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Why it's time to take control of those tedious life admin tasks

Hiding from bills and other 'boring' chores? A new book says we need to shake things up. Jenny Stallard speaks to the author

Feel good: completing an admin task can be very satisfying
Feel good: completing an admin task can be very satisfying

From receipts and bills, to household chores and more fun stuff like booking a holiday, 'life admin' is a daily task in some way, shape or form for most of us.

And even if it leads to a fun event (like a holiday), it's not always fun to do. Some of us hate the nitty-gritty of sorting through direct debits, while others shy away from sending out invitations.

Still, it all needs to get done, somehow. But fear not: The Art Of Life Admin is a new book which aims to address all that.

Author Elizabeth Emens explains: "Life admin is all the office-type work that fills our minds and fills our time on a daily basis, and around big life events.

"So it's both the kind of work that secretaries or admins do - faxing and calendaring and filling out paperwork - and it's the kind of work that managers do - delegating and deciding and then keeping track of all the things that need doing. Things that are often invisible in our daily lives."

Here's how to get through the life admin with aplomb this year.

Work out what kind of 'life adminner' you are

There are four types, according to Emens. "The 'super-doer', 'reluctant-doer', 'admin avoider' and 'admin denier'," she explains.

"The idea is that the first two, the super-doer and the reluctant-doer, are basically doing it or getting it done, and the last two, the admin avoider and the admin denier, are mostly not getting it done, and the difference is how they feel about it."

Accept that life admin is emotional

"I was very surprised by the emotion and by how intimate the subject was," says Emens.

"Because we all do life admin, or we avoid it, aspire to do it, or aspire to be better at it. We all have a relationship with life admin, but we mostly don't talk about it.

"I don't think we generally give it enough time, so most of us are doing it in the margins of everything else, which also makes everything feel rather hassled and makes the time it takes invisible," Emens says.

Give life admin more time

It could be something as simple as re-arranging when you do the task, not whether you do it, Emens advises. "I interviewed a man who was a super-doer at work and at home. He always pays his bills the minute he gets them and he actually then made a conscious decision - after he had kids - to at least wait until he got to work the next morning, so he could be with his kids, rather than paying his bills in the evening when he opened his mail."

Be prepared to change your relationship with life admin

You might be one 'type', but that doesn't mean you can't choose to - or won't be forced to - change to another. You might split with your partner, which means you have to do the life admin tasks they used to do, for example. It's okay to change, and it can be something you embrace over time.

Bask in the post-life-admin glow

You know that feeling when you've done a tedious life admin task? Amazing, isn't it? The paperwork equivalent of a big gym workout. So, don't let it pass you by too quickly.

"So often, we breeze past that moment. When we get it done, we have to move to the next thing,"points out Emens.

"And so I think, if we can actually set a reward for ourselves when we finish - and then actually get the reward - then we get a little extra pleasure out of it, and maybe it helps inspire us the next time to do the thing, instead of just having it attack us at all hours."

Find a life admin buddy

Just like a gym buddy might help you hit those new year fitness goals, a life admin buddy can help you get on top of all the evil paperwork, says Emens. Find someone who can sit with you and do admin at the same time. It's not about doing each other's admin, just sitting together and going through your own at a set time.

"Blocking out an hour with someone else means moral support: make a plan with the other person - what you're going to accomplish, how you're going to reward yourself. And then each just sit there and do your thing," she says. "It doesn't have to mean sharing all the private content that might be involved, unless you both want it to. You can both sit there for 20 or 30 minutes and then, at the end, say what you got done."

The Art Of Life Admin: How To Do Less, Do It Better, Live More by Elizabeth Emens is published by Penguin, priced £12.99

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