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Life can be challenging at times… both physically and mentally.
Admit it, there are times when you feel like a hamster on a wheel. Like no matter how fast you run, you’ll never catch up.
That you’ll never reach your goals.
Whether it’s weight loss you seek, financial stability, success at work or in school, or just finding a moment to breathe… learning how to organize your life can help get you there.
Being a well-organized person will not only help keep your house and office in order, but your mind in focus. And helping to keep you focused is what organization is about.
It can help to lessen clutter and minimize distraction.
Plus, let’s be honest… it just feels good to rid yourself junk, or remove something off your plate.
The gift of time is one you should never turn down or take for granted.
So in this article, I’m going to share 13 tips that will help you figure out how to organize your life.
Some will pertain more to your daily routine, while others will serve primarily to declutter your living or work space… but they will all leave you feeling much more productive in the end.
This I promise.
1. Make a To-Do List
I’ve been asked this question time and again, “can something so simple as a to-do list really be an effective tool?”.
And my answer is always the same, “yes.”.
Creating a to-do list is an easy way to make sure the things that need to get done don’t fall through the cracks. The minute you realize you need to do something, jot it down.
You can always go back to the list and re-prioritize its items as other things come up, but writing them down and keeping them someplace prominent is a sure fire way to avoid neglecting them altogether.
2. Assign Yourself A Do-Now Every Morning
If you have kids, you are likely familiar with the Do-Now exercise taught in many elementary, secondary or higher education classrooms.
If you’re unfamiliar, Do-Nows are brief starters or warm-up activities that occur at the beginning of a lesson. These activities usually last between three to ten minutes and range from responding to prompts to asking questions… and exist in formats such as writing, discussion, quizzes, or games.
This method helps educators set the tone for the day, with a purposeful start. Since students are kept on task from the moment they enter the classroom, instructors are able to spend less time trying to get students back on track once the lesson or lecture starts.
It’s proven very successful in schools and can do the same for anyone trying to figure out how to organize your life.
Say, for instance there is a term paper due… or you’re on a deadline at work. Or perhaps you want to start exercising daily and just haven’t made the time.
Each night, think of a “Do-Now” motivator… something designed to kick start your morning and help you reach your goals for the day.
Then, write it down and leave it be.
When you wake up the next morning, find a quiet place to sit down for a few minutes (maybe with a cup of coffee or tea) and set a timer for yourself.
Maybe your Do-Now is a free write exercise. Maybe it’s meditation or yoga. Or something else.
Whatever method you choose to execute should be intended to organize your thoughts and improve focus.
Tip: you may try setting your alarm a few minutes earlier than usual to ensure yourself uninterrupted quiet time.
3. Download a Calendar-App
In a world run by smart phones, tablets and video conferencing… we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we tried to deny the impact a calendar app can have on our daily lives.
Things are so integrated now that we can receive an email invite to a meeting and have it appear on our phone’s calendar within seconds.
These calendar apps are a great way to keep organized, not just at work or school… but with your family’s activities as well.
There are many apps to choose from, some even allow for color coding different members who’ve been granted access.
Others will alert you of conflicts.
Most will send deadline reminders.
Most apps are free to try, so I suggest playing around with them until you find the one that works best for your needs… and then sit back and watch your life simplify before your very eyes.
4. Follow a Family Schedule
So, my kids are still young – all under 10 years old.
But one of the hacks my husband and I found worked wonders for keeping things a tad less chaotic around the house was the family schedule.
Different from a chore chart, this schedule assigns each family member to one day each week when they are in charge of simply helping out when asked.
They are “the hero of the day”… which has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
If, for instance, I’m cleaning toys up around the yard… whomever’s day it is should just offer to help me out.
Be my hero.
Sometimes that “someone” is my husband. We all take turns.
Two hands are better than one.
By not making it a mandatory “chore”, your kids may actually feel as if they are making the choice to be helpful.
And by having yourself assigned to a day, you are letting them know their time is no less valuable or appreciated than yours.
It’s a win/win and will teach kids the value of helping others, which is a good habit to instill early on.
5. Scan Important Items to Eliminate Paper
I can’t tell you how many times I needed to find an old receipt, a utility bill or a child’s immunization record for school… try as I might, things just have a tendency to get lost.
But if you scan those items as you get them, you’ll not only save up space you may need around the house or office… you won’t lose them.
Having easy access to information you need is a fantastic way to organize your life.
If you don’t have a desktop scanner, no worries. There are a handful of decent apps that allow you to scan items using your smartphone or tablet. You can even save them in a variety of formats, such as .jpg and .pdf.
Just make sure you backup crucial information, preferably to a cloud service or secondary hard drive.
6. Delegate Chores
You can be a rockstar parent… even if you don’t do every single thing by yourself.
You’re not a pack mule, after all.
I mean, you make sure the kids are taken care of.
You play chauffeur.
Without their parents, kids would be lost.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t hold them accountable for pitching in around the house.
There are age appropriate chores for almost every age child… if they walk and talk, they can help.
This can be as simple as putting their own dirty clothes in the laundry basket, to as complex as putting a premade casserole in the oven.
Every minute you spend doing less for them, is one more minute spent with them.
And that is nothing to scoff at.
7. Backup Your Photos
Backing up photos is a wonderful way to get organized.
Instead of spending countless hours sifting through boxes in search of that photo of you and your cousin from your wedding… wouldn’t it be nice to just go online, click on a date and find it within minutes?
Sure, sometimes it’s lovely to take a trip down memory lane… but most of us are looking for that picture for a reason.
A school project. A gift idea.
