Getting your life organized can feel like a daunting task. You are probably here because you experiencing some of the common symptoms of being disorganized. Just because you are not an organized person doesn’t mean you can’t have an organized life.
- I’m always late with things
- I never have enough time for my hobbies
- I wish I had more time to do things with my kids
- I keep wasting weekends and missing opportunities to do fun stuff with my kids (this one is the one I suffered from most recently)
See how all the above lead to some negative outcomes! 😔
The problem with most articles on “how to organize your life” is this:
They are too vague, or worse, don’t describe how to organize the most important aspect of getting one’s life organized – time.
Time, as we all know is our greatest resource. You can’t make more of it. When it comes to organizing your life, you cannot do it without including the aspect of time.
Don’t worry we are not going to get nuts here and ask you to track the time you spend on things. Rather, our goal is to guide you on how to organize the time and things in your life.
So let’s get to fixin’ this issue…
Let’s start with a basic structure we like to call the Step Ladder Framework.
|Organizing Time||Control when things are happening||So you are no longer late or missing person, family, or work opportunities||Do this first. It is the easiest part of the organization because it is more objective than other aspects of organizing.||Easiest|
|Organizing Things||Control where things are||So you mentally free of distraction resulting in reduced stress||Do this after you’ve gotten some amount of control over your schedule.||Easy|
|Organizing Subjects||This can be any subject in your life that you want to tackle. Typically things like finances, relationships, physical health, etc||Because it will help you reach your real goals – the entire reasons you are trying to get organized in the first place||We recommend doing this after gaining some control over the above time and things.||Challenging|
Don’t get a planner or digital calendar – yet
Well actually we do – strongly – recommend digital calendars. But, we don’t recommend them at this stage. If you just starting to embark on this life organization journey we think it is better to sketch quickly on paper using the paper templates we’ve provided in this article. Paper planners and digital calendars are precise, exact, and precious. We don’t need to be those things at this point. Simple paper printouts will keep you from overplanning and getting sucked into details that are not important now. In other words – these tools are often a distraction. Too many times we’ve seen people get sucked into the details of digital cals. Entering lots of info that takes time to update. That’s all good and really helpful, but it also has great potential to become a distraction.
We believe easy wins motivate people which encourages them to continue and reach their goal. Which is why we suggest starting with the smallest unit of time – a week. Then 7 day “time diet” directly below will get you started.
Organizing by Time
The 7 day Time Diet
So let’s start with a simple easy win – the next 7 days.
Controlling your time is all about the following three steps
- Knowing when your obligations are
- Knowing when you have free time
- Managing your free time to do things that make you happy or help you reach your goals
Start by printing the calendar below.
Download the Time Diet
Here at the steps you can follow to organize your week
- In pencil, fill out everything you MUST do in the next 7 days. Be as detailed as possible. Shade the areas that are occupied.
- Next, choose a time slot for something you really WANT (not need) to do.
- Fill and highlight that time-slot.
- Put that schedule on your wall. Better, keep it in your pocket. I mean it. Fold it up, stick it on your pocket. Every time you reach in to your pocket you’ll feel it, pull it out and glance at it.
Be VERY deliberate about when you are going to do things. Especially for those of you that are often late. If you have to get to an event at 7:00pm, figure that you need 45 minutes to drive there to be on time, add 15 minutes. Put the departure time on your calendar. That means you need to get in the shower 30 minutes before
You’ll immediately notice how much time you have left in the day.
You won’t set unrealistic expectations on what you can accomplish in the day (which is something I suffered from for a long time)
At the end of the 7 days you should have
NOTE: REPLACE IMAGE WITH ONE THAT HAS PENCIL DRAWING
Monthly Planning – Not the same as weekly planning
Now that you’ve successfully tackled a 7 day period, move onto a month. Don’t do this until you are really rocking the 7 days ahead of you.
We approach monthly (and yearly) planning very differently than weekly planning.
Weekly planning is about controlling specific time slots. You work from the bottom up.
Monthly planning is about setting a goal for the month. You work from the top down
Yes, you’ll have 4 weekly plans that equal a month – which is a monthly calendar. But your monthly plan is not the same as 4 weeks worth of weekly plans.
