Ellen:
Hello and welcome back to the Potential Psychology Podcast. I am your host, Ellen and this is episode 60, and ordinarily this episode being episode 60 would mark the end of our 10 week season. But because I have to keep changing things up a bit, this is not actually our last episode for this season.

Ellen:
We have a special bonus episode coming up next week to tie in with an event and I'm going to tell you more about that at the end of today's episode. So keep listening to find out what's coming up. So I mentioned that I like to keep changing things up a bit here on the podcast and there is a very intentional reason for that. Anyone who has worked with me or attended one of my workshops and possibly even you as a fabulous podcast listener, knows that test and learn is a little motto that I like to live by in all of our endeavors as human beings, particularly when it comes to changing behavior or changing habits or discovering what helps us to thrive and flourish and work at our best rather than try to change everything all at once or change something massive. It's a much better idea to try something small, to try it tested, pay attention to the outcome, work out whether it worked or not and if it worked, do more of it, and if it didn't work, tweak it and then try again.

Ellen:
So it's kind of like a process of continuous improvement. And for me, I think this motto, this belief or this practice comes maybe from the very early days of my career working in what is known as human factors psychology. So that's a field of psychology in which we explore how humans interact with the tools that we use every day. And I actually started in website design in the 1990s, the mid 1990s, so really the very early days of website design. And I was part of a team helping to make websites as user friendly as possible. And a lot of the conventions that we use today in websites like cabinet menus are set up and where the buttons are that we click on and how we enter data into forms. We just didn't know that stuff when websites first became a thing. It was all completely new. So our designers would develop a website and the psychologists would step users through it and observe how they interacted with it and what worked and what didn't and where they got lost or confused and what they were able to pick up quickly.

Ellen:
And we'd feed all of that information back into the design and the development process and then that would start again. So it was this process of refinement. And that's really very much what I encourage when I'm working with individuals or leaders or groups and they're trying something new. Don't launch into a massive wholesale change because you're setting yourself up for likely failure. You don't know enough about what works and what doesn't work. Break it down instead into small steps and test it and learn from it and then take the next step.

Ellen:
So why am I telling you all of this today? Well, my guests on the podcast today are really the living embodiment of testing and learning, particularly when it comes to life admin. So everything from getting your mobile phone plan and contracts sorted out, to planning family holidays or filing your tax return. And their mission is to save time, money, and achieve a little more peace of mind and household harmony. And everything that they've learned and the strategies that they recommend come from testing and learning these things themselves underpinned by Buddhist psychology, behavioral economics, and decision science. So let's listen in.

Ellen:
My guests today are Mia Northrop and Dinah Rowe-Roberts. They are the co hosts and Mia is also the producer of the Life Admin Life Hacks Podcast so we're podcasters talking to fellow podcasters today which is exciting. And the Life Admin Life Hacks podcast is a podcast that gives you back time, money, and household harmony. And what does a Life Admin Hacks Podcast have to do with wellbeing and thriving and flourishing? Well, that's exactly what we're going to talk about. Let's find out. Welcome to Mia and Dinah.

Mia:
Thank you Ellen. It's a pleasure to be here.

Dinah:
It's great to be here.

Ellen:
It's lovely to have you both here. We have just discovered that we have a mutual connection in that we all went to the same high school, which we did not know until [inaudible 00:05:18].

Mia:
We very rarely bump into people from our school, but it's lovely that it's such a small world. We've bumped into each other this way, isn't it? It's just fabulous.

Ellen:
So can I ask just firstly, what is the podcast about and how do life admin hacks relate to wellbeing?

Mia:
I think Life Admin Life Hacks bring back a sense of control and peace of mind in an area of life that often feels very overwhelming, and I'm sure a lot of listeners can relate to a situation where they have endless to do lists of life admin tasks. There's bills to pay and birthday parties to organize and to buy gifts for. You've got forms to fill out for kids excursions and your mobile phone plan might be out of contract and you're thinking, "Oh, I really should compare my private health insurance because those premiums seem too high. You might have folders of paperwork piling up on a desk somewhere on the kitchen table and all these unintended tasks impact wellbeing in a few ways.

Mia:
First, if you're trying to remember all these tasks in your head, rather than writing them down in to do list or scheduling them can really contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety because you've got this extra cognitive load, this brain chatter that's always saying, don't forget this and really should get onto that. It's always humming in the background while you're trying to concentrate or be present in what you're enjoying or sleep. And when you're feeling like this, life admin feels out of control, then you feel out of control.

Mia:
Another dimension might be that if you've got lots of clutter around the home, you've got stacks of papers or there's bags of kids outgrown clothes and cupboards or toys no one could play with, annoyed that we've for a long time had stuff that needed to get to the op shop that was just in the back of the car or in the cupboard. And I'd see it and I just get this feeling of heaviness, like this feeling of just drowning in the stuff, the physical stuff and that saying [inaudible 00:07:14] might ring true if you feel yourself burdened by some of the physical stuff that you have to deal with.

Ellen:
I think you're describing my life.

