How to cope when life admin gets too much

Katie Hoare
By Katie Hoare,
updated on Sep 3, 2020

How to cope when life admin gets too much

Six life admin hacks to put the pro back in productivity

Constantly overwhelmed with a never-ending to-do list? Me too. And I don’t just mean the work to-do list, this is far worse: the life admin list. Even the phrase is enough to make me crinkle my nose. As I’m currently writing this, a pile of life admin that I’m sure grows (of its own accord!) daily is winking at me from the corner of the desk. And the bigger it gets, the less inclined I am to tackle it.

The thing about life admin is that it never stops. It’s inevitable, and sometimes we can become totally overwhelmed by it. The small tasks that are mundane essentials can often weigh heavily on our shoulders. When we miss a deadline or forget to pick something up at the shop, we often catch ourselves harshly berating our own actions.

Life admin is thankless and laborious

Life admin carries emotional weight, as Elizabeth Emens, author of The Art Of Life Admin: How To Do Less, Do It Better, Live More, says:

"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."

Half the problem with feeling overwhelmed by life admin is the physical presence of it.

Life admin is full of those laborious, thankless tasks; tasks you know you need to do, but simply haven’t any more mental capacity or physical energy to tackle it with. As humans we generally desire appreciation and praise for good work, but life admin delivers no thanks, and constantly fires another item at us. So it’s no wonder we’re feeling emotionally drained and completely overwhelmed by our mounting lists.

We’ve rounded up six hacks that might help you switch the pro from procrastination to productivity when it comes to living in harmony with your life admin.

Six hacks to help you conquer life admin

1. Prioritisation

When the pile of life admin mounts, you can get stuck in an endless cycle of not knowing where to start, so you end up not starting anything. I know this well and then I often feel frustrated with myself.

The best way to combat this feeling of overwhelm is to be brutally honest with your prioritisation - and stick to it. What absolutely needs to be done, and I mean will-I-get-fined-if-I-don’t-do-this sort of prioritisation. Sadly, the fun(ish) things will probably be at the bottom, but stick to your list and you will get to them!

2. Designate space

Half the problem with feeling overwhelmed by life admin is the physical presence of it. If piles of paperwork and letters are encroaching on your relaxation space, you’ll find you can’t ever switch off.

You might not have a home office but that doesn’t matter: find a drawer or cupboard that you have easy access to and are able to organise effectively. Store your paper life admin here, ensuring you close the door when you’re finished. The physical act of shutting the door ensures you have closed that part of life for now, and can focus on the next task, whether that’s relaxing or cooking dinner. No lingering reminders here of what more you could be doing.

3. Create an on-the-go to-do list

We are busy people these days, our brains already full to the brim with modern life. I often feel overwhelmed when my head is swimming with things to do and remember, and I’m panicking that I’ll forget something important.

If you're anything like me, my phone is never far, so I have a dedicated app for anything that comes to mind that I can deal with later, that I don't want to forget. An on-the-go to-do list will declutter your mind,  ensuring you free up mental capacity to focus on the task at hand.  Check our Trello or Todoist for easy on-the-go organisation

4. Find a life admin buddy

Just like some of us need moral support to hit the gym, life admin also needs a cheerleader. That doesn’t mean enlisting someone else to do your admin, but sitting down with a friend or loved one for a set amount of time, each conquering a task.

Emen says, "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. At the end, say what you got done."

5. Prepare to be prepared

Possibly the most ‘adulting’ thing on this list, meal prep really is the golden rule when it comes to getting a handle on your life admin. When I’ve had a long day at work, sometimes the thought of cooking from scratch makes me want to turn around and go straight out again. Instead, I might reach for the quickest, easiest dish and often, not the most nutritious that I know my body is craving.

Try setting aside one hour on a Sunday afternoon and prep some batch cooking, making sure one dish can be frozen. Then, you’ll have four or five dinners readily available for those nights when a TV dinner calls. Check out The Batch Lady for some delicious, batch cooking recipes.

6. House cleaning day - no daily cleaning here

In this case, little and often is not the way forward. One mistake I used to make was having a small daily cleaning task, and then a reward. This meant I was cleaning every day, albeit only for ten minutes.

Pick a day or evening that you know you’ll be doing the less enjoyable things, such as a work night, and set aside a dedicated cleaning hour or two. You can get all your housework done in one evening, it doesn’t spoil a day off and you'll have the rest of the week to enjoy.

Life admin is unavoidable but hopefully these six hacks will help you tame those feelings of overwhelm.

Join 100,000+ subscribers

Stay in the loop with everything Happiful

We care about your data, read our privacy policy
Our Vision

We’re on a mission to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable society.