Here are the monthly planning steps
- Choose a few goals like
- Go to the gym
- Go to movies and soccer game with kids.
- Put them on your calendar
You should have something that looks like this!
Once your feeling good about having reached a month’s worth of goals as a result of monthly planning, move onto the big magilla – yearly planning
For example, say you want to write a book in three months. You will start by writing “Send the book to the publisher” on a date three months from the day you get the idea. Then, you can break it into smaller tasks. Maybe you will want to spend the first two months writing the rough draft and the third editing. Make a plan for the date you will finish the rough draft and write “Start editing.” Within those two months, you can set weekly chapter goals. Whether you want to write a book, train for a marathon, paint a landscape, or plan a wedding, working with a calendar can help you make the tasks seem less daunting.
Yearly plans are about reaching larger goals
This is actually really simple exercise
- Decide on 1 or 2 (max) major goals for the year
- Work backward on a monthly basis at first. Block out the steps you need to accomplish every month to reach the yearly goal
We recommend placing a simple block on your calendar for these monthly goals. What you’ll end up with is some blocks per month – all leading to your accomplishment of the monthly goal.
That’s it! You should now have a pretty good idea of what your weeks, months, and even year look like.
Now that you’ve got the structure down, let’s proceed with the next layers – adding topics and to your plan.
Organize by Subject
Ok, so we are leveling up now!
We started with organizing time – 7days
Then we moved to organizing months and years with the purpose of organizing goals.
Well… I’m sure you’ll be happy top hear that you kinda already did the organizing by the subject thing. Just by setting your yearly and monthly calendars, you’ve tackled the topics things. At least started to.
Organizing by subject is tackling things on your life like:
- Relationships and Kids
- Creativity and Hobbies
While all of these subjects will have particular things to organize, they are generally similar in that they are goal oriented. And because you’ve mastered your monthly and yearly planning, it’s easy to take a topic and apply it to your planning.
By organizing your finances we don’t mean budgeting. That’s a bigger topic that is well covered.
Instead, we mean organizing finances to be more about a mental clearing of the cruft in your head. I had it for a long time and frankly – battled with it.
So let’s start by following the same practices we’ve already established
The weekly plan is about time-specific events
Finance Weekly Calendar
Most of you have bills on auto-pay. Which is ok. However, by visualizing due dates you get a sense of when these bills will come in. I know it helped me to feel like I was on control. Sometimes it prompted me to check teh balance in the payment account before the bill hit to make sure there was enough funds to pay.
Finance monthly and yearly
Next up is organizing your finances by long-term goals. Let’s say you want to buy a rental property this year.
Add the goal to the month/week you want to reach it. The work backward from there. Add milestones that will help you reach your goal to the months prior.
To organize your finances, you will need to check your bank account. See how much you have in your savings and checking accounts. From there, you can create a budget.
Start by tracking your spending. Many modern banks keep a digital record of your purchases. If yours does not, collect your receipts for a month to get an idea of your habits. Calculate the percentage of your income spent on housing, utilities, groceries, investments, gifts, clothes, snacks, restaurants, games, movies, sports, and other forms of entertainment.
If you find that you have no money left at the end of the month for savings, you will need to assess your habits. Perhaps you need to purchase fewer clothes, cook at home more often, cut back on electricity use, and stop using a few streaming services.
First, you will need to find which expenses you cannot change. For instance, rent, mortgage, student loans, Internet, phone, and insurance payments are more likely to be fixed than others. Financial experts recommend using this budget split:
- Housing (rent, mortgage, maintenance): 25% – 35%
- Utilities (electric, water, heating, Internet, cell phone, television): 5% – 10%
- Transportation (car payments, gas, bus fare, car share): 10% – 15%
- Food (groceries, restaurants, snacks): 10% – 15%
- Insurance (auto, home, life, health, dental, pet): 10% – 20%
- Clothing (new items, tailoring, laundry): 5%
- Recreation (movies, games, sporting events): 5% – 10%
- Personal (debt repayment, charity, supplies, random expenses): 5% – 10%
- Savings (retirement, emergencies, specific item): 10% – 15%
You may have to alter these values slightly to fit in items like daycare, child support, school and household supplies, sudden emergency savings, annual payments, work-related expenses, and healthcare costs.