Mia:
I know. I was listening to your podcast, a couple of the episodes you sort of touched on life admin and how it [inaudible 00:07:31]. I'm like, yes, tell me about it. And then there's the third dimension where if you're carrying the mental load in your relationship, if it's fallen to you to remember all the admin details and tasks in the household, then there really is this extra burden of work that can feel unfair. And if it's on the same work, if it feels relentless and appreciated, it can really lead to resentments and anger in relationships. I feel we've probably all had conversations with our partners where we're thinking in the back, why is this my problem? How did I end the role of being in charge of all this stuff?

Mia:
So it's critical to get all these tasks and ideas and events out of your head into tools that are better designed to store it, and importantly allow you to share it a lot more easily. So some of these life hacks bring the tasks into the light and help you find ways to share them across your household, especially if you have older children as well you can take on some of these activities. So ideally this will lead to the greatest sense of harmony in the household and between you and your partner and ultimately some peace of mind for yourself.

Ellen:
I can so relate to so many of those things. So in each episode of the podcast you address a different topic, and as I was looking through and listening to some of the episodes I did, I was like, oh my God, do it you will. One of those things that we know we won't do and apologies to anybody who thinks I'm just nuts for not having got to that, but that's one of those things that I haven't done.

Mia:
You are not alone.

Ellen:
And I felt bad for so many years.

Mia:
You are not alone. It was astounding. So when we came up with the topics to cover, we wanted to sort of sense check like, is our definition the same thing as other people's definition? We did some research, we read a bunch of articles, we did a survey that we distributed among our friends and network. The will came up again and again and the same. It's a sense of guilt. It's like I have bought a house, I have children. You go through these milestones and you're getting assets piling up and more responsibilities and dependencies and still haven't got to the wheel.

Dinah:
And until we started this podcast, I hadn't gotten to mine either.

Ellen:
Oh, good. You make me feel better Dinah. Thank you. It's like a failure of being an adult, isn't it? It's one of those things where you go, I'm failing grown upness here. Yeah.

Mia:
And you're not alone. There are a lot of aspects of life admin where people felt like they were out of control. It wasn't just wills or powers of attorney, it was just things like, most people didn't have a certain time of the week or a day of the week when they even did these tasks. It was just crammed in wherever you could get to it. So we thought, okay, we are organized people. We have these careers where my background's in user research or user experience design and research. Dinah's background has been in finance and operations and strategy. So yeah, jobs we've being tasked with optimizing systems and processes and looking for better ways of doing things. So it felt natural to turn the skills to our own lives and say, okay, there's got to be better ways. We've got these very powerful phones in our pockets, we've got these computers, we've got the internet. Surely people have solved some of this stuff. Let's work out how we can systemize some of this and delegate it or automate it or share it or minimize it because it's the last two months life admin.

Ellen:
So it really is about simplifying in many ways?

Dinah:
Yeah. I think sometimes it's also agreeing what you're not going to do, and really minimizing points and rules and structure around difficult decisions so that it makes it quicker and easier to make those decisions.

Ellen:
I think that's such a good point in it. There's so many things in life that we just take on that we just assume we need to do because it's what you should do, it's what everybody does. It just becomes a kind of a social norm. And yet sometimes we can actually sit back and go, you know what, why? Why am I even doing that? Is this actually necessary? Could I not do that? I know some of the things that have been quite liberating to me have been around children's birthday parties and gifts and things like that, and even somewhere in my head, I'd set this rule that said that, and again I'm going to horrify some business but I love to wrap things beautifully.

Ellen:
So I for years would always buy, I've got to get the right wrapping paper and the bow. But as my obligations grew and grew, as I got to a point where there was just so many things to remember and such limited time to do everything, I had to just say to myself, you know what? I think we have to give that bit away. If it goes straight in a gift bag you've bought along with the gift you hand it over and that's good enough.

Mia:
Absolutely. You can set your expectations really high for some tasks, and I think that's key to tackling this in a way that doesn't feel like a mass amount of hard work is really understanding yourself and how what is actually important to you, how you like to get things done, how habits stick with yourself, how you respond to expectations you place on yourself and [inaudible 00:12:32] others [inaudible 00:12:33]. And there was a helpful book that we read early on in the process by Gretchen Rubin, who's a writer who talks about habits and happiness. And she came up with this framework and she had four categories.

Mia:
I don't know how psychologically robust this is, but four categories of people. You're either an obliger, so you respond to people's expectations of you more strongly than the expectations you might place on yourself. There's a quiz you can do online to work out what you are but if you're an obliger, you might find that if someone else holds you accountable for something, you're more likely to do it than if you just say, I'm deciding that I'm going to exercise every day. You might need an accountability partner to meet you at the gym to say, okay, we're going to exercise together. Another tendency is that you might be a rebel. Someone who doesn't really respond to any expectations placed on themselves, their identity is important to them and they'll decide to do something if it aligns with their identity. An upholder is someone who responds to both their inner expectations and our expectations vigorously.

Mia:
And they're the people that burn out often because they say yes to everything and they follow through with everything. But that's a really hard path to walk down. Or you might be questioner, which is what I am, which is you only do something if it really makes sense to you. So if someone asks something of you, you'll research it and weigh out pros and cons and if it makes sense then you'll make it your own expectation essentially. So knowing these things about yourself helps you decide what you're going to take on and the best way to make a habit stick if you decide, okay, I really want to change the way I'm approaching this.

