I’ve never been good at what you might call “life admin”, but I used to keep track of it through having a high level of 1) recall, 2) guilt and anxiety.
I can’t say this system was working well, I was pretty behind on this stuff (such as… still having an Australian bank account five years after I moved away). But the critical things were mainly taken care of and the non-critical… remained in runtime memory.
A bit over a year ago, having dealt with what I termed the “inner monologue of self hate”, my every failing as a person was no longer running on a loop in every moment of downtime. At this point, I realised I needed a system that didn’t involve me remembering everything and worrying about it.
Board 1: Life Admin
I created a board that I “jokingly” called “Life Failures” (since renamed to Life Admin), and set up a bunch of columns. I don’t exist kanban style in my life so the main features are:
- A list of areas of responsibility, such as “finances”, “house”, “car” etc.
- Labels, primarily: “waiting”, “work hours phone call”, “easy”, “blocking”. During lockdown I created a “post-pandemic” label to filter out visually the things I couldn’t expect to make progress on, which was helpful.
- A done column that resets each month, i.e. “Done – June”, and “Done – July”. I tend to keep the previous month’s around and then archive when I create a new one. So right now in July, June is still around. When I create August, I will archive June.
- Extensive use of checklists.
Each card is on some level a mini life “project”, and I keep tabs on things using the labels and the checklists. This is the one where I changed my bank account, it entered waiting / blocking states multiple times, was closed off in May, even though it began in March.
This sometimes creates a disconnect between the amount of work I’ve done and the amount I really get to “check off” but I am trying to embrace with this list the idea that life admin is something that is continually chipped away at. The goal is not to empty the board, the goal is to be more on top of things and not create cascading failure in my personal life (again).
Since adopting this system I’ve made progress on so many things that have dragged on for years. Particularly in the “financial” list which has always been my biggest struggle (there is no visual reminder, it’s extremely boring and usually bureaucratic which I find disproportionately stressful). The Australian bank account is closed, I finally managed to transfer my stock from the Conglomerate out of the mandated system and to my regular investment manager (this was so painful and had stopped and started multiple times before we really made a concerted effort earlier this year). I managed to untangle the mess of paying emergency tax for ~18+ months over three tax years. Addressing these things doesn’t really affect my day to day, but it does make it easier to make bigger decisions, because everything is accessible and where it should be.
The board is broad, and there are obvious ways to streamline it or break things out into their own board, but I choose not to. The board is broad because life is broad, and because some months I may move things from one column, and other months from other columns, the point is that everything is tracked, and moving overall.
List of columns:
- Cate as a Person
- Things to buy
- Done – Current Month
- Done – Previous Month
Board 2: Day to Day
At the start of this year, I created a second board, which I call “Day to Day”. The idea of that one is to capture the repeating tasks. This consists of three lists:
- Current Month
At any given time I have a “week” card which captures the things I try to do every week, and a “month” card which captures the things I try to do every month. When the week is up, I move it under the current month, and then I archive that at the end of the month. Initially I had “day” cards but I found that it was just annoying me, so I got rid of them.
I use template cards, so each time I create a new week or month card, they come with the same checklist. If I was going to add something, I would add it to the template card. For instance, I didn’t feel the need to track going to the gym on the week card because it was 1) more of a daily thing, and 2) a strong habit. After the gym being shut for nearly 4 months, I might add it in as I rebuild that habit.
This is the current state of the board:
This is the current state of July:
The month list is relatively short, and really just captures 1) taking some time for myself (the spa!), 2) a task that I dread (the personal expense report) and 3) the vague thing that I feel is best done through continuous small efforts (the “external thing”, a profile building/maintaining exercise).
This is the current state of this week:
The week list is longer, and captures the aspects that I think create a well rounded life – good friendships (regular social interaction, doing something nice for other people), personal well being (writing, cultural experiences, regularly chipping away at the hardest list in life admin) and self care (making an effort with my appearance, maintaining a beautiful home). It’s always interesting what drops off depending on circumstances.
Initially I had the idea that these lists should capture everything, and had the concept of “extras” where I would note down things not covered by the list. But over time I’ve concluded that it works best for me when the concepts are general, and it creates regular opportunities to consider what, of the things I consider important, am I making time for? And what am I not?
Both boards combine to address the nagging sense that I’m behind or not doing enough, and allow me to capture what goes into keeping my life moving along and the things make me happy. The things I “should” do no longer run in a loop in my head; they are captured in Trello, and it’s a vastly better way to live.