Compare your current spending to these values and see where you can improve. You may need to look for a cheaper apartment, reduce your electricity use, travel by bike, stop going to restaurants, change insurance agencies, thrift your clothes, attend free concerts, and shop for budget items to save more.
If you share your home with people who use too much electricity, live in a car-dependent city, or are stuck in a lease, you may not be able to cut back spending as readily. However, you must decide where you can and cannot reduce costs to improve your savings portfolio
Also, consider investing. If you have enough to spare, stocks, ETFs, bonds, and mutual funds may align with your financial goals. You can work with an automated investment firm like Ellevest or Betterment until you feel capable of purchasing shares yourself.
Some ideas for checklist items include:
- Only eat restaurants or takeout food once a week
- Invest in the stock market
- Ride my bike to work three days a week
- Purchase groceries at the farmer’s market and discount store
- Save $10 more each week
These will all help you budget and save money down the line.
Organizing your career
The following sections will focus more on personal fulfillment than meeting foundational needs. We will begin with your career.
Do you feel satisfied with your current job? Do you like your career trajectory and find fulfillment daily? Do you have your dream job? If not, consider making a change in your career path.
You do not need to change industries, but you can push for a new position, look for a different company, or start a side business to make your work more interesting. If you hate every aspect of your job, you may need to look for a new field.
Make sure to consider finances when organizing your career. A more fulfilling job may not pay as much, so you might need to reassess your budget again. You may have to compromise one of these areas until you can make sufficient income for your desired lifestyle.
When looking to alter your career, you should consider your skills, resources, and interests. Ask yourself a few questions. Can you access the resources to train for a new field? Are you inclined towards specific subjects? Do you have a dream position? What is the average pay? Is anybody hiring?
If you want to become self-employed, you will need to save a lot of money and have a solid plan for growing your business. Also, you will have a lot more responsibilities than when you worked for someone else.
While you may feel passionate about a subject, you may struggle to make money with it. For example, being a full-time philosopher may not pay well. However, you can make this passion a hobby to provide some fulfillment in your free time without sacrificing your income
Ok, now that we’ve got some ideas on what organizing your career might look like, let’s take action
- Do you need certifications
- Do you want a raise
- Do you want to become self-employed
- Do you want to change industries
- Be deliberate here – answering these questions will help you guide your next steps.
- Take your yearly calendar and add your career goal
- Work backward and add the monthly events that will help you reach your career goal
Organizing your relationships and kids
Your relationships include your partners, children, friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances. To organize them, try to rank the importance of each person involved in your life. Then, write down what works and what does not in your relationships to see what you can change.
Maybe you want to go on more dates, join a book club, or explore a friendship or dating app to meet new people. You could spend more time with your significant other, invite your family to a dinner party, and greet your coworkers with a smile.
You can explore new places with your kids, such as amusement parks, playgrounds, hiking trails, and library children’s corners. Try to communicate with them to understand their feelings and teach them your expectations, instructions, and life lessons. You can motivate them to complete their chores with a chore chart and reward or discipline them as you see fit.
Remaining kind and compassionate to your children will make them more likely to listen to your discipline. However, you must decide your parenting tactics.
Don’t fear talking to people online! You can join a Facebook group or Discord chat to chat with new people each day and bond over similar interests.
If you have enough relationships already, you can strengthen them with communication, spending time together, and planning activities. You can try a new restaurant, go to a new entertainment center, or visit a new town.
Once you have analyzed your relationships, you can make some goals to improve them. You may also find that some people cause you too much stress, and you may need to isolate yourself from them. If you cannot do this for whatever reason, make sure to build relationships with non-toxic individuals who can support you.
NOTE: CREATE CHORE CHART
I felt really guilty about wasted weekends. Kids sitting at home with nothing to do. While sometimes my spouse and I were legitimately busy, other times the lack of activities was because we simply didn’t plan anything.
Create a list of things to do
As always, we’ll start with capturing information. It’s as simple as doing a bunch of Google searches for things to do in your area.
Put them on your calendar
There will be some activities that are time-sensitive. Like a theater show or a camp.
Place these on the specific time’/day on your calendar. This is the only way you’ll know when they are and more importantly if they jive with other events on your calendar.