Mia:
Because I'm an obliger I really need an accountability partner to do this with me, or because I'm a questioner, I really need to understand the whys and wherefores of why this technology or this approach is the best thing. And then once I get it, off I go. A bit of self awareness can help you get the motivation to take on a task like getting your life admin sorted. I'm a passionate advocate for self-awareness no matter how you access it and I do know that a little like the Myers Briggs, which is probably similar to, and I am aware of Gretchen Rubin's four tendencies. So the same idea of just using the tools that are available. Again, not sure about their psychological robusity.

Mia:
But don't worry about that because in its utility here how useful [inaudible 00:14:56] for us in a practical sense. And if it does help us to identify with the type of pattern of behavior or pattern of thinking or even just to be able to a little bit of our own identity and just say, well, this is who I am and this is why this is difficult, and this is why I like to think this way. And that really does help without self-awareness, which yeah I don't know that I'd ever really made that immediate link between our styles and life admin [inaudible 00:15:24].

Ellen:
Well it does take a bit of motivation to step into this because it's boring. It's not that exciting looking at your mobile phone planning, you're thinking, I need to ring around and get three quotes or whatever. Who wants to do that. You'd rather be reading a book or playing with your children. But at the same time it's weighing in the back of your mind and it will probably only take you 40 minutes to actually do the exercise. You might've been thinking about it for six months.

Mia:
Or longer.

Ellen:
Yeah, or longer. My digital photos is a running joke on the podcast. I have years worth of digital photos to sort out and I have been thinking about it since my son was born basically. I have barely made any albums to store all these digital photos away, and I've been thinking about this six years. It wouldn't take me six years to actually do it. I should just get in there and organize them. But sometimes you can have these blockers.

Dinah:
You can, can't you? And even just those shoulds sometimes. Sometimes if we let go of the shoulds, we can free ourselves a little bit to enable action on some of those tasks and I can relate to the digital photos as well. And in fact as I said, all the topics. And you're right, they're not fun things. And sometimes I almost wonder whether they made more complex than they should be by the health insurers and the mobile phone. Those were the particular ones that popped out when I was looking through the list of episodes. Health insurance. Who wants to sort out the health insurance, although to be fair my husband, he's one of those people who likes to poke around and get the best deal, but I think he's unique.

Mia:
He's a questioner. He would be a questioner.

Dinah:
But I do think that that's where if you can put a system around some of those things, you can actually make the task feel momentable. So I think sometimes the reason we continue to put it off is because it does feel so overwhelming. So if you put a framework around some boundaries about how long the [inaudible 00:17:21] spend, how many providers you don't want to look at. Then all of those things that can match these here to actually get the task done, I just talk with [inaudible 00:17:25].

Ellen:
That's a really excellent point Dinah because one of the things that we know about procrastination that the research tells us is that when we procrastinate, we're not usually procrastinating over a task or over doing a task. We're actually procrastinating or trying to avoid the feeling that comes with the task. So as soon I think about mobile phone contracts, the feelings that come up are automatically kind of this frustration, there is a resentment. It's like, why is this so complicated? This should not be so complicated. There's probably a little bit of boredom in there as well. This is going to be tedious, annoying, wasted.

Ellen:
So all of those thoughts and feelings that go through and if we can perhaps, yeah, as you say, set up little structures that help to, even if it's just limiting exposure to that feeling, and to be able to say, okay, yeah, this is going to be really annoying but you only have to be really annoyed for 30 minutes or 40 minutes or whatever that timeframe is.

Dinah:
And I think once you do it, once we've got a mobile phone plan for example, you start to practice it and it starts to get easier. So then the next time when it's your house insurance, you can put some of those same rules and processes around the decision and it makes it so much easier to start because you know that you can actually achieve it in say an hour, and it will be done and you won't think about it again for many years. You decide whenever [inaudible 00:18:52].

Ellen:
That's right. And a lot of our early research, we looked at behavioral economics, we looked at the science of decision making, and in the episodes we get quite prescriptive about how to approach some of these tasks because a lot of the time you spend thinking about, well, what are my decision making criteria? I'm not even sure what basis I should be comparing products on, or I'm not quite sure where to start or how much time to spend on this. So we've actually said, okay, well if you're looking at plans, you'll need to look at these three things. Here is a resource, pick three providers, ask them these three questions and then make a decision and sign up that day.

Ellen:
So we tell people what information they need to have in front of them before they pick up the phone, then the actual questions to ask so that you don't have to come up with the whole process yourself. And I think that's, as Dinah's said, once you've done that and you've had a 20 minute conversation with a couple of providers and you've saved yourself hundreds of dollars, I swear you'll stand up and do a fist pump and you'll be quite excited about using that same exercise on all of the other things that are going on in your life admin life.

Mia:
So that beautiful use of, what in psychology, we call a [inaudible 00:20:08] positive psychology. That celebrating successes or using the motivation that comes, that little dopamine hits that you get when you have a win to fuel your thinking and then your action around the next activity.

Ellen:
Yeah.

Mia:
We wanted to identify. So are there first steps that we should take that are going to make all the other steps easier because it felt like, okay, there might be a foundation of task to get done or they're going to make all the other tasks simpler. So we came across these five pillar activities that once you've got them in place, it just makes all of the other tasks a lot more manageable.

Ellen:
And can you talk us through the five pillars?

