.

This means the s-type has to learn what those preferences and guidelines are.  They might even be things the M-type doesn’t consciously know, themselves, to teach.  Things will be learned along the way by trial and error and observation and so on.

However, this learning process can lead to another trade-off:

The question of why.

There are a lot of mixed feelings out there about s-types asking why.  On the one hand, there’s the belief that the s-type should never ask why, that they just need to follow orders and the reasoning behind it is irrelevant because, “My M-type said so,” is a good enough reason to just do it.  And, if that’s the dynamic agreed to, so be it.  However, that may be best suited for the control-oriented.

Even in some very low protocol and loosely-structured service-oriented power dynamics, certain whys would be out of place.  The whys that aren’t a genuine question of trying to understand, but a way to argue, a way to say, “Convince me,” a way to stall, an opportunity to find a flaw in that reasoning, something that gives the implication that you won’t do the task without knowing why.

Those aren’t the whys I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the whys that become a practical matter to know when the M-type isn’t going to be constantly available in the future.  The whys that would let the s-type make smart substitutions or changes in a pinch, knowing the spirit of the law instead of looking at the suddenly unhelpful letter of it.  The way that a general knowledge of cooking will help you successfully swap an ingredient in a recipe when the last of something runs out, cut a step you correctly recognize as not necessary, or change a temperature and cook time to a different equivalent when dinner guests are stuck in traffic.  Rather than fail to realize that baking soda and baking powder are not the same thing, or that turning the oven that low will not get that meat up to temperature in the right amount of time, or anything else the recipe itself might not tell you how to modify in a conundrum.

Saying, “Always buy this specific brand of disinfectant spray,” is fine and good and if you want the s-type to unquestioningly buy that brand, then that can give you that control-oriented rush.

But… what about when you’re out of that spray, and you need more, and the store is out?

If your s-type has to call you to ask what to do now, that can continue that little control rush of thinking about your s-type running down the specific shopping list and be a nice call to get.

But it is probably an inconvenience if what you wanted was to be able to deeply focus on another task while your s-type was making the list and out taking care of the shopping to give you that free time as a service, with only that one item or a few others specifically dictated.

So in the case of the latter, knowing the why might be useful to avoid that phone call.

Do you buy that brand because it’s the cheapest?  Because it’s one whose ingredients don’t irritate an allergy you have?  Because it cleans the best?  Because it comes in the easiest spray bottle?  Because it’s the only one available in that bulk size? 

Each of those whys quite possibly leads to an entirely different substitution. 

The spirit there might be, “It’s not your place to just ask why, but it is your place to provide the best service possible.” 

A lack of that why shouldn’t impede quickly doing the task with a smile.  Sometimes the why is going to be just momentary, or far less urgent than the task itself, or evident later, or simply not shared or shared right then.  And a negative answer to, “May I know why?” is still to be accepted.  But to prevent the question at all rules out the sometimes practical nature of it.

Yet, allowing it regularly may feel like a lot of freedom for the control-oriented.  

That’s a trade-off.  

And of course there’s an in-between.  Carefully sharing that why only when it is practical, rather than getting into the habit of always answering.  Perhaps changing whether or not asking is allowed between time periods or protocol levels.  Allowing the question only once the task is complete.  So on.  This can get you that balance between the joy of control and the practicality of service, the balance between decisions as a form of power and decisions as a form of service.  

I know I’m allowed to ask why for practicality (not for any of the ingenuous reasons I mentioned above), and sometimes I hear a useful-for-the-future why to note, and sometimes I hear, “Because I said so”.

Sometimes whys get figured out almost accidentally over time, or with a little bit more discussion.  My main kneeling position has my hands placed behind my back.  I wouldn’t really feel the need for a why on that since it isn’t really something I might face a conundrum on, but a surface why of, “It looks more submissive to me,” became, “It implies physical [and emotional] openness and availability to me rather than defensiveness,” in a relatively short philosophical conversation.

In situations like that, finding them out can be fun for the psychology-minded in addition to practical, though that’s just a bonus.

