I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all of my articles in KinkWeekly!
This week, I’d like to focus in on a technique that I introduced in my first book, “Uniquely Rika” – The Routine Task List exercise. This exercise has brought a great deal of success for many couples through the years. It originated as a way to help couples establish the activities they would utilize within a Dominant-centric dynamic. The exercise was originally established to accomplish three things:
1) Establish a “To-Do” list of tasks that truly serve the dominant and can be executed without the need for the dominant to ensure, order, and follow up on assignments
2) Ensure that what is being done for a dominant is actually FOR a dominant
3) Share the responsibility of creativity between the partners so that the dominant is not solely burdened with the need to come up with and create things for the submissive to do
As it turns out, the Routine Task List exercise has a couple of far more valuable side-benefits: It teaches the submissive to identify the dominant’s preferences; gives the submissive an understanding of why something is, or isn’t, considered to be submission to their particular partner; and helps the submissive think about their activities in terms of what the dominant wants. In short, it establishes a structured communication method, within which the submissive learns how to serve their unique dominant. Because of these, it’s a great exercise for beginners and seasoned players alike. In my second book, “Uniquely Us”, you see how several couples have implemented the technique within their dynamics with great results!
The Routine Task List Exercise
The exercise is best described in the books, but here goes the abridged version:
1) The sub is to prepare a list of 10 items that the sub believes the dominant will feel are service to them.
• The list should be prepared on a regular schedule. Many couples start at once a week. It’s best to establish a set time to prepare a written list.
• The list should contain things that the submissive feels is going to be received by the dominant as submission to them. It’s not a list of things that the sub wants to do, it’s a list of things that the sub thinks the dominant would want. This caveat is what makes the exercise so useful for establishing the definition of submission for that dominant – because the submissive is forced to think like the dominant.
• The submissive should create this list on their own, based on their understanding of the dominant’s preferences.
2) The dominant reviews the list and triages it into three categories and explains why each item fell into each category:
• Things that the dominant feels are really submission to them – that they would want to have done on a regular basis
• Things that the dominant feels are really more for the submissive – and although the dominant likes to see the submissive happy and will get pleasure from making the sub happy, are not actually submission for them
• Things that the dominant does not like and does not want to do
The important part of all of this, is that dominant needs to take the time to explain WHY each item from the list ends up in the bucket it does. It’s equally important to explain to the sub what it is about a specific task that is submission to the dominant and made it to the list – as it is to explain why something did not make the task list.
3) The dominant assigns the triaged items that meet the criteria:
• The things that make the first category, are given a frequency and are added to the submissive’s “Task List”. The frequency can be something like, “Every day”, “Once a week”, “Whenever I shower”, “At meals”, “When I enter the room”, etc. These items are put on the submissives list and the submissive is to execute the tasks on the scheduled times without the need for provocation, reminder, etc. It’s the sub’s responsibility to meet the schedule.
• Things in the second category are taken under advisement by the dominant as things that can be given as treats/gifts during playtime. They do not make the task list. The dominant should be quite particular about what makes it to the task list…if it’s not really service to the dominant…that is, if it’s not FOR the dominant, then it doesn’t make the list.
• Things that are in the third category are removed and will not be done.
If the submissive gets 5 or more items accepted to the list, they’ve done a good job. The goal, of course, is to get a perfect 10 for 10. If the sub gets less than 5 items on the list, then they should go back and try again that same week…armed with the understanding they’ve accumulated via the feedback. Otherwise, the sub executes the (now grown) task list and begins to think of things for the next week’s list.
After a few weeks of this, the sub gets pretty good at understanding what is and what isn’t considered to be submission to this dominant…and should begin to get better at predicting and getting more and more items added to the list. The end result is an increasing list of pre-scheduled tasks that the sub is performing on a regular basis, that truly provide submission to the unique dominant.
