Nine simple techniques and technologies for a productive relationship

April 1, 2009 by Jared Goralnick

image Valentine’s Day was great this year, but I haven’t had enough time for her since.

So I’ve been thinking: I’ve optimized my email workflow and CRM strategy, but ultimately I’m going to spend the rest of my life with one person.  I’d better ensure I have a workflow and tools for that relationship.

I don’t need to provide much more context on this post: you want to get work done and you want to get your relationship done.  Well, not done, but you know what I mean.  If you have an @relationship in your task list then you’ll appreciate this post.  If you don’t, then perhaps you need this advice even more.

Disclaimer: for simplicity, I’ve often used “she” below as it’s more effective than sticking to gender neutral in some cases, but you get the idea.  And the name Sarah below is completely fictitious…but everyone’s dated at least one Sara (+/-h), right?

  1. Coming up with creative ideas, fast.  You’re not as indecisive as she is, but face it, you can’t make a decision.  So from now on, it’s all about Google or Yelp:
    Google Knows All
    Yep, honey, we’re going to see Confessions of a Shopaholic or Compulsive Lover, or whatever that seems to read in Spanish.  Don’t worry, Google is usually right.  I gave up on tracking the movies I wanted to see a while ago and instead relied on the wisdom of Google serendipity.

    And for restaurants?  Go to Yelp and follow the same advice.  On each meal, go one more down the list, sorted by ranking.  If you don’t want to eat at that restaurant, it’s your cue to stay in that night.  Don’t worry, there’s no need to cook, that’s what Personal Chef to Go is for.

  2. Choosing the perfect gift.  It’s always a challenge to find the right present.  But that’s what crowdsourcing is for.  While posting a question about what to buy from an anonymous Twitter account may not be for you, you can always poll the community at, or get GeniusRocket to design something for her.  If you’re still not sure what’s the right present, you can spice it up and ask her to leave a comment on one of these sites to see how her answer stacks up!  Maybe she’ll get lucky and get the perfect present!
  3. Making sure they’re okay, because you care.  Since it’s important to make sure that your loved one is safe, but it can be distracting to start a conversation when you’re at work, consider signing up their phone for services like Loopt and Latitude so you always know where they are.  Shared calendars are a start, but really, they’re more Relationships 1.0.
  4. Being available when you’re needed.  There’s a time for talking and a time for focus—when you’re on a date, you don’t want to be interrupted at the office…and there are moments when an emotional conversation just isn’t timely at work.  Use Google Voice so that calls from clients get sent to voicemail when you’re with your loved one…and calls from your loved one get ignored when you’re a little too busy.  You could even have those calls automatically routed to your virtual assistant, who has more time to explain what you’re up to.
  5. Getting through difficult conversations  It never seems to be the right time, but we usually know what we have to deal with.  I recommend keeping a list of serious stuff to talk about in your shared (with your loved one) Action Method account.  (Action Method is like Basecamp but prettier and smarter—like her.  And when she thinks you’re crazy for setting this up, use that line.)  Create different projects like ‘Five Year Plan’, ‘Things Jared Needs to Work On’, and ‘Communication Issues’.  The beauty of this is that when one of you addresses any of their challenges , you don’t need to have a long conversation about it, instead you can just see it crossed off on the list.  To stay up to date, set up RSS or emails alerts to clue you in when your loved one makes progress on resolving their flaws.
  6. When an issue is too serious for a system.  If you do need to talk face-to-face about something serious, try to hold the conversation when you’re at your optimal energy level.  Just like you shouldn’t send an irritated email without sleeping on it, you shouldn’t have a serious conversation without waiting until the right time.  You might be accused of being insensitive; in those cases, quoting Steve Pavlina or David Allen might help.  If you do need to address the issue right away, try first starting the conversation with a breathing exercise.  Remember: “mind like water.”
  7. Holding onto the memories.  Scrapbooking is a bitch.  I suggest coming up with a semantic methodology for holding onto the memories that are important to you.  If you want to keep things simple, stick to #jaredandsarah or similar.  And when you’re using Flickr or Twitter you can add meaningful terms like #jaredandsarahfirstkiss or have two separate tags, #jaredandsarah, #firstkiss—just bear in mind it’s easier for other people to find your first kiss picture in the latter semantic hierarchy.  If you think your relationship is going to last, I recommend geotagging, too.  iPhones are helpful, but any old GPS device should be able to record the coordinates of your special moments.  Now every time I see 02°17’40", 48°51’29" on a sign or it comes up in conversation, my heart skips a beat.  Consider using services like BrightKite or Flickr’s tagging for holding onto the location of that special moment.   Just think how much easier it’ll be for your children to one day live your relationship back, day by day, location by location, moment by moment.
  8. image “I love you, honey.”  It’s important to check in regularly, but we don’t always have time for each and every one of those check-ins’ being timely and personal.  So try using Remember the Milk reminders to schedule check-ins: “I got in safely," “Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you, honey,” “Happy 10th anniversary!!”  Of course, you could schedule a group of these in advance.  If SMS is not personal enough for you, you can get creative with a text to voice automated service, or outsourcing the call—it’s remarkable how inexpensive a call from India is to your loved one due to Skype, and they’ll think it’s a local call now, too!
  9. Outsourcing what can’t be digital.  As with the last part of #8, there are rare occasions when the digital tools above just aren’t enough for maintaining a healthy and productive relationship.  As sort of an umbrella policy, you might want to hire someone to check in on your loved one’s lifestream (following their Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, FriendFeed, blog commenting, and the like) and alerting you of any important things that happened during your loved one’s day…or anything important that’s coming up soon.  In the past, you might’ve kept up with a loved one’s best friend or parent to help a little…or even tracked their online activities yourself…but this is much more thorough and reliable, and takes a lot less time.

Some of these ideas might seem like a little much; after all, relationships aren’t all about productivity.  Sometimes they’re about connection, companionship, shared experiences, or whatever.  But when you were growing up you probably laughed at the kid who kept lists, and now he’s the one running your company.

I hope this helps.  Do you have any other relationship hacks that might assist me or my readers?

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9 Responses to “Nine simple techniques and technologies for a productive relationship”

1 Trackbacks

  1. – Dominoes and Pillars: when to choose productivity and when to slow down

2 Tweetbacks

  1. ksandven (Kristoffer Sandven)

    Online tools for a productive relationship: Taking it a bit too far? What do you think, guys?

  2. RobinYasinow (Robin Yasinow)

    “Nine simple techniques and technologies for a productive relationship” (@technotheory)


  1. Maria | Never the Same River Twice

    This *has* to be an April Fool’s joke, right? If it’s not, I’m frightened for you, Jared!!!!

  2. Aaron Dragushan

    Nice. Outsourcing the 10th year anniversary call is classy! Gonna have to try that someti*smack!* (sorry dear. Yes dear. Of course I would call in person.) Umm I have to go now.

  3. Tim Koelkebeck

    Hilarious. I actually kind of like the idea of a shared Action Method account. Relationships often take silly things too seriously, good way to lighten it up.

  4. Jared Goralnick

    You’ll never know, Maria… ; ).

    And yes, Aaron, I think you should try that and videotape it for all of us.

    Tim, if anyone could pull off using Action Method in a relationship, it’d be you and Melody. And she’d blog about it, too.

  5. alexismichelle

    Not a bad list of productivity tools, April fools or not ;) Reminds me a bit of “My outsourced life” by AJ Jacobs (

  6. Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching

    Thanks for the mention. It was a tough adjustment process at first, but my girlfriend eventually came to see the value of being redirected to my Aleutian Islands call center when I didn’t have the energy for a confrontation. :)

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