In the end, what’s important for M-types is not sabotaging your own priorities in the name of avoiding any trade-offs at all.  If you’d miss that rush of control more than you mind getting that phone call, you can trade off that practical knowledge for that emotional benefit.  If you’d mind the interruption more than you’d mind handing off that decision, you can trade off that bit of in-the-moment power for the concrete benefit.  There might be compromises to be made, but they’re still yours to make.

My Style of Entertaining, and Where I Got It From

Recently, Mistress and I attended one of my family’s gatherings.

As I watched my cousin, one of the hosts, cook entirely too much delicious food, and the other host, her husband, diligently clean up a step behind her, I thought about my own style of entertaining and where I get it from.

Other than the aforementioned couple, it was mostly my great-aunt or her daughter who hosted family gatherings as I was growing up.  There was also always entirely too much delicious food from that part of the family, though it happened more in courses—light appetizers in wicker baskets scattered around before you sat down to salad and soup, then a course offering the option of many tempting entrees and sides, usually very drawn out before the cleaning up started, people wandering around, leading into the placement of assorted light desserts.

At my cousin’s house, however, it was more like a constant wandering, and many light and heavier appetizers on the large kitchen island, then a large variety of appealing entrees, sides, and heavier desserts added to that island, much closer together in time.  Cleanup got done as it was needed, closely following whatever was getting cooked up at the time.

Aside from family gatherings, the parties I went to during my more formative years that I remember best were the parties thrown by the very wealthy families of kids I went to middle school with for the first two years.  As someone new to that private school and there on scholarships, it was like a whole new world.

These were parties of hundreds of people of varying relation in fancy but uncomfortable looking clothes, with very loud music from a DJ and elaborate but dim lighting, sitting down at round tables so big you could barely read the place card of the person across from you, the table covered in fine linens, and waiters bringing delicately plated food you had ordered on your RSVP card so long ago you forgot what you ordered or what the options even were.  People gave speeches and after dinner, there were activities and lots of dancing.

I think of what I’m like as a host now and can see bits of all of those hosts in me.  I hosted a weekly event at home with Mistress for almost a year and a half, having rarely less than six and rarely more than twelve people over for food, chitchat with kinky company, and occasional play or swimming.  In that event, I can see bits of all of the above events.

I always erred on the side of too much food, and my skills at cleaning and cooking at the same time improved over time, though there was always more cleanup to do after all was done (and cleaning up before people even arrived).  I tended to have the “light appetizers scattered around in cute baskets” style (cut down later on due to the unhealthy tendencies of those “appetizers”). Then there would be a more buffet style entree serving later (as cooking finished), with maybe a light side or two, usually fairly closely followed by a dessert.  People were free to wander around with their food.

Though some of the formality of the large parties appeals to me, I would rather fall on the guests being comfortable side of it, like my family.  We never had a dress code of any sort for guests (and clothes sometimes came off anyway), though I’d be in my uniform. We tried to keep the sensory experience of the house calmer, focused on interaction with the other people, not the environment, since that’s what they were there for.

Food was customizable with request, and I often felt out people on the general food options as little as a day in advance.  

I liked a more personalized feel.  There’s the great service of going to a famed five-star restaurant, and there’s the great service of going to the mom and pop cafe you frequent.  The five-star restaurant might have dishes with names in the romance languages, but the mom and pop cafe knows you want extra potatoes and no whipped cream on your drink.  I liked the latter style.

Yes, the brand name store-bought cookies look pretty in the package and have a health code stamp on them, but you don’t get to smell them while they’re in the oven, or see the cloud of flour dust as flour gets added to the bowl, or taste test any of the cookie dough.  Personally, I valued the way the kitchen got crowded as the cookie dough got closer to taste-test ready or as the oven timer got closer to zero, more than I valued a pretty package.  (People descended upon the cookies before they were nearly cooled enough to think about presentation, anyway.)

A main hosting priority for me was also to make everything as intuitive and easy as possible.  I labeled things.  I laid things out in advance.  I didn’t blast music so loud people couldn’t hear each other, or dim the lights so low they couldn’t see each other.  I tried to offer options on things that would work for everyone, and let people choose for themselves.  Fancy was cool, but I didn’t want it at the cost of confused guests who felt shoved into a box. 