Mia:
Yeah. Dinah, do you want to kickoff?

Dinah:
Sure. So I think that the first pillar is really making sure that you've got a shared calendar within your family. So single point of truth about what's happening in yours and your family members lives. And that includes everything including all the [inaudible 00:20:55] activities. And it means that you can share the responsibility of your activities without separate complicated instructions you have for your children. And at last both adults in the household to easily arrange that on social life and events without having complicated consultation with each other.

Mia:
Yeah. This was a bit of a game changer in our household. Well I had a paper calendar on the wall. I had random things on my phone calendar. My husband had owned separate work calendar and then his own personal calendar. And there was no one place where we could see what was happening on a day to day basis. And if someone needed to take the kids on an activity that they hadn't set up, then you had actually had to give instructions about, okay don't forget so-and-so's got a birthday party at this time and it's over here. With the shared calendar, all of those conversations went away. You could say, yes, I can go to the movies when someone's spontaneously asks you, are you free on a certain date.

Ellen:
Yeah, and it's actually something that we've implemented as well in our house except that we're grappling now because my husband started a new job and the calendar, the work calendar, they won't allow you access to share with people who are on different systems. I'm sure there must be a way around this so I might need to tips. How to get run back to [inaudible 00:22:19] challenge. Okay, so shared calendar is pillar number one. I take your point because my children aren't quite there yet, but my eldest son is 11 and we're getting very close. He's now got his own phone. I think we're getting very close to we're including him say on the shared calendar so that he can see where mom and dad are, because we're both working, and what we've got coming up. Hopefully it just stops to embed a bit of a habit around that planning and involvement as well as the kids.

Mia:
Well I think it's good to understand to see how busy everybody is. I don't think people realize how over-scheduled their lives might be until I see everything in one place. And it does empower you to feel like you can say no to some things and not take on everything or just balance your time a bit more mindfully.

Ellen:
Yeah. Just having the power of visual to be able to see that total schedule. I don't know. How did families used to do it before we had this technology? I'm not sure. I'll have to ask my mom. So Dinah, shared calendars pillars number one, what's number two?

Dinah:
So the second one is really about going paperless. So adopting some sort of cloud storage system. So moving away from the A4 [inaudible 00:23:34] files or the filing cabinet that probably many of us still had because that's how you set up the admin systems 12 years ago. And opting out all of the paper doings and statements and modifications. And it reduces the clutter, but it also means that you've got easy access to the information you want me to be able to fit life admin tasks in on the go. And even access things on your phone when you need them, and you're not only to mention this, also the environmental impact of just reducing all of that paper.

Mia:
The part of going paperless is also getting email bills and opting into direct debits for billing, which I struggled with. I felt a bit unsure about trusting that direct debit was going to work. And then I realized that I already had a whole bunch of direct debits going, but I didn't even have a choice about. That was the only way to pay was that way. I can't tell you how much time that it saved in terms of not having to deal with envelopes, opening up paper, filing it, getting it out, paying a bill, all of that has just gone.

Ellen:
Yeah. And for us because that was one of the things that I've worked hard because I run my business that way. So it was sort of a natural extension to try and move the family over that way. We used to have this, it was like a unspoken argument about who was going to file the stuff. So all that paper that just accumulated, the piles of bills. And again, we talked before about that resentment.

Mia:
Yeah.

Ellen:
It's like, why am I the only one who files all this stuff? I don't want to file this stuff. And my husband said, well, you're just better at it than me. I'm like, I don't want to be better at it than you.

Mia:
And then you look through the folder there when you realize you've got statements going back for years. Why am I even hanging onto this? We had one listener who sent in photos of all this shredded paper that she just had this shred fast once she moved everything across to paperless and shredded all these statements and financial documents and filled up an entire recycling bin with shredded paper with joy.

Ellen:
And that's what I was going to say, in the emotion that comes through that. The positive feelings, that kind of liberation that I no longer have to deal with this stuff. Okay. So going paperless, which again, it's definitely what I can get behind. What's number three?

Dinah:
So number three is really thinking about to do lists. And I think that many of us are already really good at to do list and Mia and I will definitely want to list to others that it's about thinking about the digital application that you use to put your [inaudible 00:26:07] so that you can share them with other family members who can [inaudible 00:26:11] accountabilities and things. But also thinking about your to do list or list in a different way. So making sure that your to do lists are actually to do, say actionable and time bound.

Dinah:
But you can also have other lists which you might [inaudible 00:26:25] on the same application but realize that they need to be separated out, so checklists. But packing lists that you might use for going on holidays that you can use over and over again with really good referencing information. And then other lists that are things that are suggestions or movies I want to watch or books or recommendations. And again really right up to store by making sure that you don't [inaudible 00:26:50] the different things on the same list so that your to do list are actually actions and not just [inaudible 00:26:57] this other pieces of information.

Ellen:
Fantastic. And I can imagine that this is about reducing, what I sort of know from a psychological point of view that will be get stuff out of our head and written down somewhere or in this case electronically recorded somewhere. Then reducing that mental clutter, that business, freeing up a little. If we think about our brains as computers that have any limited amount of space to operate otherwise they really start to slow down, the more we can record elsewhere and not try and store it up.

Mia:
That's right.

Ellen:
[inaudible 00:27:29] then the greater capacity we've got.

