Reading this book should be at the top of your To Do list. Life Admin will give you many hours of your life back.
Every day an unseen form of labor creeps into our lives—stealing precious moments of free time, placing a strain on our schedules and our relationships, and earning neither appreciation nor compensation in return. This labor is life admin: the kind of secretarial and managerial work necessary to run a life and a household.
Elizabeth Emens was a working mother with two young children, swamped like so many of us, when she realized that this invisible labor was consuming her. Desperate to survive and to help others along the way, she conducted interviews and focus groups to gather favorite tips and tricks, admin confessions, and the secrets of admin-happy households.
Life Admin tackles the problem of admin in all its forms, from everyday tasks like scheduling doctors appointments and paying bills, to life-cycle events like planning a wedding, a birth, a funeral. Emens explores how this labor is created, how it affects our lives, and how we might avoid, reduce, and redistribute admin whenever possible—as individuals and as a society.
Life Admin is the book that will teach us all how to do less of it, and to do it better.
About the Author
Elizabeth F. Emens is Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. She earned her law degree at Yale and her Ph.D. at Cambridge. She lives in New York City.
“Shift up, Marie Kondo . . . Elizabeth Emens is on to something with her analysis of the time-gobbling role that admin now plays in our days . . . When she describes it to others they tell her she is seeing into their marriages and minds . . . She has instant practical suggestions . . . Emens' book is a call to distinguish what we must do from what can be minimised . . . In our uncertain world at least we can deal with the small stuff.”
—The Times (UK)
“Ms Emens' tips for working through admin knots have given me lots of ideas, especially for clearing the 'murky admin' that has been on my list for too long . . . I'm also making another list—fun things to do with all the time I've saved.”
—Financial Times (UK)
“In this timely and necessary book, Elizabeth Emens shines a light on one of the most important productivity topics that no one talks about: the relentless administrative obligations required to organize life outside of work. This book is a must-read for anyone who feels overwhelmed by admin at home.”
—Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism
“Every so often you come across a book that really does profoundly change how you see the world. Life Admin is just such a book – it will, by force of its own genius, reprogram your life and give you a tool for seeing things as they actually are.”
—Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants
“There are many books telling us how to organize a closet or the kitchen. Elizabeth Emens takes on the sorting of our brains. They say that death and taxes are the only two sure things in life. But they left out all the in-between—car repair, PTA, doctors’ appointments, home maintenance, making dinner, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. There is calm at the end of Emens’ rainbow, and the deep sense of accomplishment that clarity of focus endows.”
—Patricia J. Williams, The Nation
“The stuff of life never ends. It piles up in junk drawers, steals our time, weighs on our minds and, if avoided for too long, can have painful consequences. Rather than avoid it, as so many of us do, Elizabeth Emens instead has waded gamely into the muck to discover not only the best life hacks, but how to make it visible, understandable, better manageable and fairer. (I’m looking at you, ball-droppers.) Reading Life Admin is like sitting down with a friend who knows exactly how it feels to be drowning in your To Do list, and throws you a very welcome life line to help you to make your way out.”
—Brigid Schulte, author of the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed