I’ll be the first to tell you – I’m not naturally organized. It took studying dozens of successful people and identifying the most vital habits. For the past 5 years, I’ve been able to hit more of my goals both personally and financially through these 17 keys to living better and happier. It really didn’t take a lot of time, secrets or magic either. I know if I can do these things – you’ll be able to organize your life easily too!
I know that each one of these keys helped my energy get stronger. I felt more clarity and found it easier to make decisions. It also eased my Type-A personality and tendency to be anxious. As you dig into these keys, you may face struggle or self-doubt, but I promise it gets easier. Once you’ve done them for a few weeks, you’ll never look back.
Before we get started with the list though – remember to start small and not aim for perfection. Doing a dozen or so little simple things each day can make for major changes to organize your life. (I also left off one more secret to organizing your life and included it in this post instead).
17 Keys to Organize Your Life
1. Acknowledge Your Mindset & Why You Want to Do This
I know a lot of people will use the new year or their birthday to start new habits, but I find this to be a bad cycle for myself. If I start on either date, my mindset usually isn’t where it should be. Focus on WHY you want to live a healthier, happier life and start when you feel most excited versus “next year” or “next week”. Your motivation and mindset will play a bigger role in your goals than any random date. The idea is to just start!
2. Know Your Priorities (for Your Life and Day)
I used to have this crazy idea I wanted to compete in a fitness competition. For some – that’s realistic, but for me the idea of tracking everything 100% and 100% of the time leads me into a bad mindset and feeling deprived and unbalanced. It gets ugly, and I get hangry and annoyed with chicken.
Another example is business professionals have often said that they wouldn’t have went after a financial or work goal if they had known what it truly cost.
Goals can look great on paper, and they’re easy to write down. The execution of those big goals takes sacrafices in areas though. Knowing your priorities beforehand allows you to create worthwhile goals that will lead to you to be more successful and happier.
3. Make Time for Self-Care
In order to take care of others, you have to take care of yourself. This means taking the time to care for your health, appearance and personal development. Just by reading this – you are working on your self-care! Woo-hoo!
I know when I think of “health” I tend to go into extreme mode, or at least I used to. To be healthy doesn’t require a gym membership or running a triathlon or anything. Getting in 7 hours of sleep, eating a balanced diet and staying active with at least 10,000 steps a day and 3-5 20 minute sweat sessions you enjoy is PLENTY!
It’s also important that we take care of ourselves mentally as well. Taking just a little time each day to ground ourselves in positivity and gratitude can make a large difference in our relationships and day. One of my favorite ways to learn and surround myself with good people is by listening to audiobooks in the car and while I put on my makeup. Below I’ll share a few of my favorite personal development books that will help you organize your life and feel happier.
4. Write Things Down in a Planner
Don’t trust your memory! The best idea in your mind isn’t worth as much as a crummy idea on paper. I personally keep my planner and journal with me at all times. It took me a little while to find my system, but the 2 small, light-weight books are perfect for keeping me organized and focused each day. (Check out my favorite planner review here).
When you plan out your time, make sure to keep your to-do lists short. This will help you organize it by priority and keep you from doing busy work just because it’s “on the list.” Plus if you have extra to-do’s on your list, you may find yourself justifying doing the little silly things before tackling the main factors to your success. Keep it short and sweet.
I also plan in time for family, friends and a fun new event each month. Having the planner helps me do my job better, but it also helps me prioritize time for new, fun experiences. We hit wine festivals, concerts, quick weekend trips, and more because it was in my planner this year!
5. Do What You Dread First
This is another good way to avoid tackling smaller, less-productive tasks first as a way to feel productive. If you know you really need to call 5 people or email clients but dread it – do it first! Get it done and over with. You’ll feel so much energy from getting it out of the way, and you’ll know the highest priority item on your list is done!
6. Act Now – Don’t Procrastinate.
Don’t put off starting a healthy routine because it’s Wednesday and it’s better to start on Monday. I hate to break it to you because it came as a major blow to my ego, but you and I both won’t be any better tomorrow unless we start today. So when you say, tomorrow I’ll start my diet so I’m going to have a cheat meal tonight ….you aren’t going to have any more willpower in the next 24 hours as you did in the past day. So don’t fall into that nasty trap.
7. Put Numbers on Things
Putting a number to a goal or habit helps not only track your progress and motivate you, it helps break down a big idea into daily steps. For example if you want to lose 50 lbs, you might break that down in to lose 1-2lbs per week by eating X amount of calories and working out X minutes a day.
If you want to be more present in your family’s lives you may choose to do X amount of hours without your cellphone or X amount of dinners together or car pickups from school. If you’re working on your marriage, maybe you set up X amount of date nights together. You decide what will get you the most bang for your buck but make sure it has a number to it and stick it in your planner!
8. Declutter and Donate Often
Clutter actually drains mental energy as well – which as we know is in high demand! By cleaning out your junky closet, you’ll also feel clarity in your own life. One book I read actually recommends having an empty shelf in your house to invite new, good opportunities into your life. I know it sounds a bit out there – but whether you believe it or not, an empty shelf looks makes you feel a lot better than seeing paper and old mail just sitting around.
You’ll also be able to find things you love easier whether it be your favorite outfits or showcasing your child’s best artwork. Don’t be afraid to donate either. You’ll be participating in a random act of kindness while clearing your mind and physical space for better things!
