As carers, our admin load can be heavier than most. In fact over 30% of carers in our community* said they spent more than 10 hours a week on admin (over the previous month).
Extra emails, appointments and information to be wrangled. It's amazing what we can learn from other carers, chatting in the hub and in our online cuppas. Not to mention, the emotional toll of admin can be a big part of why we avoid it until it becomes really urgent.
In this blog, we've got loads to share, including carers' top admin tips and new methods we can try to improve the admin load.
"Carer admin is a mixture of changing address everywhere, paying bills, credit cards statements, lists and reminders, filing paperwork, NHS letters to file, letters to DWP, diary entries, appointments for me, appointments for him, phone calls to make, chasing up everything, lists for incoming week and planning. To name a few."
1. Keep it simple and offline
Lots of us still like a small simple diary we carry with us, a calendar hung on the wall, or just one notebook where we write everything.
"Calendars, pocket diary, desk planners … and cancellations! I use coloured highlight pens to help"
For those of us who do use calendars, using colour-coded stickers (which we can buy from Poundland or Tescos) is a great way for us to visually see any upcoming events or tasks.
"My highlighter coloured pens help me to know stuff for him / me / both and household"
Alternatively, iwe can try digital calendars which also have really fun customisable, colour-coding options.
"If you are caring for someone with a family or friend, or even just want the person you care for to be kept in the loop, shared calendar apps like Time Tree are super helpful. Lots of colour coding options and means the responsibility isn't all on one person."
Project notebooks with dividers can be helpful too- especially if we have lots of papers hanging around. If they have an inspiring quote or an image that makes us smile, even better!
If the endless sticky notes and papers feel overwhelming, we can opt for whiteboards that we can easily erase and add to.
"I have a whiteboard on my desk. It's labelled every day of the week. I list what I have to do that week"
"I too make use of a whiteboard - mainly because i like using different coloured pens and using the eraser! More satisfying then notes on my phone or scribbles on the back of an envelope that I forever lose!
2. Email Inbox Overload
The sheer number of emails in our inbox can be overwhelming. There are a few ways to approach this:
Use the 'Inbox 0' approach
The 'Inbox 0' approach, is simply keeping our emails to 0 (or close to 0). This means opening and keeping any useful emails, and archiving any unwanted emails. Inbox 0 not only looks much more pleasant (which eases our mind) but it means we don't have to go back in later to do the tidying.
If that ship has sailed, maybe the next tip can help.
"I have over 10k emails in my inbox alone. I can't keep up (clearly!). Lately I've been using appointment waiting times to go through my phone and unsubscribe from emails I don't open. It's very cathartic!"
Take advantage of the search bar
Anytime we need anything specific and quick, we can use the search function to find the things we want. It is often a tool that is overlooked but can save us a lot of time from scrolling.
Unsubscribing from emails that are no use to us anymore can make a big difference very quickly - and reduces our time spent on deleting them!
Delete in batches or bulk
Rather than going through each email and deciding to delete can take ages. We could just search for all emails from one person and select all and then delete.
Create folders or labels
We can create folder and labels for our emails. This helps to sort them and make sure we stay focused on the important ones. For example, we may want a folder for 'News', 'Order Confirmations', 'Doctors', or 'Other'. Whatever works best for you.
"But how? I'm not a tech expert"
3. Set aside time for admin tasks
Emails, texts, notifications and messages pop up constantly. Some of us have an approach to only open something if they are going to deal with it there and then. Others set aside admin time slots to focus on things or set aside time when we are offline and not dealing with anything.
"Once I accepted that admin was part of the caring role, I found it easier to set aside time for it. Previously I really resented it, and the jobs would build up and overwhelm me"
As carers, we know that form filling can take up A LOT of our admin time. So we don't always have to do this on our own, especially if it's something we dread doing. There are lots of organisations and condition-specific charities that offer free legal advice and help with filling out forms.
Some organisations that carers recommend include:
4. Make use of the cloud
There are apps like 'Google Drive' and 'OneDrive' that give us a good chunk of free storage. This can be really helpful for saving documents, spreadsheets, photos and other files that we might want to access from a number of devices (wherever we are) or to be able to share with specific people.
Every time you fill in a form and need to gather information together it can be helpful to build up a simple secure document with everything in one place.
5. Use the phone camera
Some of us are using the camera on our phones to take photos of those easily lost pieces of paper. Receipts quickly scribbled notes (you know the ones on the back of an envelope that is now in the recycling).
Also information that we need to remember - car registration number, car park parking location, medication list from a prescription slip.
Then we can upload these photos in the notes section of our phone so we don't find ourselves scrolling forever just to find them!
6. Don't stop trying new methods
What works for us today might not work for us in a couple of years. So don't stop trying out new ways to improve the admin load. Start by choosing one thing you would like to find an easier way to do and research that. YouTube videos, and 'How to' blogs can all be helpful.
Read the six ways online learning can benefits carers and try one new thing today.
7. Give smart devices a go
Some of us most likely are familiar with Amazon's Echo, the voice of Alexa, or Google Nest. These voice-enabled devices can be super helpful if we need to quickly ask it a question (whilst tackling another task), or ask it to do something. For example, we can ask them:
What the weather is like for a week's time, if we're planning for a day out
Set an alarm or reminder for taking medication/turning on the lights/heating in a specific room
Find accessible places to go and eat
If we're considering purchasing any of these voice-enabled devices, take a look at our guide on digital skills for carers which weighs out the pros and cons of each.
8. Avoid overwhelm
Choose just three admin tasks per day rather than looking at the whole list. We never get to the bottom of the whole list, which can make us feel rubbish. By choosing just three (or even one or two), we keep chipping away - and we get a sense of achievement each day.
Can we perhaps also avoid overwhelm by reducing clutter around our space or home? Here's one helpful tip shared by a carer:
"A shredder upstairs and a shredder downstairs prevent piles of paper on the stairs which I then have forgotten where they are going!"
And if we need help prioritising, check out our carers’ priority matrix - a simple tool for deciding what’s important, urgent, can be delegated and so on.
Got a tip to share? Or a question to ask? Join the Mobilise community for unpaid carers, an online space where we help each other out by asking (and answering) all sorts of questions to do with caring. We'd love to hear from you!
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*Mobilise Moment Lite, September 2023