Organized people seem to have their life together: they accomplish their goals, successfully balance between personal life and work, and are always prepared. And while being organized does not give you immunity, it does make life a lot easier in many cases.
In Bordio’s blog, we talk a lot about building good habits, sharing productivity tips, and how to learn faster. We’ve even written a guide on Staying Organized at Work.
Today we are tackling an even more ambitious goal – the one of organizing one’s life. Although a single article is not likely to turn your life around, the tips and recommendations that we share in it have the ability to make a real difference.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail”. With today’s tips, you will be fully prepared for anything that life throws at you.
Benefits of organizing your life
You’ve clicked on this article, so you probably understand that organization is important and benefits our lives greatly. But maybe you struggle to fully comprehend why it is good.
We’ve listed the key benefits that organization can do for you here:
- Have a feeling of control and confidence
- Manage your time better and do more
- Improve your productivity
- Achieve goals faster
- Experience less stress and anxiety
- Have more energy
Where do you start organizing your life?
First, you have to think about what you really want in life.
The best way to do that is to take a diary and sit down in a quiet place with no distractions, and brainstorm.
Your brain works better when you’re writing, so it’s important to write your ideas down. Ask yourself: What do I really want in this life?
There is no right or wrong answer, and there can be many things that you desire. Whatever comes to your mind needs to be documented, so that you can continue working with those thoughts later on.
Tip: It’s important to recognize your true goals and not settle for aspirations that others impose on you. If you want to become a digital nomad and work and travel around the world, but your parents or a spouse want you to become a doctor, you should be honest with yourself, no matter how much you love your family. Only what you truly want is important. All other goals and targets are irrelevant, at least in the long term.
After you write down what you want, compare your current progress, lifestyle, and routines against your main desires in life. Are you going somewhere? Or does what you do now take you further from your end goals?
Tip: Use Bordio to keep track of your goals and progress. Create a project in the system and add strategic tasks that move you closer to your goal, paint them green, so you can see them on your main board.
Getting rid of what’s holding you down
As you figure out what you want to do with your life, the next important thing is to drop irrelevant commitments and focuses.
For example, if you want to be a videographer and make living editing films or vlogs, you might want to pause your studies or side hustles that take up all your time.
It’s possible that you won’t be able to drop your job, education, or family commitments right away. However, make sure you work in that direction, otherwise, you can dream about changing your life forever but never achieve it.
How to get organized and build a better future for yourself
Now let’s talk about tips and changes in behavior that will lead you to an organized life.
Start writing things down and organize your life
It’s not good to rely on your brain to remember everything you need and want to do. It’s also not realistic to assume that you won’t forget something, even if you consider it important.
Make an intention to get organized
To change your life, you must really want to do it and make an intention. Thinking that some more organization wouldn’t hurt and then forgetting about it will lead you to failure. Create a clear intention and decision that from today on, you will be making changes in mindset, habits, and processes, all with the final goal to make your life better.
Use a single to-do list for everything
Work, leisure, personal development, family affairs. Everything. Keeping 10 different to-dos and using 5 different calendars only adds chaos and mess to your life.
Create a waiting list (backlog) for incoming to-dos
If you receive a new task, don’t rush to put it in your calendar or write a sticky note. Have a backlog of all new to-dos, that you haven’t yet scheduled. Bordio is a perfect tool for that.
Implement weekly planning sessions to organize your life
We recommend using the Mind Sweep technique, which allows you to walk through all areas of your life and write down everything that you need to do on your waiting list. Then put these things on your calendar.
If you’re not yet familiar with the concept, make sure you read our detailed guide on Mind Sweep and download the PDF to get started.
Plan your goals
Plan your goals and write them down.
Thinking and dreaming about your goals is good but you need action to make them come to life. And it’s hard to see your goals come to life without planning. Let’s say you want to speak Chinese fluently. How many times a week will you study? Will you join an online class or go to a physical school? When will the course start?
Really think about your goals and create a plan to make sure they don’t just stay dreams.
Set your priorities and align your goals with them
Goals and priorities are two different entities that have to be worked on in tandem.