9. Put Things Where They Go
After you’ve decluttered, it’s important to put things where they go. Marie Kondo, the author behind, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, talks about how everything has a place. While she organizes everything down to her shampoo and soap, I do agree that putting things in their places helps us stay mentally energized and focused. Plus, if we put things where they go in the first place it’s quick – less than a minute – versus waiting a week and it taking an hour.
Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, has a 1-minute rule even. She says if something takes less than a minute to do – just do it. This goes for tasks too like organizing the mail into piles as soon as it comes. She also suggests a 10-minute round up before bed each night for a less stressful morning. She’ll make sure the dishwasher is loaded and running and the house is picked up in 10 minutes before bed.
10. Streamline Mornings
Along with the 10-minute round up before bed, there are a couple ways to streamline your mornings. This is huge especially with kiddos. A couple ways to streamline your morning would be to wake up 10 minutes earlier than anyone else in the house. This is a time for you to journal, personal development, meditate, read the Bible, and honestly just BREATHE before everyone else is up.
Another habit that can help is to have a set place for everyone’s shoes, jackets and keys. We have a hallway by the door where everything goes, and it really does help. No more looking for lost keys!
In order to be the CEO of your life, you have to delegate to other people. If there is a chore you absolutely hate, could you swap it for something else your spouse, roommate or kid does?
If you hate cleaning the house or can’t find time for something and feel guilty – how much would it cost to hire it out? Sometimes it’s worth spending a little to have that time to either relax or work on your other tasks that lead to a stronger self, family or income.
12. Say No
If you are going – that’s cute but I can’t delegate. That’s for rich people or other people – but not me. Then for pete sake, PLEASE say no to things that don’t benefit your priorities. If you need help getting into the habit of saying no or need time to think over something, Chalene Johnson from 30 Day Push, recommends saying “Thank you for thinking me. Let me check my calendar, and I’ll get back to you.”
13. Spend All Out on Some Things
I wear 3 pieces of jewelry everyday. I wear one expensive pair of jeans probably three times a week. Both are good examples of spending out on something – yes, they are pricey but they are well used and make me feel like a hundred bucks.
Other areas you might spend out on are simple things you just put off buying. 2 small purchases that made me feel $100 richer were 2 $1 trash cans. One went upstairs and one in the laundry room. The other was some new plastic hangers and tossing those free-wire ones from the dry cleaners.
My husband & I also “spend all out” on trips. So we’ll make sacrifices here and there at home, and then we’ll make sure we’re able to experience the things we want to when we travel. That $120 tour was pricy, but I can tell you we’ll always remember where that money went versus just $30 here and there.
14. Ditch Paper
Paper is one of those things that will clutter any area in no time. To get started on ditching paper, create 3 file folders:
To Read, To Discard, and To File
Then make a set time each week or month to go through the “To Read.” A simple $5 expanding folder can do wonders for keeping things in order. I also think an expanding folder is a great way to store children’s artwork, report cards, and pictures. When they’re older you could give them the folder or a copy of it. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen actually set up a couple files where she could store sentimental things for grandparents as well and mailed 1x a year.
15. Plan Time to Plan
Jim Rohn suggests taking 10 minutes per day to review the day and plan the next day. Then each week take 30 minutes to plan. At the end of the month, take an hour. Every quarter take a day. Another great book on planning time to plan is the 12 Week Year (spoiler alert: you get a week off every quarter!!)
One thing that always helps your energy is to plan and execute, but it can be super stressful if we over plan in a set period of time. So I like to overestimate how long a task will take. I also build in flex-time in case something runs over.
Having flex-time can also feel like such a luxury if you get done early with something. I like to use the time as “free-time” kind of like a kid. I can use it to watch a TV show, curl up for a nap, or take a bath.
Another thing that has helped my mindset massively is planning out my meals. Even if I don’t meal-prep for the week like some, I have an idea of what each day of the week looks like including when I’ll be eating at a restaurant or needing to cook (and planning to have leftovers!)
16. Do Your Best
The saying, “Do your best, and forget the rest” is beyond true to organize your life. No one is perfect, and let me tell you as a friend – you’re doing great already!
Part of these keys is knowing that not everyday will go as planned. Do your best, and those little habits you’re creating are going to affect your life in big ways over time.
17. Be YOU
Being you sounds so simple and even hokey, but it’s so true. It’s the main lesson I took away from the The Happiness Project. Being you sounds easy, but it can be tough. I didn’t notice how much I do because of others or their expectations until I really started thinking about it. Being yourself means knowing what you like (music, tv, movies, games, hanging out or being alone), how you dress, how you spend your time, who you hang out with, and what you say yes (and NO) to! Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “Do I really want XYZ or do I just want to want XYZ?” You might be surprised with your answers.
One minor example is that I always want to wear Kate Spade type clothes and be “put together”. That is not really my personality though, and it doesn’t fit my at-home coaching gig either. I can’t tell you what a relief it was just to give up that silly idea of myself. I am much happier in jeans, a cute shirt and booties or tennis shoes.
Remember it’s a process to organize your life.
Yes, somedays even 5 years after applying these “keys” I will struggle. Those are the days I do my best and forget the rest. No one has to be perfect – Thank God for that!
One of the other things I do to get my mindset back into a good mood and full of energy is to listen to a good book. Plus, I bet if you listen to any of them you may find your own keys to organize your life.
Favorite Books to Organize Your Life (Have More Energy, Be Healthier & Happiness!)
- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
- Art of Exceptional Living (Audio only)
- The Happiness Project
- 30 Day Push
I also use a Passion Planner daily. Here’s my review of a few different types of planners I tried and why I chose the Passion Planner.