“I hate housework,” said Joan Rivers. “You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again!”
It’s so true. And that’s how I feel about ‘life admin’. I mean, wasn’t technology supposed to make our lives easier?
Forget dishes; it’s dastardly paperwork and online form-filling that is weighing down our lives on a daily basis.
According to a study (well, they interviewed 2,000 people) by the whacky funsters at the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) earlier this year, the average adult carries out more than 100 ‘life admin’ tasks each year – each task more scintillating than the last.
It certainly feels like that for me. I have piles of forms I need to fill in and emails from accountants, charity administrators, work colleagues and my financial adviser that should all have been dealt with months ago but I just ‘haven’t got round to it’.
Clearly, I’m not the only one. The AAT also found that the average adult has four important tasks currently in the pipeline which they urgently need to clear – but can’t find the time to do.
Well, not quite. I can easily find time to let a dashing gentleman take me to delightful dinner (that’s a big hint to generous dashers out there), but somehow I just can’t find the time to ring up an insurance company that took money out of my account two months ago to ask why and when I can have my money back. And I’m someone who tells other people to do this kind of thing.
Techy millennials tell me there are lots of apps around that can help me with my ‘life laundry’ but I don’t have time to research them, meaning it’s boring and tedious, I don’t trust them and I don’t know where to start. And then I don’t have time to learn how to use them (ditto). And then I don’t have time to upload the ‘proof of identity’ that they all seem to want (are they mad?), plus the photographing of receipts and what not that is usually involved with one of these ‘time-saving’ irritants (ugh).
Each of us carries out, on average, over 100 ‘life admin’ tasks a year
I need a personal assistant to administer this plethora of online personal assistants.
Even the ones that send real people to do tasks such as picking up your laundry or bringing up your children for you send endless admin distractions, texting you to inform you of every cough and spit of your ‘personal assistant’, getting you to e-sign documents you don’t have time to read (probably indemnifying them against loss, damage and kidnap), giving you unasked-for advice about their service and then emailing you every other day to see when you want to use them again.
I blame the internet. It used to be that if you wanted to go on holiday you went to see a local travel agent and they sorted it for you. Now we gleefully do it ourselves on comparison sites, only to find that the hotel we’ve booked puts people who come through that site in a room at the back overlooking the bins.
We used to have civil servants working out our tax for us, telling us what our pension will be and generally being dull but useful. But now we have to navigate the Byzantine tax system ourselves, being forced to upload our details on to forms we can hardly bare to look at let alone fill in.
Even secretaries are becoming an endangered species. Back in 2001, there were 400,000 secretary and personal assistant jobs in the UK. Now there are just 200,000. Give it another 10 years and they might have to have their own ‘secretarial conservation area’ – a single, large office on the outskirts of London, where the last few remaining secretaries can roam from desk to kettle to biscuit tin, free to type and take dictation between the hours of nine and five.
So I say come back civil servants, all is forgiven. Save the secretary! Travel agents we love you and estate agents we… well, I can’t honestly say we love you but we have a bit more of an appreciation for the grunt work you do with your sharp suits and posh bark. It’s time for us the consumers to stand up for our own laziness. Our rallying cry: “What do we want? We want someone else to do it.”
Jasmine Birtles is a financial journalist and founder of MoneyMagpie.com.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.