Colette Sheridan: Why I need a PA to deal with admin and smoothen out my life...

Admin is such a time-consuming, fury-inducing exercise, so says Colette Sheridan in her weekly column
Colette Sheridan: Why I need a PA to deal with admin and smoothen out my life...

Anne Hathaway as Andy in 'Devil Wears Prada', who had to multi-task to keep up with the demands of her magazine editor boss.

I NEED a secretary, or to use today’s parlance, a PA (personal assistant).

He/she would have to put up with my regular rants about the greatest bugbear in my life — administration, or admin as I call it.

I spit out the word nearly every time the postman comes, delivering yet more officious looking post. It infuriates me.

Whether it’s a notification that my health insurance is going up (by about €14 per month for 2021) or a reminder about paying house insurance, I go into a decline when I have to deal with this sort of thing.

I know you’re supposed to shop around when it comes to insurance but everything mitigates against checking out the market. For starters, there are the interminable waiting times on the phone. You could read a newspaper from cover to cover while waiting for your call to be picked up.

When dealing with call centres, they all seem to be using the excuse of Covid-19 to justify the lengthy waiting times they leave you hanging on the telephone.

You have to listen to often dreadful muzak while filing your nails or whatever it is you do while waiting for someone to come on the line.

It’s important to actually do something while holding on. Otherwise, chunks of your life (well, your day) will be wasted.

Admin is such a time-consuming, fury-inducing exercise.  I realise that there are people out there who work at it full-time in their jobs and are brilliant at it. They would regard my scribbling for a living as a pathetic excuse for a proper job.

The administrators of the world are organised and not fazed by legal or financial jargon. They can get through piles of tedious paperwork, prioritising stuff, dealing with it and generally smoothing out their boss’s lives.

I, on the other hand, have a chaotic desk — but I know where everything is! Isn’t that what all us untidy folk always say?

Buying a house, which I’m in the process of doing, is heavy on admin what with engineers’ reports, surveyors’ mapping exercises, stamp duty, solicitors, and lots and lots of legalese which I can’t quite fathom.

It’s a private language about which most of us have no clue. I think that’s the whole idea, the building block of a profession whose expertise costs good money.

But someone has to do it and I would rather scrub floors than study law.

Law requires attention to minutiae, an ability to constantly be able to see around corners, persuasive powers, and a firm grasp of financial matters, as well as the constitution. Ideally, my PA would have those skills. But I wouldn’t be paying him/her solicitors’ fees.

What I want is someone who can suss out the best deals from service providers and utilities. Life is too short to have to deal with health insurance companies oneself.

My eyes glaze over whenever quotations are fired out and there’s all that palaver about excess fees and different plans. Me? I just want the bottom line. What’s the lowest figure you can give me for full health care? And don’t bore me with talk of semi-private wards. A hospital room is either private or it isn’t.

As for house insurance, what valuables have I? None, really. I’m glad I don’t trouble myself with expensive jewellery.

Speaking of expense, it’s quite dispiriting to see how much charities spend on admin, very evident around Christmas time when the begging letters arrive, complete with brochures and detailed plans you can tie into to help alleviate poverty.

Some charities send a number of the same packages to you, in fairly quick succession. How wasteful is that?

Yes, we need to be reminded to send money to the needy (seeing as late stage capitalism denies a proportion of the populace the ability to function without charity). But we don’t need to be constantly reminded, which only gets our backs up.

Charities today are so corporate with fat salaries often paid to their CEOs. How much of our money goes towards costs such as this?

Not to mention the printing costs and postage involved in sending out letters.

Nobody wants to be a Scrooge, but it’s important to know what percentage of our money actually goes to the people targeted by charities.

It’s a good idea to buy a charity gift. Barnardos’ Gifts for Good campaign includes gifts such as a ‘winter woollies’ pack which includes a warm coat, hat, scarf and wellies for €56. Now that’s good value. And it’s a traceable donation for something practical.

If I had a PA, I’d get him/her to study the form when it comes to charities.

I’d lob all the administrative detritus in my life at them. It would be so liberating. But no messy creative types need apply.

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