If it wouldn’t disrupt the guest experience, I still liked keeping things nicer; even just using real, non-disposable silverware, plates, napkins, and bowls for the occasion easily gave it a more upscale feel.  (Hosting a lot, you have to start to think about your environmental impact anyway.)

Personally, I had a great guest experience at the house of my cousin and her husband recently, and I have had many great experiences with them and with the other hosts of my family, and many of those massive parties of kids at school were a blast, too.  People can definitely enjoy more than one kind of event.

It was interesting to think back on those experiences and how they formed my general hosting style and values—and thinking deeper into different types.

Some Services S-Types Can Offer

Cleaning

  • Make beds.
  • Collect and take out trash and recycling, manage containers for them, and handle trash and recycling services.
  • Collect, wash, dry, put away, and care for dishes.
  • Disinfect surfaces.
  • Wash mirrors and windows.
  • Clean appliances.
  • Clean toilets, showers, and baths.
  • Manage clutter, tidy up, and organize things.
  • Clean, vacuum, sweep, and mop floors.

Home Maintenance/Repair

  • Fix and install light bulbs and fixtures.
  • Paint walls and hang wallpaper.
  • Fix and install plumbing-related things.
  • Change air filters.
  • Rotate mattresses.
  • Fix and install appliances.
  • Fix, assemble, and make furniture.
  • Do construction, plumbing, and electrical jobs.
  • Handle working with tradesmen.

Plants/Outdoor

  • Plant, grow, and maintain a lawn.
  • Plant and grow any other desired plants.
  • Clear trash and blockages from exterior areas.
  • Weed an area.
  • Prune plants.
  • Maintain a pool.
  • Arrange and maintain bouquets and floral arrangements.

Laundry/Sewing/Needlework

  • Collect, sort, wash, dry, and put away laundry.
  • Iron.
  • Remove stains.
  • Mend clothes.
  • Tailor clothes.
  • Design and sew, knit, and crochet projects.
  • Do embroidery and applique.

Culinary

  • Cook everyday and fancier foods for whatever number of people is required.
  • Bake.
  • Create nice food and drink presentation.
  • Serve food and drink gracefully.
  • Make coffee, tea, and cocoa.
  • Set the table for various situations; fold napkins.
  • Match alcohol and make alcoholic drinks.
  • Check expiration dates and clear out old food.
  • Put together menus, meal plan, keep food inventory, and make shopping lists.
  • Warm or cool plates, cups, and bowls.
  • Handle special diets.
  • Handle food preservation.

Recreation

  • Pack, especially for air travel.
  • Plan for and use public transportation.
  • Handle arrangements for lodging, meals, and transportation.
  • Find desired shops and services.
  • Navigate with a map or GPS.
  • Handle passport, currency, language, cultural, and legal issues.
  • Handle entertainment, visiting tourist destinations, and going to events.
  • Maintain a valid driver’s license and safe driving skills; drive.
  • Maintain a car: change oil, get fuel, check fluids, change wiper blades, check tire pressure, and change tires.
  • Host events and guests, including overnight.
  • Film and photograph requested occasions.

Secretarial

  • Handle and answer electronic written communications, calls, mail, papers, and visitors; take messages.
  • Proofread, edit, format, and provide feedback on various projects.
  • Keep a calendar and manage scheduling.
  • Keep records.
  • Type up or scan physical notes and records.
  • Assist with gifting.
  • Shop online and in-store.
  • Manage groceries and basic items.
  • Manage couponing, sale-finding, item comparing, and negotiating.
  • Do product and store research.
  • Handle paperwork and related items.
  • Give reminders.
  • Give tech support.
  • Design websites.
  • Research assigned topics and share a report.
  • Set up electronics.
  • Budget, track spending, and handle taxes.

Health/Beauty

  • Give massages.
  • Lay out desired outfits in advance.
  • Give manicures and pedicures.
  • Help with bathing; run a bath.
  • Wash, dry, brush, style, and cut hair; barber.
  • Help with shaving, waxing, and plucking.
  • Do makeup.
  • Maintain certification/skills in first aid and CPR.
  • Handle medications.
  • Take vitals.
  • Do caretaking for illness, disability, and injury.

