Life Admin Secrets from a Professional Organizer

life admin

Today we are talking about what’s known as life admin, otherwise known as adulting. Otherwise known as dealing with those many, many, many, many, many things that are unavoidable parts of life. Such as paying bills, scheduling appointments, calling the credit card company to dispute a fraudulent charge, filling out some form or another, keeping track of all the papers that come home in your kids’ backpacks, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Frankly, and maybe you can hear it in my voice, life admin really just makes me wanna lie down. I mean, I figured out some stuff, and those few things I’ve figured out are what I am sharing in the other episodes this week. But there’s still so much further I could go. Which is why I’m excited to be interviewing my friend, Jessica Tudos, a mindful organizer based in Toronto, whom I always love talking to about how to get a grip on the many facets of life while still respecting things like creativity and inspiration, and frankly, having a lot of things going on because you’re genuinely interested in a lot of things, something Jessica calls being multi passionate.

You’re reading the transcript of an episode of the How to Be a Better Person podcast. If you’d rather listen, click the play button below.

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Jessica, welcome. It’s so great to have you here. So you are a professional organizer, which most people think means you help people organize their stuff as in actual physical possessions, and that’s all you do. But being organized relates to more than just clutter, right?

Absolutely. I mean, physical clutter is definitely an important part  of having a life where we have control over our space and what’s going on. But so much of it is our mental state, what’s going on in our minds. Because it’s often a reflection, our physical reflects our mental and vice versa. If we’re cluttered in our mind, it’s gonna show up in our physical space. So sometimes people think, oh, I’m gonna clean out my closet and unpack some boxes and do the Marie Kondo like, does this spark joy? And those are all great things to do.

But in my experience, working with many people who want to declutter, you’ve got to back up a step and look at your mental state. What’s going on in your mind? And so before we can really, really declutter and organize, and most importantly sustain the change, we have to have our mindset in the game. And that is why I think is the first step in a process, which I have so creatively called the Tudos technique, my last name. So think about your why. Why bother doing this? Because that’s essential. Without that solid foundation, it’s really hard when you can’t make a decision. You don’t wanna let something go, you’re not sure why you’ve kept it for 25 years. So you wanna be clear on that.

Right. And that mindset that you’re talking about, which I completely agree, is an ‘as within so without’ type of a thing. But it also helps us be organized, not necessarily in our physical world, but in our to do lists and calendars and all this stuff that falls under the life admin umbrella, right?

For sure. I mean, when we think about life admin, our lives are busy and some of us happen to have even more going than some others perhaps. And we choose it to be that way. So juggling the tasks becomes essential. And so you had mentioned a bunch of things early on, right? Appointments, bills, your kids stuff, travel plans, where does that all live besides in your head, right? It’s in your head for sure. So then how do you take action in a way that doesn’t make you crazy?

So you gotta have some systems in place. Especially when things start feel chaotic and, and sort of overwhelming. So one thing is to take time and energy to really create that system for you and your lifestyle. Because not everybody is the same, we all know this. But if you’re going to be effective and focused in managing these life and in pieces, you gotta have a system that makes sense for where you’re at. You gotta meet yourself where you’re at, and then you can take intentional action.

Got it. So you say system, I know that is a good thing. Yet, part of me bristles at that word. It’s like, I don’t know. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Interesting. Does it feel kind of scary? Like, I don’t have one? I don’t really know how to do it?

A little. Yes, maybe I don’t have one. And even if I did have one I don’t necessarily trust myself to stick to one.

Right. And I think, again so that’s perfect example of you, Kate, being a creative and multi-passionate as well. You’re maybe not using one system and maybe you’re not sticking with it for a while. But I think it’s important to know at any stage in your life, when you look at the things going on, how do you manage them? So maybe there’s a different word for system, cuz I hear you there. It’s sort of the, the steps you take or the intuitive ways that you get things done.

And so knowing what some of those areas are, where you already do it well. It’s like, okay, let’s do more of that. And one of the first questions I always ask people is, is your preference in the digital space or is it paper based or is it some hybrid, which I find most common. And if so, which parts of your life makes sense to do digitally. Which, you know, the stickies and the whiteboard might work much better because you’re a visual learner.