For example, you want to build a successful startup, but you also want to spend quality time with your family every day. Knowing that will affect how you choose to spend your time and the decisions you’ll be making. This is an obvious example, but you can try doing it with all your goals and priorities, and it will revolutionize your attitude.
Get a printed calendar and put it by your desk
At Bordio, we are obviously huge fans of digital organizers and software systems for personal productivity and team management. However, printed calendars have a charm that we can’t deny.
The key benefits of printed calendars:
- It’s there in front of you – you can’t ignore it as easily as the digital calendar.
- It helps you stay on track because you can highlight important dates and deadlines.
We recommend combining a digital and a physical calendar for maximized benefit. Digital calendars can be used for everything, even the smallest little tasks, and their notifications can pop up on your phone to keep you an organized person. The free monthly printable calendars by Bordio will be for alternative goals and key events. It will be a visual reminder that you (hopefully) won’t be able to ignore.
Plus, you’ll use it as an extra layer of security, ensuring you have everything done.
Deal with distractions in order to organize your life
Learn what your key distractions are and work on eliminating them from your life when you need to be productive and get things done.
The most common distractions are:
- Smartphone and social media notifications.
- Friends and family members chatting with you.
- Extra tabs with entertainment websites on your PC.
- Noises in the area where you sit.
- More clutter on your desk than needed.
Please note that removing distractions to stay focused is a never-ending game. It is not an instant process either. So focus on making a progress, and keep your eyes peeled for any new distractions that you haven’t spotted before, but now realize are becoming a problem.
Create a self-care routine and stick to it
Planning and organizing are not only reserved for things we have to do, such as work or household chores. It can and should be applied to fun and self-care parts of our lives too.
And as you plan this out, remember that self-care is not all about lighting candles and taking baths. Sometimes it means doing things we don’t want to do, but we have to if we want to improve our lives.
Make sure that your daily routine includes having proper rest, walking around during the day (even if it’s for a few minutes only), and having healthy lifestyle habits.
Forget about multitasking in the way to organize your life
If you can only remember one thing from the few tips that we’ve shared today, let it be to always do one task at a time.
Working on too much stuff simultaneously is counterproductive. As your brain tries to switch from one task to another, your concentration falls, you feel more tired, and are prone to making more mistakes.
Try time tracking
You can use Bordio to log all your activities and how much time it takes, or a simpler time tracking app, such as Excel or pen and paper.
The idea is to write down how much time everything takes. By doing that for, let’s say, a week you will get a much better understanding of where the time is going. Once you know your “enemy”, you can deal with it more efficiently.
Leave wiggle room in your schedule
Avoid scheduling things back-to-back at all costs.
Life happens, things take longer than planned, and someone asks you to move a meeting last minute. If you have zero flexibility or free time in your schedule, your whole day can turn into a disaster.
Declutter your purse and backpack
Aim to declutter at least once a week.
Look through the purses and backpacks that you use regularly to see if there’s any garbage, old checks, or anything else that needs to be removed and thrown away. Check if they are clean and should be washed as well.
There’s nothing quite as annoying as having to look, again and again, through your purse in hopes of locating this one thing you need. Regular cleanups will free you from that stress. Also, next time you need to put your corporate laptop in the bag, you know it won’t be stained by the melted chocolate bar that you left there four weeks ago.
Set a weekly laundry day
Have you ever had this situation when you are getting ready to go out, have an idea of a perfect look planned out, and then find out last minute that the key element of your look is stained and needs washing?
No more! Once you get used to doing laundry every week on a certain day, you will be that person who always has something to wear.
Organize your closet first and then organize your life
Speaking of always having something to wear, go through your closet and go through every piece to see if it needs to be recycled, donated, or kept. Check the drawers too and see if you can fit in containers or hard dividers (for things like makeup, belts, and glasses), and soft dividers (for socks and underwear).
As you decide what to donate, don’t overdo it.
If you can see yourself buying a similar thing in the future, best keep it in your house. Clothing donations are good, but a lot of the donation centers are over their capacity, so if you’d like to do something good for the world, you might want to consider alternatives, such as donating money or your time to the causes that are close to your heart.