Mia:
Yeah, that's it.

Ellen:
To get them with the other stuff.

Dinah:
Yeah, to concentrate on what you're actually doing rather than thinking about all the things that you've got to later.

Ellen:
Yeah, absolutely. And are there particular apps that you recommend or that you use yourself? Because I know there's lots of them out there.

Dinah:
So I'm a big user of Wunderlist, and I think Mia used something different, don't you?

Mia:
Yeah. I just use the native list apps on the iPhone that I have. So I use reminders to have my actual to do lists, and then for checklists or reference lists I just use notes. And the beauty of these is that they can be shared both the notes. So I have lists of a birthday wish list for both of my children and myself, and I can share that with family members, whereas with the to do lists and reminders, those things can actually be shared with my partner as well.

Ellen:
So I use Wunderlist as well. We've actually just moved because we've got ourselves one of those. We've got two because I've gone a bit funny about them, the Google home mini so that I can tell my Google. I can stand in the kitchen when I think of it and say yes.

Dinah:
Google.

Mia:
Oh my gosh between Google and Siri just to stand there and say Siri, add a reminder to call so-and-so.

Ellen:
Exactly.

Mia:
Oh my God, it's fantastic.

Ellen:
Then you don't even have to find the phone or find the pin or do any of that. But certainly Wunderlist was a game changer in our household because we started using that as a shared this for the supermarket shopping, because we both do grocery shopping and in fact we could both see as things got, because notifications that come up on your phone like, oh my husband's at the supermarket because he's just too tough [inaudible 00:29:09] ice cream. And quick, I've just thought of something else I need. I'll send her a text message and tell him while you're there.

Mia:
Yeah. Excellent.

Ellen:
So efficiency gains.

Mia:
Yeah. So fourth pillar is about password management and having a data close to hand that you fill out in forms every week. So password manager was something that I didn't think would be that useful until I actually adopted one and have it on my phone and my home laptop and my work laptop, and wherever I go, whatever I need to access, I've always got the passwords, it was automatically complete logins for me. And my automatically fill in online forms for me and they can also save data such as Medicare numbers or frequent flyer numbers or Centrelink numbers, whatever it is that you fill in kids forms or your own forms all day long. You can access that a lot more quickly and make those tasks much faster.

Ellen:
And so is these particulars, I know there are certain Google [inaudible 00:30:08] will just automatically store some of this [inaudible 00:30:11] if you give it permission to. I never know. The question [inaudible 00:30:15] for me is always around security.

Mia:
Yes. We recommend a few different apps out there, not necessarily the ones that are built into your browser because they're not very secure. Most of them unfortunately are paid but they are a lot more secure so you don't have to be concerned about identity theft or someone hacking into it. And it has been worth the investment. I've been amazed at moments where I've inconveniently forgotten something and, I can just log in. It says right here, I can just log in and access the document or the password on the go.

Dinah:
Yeah, I think you're probably that [inaudible 00:30:50] that concern you should not be underestimated. And if you pay for it slightly more expensive subscription which is what I've done, and actually share password with family members. And so it makes it easy for my husband and I to be able to share the login information for certain websites, et cetera. So that's where it makes it much easier to share the load because there's no reason why they can't access the log in information.

Ellen:
Yeah, that's a really good point. And it probably stopped some of those inane conversations that I know we have where we call out to each other from different rooms going, what's the password for such and such? I can't log in. I've tried this and I've tried that.

Mia:
I see it. And when we set up the cloud storage and you go paperless, part of that exercise is setting up a specific address for a life admin. So you're not using your personal email address or your partners. You have a dedicated email address for life admin. They sat reinforcing each other. All of these little tasks, they start to be some synergies between them.

Ellen:
That's a clever idea. That's not something I thought about either having it. I know I have separate email addresses for the online shopping things. But yes, to actually have one that is the household admin email address makes a lot of sense as well. Okay, excellent tip. So we've got the four. What's our fifth pillar?

Dinah:
So the final one is scheduling. So it's really a natural extension of both the shared calendar and the to do list. So what we're really talking about is actually scheduling some time in your calendar to focus on your life admin tasks. So we come up with the concept of really thinking about having an hour of power. So there are some life admin tasks that require really focused efforts. For example, private health insurance. It's not something that you can squeeze in [inaudible 00:32:36] tasks. So scheduling it into calendar so that you actually make sure you get the task done is really a powerful thing in terms of knocking off those challenging and more meaty tasks that perhaps are always in the back of our mind that we're spending more time thinking about than that would actually take to do.

Ellen:
And so do you have any tips for people who might get to that point in their calendar, they go right, this is my hour to do the private health insurance and then think, oh my God, I don't feel like doing that. I'm going to do something else instead. How do you actually keep yourself accountable to that?

Mia:
Well, the way that I have scheduled my hour of power is to provide myself with an immediate reward afterwards. So I've got my hour of power on, I have a day off from work, I do a sort of mid morning and then I have a delicious lunch afterwards, and I'm not going to get to my lunch until I've tackled my hour of power. So depending on what works for you, if there's a certain time of the week. I know we had one listener who has hers on a Sunday evening because she does her hour of power and then she just feels a little set for the week ahead. It clears her mind. Perhaps if you made a little carrot dangling to get you through that hour, that might be an approach you want to take.

