I never knew it was called life admin. Yes, those seemingly endless amounts of chores and tasks that magically propped up in my life as I juggled work, family, duties and a million other things. But then, I heard Elizabeth Emens speak on a podcast. Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, Author of the book The Stress Solution was in conversation with Emens in connection with her book, The Art of Life Admin.
It was then that it struck. « Every day, an unseen form of labour creeps into our lives, stealing precious moments of free time, placing a strain on our schedules and relationships, and earning neither appreciation nor compensation in return. Scheduling doctor’s appointments. Planning a party. Buying a present. Filling out paperwork. This labour is ‘life -admin’- the kind of secretarial and managerial work necessary to run a life and a household, » she writes.
I am sure all of us can connect to this. Don’t we all feel consumed and swamped with life-admin tasks? Emens took on an independent and original research on this topic by interviewing a number of people. Her book presents information on different admin personalities, the types of admin we get caught up in, how to reduce, redistribute and prevent admin and so on.
For me, the biggest positive from reading the book was to actually put a name to a problem that I felt I had, but could not name. It’s like a diagnosis which makes treatment easier! Here are some tips that I have gleaned from this very detailed and comprehensive book (almost like a research manual) on Life-admin:
- Admin is sticky- If you feel that you end up like a magnet for everyone else’s chores, chances are admin has been stuck to you. Emens recommends deflecting it elsewhere or taking an action that will ensure the admin doesn’t stick to you the next time round.
- Optimising- have effective methods for getting things done and stick to these. Example: auto debit instructions for monthly regular bills, dealing with mail and paper right away by filing, acting on it or shredding, having a stockpile of gifts and so on.
- Simplify things. Sometimes the plethora of choices we have cost a lot of mental energy. Example- having a weekly or monthly menu and sticking to it.
- Managing helpers of paid or unpaid admin, and delegating effectively.
- Embrace the simple paper-pen to-do list and forget the search of a magic tool!
- Scan IDs and important documents and keep them in a folder that you can access digitally.
- Make low-admin default social plans. (e.g I’ll be at the playground at 3, join whoever can)
As we move about life, sometimes there are chores that overtake us and have the potential to wreck complete havoc. Daily chores are definitely in this space but so are chores and admin related to life situations such as moving house, marriage, divorce, death and so on. The life admin involved in these situations is also consuming- mentally, emotionally and time-wise. The Art of Life Admin by Elizabeth Emens places this enormous giant time eater called Life Admin in the centre of things and tackles the issue of how to deal with this.
Life admin is important, because life is important. And so is our time!