In 2018, I was overwhelmed, fed up and on the cusp of burnout, drowning in life admin while juggling paid work and family life. I knew my stress levels and the lack of shared responsibility in my household were unsustainable but there was no obvious solution. My husband helped with the parenting, and we had a cleaner, but it was the life admin that was pushing me over the edge.
Life admin is those personal and household administrative tasks that make our lives work – paying bills, banking, comparing services and switching to better deals, setting up insurance, managing kids’ schedules and the logistics of your social life. It also extends to things like making medical appointments for you and your family members, organising your car service and maintaining your house. It’s the homework of life, tedious and never-ending. This was the stuff that was clogging up my to-do list and keeping me up at 3 am. Can you relate?
I started my career in chartered accounting and have held senior commercial and strategy roles in large corporate and government. Yet it was my innovation training that made me realise this was a problem that could be solved, and not just for me, but for all the working women out there grappling with the perennial balancing act. Together with my old friend Mia Northrop, we became determined to conquer the problem of life admin once and for all.
Life admin is distinct from housework, which is traditionally cooking, cleaning and laundry. It has its own areas of responsibility, yet social commentary often conflates the two. When you don’t distinguish life admin from adjacent domestic activities, when you don’t take stock of the sheer amount of it that exists every day:
- you don’t explicitly talk about it nor plan for it
- you don’t educate yourself about it; and
- you don’t set up systems to tackle it and share it
You’re not alone if you are:
- Spending more time than is necessary on life admin. We didn’t have the right tools or approach and so we were inefficient, and we procrastinated, sometimes thinking about tasks longer than it would take to do them.
- Wasting money. We had policies and plans that were out of date and we were wasting thousands of dollars a year by not shopping around. Without a clear process, we repeatedly got stuck in analysis paralysis and fail to act.
- Stressed and anxious suffering from the so-called “Zeigarnik effect” – remembering things we need to do better than things we’ve done. This mental chatter was impacting our work and our family life.
- Arguing with your partner. Our research has shown that life admin causes friction in 85% of two-parent households.
In our book Life Admin Hacks, we shift you out of survival mode towards a calmer life by design. We have researched the topics, trialled the tech, adopted the best practices, researched the what, why, how and when.
We start the book by introducing five life admin foundational tools. These are the game-changers that our research has shown will have the biggest impact on both reducing life admin and making all other life admin tasks easier. They include setting up a dedicated life admin email address, going paperless, and adopting a password manager. We show you how to allocate tasks to one of three categories – Hour of Power, Ten Minute Time killers and Two Minutes Too Easy – to shift your perspective on when you can get things done.
We then address things on the home front – meal planning, kids logistics, decluttering and outsourcing- because until the everyday things are humming it’s hard to find the time and headspace for other life admin tasks. Next, we streamline your personal affairs – wills, tax, super, health – because when these highly important but often neglected tasks are sorted, the peace of mind is priceless.
Part 4 of the book is dedicated to shopping around for household bills and we guarantee you’ll come out better off. We walk you through a consistent process so you can get it done as fast as possible. Finally, we help you find a better way to organise tasks that support fun activities and events – planning holidays, your social life, gift buying and even planning for Christmas.
When Mia and I started this journey, I was doing almost all the life admin in our household, things were falling through the cracks, it was costing us money and giving me sleepless nights.
Fast forward to now, the life admin systems in our house are humming and things usually happen on autopilot. My family’s life admin is firmly in neutral territory and my husband is truly sharing the mental load. I can barely remember the agony of my former life, this has truly been a journey from chaos to calm.
Now it’s your turn.
Dinah Rowe-Roberts was on the verge of drowning in life admin and the stress of trying to do it all, so she got together with her high-school bestie and did something about it. Author of Life Admin Hacks, Dinah has helped loads of families break free from the hamster wheel of bills and grocery shopping to transform life admin into something a lot let chaotic.
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