Dinah:
Yeah. I think the accountability partner also works quite well. So I do mine while my husband does the [inaudible 00:33:55]. So something that I definitely don't want to do, he's not a lover of the admin but it means we sit together, I'm doing admin and he's doing the [inaudible 00:34:05]. Means I can talk to him about certain decisions that we both get those one hour of activities done at the same time and it's out of the way and then [inaudible 00:34:14].

Ellen:
Perfect. I like that. That's a great strategy. So yes, the accountability and perhaps yes if it is for the partner, both doing something that you know you need to do but neither of you might enjoy doing and agreeing. And again, that taps into that self-awareness, doesn't it? It's like, well, none of us like doing this but you're better at doing that one, I'm better at doing this one. Let's just get it done.

Mia:
Part of those to do tasks, we had those three categories there. There was the hour of power for those meaty things, but then we found that a lot of the life admin tasks were things you could not clover in a couple of minutes. So there was this two minutes too easy, just going to do it now as it arises. And then there were 10 minute time killer tasks. So these were things that, okay, I'm sitting up, I'm a bit early to my kids pick up after netball training. I'm just going to spend 10 minutes to do this particular task, or I'm just going to use this as a filler activity. So you can chunk up some of those tasks that way. And then there were two other groups. There was the inspirational and fun activities that we recommend you schedule so that you can actually make time for what you want more of in your life.

Mia:
If it's a movie night or going mountain bike riding or gardening or date nights, actually put them in the calendar so that they happen. And then there were inevitable tasks and activities. So these were the tasks that we know are going to arise on a regular basis. So it might be car servicing or going to the hairdresser or going to the dentist. Proactively schedule those when it's convenient for you rather than waiting for the reminder to come from a provider so that you can actually get the good time that you're not forced to go 9:00 AM on a Monday morning that you can use a curriculum day or you can schedule it to a time that's more convenient to you.

Ellen:
I love those organizations that actually, so I know my hairdresser does it, my dentist does it where you actually book in your next appointment. Sometimes when it gets too busy times of year coming up to Christmas, if you want to get your hair cuts in, she'll go actually book it in. No, let's book the next three in.

Mia:
Yes.

Ellen:
You can say it is reducing that mental load of, oh, I'm going to have to, oh there yeah. Okay, I must do something about that then I've got to make the phone call and it never quite happens. And if it's there in my diary already, as you say at a time that I know is convenient today, I just have to rock up. Don't have to think about it.

Mia:
That's right. So you make time to get the important distracting tasks done so you don't have to think about them. You can have fairly more control about how you're spending your time, and if at some of those inspirational things might be, I want to mountain bike more or I want to read more before bed or whatever. If you put it actually in your calendar, you've got a better chance of having those new habits stick.

Ellen:
And so habits is something that you have done a bit of reading about and a bit of learning about in all of this. What are the top ideas or things that you've learned about habits that have worked for you?

Dinah:
I think that the most important thing for me is to, Roy talked about knowing yourself, but to make it easy to do the thing you want to do and making it hard to do the thing you don't want to do it's probably been the thing that [inaudible 00:37:22] through for me. So really making sure that if we want to go paperless, making sure that I have set everything up to emails so that there's no more mail coming into the mailbox. You're setting yourself up for success makes the habit so much easier to follow I guess with being [inaudible 00:37:37].

Ellen:
Yeah. I agree that setting up your environment to support you in that new habit so that it's harder to fail, it's important.

Dinah:
I think probably the other one, which is for the podcast that I already talked about is the accountability partner. So it doesn't necessarily need to be someone to do it with but even if you just share hat you're going to do it with them, that really makes it much easier for me because I feel that always you're responsible to that person who appreciated that [inaudible 00:38:07].

Ellen:
And that's probably part of that knowing yourself too I think is who do you feel most accountable to. Who do you feel is least likely to let you off the hook or you're least likely to let yourself off the hook if you commit to them? Yeah. I wonder if that's part of the equation as well.

Mia:
Actually scheduling things for me has been powerful because it takes out the decision making. So I was trying to establish a new habit about when I was going to exercise. It's this constant formulation of working around kids activities and my own work commitments and which days of the weekend before work or during lunchtime or after work, when am I going to fit exercise in. And I just scheduled it for the morning every day, and now that I have to think about it, it's just there and I feel like that has made me, because then I have the dilemma of am I going to do it today? Am I going to tomorrow? I've just made the decision that it's happening at this time has actually made me do it.

Ellen:
Yeah, so really having the environment that supports the new behavior. So whether that's a schedule, whether it's accountability, whether it's people, whether it's getting the tools and things [inaudible 00:39:17]. It is, as you say Dinah about, reducing the friction I suppose around making those activities happen and doing it in a way. I think oftentimes we hear about these tips and we think, oh that's what they do and that works for them so I should do that too. But I can only assume that in a lot of this is a bit of testing and learning around what works best for you as an individual.

Dinah:
Yeah, and I think because some of the things we're talking about are habits that you need to change your family or both you and your partner. And so it's really about thinking about what works for the two of you as well so really having that conversation and trying things out together [inaudible 00:39:53] about whether it worked or I didn't work.