There will be non-time-sensitive activities like mini-golf, bowling, or go-kart racing
These I put on the calendar as an all-day event. I end up with a huge list of them that I place on weekends. I can grab the event at any time and drag it to a specific date when we are ready to do it.
Organizing your creativity and hobbies
Creativity often gets tossed aside in our adult lives, but it is imperative for our mental health and quality of life. By allowing yourself to engage in creative activities, you can fill your free time with fun hobbies that make life less mundane.
First, look at your current hobbies. Write down how long you spend on them each week, how they make you feel, and if you would like to do them more or less.
Let’s consider art journaling and watching TV as an example. Say you art journal one day a week for two hours, but you watch TV daily for three. Art journaling makes you feel inspired and puts you in a good mood, while TV is a way to relax. You would like to art journal more so that you can lift your spirits and watch TV less to feel more productive.
Whatever your hobbies are, you may want to change them to feel more satisfied. Finding a creative hobby can enhance your problem-solving skills, express your thoughts and emotions, and help you find pride in your work. Maybe you like writing songs, baking, dancing, painting, calligraphy, sewing, coloring, woodworking, photography, or anything else. Whatever it is, try to engage in a creative activity regularly.
Not all of your hobbies need to be creative. You could like meditating, basketball, watching movies, golf, playing video games, bowling, baseball, and listening to music.
Try to explore the social aspects of your hobbies where possible. You could join a discussion group, band, sports team, or club. You can go out to theaters and concerts with friends and enter competitions or tournaments where applicable. Otherwise, you can share your hobbies with people you know to create more common interests.
Organizing your spirituality or religion
Caring for your spiritual health can improve feelings of happiness, hope, compassion, kindness, gratitude, peace, and relaxation. You can develop a sense of community and feel loved and loving at all times.
You do not need to join an organized religion to care for your spiritual health: meditation, journaling, and yoga can all help to boost your mood and feel more connected to life. Whatever belief system you choose, you do not have to hold back.
Some spiritual tasks you can try include:
- Attend a place of worship each week
- Pray to a higher power when I wake up
- Follow a guided meditation during my lunch break
- Take a yoga class
- Journal stream-of-consciousness every morning
Try to learn about various religions to see what resonates with you most. You do not need to commit to your family’s faith if you do not feel connected to it. By choosing your beliefs, you can find a community where you belong and feel free to grow.
If you find that you believe in bits and pieces of several religions, you can participate in more spiritual or New Age communities that welcome various beliefs to create their ideas of life. Many groups are open to discussion so that you can discover new philosophies that make sense to you.
Organizing by Room
Since you are reading an article about organizing your life we assume that you mean – your life. The stuff inside your house may very well be part of what you had in mind and we do have you covered there too. See the articles below.
Guides by Room
Organizing Things and Spaces
Wait, we just finished a section about organized rooms. Then why is this section here? Because there are some common principles that apply to every room or space in your life.
The first is too much stuff. We are all guilty of it. Things accumulated over they years have filled spaces around your home. Much if it is no longer useful. Yeah, we know, it maybe useful one day in the future. You’ll have to make a judgment call on what to keep. Just know this. Less clutter means more focus, saved time, all leading to less stress. You should read more about decluttering.
- Keep things in the same place. Your keys always go in the same place.
- Organizing important documents
- Organizing rooms with too much stuff
- One article can’t help you organize your whole life
- Do away with physical clutter, keep only exactly what you need.
- Important dates
- Read tons of organizational tips
Digital Calendars – Our Recommendation
Through the exercise above you should have a really good foundation for organizing your life. Now with that behind you, you can take the work you’ve done and apply it to a digital calendar. The reason we do recommend using a digital calendar (but only after starting on printed paper) is this:
Digital calendars help you visualize.
Digital calendars help you visualize.
Other benefits are flexibility.
- You can create separate calendars for subjects, goals, etc., and turn them on and off.
- Be accurate with time
- See overlap in calendars
- Color coding the calendars help you visualize different parts of your life
- Help with decision making since you can see everything in one place
We typically recommend Google Calendar although there are lots of other calendar applications that work well too.
To Do Lists
An article about how to organize your life wouldn’t be complete without discussing to do lists. We have a love hate relationship with to do lists.
