To-do list fatigue?
Who'd like a lifestyle PA to sort out all those pesky chores? Er, YES! Muddy tests out Rebecca Crayford Lifestyle Management
Once upon a time, my idea of luxury involved 5 star hotels in tropical climes, perfectly chilled champagne or a pair of Louboutins. These days, however, there’s no greater luxury than time. Lovely, peaceful free time. Because if I ever get a millisecond when I’m not wrangling children or working, I’m beavering away at the world’s longest list of chores, errands and admin. And, frankly, that’s as boring as it is exhausting.
Which is why I couldn’t wait to meet Rebecca from Rebecca Crayford Lifestyle Management. The Henley-based former ad agency exec is basically a to-do list ninja – music to the ears of busy women. She takes your chores and sorts them so you can focus on life’s bigger picture stuff – a lifestyle PA, if you will. Her current gigs include itemising a private art collection and typing up the PhD of an 80-year-old retired psychotherapist, but she’s equally happy to do the little things, such as pick up your supermarket order or keep an eye on your house security, look after your pets restock your fridge when you’re on holiday. (Good to know with the summer hols approaching.) She’ll take your mother to her hospital appointment if you can’t escape the office, or she’ll be your VA (virtual assistant) if your work schedule has gone nuts.
She’s a calming, reassuring presence to have around the house – and politely pretends not to notice the kids’ Shredded Wheat breakfast remnants trodden into the kitchen floor. The nice thing about Rebecca is she totally gets what a juggling act daily life is like for most of us – precisely because she is one of us. She has two small children and her fledgling business herself. As she points out, the notion of work/life balance – where you can never win as you’re almost always out of kilter – is being replaced with the work/life blend, where the lines are blurred. So you might do two hours of work at home, then need to deal with the plumber before you whizz off to a meeting, and then dash back for the school run. What she offers is another pair of (able) hands to help out with it all.
So, shall we see what Rebecca is made of? I set the timer for an hour and throw three random tasks at her from my list of doom: make a brunch reservation at The Ivy Marlow (I know, I know, not rocket science but I never seem to find a second to pick up the phone), source some blinds for my kitchen (mine have been broken for months), and do something, anything, about the disgusting, messy plastic file containing 15 years of recipes torn from newspapers and magazines that currently lurks in The Shit Drawer (everyone has a shit drawer, right?). I then run away and hide upstairs, working.
An hour on and she’s blitzed it. The restaurant confirmation email is forwarded on, ditto a very detailed email with various blind options – she measured up and then called several local shops for advice. With jobs like this, she says, speak on the phone to an expert first and let that discussion inform your online research, otherwise you end up googling randomly forever. And she sorts my recipes into meal type, suggesting a cluster of folders within a master folder. Or, she says, if I want to step up to next-level geekery, we could photograph them all and create an online database.
Rebecca’s prices start from around £30 per hour, but it very much depends on the task, what exactly is involved and how far she has to travel – she tends to work within a 30 minute radius of Henley (although obviously if you’re looking for a Virtual Assistant, location is irrelevant). Sometimes she charges by project rather than per hour. Financially, I don’t think it makes sense to use her for your nuts’n’bolts chores (eg cleaning) although she wouldn’t turn her nose up at them. Instead, she comes into her own with those slightly more involved jobs – the kind of thing you perhaps couldn’t trust your teenage offspring to do because they need a grown-up brain and a bit of initiative.
The only downside? She won’t move into your house and be your actual wife. Even if I asked nicely, Rebecca?
Rebecca’s to-do list top tips
- Find a format that works for you whether that’s a digital format or a paper one – I personally handwrite my list, but there are apps available for both Android and iOS phones.
- Write down everything you need to do on one master list – both work and family tasks – and highlight the tasks that are a priority, so if you don’t finish your list at least you’ve done the important stuff.
- Have a weekly list where you write down everything that needs to be achieved over the next 7 days – Sunday evening is a good time to do this. Break this down further by day so you know exactly when you’re going to do each task and write down how long it’ll take to do each task – be realistic!
- Be specific – rather than write “write copy for website” or “tidy the house”, break it down into actual tasks so that you can cross each item off as you go along (satisfying!). Being specific will help you achieve your goal.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get everything crossed off by the end of the week – just carry it over to the following week!
- Keep it simple and as short as possible – there’s nothing more overwhelming & demotivating than a 5 page to do list.
Rebecca Crayford Lifestyle Management, 07495 636671, rebeccacrayford.co.uk
Words: Kerry Potter