Ellen:
Yeah, because it's a bit of negotiation required in that too. I know my husband likes to get up and exercise early. He's good at that. I'm not very good at that. Occasionally I've gone, maybe I should get up and exercise earlier and I'm like no. We can't both do it. Kids aren't old enough to leave them at home, otherwise God knows what would happened when we came back. No one would be ready for anything. So a bit of negotiation required looking at the whole family system.

Mia:
That's right. And this whole thing is quite the change management exercise. You need to take the household on a journey, get your partner on board, discuss and agree on the expectations and the systems and have that patience while everyone's adjusting to the new way of doing things. So using some of those negotiation and stakeholder management skills that you have in the workplace in the house is why is here.

Ellen:
Excellent. So these are obviously, they're old topics that you talk about on the podcast, all the tips, and then incorporating those into the various seams or topics that you're talking about, whether it's your health insurance or your mobile phone or your will or anything else decluttering. There's lots of different things that I know you talk about with guests on these particular topics. Why do a podcast? What was it about podcasting that appealed?

Mia:
Well, it's interesting. We talk about accountability. When we were talking about this, we thought side hustles take up time. We were really interested in exploring this topic and we thought ultimately we might like to write a book about it of outlines or the life hacks and advises people about all these shortcuts and systems. But we felt that in the medium term if we launched a podcast, it would make us accountable to our listeners and forced us to forge ahead with the research and experimenting on ourselves. So we thought, all right, let's commit to that. And then we know we have to get out an episode a week, we had to have progress each week. And we wanted to use the podcast format because the target audience for this really is working moms, and we want it to reach them in a way that's flexible and convenient and clearly if I can tap into the podcast content when it suits them, when they're commuting or exercising or folding laundry, wherever people consume their podcasts. So that's how we decided to go in this direction.

Ellen:
And I think it's perfect. I love that accountability. I know from my own experience as a podcaster that you do. You say right, we've got to have all these episodes and then it's like far out, not going to do the work. That can't happen. You're accountable to each other in that as well. And I love that you're using this as part research and part self-experimentation as well. I've had a few guests on the show who are working on self experimentation in different fields but all related I suppose to self development. It's something that I try to do as well, let's test and learn. So you're setting up a structure that allows you to test it and learn it and see what works because then you can share it with the audience. And I'm guessing that's a bit of fun too.

Mia:
It sure is. We try different apps and tools and processes. You've read about things in books and giving it a try at home and we're like, well, no, that didn't work in my household at all with digital photos. I think I've tried three or four different approaches to try and fill the habit there. And I still haven't found one that works for me. My quest continues. So yeah, it has been fun to trial things and I tell you what, when you trial something, you read about it in a book, we stumble across it and we try it and we realize this is solving a massive problem or helping us get through a task that we've been procrastinating about for years. It feels brilliant.

Ellen:
Definitely those dopamine hits and those little successes that help to fuel the motivation along the way. You mentioned then Mia about books that you've read, and obviously books and learning have played a big part in doing the work in preparing and in your own [inaudible 00:43:49] development of the podcasts and the themes and all of this self experimentation. The books that you have recommended and we'll pop the list in the show notes for our listers that have obviously helped you, and when I looked at that list I thought, well these are books that I also hear recommended by a lot of my peers, my fellow psychologists and others in that field. What is it that appeals to you guys about these particular books?

Dinah:
So I think both of us have always been interested in self improvement and I guess behavior change and why we do what we do, and so I think that's probably why we were so interested in applying some of that to this topics of life admin. So I think we probably have read a lo of these books or had interest in them before we even started the podcast. And some of them like the [inaudible 00:44:41] and choice was a book I think has sitting on the shelf for ages and so it's actually quite exciting to actually have a reason to actually read it to apply to this podcast. [inaudible 00:44:47] things that are really important in terms of improving life admin had afformed new habits sitting and [inaudible 00:44:58] expectations. And really some of the happiness that comes from achieving it are really important to think about setting up the systems of frameworks to make this as easy as possible.

Ellen:
Yeah, and I think too that it goes to that, and I know you know again as a psychologist that often when it comes to changing a behavior, one of the things that helps is context. The why of it, why does this work? Why does this help? Why does this actually make a difference when you're trying to embed a new habit or change a behavior or do something new whether it's for you, it's an individual for a family. And I know that almost all, if not all of our listeners have a love of learning. That's one of the reasons why there are listeners here. So that kind of, yeah, I do want to know why. That will really help me to do this. It's not just I'm following a process because someone said I should, it's I'm following a process because somebody suggested it and these are all the reasons why we know it works.

Mia:
That's right. There so much to draw on from different disciplines in psychology and philosophy and time management and productivity and behavioral economics that we can apply to this area. So it's nice to see how all of these different disciplines think about these problems, think about happiness and habits and expectations setting in different ways.

Ellen:
Yeah. And it's so lovely that you've got all of that thoughtfulness behind it. That's something that I certainly really appreciate. Okay, so my final question is what are the top three tips that you have? We've talked through all of those. This has been chockfull of tips and ideas for people to go away with. But if you had three top tips for our audience to really hack their life admin effectively, what would they be?