The problem with them is they grow, grow and grow faster than they shrink. You end up with a list that will never be completed. A list that deters your motivation.
We’ve learned not to keep giant to do lists. Instead we actually keep two separate to do lists.
Today’s Must do List
This is a short, very short list, that contains ONLY what needs to be done today. Keeping this separate from the big unwieldy to do list will allow you to stay focused and get those items done. These can include exercising, cooking dinner for the week, cleaning the bathroom, picking up your friend from the airport, calling your parents, going to work, and anything else you need to do that day.
Equally as important – you’ll feel really good when the list has all the items crossed off.
Back Burner List
Everything else goes on this list. Anything that comes up throughout they day goes here if it doesn’t NEED to be done today.
Psychology of Organizing
Ok, admittedly, we are not psychology experts. What we can tell you is that we’ve been carefully observing our own emotions and thoughts when it comes to organizing.
Try not to punish or discipline yourself if you run overtime. We cannot always predict how long a task will take, but we can stay on track. Rather than derailing or skipping assignments, you can start treating your schedule like a to-do list and finish items in that order. For example, if you got in a traffic jam on the way to the airport, you can have lunch with your friend a little later in the day and call your parents in the evening.
How to stay motivated: You know you are on the right path when you have changed a little habit.
When you force yourself to do a good habit and feel the benefit if it, that’s the best motivation to continue the good habit. For example, let’s say you always lose your keys. For the next few days you are determined to put your keys in the same spot when you come home. You do it and one day when you are in a rush to leave the house (when you normally have to look for your keys) you know where your keys are, swipe them up and leave. That is the good feeling moment that will motivate you to continue the good habit.
Once you have identified areas that need improvement from the above subjects, you can start working on them. Start with the areas that you view as below average. Choose one or two tasks you can implement to improve this aspect and continue adding things until you feel satisfied.
From there, you can work on other subjects by integrating new tasks into your routine. Continue until you feel that you are functioning well in every aspect of your life.
You many have noticed we didn’t say much about your morning routine or daily routine. That’s because your daily routine is highly personal. It will come naturally as a result of the planning you did using the tools we’ve shared. We can’t suggest a specific routine. What we can suggest is this one simple thing that will make a huge difference.
Spend a few minutes looking at your calendar every day. It will allow you to:
- Plan time for grocery shopping
- Curb bad habits and foster healthy habits
- Be a visual reminder
- Remind you about your meal planning and cleaning schedule
- Remind you of the important things – the family and kids stuff that you planned
- All in all we all want that dream life. That’s different for everyone of course. For me, it’s felling in control of my outcomes.
- There are somethings that a mourning routine should include
- More confidence
There are some ideas and organizational tips that are common to organizing.
- Putting things in the right place: Instead of dropping your keys on the counter one time, a hook another time, etc – always put them in the same place.
- Develop habits: When you come home, always stop at the same spot, empty your pockets, put your keys, wallet, purse in the same spot. These are low impact tasks that have tremendous improvement in your
- Successful people develop good habits
- Batch phone calls: Phone calls are easier for me, so I like to batch my calls at the end of the day after I’ve had my most productive time.
- Delegate tasks: You don’t need to do everything yourself. This could be between you and your spouse or through your kids chore chart
- A clutter free environment makes you feel good which will help you stay motivated.
First order organization
First order organization is a concept that we created which simply means – things that you often need must be accesible without thinking about where they are. This applies to everyday things like keys, wallet, phone. It also applies to more specialized tools that you might use. For an electrician this means needle nose pliers, linesmen pliers and an assortment of screwdrivers must be accessible without thinking. Less often used tools should not get in the way. You can read more about first order organization and how you can apply it to parts of your life.
It’s a Wrap
We hope we’ve show you that how to organize your life isn’t actually as daunting as it seems. Just typing “How to organize your life” into Google means you were feeling disorganized.
The challenge now will be to stay organized.
You now have a way to handle everything life throws at you. Things like important tasks, health habits, grocery shopping, all have a place in your life system!
Decluttering is a popular concept these days – and for good reason. We suggest understanding it at the very least as it does have some great physcological benefits. In fact, cleaning your space is often the first step in many of the guides we put together.