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Overwhelmed By Life Admin Tasks?

Question of the week: "I still struggle doing admin tasks. I get overwhelmed because I cannot concentrate properly, my brain feels too cluttered, any advice to tackle this problem? Thank you!!" - Zuleika

Dear Zuleika,

In the past, I was someone who forgot birthdays, turned in my kids' school papers late, and got calls from the doctor that I had missed appointments. Remembering and interacting in a timely manner with admin tasks is simply not something that comes easily to me. I will not lie to you and pretend that I'm the most prompt and together person you know, but I have figured out strategies that help me stay up-to-date on what needs doing.

Life admin tasks are typically boring, but they can also feel like a punishment if you have negative associations with certain tasks.

Examples of life admin tasks
Examples of "Life Admin" Tasks

For example:

  • I struggle to have a healthy relationship with food. We also have various dietary restrictions in our family. So meal planning and grocery shopping can feel actually excruciating. I don't think I'm being dramatic!

  • I have several health issues and have dealt with them for decades. In my experience, doctors can be dismissive or fail to treat you as a whole person. On top of that, insurance sucks, and each visit can be far more costly than my co-pay (and let's not even get into how difficult this was when I didn't have insurance for a decade +). My history means that verifying insurance benefits, making appointments, and going to the doctor can often feel like a ton of work for very little (if any) reward.

With that being said, may I give you a little firm love that I give myself? The tasks aren't going to go away, they are going to multiply the longer they are ignored. You and I don't deserve the stress that comes from a mental closet that is filled to bursting. So let's sort out a system for dealing with admin tasks at a rate that puts you ahead and not behind.

  1. Stop using your brain as a catch-all. There's nothing worse than juggling to-do's in your mind, always feeling like you're forgetting something. This creates a ton of stress- especially if you have been ignoring certain to-do items for a while. Start by doing a brain dump: write down every single thing your mind is trying to hold onto and feel the stress easing from your shoulders. I do this at the beginning of every week or two, using a worksheet that I'll put in my shop for free. As new things come up during the week(s), I add them to my list.

  2. Have an organized plan. Once you have brain-dumped everything that's been weighing on you, it's important to organize the tasks. Looking at a list of twenty-three tasks is intimidating, so categorize your tasks and plan out a realistic amount to do. I like to categorize by placing the three most time-sensitive and urgent tasks into "Priorities." Then, I categorize the rest of the list into "Couch Care," which is everything I can do while relaxing on the couch; "Around the House," for tasks that I need to move around to complete; and "Errands," for tasks that I have to leave my house to accomplish.

  3. Create a manageable system. I break down everything I need to do in my life into how I'll feel at low, average, or high capacity, and this helps me have a realistic plan, thus moving the needle forward even when I don't have much to give. For instance, I'll only run errands when I'm at average or high capacity because leaving the house to do something I don't want to do requires the right mindset. When I'm at low capacity, I rest as much as possible, but I can still be productive by tackling "couch care" tasks while I'm chillaxin. Decide what can realistically get done depending on your own factors, so you aren't expecting more of yourself than you have to give.

  4. Schedule your admin days or "sessions." I have to schedule things in order to do them, because my brain doesn't create routines naturally. When they are reliably on the same day, I slowly feel more in tune with the routine. Scheduling a day every week or two to complete admin tasks might help you, or you could try smaller sessions at more regular intervals. It's up to you to experiment and see whether you prefer to spend a concerted amount of time one day a week, or whether you like to do one or two tasks several times a week. I encourage you to write down the day or days you plan to do this work because it's easy for weeks to drift past without realizing it.

  5. Create rewards for the truly tough stuff you complete. As I noted above, some tasks are not ever going to be easy due to the negative associations we have with them. Indulge your inner child with good, old-fashioned, bribery. If I have to call a doctor, arrange an appointment, and use my limited free time to see a mere mortal who may or may not give me the time of day, you best believe I'll be doing it with a fancy coffee in hand. I hate grocery shopping but I always get myself some small treat for a job well done, like a magazine or new pens (I cannot overstate my obsession with office supplies). Creating a little fun or giving yourself a small reward won't make tasks you've historically avoided easy. But, if you can associate the dreaded tasks with some positivity, it can cause you to be less resistant to getting important items checked off your to-do list.

  6. Body-doubling is legit. If you've not heard of body doubling, it's a productivity tool a lot of neurodivergent people use, where you work alongside someone else. This can be done in person, when a friend comes over to help, or you can even FaceTime/Zoom a friend while you both tackle tasks that need doing. There are even people who stream cleaning or other tasks on social media, so that you can tune in and have company while you work as well. I have started streaming to offer body doubling support, since it can dramatically increase the odds that people start and complete tasks.

Planner page filled out with admin tasks

Like housework, admin tasks are never-ending, so keeping a rhythm going will lower the mental load you carry and help your life run more smoothly. Remember to tweak your plan as needed so it's easy to stick with, and I hope this list gives you some ideas you can implement now.

Sending love & solidarity,


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