Life admin, the homework of adult life, is endless and energy-zapping. It starts when you get your first job, it leaps if you buy a property and once you have a child, it bounds to the next level. Birth certificates, Centrelink forms, birthday parties, daycare, kinder and school newsletters, the logistics of extracurricular activities…life admin can very quickly become overwhelming.
As a parent juggling paid work and two kids under three, I remember a distinct moment when I was hanging out laundry at 11pm while mentally going through my to-do list for the next week, wondering how I was going to get everything done.
You probably have a to-do list too, and it’s possibly very long. It’s likely full of tasks that have been there for months, both big and small, and the sight of it triggers panic, resignation or both. Sound familiar?
The reality: there is plenty of time. Getting through your list is not just about being more motivated or organised. Productivity experts suggest categorising tasks by how long each one will take. One of the keys is to size up your life admin tasks and decide whether they’re small, medium or large, then rethink what actually belongs on your to-do list.
Two Minutes Too Easy: these are small tasks that will take less than two minutes to do, and they don’t actually belong on a list. If one of these tasks comes your way – such as an email requesting you pay a bill or your child handing you a permission slip – do it right there and then. Don’t leave it for later or add it to a pile: it’s most efficient to deal with it now. Once it’s done you don’t have to think about it, procrastinate about it or file it. Your to-do list just got a whole lot shorter.
Ten Minute Time Killers: these are tasks that take up to ten minutes to do, and can be done during downtime or in the white space between other activities. Make a Ten Minute Time Killer to-do list on your phone to capture these medium-sized tasks. Examples here might be researching your closest indoor climbing centres for an upcoming playdate, reserving a bunch of books at the library or filling out three quote forms to get the carpets cleaned. Next time you find yourself standing in a lengthy queue, killing time between meetings or waiting while your child finishes swimming lessons, knock over one of these tasks.
Hour of Power: these are large admin tasks where you need to concentrate, such as updating your superannuation investment option, shopping around for a better mobile plan or organising a house move. Add these tasks to a separate Hour of Power list and set aside a time each week that is dedicated to doing them – Set Me Up Sunday or Monday Magic Time, for example. Schedule a recurring slot in your digital calendar. You’ll enjoy real peace of mind when you know you’ve marked out time to deal with each of them and can stop worrying about when you’ll get to them.
Not all life admin tasks are created equal nor do they belong in one long to-do list. Upgrade your approach to your to-dos, reduce your mental load and discover more time for the things that matter most.
Mia Northrop is a life admin and personal organisation author, coach and co-host of Life Admin Life Hacks, a podcast that helps you find more time, money, peace of mind and household harmony. If you’d like practical nudges to help you get on top of your life admin and stay on track, subscribe to the Monthly Momentum newsletter at lifeadminlifehacks.com.