Animals

  • Feed animals and make sure they have water.
  • Train animals.
  • Clean animal habitats and bathrooms.
  • Provide animal health care.
  • Groom animals.
  • Exercise, walk, and play with animals.

Other

  • Assist with moving (business, home, etc.)
  • Create requested art or decor.
  • Keep anything desired well stocked.
  • Assist with “prepping” (food/water/survival gear storage, etc.)
  • Child care (a list unto itself).
  • Homeschooling or tutoring.
  • AM and PM routines such as closing/opening or locking/unlocking windows and doors, closing/opening blinds, turndown service, and shutting/turning on lights.

Run It Like a Business: Organization in Slavery and the Love of the Process

Re-sorting things in OmniFocus again, I was talking about minor features I wished existed. Habit tracking, automatic sorting by date, Find My Friends integration, sharing, so on…

I got to one, and Mistress, laughing good-naturedly, asked, “What do you need those features for, are you a small business CEO now?”

I’m not a CEO. Far from it, I’m a slave.

(Not that CEOs can’t also be slaves—my point being more that for me, being a slave is my only “occupation”.)

But let’s face it: a job to be done is a job to be done. CEOs and slaves both have things to do.

And while looking back at a job well done is commonly a good feeling, I think that what’s often missing is feeling good before then: the love of the process.

Service is an art and a science both. There’s a lot of data-gathering, through questions and observations and research (and cycles thereof); then there’s the data analysis, and back to the start, a life-long cycle of learning. The art is what you do with the conclusions drawn from that data.

You observe your M-type’s slight smile whenever you properly set the table more nicely for dinner, rather than precariously balancing the silverware on the plate itself. You do some research into not only nice but technically proper table setting, and you start setting the table that way, as much as reasonable, and note a bigger smile. You ask them if anything could make the table setting better. “Yes,” they say, perhaps this other napkin fold. You look up how to fold like that, and start folding the napkins that way. The table setting and the napkin folds are the part that’s considered more of an art.

And honestly, satisfaction is much more short lived in that scenario if it comes from looking at the table set as your M-type likes it, rather than all of the parts involved in getting there.

Now, the “a job to be done is a job to be done” thing—and why I take organization weirdly seriously as a slave. Well, look at that example process. There’s the observations, the research, a stated preference. You might want to keep a table setting or napkin folding reference somewhere, and not somewhere lost forever in the depths of your files—not to mention a note of the preferences you noted or heard.

While pride in slavery might sound contradictory (and it sometimes can be), taking pride in a job well done is an excellent motivator for making sure that job is well organized, and of course, continually well done. Pride in the process itself can be even better.

Basically: the importance of an organizational system you believe in cannot be overstated in many situations.

Okay, so if you’re onboard with the theory, what are some practicalities?

The thing is that organization generally should be a very personalized thing. I’ll talk about some of the things I do in as general terms as I can.

In this modern world we live in, organization and productivity apps are everywhere, and there’s something out there for almost everyone.

Personally, we use Google Drive to be able to share things easily—our contract, things related to eating and shopping, my daily slave journal, and things for our weekly check-in meeting. (Speaking of which: a contract for expectations, a journal for “record” keeping, and a routine check-in are all useful organizational tools for us in themselves.) We also have a shared Google Calendar.

I use Evernote for… more things than Evernote is probably meant to be used for. Features it has won me over with include that it syncs between my devices, has tagging abilities, you can hyperlink to a note (think document), and right now, it’s the Web Clipper I love—a browser extension that lets me “clip” webpages into the app, with whatever notebook (think folder), tags, title, or notes that I want.

Mistress introduced me to OmniFocus the night we met. I loved her and I loved the app and I loved her for showing me the app and all of those are still true. Ha. (I very shortly thereafter received the task of reading the book Getting Things Done while kneeling next to her desk where she was working, in comfortable silence. The system described in that book is a basis of OmniFocus).

OmniFocus for me consists of actions, assigned to projects, tags, given due dates, and sometimes a repeating schedule. Each “action” is just a task I have to do. Each of those actions is assigned to a project, and some projects go into folders. I also have lists that are more reference checklists that I don’t check things off on and use repeatedly.

