Friday , October 18 2019
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The Slackification of the American Home

Julie Berkun Fajgenbaum, a mom of three children ages 8 to 12, uses Google Calendar to manage her children’s time and Jira to keep track of home projects. Ryan Florence, a dad in Seattle, set up a family Slack account for his immediate and extended family to communicate more easily. And Melanie Platte, a mom in Utah, says Trello has transformed her family life. After using it at work, she implemented it at home in 2016. “We do family meetings every Sunday where we review goals for the week, our to-do list, and activities coming up,” she says. “I track notes for the meeting [in Trello]. I have different sections, goals for the week, a to-do list.” Her oldest son started high school last year, and Platte says that without productivity and task-management software, she doesn’t know how he could manage it all. Trello allows her son to track responsibilities and deadlines, and set incremental goals.

Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University and the author of Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, From Birth to Preschool, and her husband started using Asana at home nearly a decade ago, when they bought a house and were expecting a baby. “We all of a sudden had a bunch of stuff to deal with,” she says, explaining how Asana made the jump from software her husband used for work to software they used as a couple.

In the hectic days of new parenthood, the platform provided a way of managing all the sleep training and child-care-coordinating Oster and her husband were doing. The to-do lists these days are a bit thinner—her two kids are no longer toddlers—but the couple’s Asana use surges during big projects, like a home renovation.

Oster, who is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, says she takes a “business-y approach” to other aspects of home life as well. After she and her husband arrive at a decision as parents, it’s not uncommon for one of them to send an email recap, something along the lines of “As per our earlier conversation, we have decided that the children will be enrolled in tennis camp over the summer. Please let me know if you want to follow up on this.” She acknowledges that such a note is “more like an email I think most people send at their jobs,” but says it helps minimize miscommunication and confusion about the many things she and her husband are juggling.

Asana said it doesn’t collect data on the various “personal-use cases” its software is put toward. But Joshua Zerkel, the company’s head of global community, says that in talking with people about how they use the product, he hears many say it comes in handy for nonbusiness purposes, such as planning a wedding or a move. When asked how Asana might be designed differently if it were intended for personal use, he said, “I don’t know that that much would actually change.”