From sorting through work emails and expenses to staying on top of budgeting and bills, life admin includes a whole range of activities which have one thing in common – they’re not exactly fun to do.
While we can’t make admin more exciting, we can help you get everything in order as painlessly as possible before the end of the tax year, leaving you more time for the fun stuff.
We asked an expert for their tips on how to make sure everything from your daily to-do list to those once-a-year jobs are ticked off with ease.
It’s all in the planning
First things first, sit down each month and make sure you know exactly what’s coming up.
Suzy Sanders, organisational whizz and founder of virtual assistance business Alchemy VA, starts each month by spending one to two hours familiarising herself with everything in her digital diary and scheduling in time for the important things – including vital work meetings, family time and even popping a birthday card in the post.
“I make sure I’ve got a grip on everything,” she says. “That gives me focus and then I know everything is in my diary, so I don’t have to worry. With anniversaries or check-ups, put them in once as a reoccurring event.”
Make a to-do list – but keep it realistic
Now isn’t the time to be too harsh on yourself or bite off more than you can chew so make sure you’re prioritising your own peace of mind. “We have to be realistic about what we can achieve each day,” Sanders says. “Have a good old fashioned to-do list so you get the satisfaction of crossing it off. I have to ruthlessly prioritise, so I do try and pick just three things that I need to achieve. Rolling the to-do list over each day becomes quite demoralising.”
Stay on top of your emails
Now that many of us are no longer in the office with our colleagues, email exchanges, which should be quick and easy, can slowly eat up hours of your working week. Sanders recommends allocating time to check your inbox (she deals with hers strictly at 10am and 2pm) and leaving it alone for the rest of the day.
When Sanders goes through her correspondence, she uses the “touch it once” rule. “I’m not a big fan of ‘Inbox Zero’ and I think that’s just another impossible standard,” she explains. “But this idea is that you touch an email only once. If you open it, you’ve got to do something with it. You could put it on your to-do list or into your task manager, or if it’s something you don’t need to see, set up a folder and filter.”
Another top tip is to implement a 15-minute rule. “If an email will take more than 15 minutes to deal with, I’ll put it on my to do list and I’ll do it later,” she says.
This simple change can make a big difference when it comes to managing your expenses, says Sanders. “Switch to paperless bills so everything can be on one device. You don’t necessarily need to see the emails, you can have rules and folders set up.”
Thanks to your planning, you should know exactly which direct debits are due to leave your accounts when and time to sort any other paperwork will be diarised too. The key, Sanders says, is to “be more proactive than reactive” by staying one step ahead on weekly, monthly or annual tasks.
Another of Sanders’ top tips is to have a separate email account for when you order things online. This will keep all of the marketing emails away from your work or personal ones, creating a handy filing system which also stops you from getting distracted by the latest sales.
Been WFH a lot? Apply for tax relief
A little bit of extra admin can go a long way and it’s well worth taking time to apply for government schemes, grants and tax relief that could save you money in the long run.
There are a whole host of schemes you might be eligible for and it’s well worth having a look through the government’s website to see what you could apply for.
One of the most straightforward forms of tax relief you can claim is money towards expenses incurred by working from home. If you’ve been unable to go to the office, you can claim £6 a week – dated back to April 6 2020 – without needing to provide evidence of costs. If you have receipts and records, you can put in a claim for extra money. Find out more here.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.