Whatever the case may be, there are apps and photoshareing programs that can help make the search that much easier.
Amazon and Google will even automatically back up and sort your files directly from your phone.
They will all help keep your photos secure – and even allow you to file share or print them.
8. Give Each Family Member A Jump Drive
I have to credit my husband with this one.
A few weeks ago, we were having a conversation with our kids about their big moments. Birthdays, first steps, Baptisms, etc….
Our oldest daughter recently made her First Communion and we were trying to keep track of the gifts for thank you cards. We also wanted to display her photos someplace where she’d one day be able to show her own children.
When I commented that most of our pictures of the children were stored in the cloud, a lightbulb went off over hubby’s head. Obviously, we don’t want them to have access to a photo sharing program online just yet… but what harm would a jump drive cause?
Assign each family a drive and start moving all of their “big moments” over… pics, certificates, gift lists, firsts, etc…. Then simply label each folder.
For the rest of their life, they will be able to access their first birthday album, for instance – and print out whatever they’d like, should they choose to.
It will also serve as a nice reference point for you in the future.
9. Assign Each Family Member a Laundry Day
If you’re anything like me, you think laundry sucks.
I mean, it’s never ending if you have a family.
As a work-from-home mom, I’m almost constantly throwing a load of laundry in the machine… in between writing or making lunch or, dare I say, sitting down to relax after the kids are asleep.
One trick I’ve incorporated into the fold (pun intended) is to assign each family member a laundry day.
It saves time – and also works into the chore chart quite nicely.
Think about it… instead of doing a mixed load of everyone’s clothes and then having to sort and put them away, you can save a step by cutting it down to one family member at a time.
While it may seem trivial, believe me when I tell you that the time I spend sorting a mixed bag adds up… and that is not cool when figuring out how to organize your life.
10. Store a List of Passwords In A Secure Place
If I had a nickel for everytime a website asked me to change my password for security reasons, I’d be rich.
And the worst part is, you are rarely able to use the same one for at least 6 months… and the rules about characters and capitalization, etc, are always changing.
For your protection.
Sure, but what about your time? You sanity?
I honestly feel as if my brain can’t hold in which website has which combination of password today. I tend to use a variation of the same five or six passwords.
Then I have to do a password reset after three failed login attempts… and bam! More time wasted.
Not to mention what happens if a loved one passes away and you need to access their bank information? Did they tell you their password?
It’s a good idea when trying to organize your life to have a list of passwords stored someplace safe. This way, there is no guessing or resets.
Whether it’s in a notebook, a secure document or password hints listed under fake contacts in your phone… it’s a time saver to have this information easily, yet discreetly, available.
11. Utilize a Traffic Light System
Despite the reminders we give ourselves, be it via a calendar or post it notes… things still have a tendency of falling through the cracks.
That is where visual aids may come in handy for you.
Taking a cue from our traffic light system… utilizing red, yellow and green folders to prioritize your monthly bills, classwork or office projects can be a great way to prioritize these things.
The red folder is urgent, just like the stop light. It’s saying stop and pay attention to what’s inside.
Yellow means soon.
Green means you’ve still got time.
12. Keep A Running Grocery List As You Finish Items, Set One Day Each Week To Shop
Personally speaking, one of the biggest wastes of time for me is running back and forth to the food store.
I probably go at least 3 times a week… either because I forgot something or ran out of something. Or maybe I just spontaneously decided to make a meal and didn’t have what I needed.
When searching for how to organize your life, a good rule of thumb is to keep a running grocery list.
This can be done on a white board, piece of paper or app. Just make sure it’s accessible to all family members old enough to contribute to the list.
For instance, if you eat the last of the potato chips… write it down.
If you notice there is only one stick of butter left… write it down.
Ideally, you’ll write things down just before they are finished, not waiting until they are… because that defeats the purpose, especially if they are staple items.
Which brings me to my next hint: categorize the list into two sections, “staples” and “bonus items”. Or something to that effect.
The staple items are necessary or used quite often, such as milk and eggs.
Bonus items are typically things you just like to have around, such as popcorn or soda.
13. Start Meal Planning Every Week
Keeping in line with the running grocery list, probably one of the best hacks when it comes to getting organized is establishing a weekly meal plan.
Meal plans save you time by taking the “what’s for dinner?” debate out of the equation.
If you have no clue what to make for dinner, then you’re more likely to either waste time going to the food store for last minute inspiration… or getting takeout/delivery, which isn’t always the healthiest nor economical choice.
Meal plans are great because they can be done for the entire week on the day of your choice.
Some people prefer to do this on a weekend morning and then go shopping for the week on the same day.
Others maybe have down time on a Tuesday night, and want to do it then.
Whatever works for you.
The meal plans can be strictly for dinner, or all three meals. There are even meal services that will deliver 3-5 days worth of food to you… but for the sake of saving a few bucks for that dream vacation, you may want to scour the web for recipes and do it yourself.
It’s really not that hard.
Some recipe sites and apps even allow you to download the recipe and shopping list directly to your phone or tablet.
Trust me when I say that having a meal plan, at least for dinner, will give your back precious hours during the week.
It’s also great if you double some recipes and freeze the leftovers to pull out on those unexpected late nights.
Final Thoughts on How to Organize Your Life
Being an organized person has many advantages.
With just a few simple changes to your routine, you can:
When you are organized, you spend less time worrying and scrambling.
Less time cleaning.
Less time cooking.
Less time shopping.
Less time yelling.
Less time chasing the proverbial hamster wheel.
Whether you implement all of my suggestions, or just a few, I guarantee you will see a big difference.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.