Dinah:
So I think the first one that we sort of talked about might be already, is really to think about starting with those foundations, and making sure you've got foundations that work for you, and we obviously got the five that we think are important. But really to get those sorted before you start because it makes everything so much easier onto that little bit of time and basis at the beginning can make a huge difference. So your shared calendar, your paperless storage, your to do list. Thinking about all of those things and getting those right will make all of the rest of your life that much easier.

Mia:
Secondly, I think as we've talked about self awareness is key, know yourself, know whether you're a sprinter, whether you want to just put aside a weekend and just get all this set up, or know whether you're a marathoner. We're doing a little bit each week will be more satisfying for you understanding if you're the rebel or the questioner or the upholder or the obliger, and what's going to help you stick to these changes and have these new habits stick. That's a key aspect.

Ellen:
Fantastic. And number three?

Dinah:
I think the last one really is we talked about [inaudible 00:47:55], but it is a changed management exercise both for yourself and your whole family. So really before you start to change some of these things, you really need to take your whole hassle on this journey, get your partner in particular on board about the fact that you want to make changes in these things and why you want to make them, and discuss and agree on your expectations and what systems you're trying and [inaudible 00:48:18] about whether it's working or not working. And have patience. It's not something that's easy to change, and use those negotiation and stakeholder management techniques that you know from your workplace or your professional life and apply them to your home environment to get this admin burden reduced so that you can have more time to enjoy the things that you love doing.

Mia:
And we promise there is lightness and spare time at the end of the tunnel.

Ellen:
You're prime examples of it. So it is in pursuit of family harmony. I think that was the thing which I get right at the beginning, that this is about family harmony which I think is a goal that we all have.

Mia:
And peace of mind, having this off your shoulders, having this not chattering around in your brain all day long. It's a huge win.

Ellen:
And I think a wonderful way to help us all to thrive and flourish. Thank you both so much for this fabulous conversation. I really enjoyed it. I'm going to go away and think about all of my life admin hacks, and what I'm going to also do about my digital photos and my will. We will put all of the details that links to the podcast, to your website, the books that you've recommended, the tips and strategies that you've recommended, some of the apps you've recommended. Lots and lots of resources there and we're going to put them all in the show notes for today's episode. I'm sure that our listeners have gone away inspired to have their life admin for better family harmony and peace of mind. Thank you both so much for sharing all of that with us. I really appreciate the advice, the thoughtfulness of the conversation and your time.

Mia:
Oh, anytime Ellen. A delight.

Dinah:
Thank Ellen, it's been fun.

Ellen:
That was such a fun interview. I love that Mia and Dinah are addressing some of the life admin that we're all so often frustrated by, and they've explored the research and then used the test and learn approach to find the best ways of dealing with it, both for them and hopefully for us too. There's certainly a lot of strategies that I've either tried or I'm going to try now on their advice. And I also love their goals of reducing our mental load and increasing family harmony because they are absolutely sure fire paths to greater thriving and flourishing. So to find out more in to listen in to the Life Admin Life Hacks Podcast, you can follow the links in our show notes for this episode at potential.com.au/podcast. There you'll also find the resources that Mia and Dinah recommended in this episode, including a review of their five pillars for hacking your life admin.

Ellen:
So the shared calendar, the paperless household, the to do lists, the password management and the scheduling, as well as some bonus tips they have kindly put together and shared with us. You'll find all of the links to that and where you need to go if you want to find them online or via social media. So it's all there in the episodes and show notes at potential.com.au/podcast. And now what am I talking about with all this stuff about bonus episodes? Well, as I said in the intro, usually we would finish our season here at episode 60 for a few weeks before returning with season seven, which takes us through to the end of the year. But we have a bonus episode next week. It's episode 61 and our guest is Tom Cronin and he's the co creator of the portal, which is a cinematic documentary and book created as part of a global vision to shift humanity out of a state of crisis.

Speaker 4:
The biggest bottleneck in the creation of tools that can deeply support transformation and healing on the planet is the state of mind of the creators.

Speaker 5:
All right. Now many people don't even know that their inner space exists. That's what's missing for people.

Ellen:
Both film and the book bring to life the stories of six people who've used stillness and mindfulness to move beyond trauma in their life. And their stories are supported by insights from three of the world's foremost futurists as well as a robot. And these stories unfold in a rather beautiful audio visual spectacle really that takes us on our own mindfulness journey through pain and joy and the memory fragments of life. And the experts invite us to consider some really big questions facing our society. So things like, how can we approach life in a new way? Is technology a tool for transformation? And what does it mean to be human? The book, which is titled the portal, just like the film, is available now. But the film's released in cinemas in Australia starting from October 10th so we really wanted this interview with Tom out there and in your ears beforehand so that you don't miss your opportunity to go and see the film that is on limited release.

Ellen:
And if you're listening in New Zealand or in the United States, the film is coming your way in early November and there's a further worldwide release after that. So I'd really encourage you to join me for episode 61, listen in for my interview with Tom Cronin. We're going to be talking about the film and how it came to be. We'll also be talking about Tom's own transformation from financier struggling with Agoraphobia to meditation teacher and how he goes about teaching meditation to CEOs. We'll be talking about personal evolution, forks in the road, laws of thermodynamics, and saving the planet. So it's a big conversation. It's episode 61 of the Potential Psychology Podcast. It's next week, and I look forward to talking to you then. In the meantime, go forth and thrive, flourish, and fulfill your potential.