Have you ever had to refuse a fun activity or day out, as you have too many boring admin tasks to take care of?
Do you waste lots of time worrying about all the things you haven’t got around to doing?
Do you have lists and lists of tasks that you are not actioning?
Most people have a list of personal tasks that need completing outside of work, commonly referred to as ‘life admin’.
This might include tasks such as paying bills, managing a mortgage, home improvements and maintenance, household chores, personal banking, making appointments, and shopping.
Many people admit to feeling overwhelmed by the volume of activities they have on their lists and often put off tasks until the absolute last minute possible, but then spend a lot of time and energy worrying about all the tasks they haven’t completed.
I am trying to become more effective at managing my life admin, to keep on top of it and spend less time thinking about the long list of things I have to do, and more time actually doing them. I’ve been trying out different strategies to help me become better at this:
1) Decide to be productive
You can make a decision to be the sort of person who is productive. It’s all in your mindset. You can tell yourself you are the type of person who puts things off and always struggles to complete tasks on time, or that you are someone who is super productive and manages your life admin effectively. If you think of yourself in the latter way, you’re much more likely to live these values.
2) 15 minute productivity blast
Many people have long to-do lists comprising all the various tasks they need to complete, which can be fairly daunting and impractical to manage.
It’s very easy to be overoptimistic, and allocate just half a day to focus on completing all these tasks, then feel the inevitable disappointment when you haven’t got as much done as you hoped, as everything seems to take longer than you predicted.
Don’t forget about Hofstadter’s law – “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”
Rather than letting the list build up, until it seems like an impossible task, try incorporating a 15 minute ‘life admin productivity blast’ into your day. This is about dedicating 15 minutes at the same time every day, to focus on accomplishing one of your tasks, or as many as you can manage in that time, slowly bringing the list down over time. You’ll find your to dos are reduced to a manageable size in no time.
If 15 minutes isn’t enough time to finish an entire task, at least you can take the first step. 15 minutes a day is totally manageable, helps you keep on top of things, and feels a lot less overwhelming than having to dedicate a large amount of time to completing a long list.
3) Tracking progress and success
In order to be as productive as possible, it can be helpful to clearly document all your tasks, somewhere easily accessible, in order to track exactly what you need to action.
This works well for 3 main reasons:
- When you immediately write down any task you need to achieve, you find less energy is wasted than if they are all in your head
- It will help with the ‘15 minute productivity blast’ as all the things you need to action are clearly defined, meaning you can go straight in to actioning them.
- Tracking your progress can give you a sense of satisfaction, by showing what you have achieved and that you are making progress.
If you use an app to manage your to do list, you can add items whilst you are on the go. Alternatively, pop a small notebook in your bag, so that you can make a note of any tasks that you think of while you’re out and about.
4) Prioritisation matrix
In order to prioritise your tasks more effectively you can split them into 4 categories:
- Those you must do today (urgent)
- Simple quick wins (easy)
- Complex and important tasks (difficult)
- Longer term tasks (not urgent)
It’s often easier to complete the smaller and easier tasks on the list, rather than focusing on the larger, complex tasks that may bring more benefit. By splitting the tasks into these four categories, you can ensure that you spread your focus across all the categories, rather than just the quick, easy ones.
With the more complex tasks, you can try splitting them down into more manageable chunks, which can then go into one of the first two categories, making them easier to achieve .
It’s very easy to make tasks more complicated than they need to be. This can be for 2 main reasons:
It might simply be a case of overcomplicating something in your head. At times, you can build a task up to be a lot more complicated than it really is. The longer you put off something in this category, the more complex you can make it seem. You can break it down into smaller steps, and focus on taking the first step, to simplify the task.
- Simplicity opportunities
You can invest time upfront to simplify tasks as much as possible. For example:
- Schedule regular payments by direct debit, rather than making manual payments each time
- Online shopping delivered to your door
- Set up automated reminders for regular tasks
- Use online solutions wherever possible
- Think about what you might be able to outsource tasks
If you invest time upfront in simplifying tasks, it can save you more time in the long run.
These five strategies helped me get my life admin under control. What about you? How do you keep on top of your personal to do-list?
About Mel: Mel Johnson is the author of Bestselfology, a blog focusing on forming habits and living a happy and healthy life.