No matter how organized you already are, sometimes life gets too busy to stay organized. But with a little revamping, you can improve your systems so that organizing is much easier. I know this because I’ve implemented it in my life and it works. By implementing these 10 habits, I have been able to maintain my organized life — even when it gets crazy busy!
1. Use a digital calendar
Using a digital calendar is a really good idea because it allows you to move tasks and events around easily, unlike a paper calendar. Once you write something on your paper calendar, it’s hard to move around. Plus, you won’t be taking your paper calendar with you when you leave wherever it’s at. With a digital calendar, you can sync it to your phone and have it will you at all times. Additionally, you can move your tasks and events around with a few clicks. Because of this, you can rely on your digital calendar to keep you organized in a way that isn’t possible with a paper calendar.
I use my digital calendar for everything – and I mean everything. I use it to track my short-term and long-term goals, my daily tasks, birthdays, events, etc. I couldn’t function without it.
2. Plan your day the night before
Get in the habit of thinking – and planning –the next day the evening before. Before you go to bed, think about what you want to accomplish and what you have going on the next day. Put everything on your digital calendar that you want to accomplish the next day.
Every night I look at my calendar and see what the next day looks like. I add tasks for the following day of things I’d like to accomplish. This helps me take action immediately after work instead of doing what I feel like doing (like turning on the TV! 🙂 ).
One main tenant of being organized is that you have to think ahead and plan ahead. It may seem tedious to meticulously plan your day the night before, but it will pay dividends. By planning your days the night before, you will create the habit of living intentionally instead of acting based on how you feel in the moment.
3. Plan your week ahead of time
Just like you plan your day the night before, plan your upcoming week the week before. Set aside at least 15 minutes every Sunday to plan the upcoming week. To plan your week, think about what you want out of your week, including what events you have and what goals you want to accomplish. Create “calendar events” on each day where you block out time to accomplish your goals, tasks, or events.
This time for reflection will help you make better choices for the week to come. You can also use a weekly action plan (this is what I do) and set specific goals for the week that are in line with your life plan.
Looking at your week ahead of time will help you be proactive (instead of reactive) and stay organized.
4. Automate your finances
Because life gets so busy, and budgeting can be hard sometimes, I suggest automating your finances. I recommend using Personal Capital for this. Personal Capital is a tool that you can use to manage your finances, in addition to using it for investing purposes. It will help you track your accounts and understand them. Personal Capital is similar to Mint.com, but it’s more comprehensive. If you’re a visual learner like me, then it’s a really useful tool because you can see your finances through charts and graphs. I highly recommend it as a tool to stay financially organized.
5. Focus on the big picture
In order to plan ahead, you have to have in mind what you want to plan. You have to know what you want to plan in order to actually plan it. To know what to plan, think about your life visions and goals. Consider what’s most important in your life and then plan actions that are in line with those visions and goals. This will make putting a plan into action much easier. It will also help you organize your life. You’ll live with more intention and have fewer regrets.
For example, if you want to lose weight, then you should add actions to your calendar toward accomplishing that goal, like running or hiking. Putting actions on your calendar that further your goals will make it more likely that you’ll actually do them.
6. Put things away immediately
Aside from using your calendar and planning properly, there are practical things that you can do to live a more organized life. One example is to put things away immediately. After you’re done with something, put it away. It’s that simple. Yet, how often we find our houses cluttered from not doing this simple action.
Putting things away as soon as you’re done using them will help you stay more organized in all areas of your life. This is a habit that will take some getting used to if you’re doing used to doing it. But if you stick with it and it becomes what a habit, then you will stay organized.
7. Purge constantly
Throw things away regularly. My rule of thumb is that if I haven’t used it (or worn it) in one year, then it’s time to donate it or throw it away. Remember this organizational tenant: less is more.
Start by throwing things away one item at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Over time, you’ll see how powerful this is and before you know it, you’ll have much less to organize (and probably feel better, too).
8. Use containers and label
Put your stuff in containers (like these containers), and when applicable label them. This will give everything you own a specific place for you to keep it. If you don’t already use containers, set aside time on your calendar to get containers, label them, and organize your things in the containers. Doing this once will give you a system whereby you can put things away immediately.
Using containers and labels is just another way to streamline your organization process, which will make life easier for you. The stronger your systems, the easier it is for you to stay organized.
9. Start small to avoid feeling overwhelmed
On your journey to a more organized life, the key is to get started. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, choose one action you can take today or tomorrow to get started. Then, do the same thing for the following day. By planning one action at a time you will avoid the overwhelming feelings that come with trying to do it all. Instead, do one thing at a time. Progress is what counts!
10. Use a list for everything
Make a list for everything that you need to do. I use the “Reminders” app in my iphone and I use the “Tasks” list in my gcalendar. Right now I have the following lists in my reminders app: 1) Financegirl brainstorming, 2) Grocery store, 3) Target, and 4) Books. Reminders allows you to “check off” items from your list when you’re done. So, every week at the grocery store, I check off my items from my list. In my tasks list on my calendar, I included anything I need to do but isn’t something worth creating an event for. For example, if I need to buy a birthday gift and signup for continuing education classes, these items will be on my tasks list instead of on specific calendar days.
There is no reason for you to try and remember everything you need to remember when you have access to digital lists. With digital lists, you always have them with you. You can add to your list anytime you want and you can always reference it as a reminder.
A Final Note!
The best part about being organized is not that your house looks better or that you appear to have you shit together. The best part about being organized is that it provides clarity to your life. You can focus and feel calmer if you’re organized. You will have more success and be better at everything if you’re organized.