Tip for organizing bedding: take a set of bedding and put sheets inside the pillow sheets to guarantee not to lose them again.
Wash your dishes after you’re done eating
Nobody wants to get on with dirty dishes just when they’ve finished a delicious meal, but it’s a game changer. Accumulating piles of dirty plates, cups, and cutlery makes your entire living space feel messy and disorganized.
Just like with the broken windows theory, one messy area tends to multiply and create an even bigger mess all around you. Have dirty dishes in the sink? Might as well throw your clothes around, ignore food stains on the table, and skip a work task or two.
Clean up your desk
An organized desk means more productive work.
There is no need for leftover food, shopping cheques, piles of books, and anything else to be on your working desk. Aim to leave as few things on the desk as possible. Use drawers to hide little things like pens and stickers. Put up a shelf above the desk to host books and documents.
Declutter your computer when organizing your life
Get rid of duplicate files and files you no longer need. Create folders for document types that you use the most and move the files there. Delete software that you never use.
Once you’re done with organizing, create a backup copy of your files. This will help keep your files safe should something happen to your laptop. Plus, you can move part of the files to the cloud and delete them from your computer to save more space.
Declutter your emails
Once your computer is clean and pure, head down into your emails for the next-level decluttering.
Delete all spam emails, and unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read. Go through the emails with attachments and delete any old and heavy emails you can find.
Also, scroll through the attachments and delete everything with sensitive data. Things like ID scans, employment offers, and insurance policy updates can all be used by scammers and phishers. Hopefully, it won’t ever happen, but if someone hacks your emails, it’s better if they don’t find absolutely everything about you there.
Tip: We’ve created several guides to help you organize parts of your life. Go ahead and read our How To Organize Gmail guide. Yes, it is Gmail-focused, but many of the tips we share are universal. Also, we have a handy guide to help you understand How To Delete Your Google Calendar in case you have too many of them. And there is a great guide on Organizing Your Bookmarks that helps you keep all the brilliant internet materials in order.
Organize your Google Drive and files in the cloud
Start tidying up daily for 10-15 minutes. A lot of disorganization in our lives comes from messiness in the physical space. Start cleaning up every day, and you will be astonished about how much cleaning you can actually get done in this short amount of time.
Have a place for everything in your house. It’s much easier to have a mess when your possessions have no rightful place in your home.
Tip: Read our guide on Organizing Your Google Drive for a detailed how-to.
Put things back in order to stay organized
Once you have a place for everything at your home, make sure you build a habit of putting them back. It will save you tons of time and stress when you’ll need to find something.
Put a clock in your bathroom
How many times have you been late because it took you too long to get ready? Never again with a clock that will keep you organized. Make sure the clock you pick is water and humidity-resistant.
Give meal planning a chance
Not everyone is a fan of meal prepping, and we get that. Food tastes much better when it’s just been cooked, as opposed to 3 days later. So, if you’re not ready to go with meal prepping, consider meal planning.
Think of what you’d like to eat during the week, make a list of ingredients and take it with you next time you go grocery shopping. Also, have a list of must-have ingredients saved up on your phone and check that you have everything from that list too. Nobody likes to start making a veggie curry only to realize they’re out of rice or salt.
Meal planning removes the often frustrating decision-making process of having to pick a meal that you want to cook and eat today.
Review your eating habits
Nutrition is very important. What we consume indicates how we feel, the levels of energy that we have, and ultimately how productive and organized we are.
It is your own business what to eat and how much to eat, so we can’t recommend you anything specific. But stay open to experimenting with eating. For example, many people skip dairy for 2-3 weeks to see if and how it changes their bodies and how they feel. Others try vegan days where they choose to follow a plant-based diet for a day every week. Through such experiments, people often find that making changes to their diet leads to major shifts in how they feel, including boosting their productivity.
Improve your sleep to organize your life
Improve your sleeping patterns. Aim to sleep as close to 8 hours a day as you can. Try to go to sleep and wake up earlier. Have a nighttime routine that helps you wind down and fall asleep easier (such as no screen time after 9 pm, reading a book in bed, airing your bedroom).