So again, knowing yourself, you wanna uncover what is already working well. Which happens to be step two in the process, which in the Tudos technique is uncover. Uncover what you’ve got to figure out. The appointments, the calls, the returns, as well as how you’re gonna do them well. So it’s like an audit. An audit of you and what needs to happen. Then you can start to make decisions about how to do it, which is step three. Otherwise you get overwhelmed.

Right? I know. Yes, I do get overwhelmed. And I mean, I really appreciate this idea of doing an audit. You know, I’m always a fan of clarity. I think what Gloria Steinem said, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. You know, it might feel a little bit of a like, oh wow, look at all these things that I’m not paying attention to, but then you know what you are dealing with. And that in and of itself is a relief. And then I love hearing you say like, you have to think about what works for you.
So Jessica, I want you to help me visualize. So me, I’m resistant to the idea of systems, but I’m really into the idea of figuring out what I need to be doing. And then finding the way that works for me personally, to start to keep track of all this stuff. It helps me to have a visual. So can you gimme an example of like, where are you keeping track of all your life admin tasks?

Absolutely. And I will just preface that by saying everyone’s different, right? Depending on your style, your learning preference, your comfort, all of those things. So again, being, I think a creative, like you are, fluidity is important. And I think any kind of rigidity probably doesn’t work. So I think knowing your style is key.

So I’ll just share what I do. How about that?  Cause everybody’s different. So I keep my appointments in a digital calendar and this was really spurred by my husband, because we weren’t always on the same page and we didn’t know. So we have a digital calendar. I keep my things in my colors. He keeps his things in his colors. We have a family color, and that is where we put things that we know the other should know. Our child is young, so he’s not yet part of it. So I don’t know what’s gonna happen when he is older.

But in terms of my own personal life, beyond appointments and dates and calls and things like that, I still use a paper based journal. The current one I’m using is a Clever Fox style journal. There’s so many great journals out there. But in there, that’s where I have my weekly planner, like there’s different daily versus weekly, all that kind of stuff. So I use a weekly one. And I open it up and I see my whole week. I love using pencil to paper because it makes me keep the information better. I retain it. So for me, that really works.

There’s a section in the back where I keep a longer list of to-dos and I have it divided into five categories, personal, business, writing, creative. So keep the long list in the back. The items come into my weekly. If they don’t get done, they get moved over to the next week. So that’s what works for me. Again, writing by hand solidifies the info. The downside is it isn’t shareable or it’s not accessible across devices. Like that is not happening. So, but for me it it’s okay. It’s worth it.

I tried digital. Lots of people like notes on your phone. Great. That’s a great way to do it. But again, it has to work for you. Tech has to not distract you or slow you down. So that’s,  one thing I would say is really important. So overall, you want a home for the information. Whatever you decide will work. You just have to make that decision and stick with it.

Yeah. I think  that was the place where I was falling down. I had like kind of a notepad for to-dos and a notebook for podcast ideas and a notebook for other kinds of work. And I just, it was too de-centralized and you really inspired me.
We were talking last week before we decided to get on the phone today and do the interview and you were telling me about your planner and you inspired me to buy one over the weekend and I am super duper loving it. And I agree that first of all, it’s good for everything to have one home.
And second of all, to the act of writing something down and I talk about this a lot on the podcast, is a really just kind of magical way for your subconscious mind to get on board with reality. I wanna dive into that writing piece a little bit more and ask a very nitpicky question. Are you writing things down in pen?

No, no, no, no.  I hardly ever use pens anymore. It’s really funny. I use sharp pencils with built-in erasers. Because I want a good pencil, I wanna sharp point. I don’t always get it right, I don’t always know where it needs to go. So pencil’s great.

I do love my orange highlighter. I use an orange one because I like orange and orange makes me happy. So, I highlight certain tasks or names or things to follow up for the next week. So I do make time every week. I try to spend about an hour, half an hour to an hour reviewing the previous week and setting up the current week. And I usually do that Monday morning, sometimes Sunday night.