The list is designed to contain routine tasks – to be executed according to the schedule, by the submissive, without the need for the dominant to monitor or command execution. This simplifies the dominant’s life – while providing services that meet their needs.
As I mentioned, many couples with whom I’ve worked, have used this technique with a great deal of success. Earlier in 2020, the submissive of one of those couples posted his account in my FetLife Rika’s Lair discussion group. I’ve reproduced it here with his permission:
Hi folks! I wanted to chime in here to talk about the Task List Exercise. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m John – of Liz and John in Rika’s second book. We started the Task List Exercise when Liz introduced me to Rika’s methodology. I was a bit skeptical at first (with the whole methodology, as well as the exercise), but Liz was into it…and to see her excited by anything having to do with being my dominant was, as the song goes, simply irresistible!
I remember how I thought my first list was perfection…and it turned out to be AWFUL. In it, I spelled out what I felt submission was, being sure to list the kinky activities that Liz and I had done in our previous playtime that she liked. Turns out, she enjoyed my reaction to those kinds of things, but serving her – in her mind – was a much different experience. It was, looking back, all about me: What I would allow her to do to me. Only one item from my first list made it to the routine list.
She sat me down and explained why these things, although enjoyable, were not going to be considered to be submission to her. That we will likely do some of those things, because they’re fun, but they were not making their way to the list – which was to define service TO HER.
I remember feeling that she had been fed a dose of poison and that we were losing every chance of having a deep D/s dynamic. I was pretty pissed at Rika, frankly. But Liz was not moving. She would not budge from what she wanted. She sets expectations in a way that wasn’t asking me, it was telling me. She basically said I was doing this, or I wasn’t doing anything – that to serve her meant she got to set what service means. In other words, she was being dominant! On the surface, I didn’t like where she was taking this – but at my core, I loved that she was demanding that I comply. I did.
Fast forward about 6 months: I was 10 for 10 on my task list almost every week and had a routine list of over 200 items. They were small items, but there were a lot of them! It was more than I could handle, frankly. We both recognized that we were fast approaching my limit. Rika advised us to prune the list. To remove things that Liz could live without. She also recommended that we review the list monthly, rather than weekly. We got the list to [a] manageable 160 items, some of them daily, some weekly, some in certain circumstances.
Around two months into this process, I started to realize that I FELT MORE submissive than I had ever felt in our playtime. I was truly serving Liz and Liz was feeling truly dominant. She was also giving me lots of treats. I didn’t feel like I was going without what I enjoyed – I just knew that when Liz gave me something that she knew I liked, it was not submission, but rather a gift – and I was so very thankful for it.
We’re many years into our dynamic now – we don’t visit the task list on a regular basis anymore. It changes when Liz wants it to change. It is, however, always in play. I am her servant, heart and soul, and love every moment of it. I find that my tastes and desires have changed and are almost in complete lock step with Liz’s. It’s not that I can read her mind, but I’m thinking like her now. I’ve embodied her tastes and preferences and find myself acting in accordance with them, without having to try.
Rika’s system works. This task list is just the beginning, but it’s an important first component. Try it out…I strongly recommend it. And to the dominants: Be REALLY strict about what makes it onto your list. Make sure it REALLY serves YOU if you allow it. The other things you can still do, but not as part of this list. This list is about YOU.
Wrapping it Up
Communication is, by far, the most important element of success for couples establishing, or continuing their D/s dynamics. The Routine Task List exercise provides an excellent vehicle to enable greater communication. It’s particularly effective because it engages the submissive’s mind – challenging the submissive to internalize the dominant’s definition of submission. When submissives begin to consistently create lists that triage a perfect 10 for 10, the couple can be certain that the submissive has truly embraced the dominant’s definition of submission. Over time, that definition can change – and the Routine Task List assures that the submissive stays with the course.
Try the technique. For more info, read the books. I think you’ll find that they will help your dynamic regardless of how “seasoned” or “newbie” yours is!
Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com