Identify and combat your bad habits
Changing your relationship with food and sleep is a good start toward having your life organized, but it’s only a part of the journey.
Everyone has bad habits that make our lives less enjoyable, healthy, and organized. As you identify the bad patterns that you have, slowly work towards eliminating them from your lifestyle. A good way to do that is to replace them with healthy habits.
For example, if you know that you tend to overeat snacks late in the evening in front of the TV, start going on evening walks. It’s much harder to eat junk food when you’re walking, and you will naturally end up consuming less processed food. And you’ll feel better and will be able to sleep better as a bonus!
We have a dedicated article with Good Habits Examples for you to get inspired.
Tip: Don’t try to work on your unhealthy habits all at once. And if you do, make sure you’re moving slowly and not putting too much pressure on yourself. Habits that are bad for us tend to stick to us really strongly, so it will be overwhelming if you make too drastic of a change in a short time span.
Come up with an activity to switch your mindset
For example, such an activity can be making your bed in the morning. This small action can become a thing you do to differentiate between sleeping and being away. Shutting down your computer and stepping away from your desk can mean an end to the working day.
Those little tricks do a lot for our brains and help us get into the right mental space, keeping us organized and productive.
Be mindful of your purchases
Both digital and physical.
Most of us have more stuff than we need, and consumerism continues to grow as an issue in our society. As you go about your daily and big purchases, stop and think for a second – do I really need this? It’s not even about minimalism or saving money. You can have five shirts already and be perfectly fine with purchasing one more. Just make sure you will be using it, that it is of good quality, and that it fits you well.
Organize your finances as it’s part of your life
Financial freedom is something all of us desire, but not everyone thinks they can achieve it. In fact, anyone can work on money management and achieve a better financial situation.
Everyone’s financial journey is different, and we don’t start at the same place, but here are the key areas that you can work on, regardless of what your finances look like at the moment.
#1 Spending tracking. See where your money is really going. These days, everyone pays with their credit cards, so it’s really easy to waste away tons of money without even realizing it. Try tracking your spending for a few weeks to get a clear idea.
#2 Budgeting. Not everyone loves budgeting, in fact, almost no one does. However, if you know you tend to overspend or struggle to save up for big purchases, creating a budget will be your savior. Give yourself time to create a budget that makes sense to your unique situation. And remember, you won’t have to do strict budgeting forever, instead it can be a period of your time that will build smart financial habits that you will be able to later follow intuitively.
#3 Sinking funds. You know you need to renew your insurance every year, yet when the time comes – you rarely have the amount you need. Sounds familiar? Well, that’s what sinking funds are for. Use them to save up for recurring expenses, such as vacation, Christmas gifts, or medical insurance prolongation. Some people use sinking funds for things like destination weddings too. Every month, transfer small (ideally fixed) amounts of money to a separate account or a digital piggy bank, and by the time the expense comes up, you will be fully prepared.
#4 Emergency fund. Goes without saying – everyone needs one. Some experts recommend starting with 1000 USD as an emergency fund and then focusing on reducing debt. Others suggest having 3-6 months’ worth of expenses. Whatever you decide – start working on it now.
#5 Investing. The year 2022 has not been the best one for investors, compared to 2020. However, now is a great time to buy funds and stocks of strong companies because their pricing is down, but they are unlikely to stay so cheap in the future.
#6 Retirement. We are all getting older, that’s a fact. And while we might not want to think about it now, we will regret not planning our retirement when it comes. You’ll still want to travel, go out, and enjoy yourself when you’re older, so please start contributing to your retirement fund today.
Finances are a vital part of our lives, and it’s virtually impossible to organize your life without organizing finances.
Sort through your documents and organize them
Bills, receipts, contracts. Keep them in order and make sure you store important documents for at least 2 years after they were issued.
Have a designated drawer or a shelf for all important documentation, and try to keep it the only place for everything. Create digital copies of key papers and keep them on your PC and in the cloud.
Have an emergency kit ready
Create a medical emergency kit. Keep it at home, in your car, or in both places. Stock it with band-aids, hygiene items, painkillers, or something for the upset stomach. If you already have such a kit, check it every 6-months or at least once a year to ensure everything inside is still good to use and take.