But that’s a newer activity for me, I think since COVID really. Because of so much time at home, but it really helps in seeing your to-do list as as something that’s morphing. And each week, you’re getting certain things done, but certain things it’s okay, you’re gonna move them forward. But you need to know where you’re at. it’s a place to check in with yourself and with your to-dos. So you’re not overdoing it and you’re still maintaining your motivation.

Yep. So I love that you take time to think about your to-do list. I’m curious though, do you have any guidance for us on how to find the time? Or put like a container around the time that you spend on the life admin stuff? Cuz I feel like I could eat up your whole week if you let it.

Sure, sure. I have played around with different ways of doing it. Again, the setup at the beginning of a week is really good. If I look through my whole week, I try to have four to five major weekly goals and four to five major personal goals. So those goals, the activities could be very different. Some very big, some very small.

But I guess what finding the time is, I find you need to know when you’re at your best creatively and want to do the activities that are most meaningful and magical in your business. Maybe do that first and leave the admin for when there’s a bit of downtime. When you know, you’re a little slower or don’t need to really access your amazing super brain power. That’s a great time to make a call, send a quick follow up, not in your prime time. That is one way of managing.

Got it. Yeah. Filling out a form doesn’t take a lot of brain power. But it does take time. It does take minutes. So thanks for sharing how you find those minutes. I love that you kind of factor in how you’re feeling in that moment. I think that’s so important.
So for those of us out here who identify as multi passionate, maybe creatives, there’s a few things that we’re passionate about. So our schedules are full. What should we know about life admin that will help us tend to all the details that need tending to while we’re also like kind of flitting about pursuing multiple passions?

Such a great question, because I think if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a multi passionate and having a portfolio life full of different projects, passions, jobs, all of it is like, that’s probably not gonna change once you’ve sort of embraced that lifestyle. You’re going to have a busy life and that that’s OK. And again, I was going to say setting up systems, but I don’t know.

But I think there’s action steps. Let’s call them action steps that go in a certain order. And you know, often with multi passionate, you need to have them visible. I think seeing them, and that’s why so many creatives still use paper based type things because it’s visibility. They have to be actionable. Like you want to be realistic about what you can do in a week  or in a day. Because otherwise you just beat up on yourself and you feel bad that you didn’t do it. Right? So that doesn’t feel good.

So I think as multi passionates, you’ve got to put some things on the back burner, which is difficult. I will be the first to admit, I want to do all the things right now. And so prioritizing and saying, okay, today I need to do these three things and if I have bonus time, great, I will do some more. But you have to limit yourself I think when you’re a multi passionate, because there’s an endless supply of ideas and creative directions you could take. So containing it in some ways, as hard as it is sometimes, in the end your creativity isn’t going anywhere. So I think we have to trust that process.

Love it. So, so for folks who are loving what you’re saying and would like to connect with you, where can they find you?

They can find me at jessicatudos.com. So, that’s my name. And they can sign up for my e-news. And I have a really fun Thrive with Five digest, which is an eclectic mix of items for mostly my multi passionate mind of places, things, and ideas that I have found out there. I love connecting about all of these life design topics. So people can also book a call with me, you know, a 30 minute free call. I’d love to chat further.

Wow. That’s really generous. Thanks for offering that.

Daily Tiny Assignment

Jessica shared a lot of insight on how and where, and even what kind of writing utensil to use to contain your life admin lists. What jumped out to you as an idea that you’d like to incorporate? Will you switch from pen to pencil? Or from keeping separate life and work calendars and merging them into one? Or did Jessica’s insights spur a different idea?

I can tell you that after Jessica and I did our pre-interview, I bought a new planner. Mine’s by a company called anecdote. I found it on Amazon. Yes. I have railed against Amazon in the past, but I was desperate. This journal is very clean and lets you see the hours in each day, which is super helpful for me as I need help visualizing how my time is going to go. And I snagged a mechanical pencil from my son and even found a cool thing in our art drawer that I can clip onto the planner that will hold the pencil. And I am feeling a lot more at ease about adulting because I know it’s all in one place. So take one idea that resonated with you and run with it.

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