Each task can also be assigned to any tags I have. Then when I see that person or go to that place, I can look at the tag to see if I should do anything (tags can also be assigned to a location so I get a notification when I’m nearby—like getting a “hey, you wanted to pick up milk” when near the store). I do more frequently put notes of those sorts with a calendar event or in that person’s reference note, though.

I tend to use OmniFocus for tasks and Evernote for reference. OmniFocus might have “set table” as a task and Evernote might have “table setting reference” as a note.

Yes, being a bit of a productivity/organization geek has helped me in slavery more than I can say.

I’ve experimented a bit with things like bullet journaling and kanban boards, and use things similar when I think they might be beneficial. I recommend trying different systems for different situations and different combinations of them and finding what works.

Like I said: the love of the process.

The love of learning is a huge part of that too. Reading, practicing skills, taking classes, asking questions of those who are experienced.

Because, the way I think about it, the service process, rather than pure service, is something that’s important to a lot of M-types.

Sometimes a sandwich is a sandwich, and someone making you a sandwich is someone making you a sandwich. So why have a slave instead of a Personal Sandwich Maker?

(Okay, so there are some very practical reasons, but bear with me.)

Because a lot of M-types like watching someone put their time, energy, and skills into pleasing them. It might not be about what exactly that final action is. It might not be that the table looking nice is so important to them—but they get something out of knowing that you were watchful enough to notice what they liked, that you put in the time to read up on it, that you cared enough to ask about it, that you were dedicatedly practicing the just-so napkin folds. It is in those details that the difference can be.

So it helps if you love the process too.

And have a well-organized process you can love and be proud of.

Learning in Anticipatory Service, and Some Advice

There’s a lot of learning involved in service, and especially in anticipatory service.

There’s learning the M-type’s preferences and priorities. All of them. Even the ones they’re not consciously aware of, or don’t think to communicate. And learning them to a point where remembering them is automatic. And knowing and understanding the “why” if it matters. And incorporating them whenever possible. And… sometimes preferences and priorities change.

There’s thoroughly learning the “technical skills” you might not have yet. Cleaning, cooking, errands, laundry, yard work, travel, secretarial, personal care. And fine tuning those skills based on those preferences.

There’s (in anticipatory service) learning about their subconscious and sometimes nigh invisible cues. An extra split second of looking at a cup when it’s nearing empty. A ghost of a smile that indicates they like what you just did. It’s knowing what they want that they might not even know they want (at least yet). And those cues can also change. It’s knowing them and their boundaries well enough to know what kind of anticipatory service is acceptable and desirable.

In anticipatory service, my goal is to do the things that Mistress wants before she calls, “Slave!” from across the house.

So how do I determine what those things are in an anticipatory style?

1. Do things they’re going to ask for, before they ask. For example: fix problems. Big problems might be more involved, but there are plenty of small “problems” that can be solved immediately. Like the toilet paper roll ran out, or there’s a spill in the kitchen. Try to address things like that right away, and try to figure out how to prevent future problems or make them easier to solve when they come up (store extra toilet paper in the bathroom, have a towel ready in the kitchen). Basically, don’t wait for them to remind you to treat something as necessary. You can see their glass of water is almost empty or that you’re missing a needed event supply without them saying anything—fill the glass now, acquire the supply now.

2. Do (or offer to do) things they might not think to ask for at all. Regularly think of what you could be doing to make their life easier that they might not think of. It could be a once-off task or a new standing order. If it can reasonably just be done, then you can just do it before they get to it. If you think you should talk to them about it first, then do that. Think of things around holidays (wrapping?), trips (packing?), and things like that. Look at what seems to give them stress or frustration or disruption. If there’s a repeating task you see them getting distracted from more important things by, offer to handle it on the same schedule.

3. Improve their processes and environments. Make things a little more convenient or a little prettier in some way (and, note what they think makes something more convenient or pretty). Organize things around the house. Eliminate nuisances. Do minor redecorating. Get related supplies in one place. Improve the lighting. Automate things.

4. Devote yourself, on your own, to learning those “technical skills”, keeping track of those preferences, and doing your own self-improvement (growth cannot be overstated).

Anticipatory service is a lot of learning, a lot of work—and one of my favorite things.