Have a birthday calendar
You can use a yearly printable calendar for a general overview, but we also recommend creating recurring events in Bordio to remind you about upcoming birthdays.
Download one of Bordio’s free yearly printable calendars to mark the birthdays of your friends and family.
Rethink your relationships and organize your life
Remember parents talking to you about bad influences? Well, they were (mostly) right back then, and it is still true today.
People that you surround yourself with also define your life and have a huge influence on your routines and habits. We don’t suggest unfriending all your unorganized pals, but you might want to reduce the exposure you have to people who tend to let you down or encourage self-destructive behaviors.
Automate and outsource in order to organize your life
Sometimes the root cause of being disorganized is not you but the fact that there’s too much on your plate.
Look back at the past week – what have you been busy with? Create a list of tasks and see what you were really doing. Next, go through the list and see what can be automated, for example, bills and replies to customer registrations on your website.
Look at what can be outsourced. A marketing director doesn’t need to write welcome emails, a copywriter can easily do that. Same with personal tasks. You can order grocery delivery and not waste time driving to the supermarket. If you are driving your kids to hockey training twice a week, agree with your kids’ parents to drive everyone in shifts.
Schedule appointments in advance
Kill two birds with one stone – not miss important appointments and spend minimum time scheduling them.
Just went to your doctor for a regular check-up? Schedule the next one while you’re there. Go to a manicure studio every other Sunday? Book several visits in advance. As a bonus, you will secure the time slot that is most convenient for you.
Plan your weekends
Often we are so busy during the week that by the time the weekend comes, we’re feeling emptied out, tired, and unsure of what to do with ourselves.
That’s why so many of us end up watching whole seasons of some new shows, ordering in, and not doing much. Then Monday morning comes, and we feel just as tired and can barely remember what we did over the weekend. Wasting weekends away only makes us more tired and burnt out, both not helping us stay organized.
So, plan your weekends to make the most of them! Book tickets to go to the movies and museums, ask friends out to a restaurant, and research fun things to do in your area.
Tip: Check out Bordio’s Best Productivity Books and Best Time Management Books lists. You will find plenty of good reads there to occupy you during the slower at-home weekends.
Become a good communicator
Be a good listener – pay attention to what people say to you. Don’t multitask when in conversation. Don’t interrupt – let people say what they want first, and then respond. Use non-verbal communication to get your point across (body language, tone of voice, facial expressions). Make sure you are heard but stay respectful.
Make your daily to-do lists shorter
We’re all guilty of creating ambitious to-do lists with 25 items, only to find most of them unchecked at the end of the day. Seeing that most of what we planned ended up undone is really disappointing and discouraging.
Also, it’s unrealistic!
Things tend to take more time than we think, plus there’s only so much energy we have during the day. Instead of making lengthy daily to-dos, try to make them shorter and include only the top-priority stuff. Many experts recommend having 3 things on your to-do. Once you’re done with those three important tasks, feel free to peek into your waiting list for tasks and work on some of them.
Deal with small things right away
The more small tasks you have pending, the more overwhelmed you feel. And if you let the situation go for too long, you can easily find yourself with a huge backlog of tasks, each taking from 5 to 10 minutes. And because you have so many of them now, you end up spending a couple of hours working through the list.
It’s easier said than done, but next time a small 3-minute task comes your way, do your best to complete it right away.
What to remember as you work on organizing your life
We hope that you found our article helpful, and you will start working on the tips and recommendations soon. Before we sign off, we want to remind you that there are things that you will be experiencing that are perfectly okay and normal to go through.
Take it slow
It’s not a race – it’s okay to make small progress at a time. As long as you are doing something – you’re good.
Digression is natural
Sometimes you’ll digress or go back to square one. Again, change in life is not linear success. Even a very organized person is not organized 100% of the time.
Allow yourself to be imperfect. After all, not everything in life can (and should) be organized. Sometimes we’ll be messy, make the wrong choices, and miss out on opportunities, and that’s a natural part of our journey.