There is a reason the internet is overflowing with ways to organize your home, life and schedule. Organizing your life and reducing stress makes room for filling your life with happiness!
Living with anxiety, as I have most of my life, has taught me how important it is to have an organized life. Even the smallest decisions can spiral into paralyzing anxiety, leaving me stuck in inaction and stress. When learning to manage my anxiety, organizing my life was the first major step I needed to take. Having a clean house is important, but I’m talking about organizing all aspects of your life to make space for your own happiness! This post has taken longer to write than planned because I recently allowed the chaos of life to rule my time. Between the holidays, a sick toddler and finding, buying and moving into a new house, I sacrificed my writing time. I will be taking my own advice now and getting my life back to balance.
It’s estimated that as adults we make roughly 35,000 decisions a day. The easier you can make your decisions and the less stress you create in your life. As well as the more availability you have to focus on the things that really matter to you. Organizing your goals, your space and your time helps you focus on creating happiness rather than reacting to chaos. Organizing your life can feel like a daunting task upfront, let me help you implement some helpful habits into your life to make it a little easier!
- Organize Your Goals
- In order to move your life in a direction that will make you happy, you have to know the direction you want your journey to take you. Most people will suggest that goals should be practical and obtainable. I don’t disagree, but that isn’t where you should start. First you must dream big, invision the best life you want for yourself. I’m not just talking about a big house and fancy car (though that could be part of it for some people). Most people spend their whole life holding themselves back through learned ideas of what is “practical” or “expected”. What would your life look like if you let go of your self imposed limitations? Let go of what is “practical” and imagine all that is possible! Close your eyes and visualize what your ideal life looks like, no limits. Where are you? What do you spend your time doing? How do you feel? Who do you spend your time with? How do you contribute to the world or your community? Once you have your ideal life in your mind, write it down, create a vision board or make a recording of yourself describing your ideal life in detail. Making it physical rather than just in your mind helps make it real.
- Now that you have a vision of where you are going you can create actionable goals to help you get there. Create two lists, the first should be a list of long terms goals. These should be things that will help get you closer to your ideal life, that you want to have accomplished in ten years. Remember, don’t limit yourself! You will likely be a different person ten years from now, so don’t limit what that version of you can accomplish. Consider all of the following areas of life when building your list. You cannot neglect parts of your life and expect to reach your ideal life. Invision what you want in all of these areas and start creating your action plan. These long term goals should be the big, sometimes hard things you need to accomplish to get to your ideal life.
- Family and friends
- Personal development
- Health and fitness
- Career and business
- Physical environment
- Fun and recreation
- Significant other
- Contribution and giving
- Next is the short term goals. Take your long term goals and break them into smaller action items that you can start taking now. Break each goal into as many steps as it will take to achieve it. Then give each action item a deadline. It is important to set a deadline for each of these small action items to keep you moving toward your goals. You can physically write these in a journal to track your progress or you and use an app. I personally use and app called Trello.
- Don’t spend all of this time setting goals for yourself just to forget about them. Check in with your goals every day and make sure you are aligning how you spend your energy with where you want to go. When you check in with your goals is up to you. I personally find that aligning myself with my goals first thing in the morning before anyone else is awake helps start my day off in the best possible direction. Everything you do should be moving you toward your ideal life, if it isn’t making you that person, why do it?
- Organize Your Space
Home Organization has become a popular trend everywhere you look. You can find hundreds of books on the subject, I must confess I have never read any of them. I was fortunate enough to be raised by a true organizational queen. My mother taught me everything I know amount organizing my space by example. I have four rules to keeping my space organized and working for me rather than against me.
- Everything has a use: I love the idea of only keeping things that bring me joy but I find my life isn’t always that simple. I don’t feel particularly fond of my tax returns or the toilet plunger in my guest bathroom but it’s important that I have them. I feel everything you own should fill a specific need. The use of an item may be functional like dishes or clothes. It could be a necessity like tax returns and legal documents. It might simply serve the purpose of adding beauty to your life like art and family photos. The point is, if it sits in a closet or cupboard to be forgotten, get rid of it. You don’t need that bread maker that you only used once. You don’t need that sweater that you don’t wear because it doesn’t fit just right. If you want to keep it, use it!
- Be deliberate about what you buy: Impulse buying leads to clutter and waste. I’m guilty of it too from time to time, especially if it’s something cute for my daughter. The danger is most of the time it is something you don’t need or even want if you had really thought about it. That random item becomes a waste of money and a waste of space. Save yourself the future garage sale and make a list before going shopping, and most importantly stick to it. I make a list of what I need to buy before going into any store. When buying clothes, I look through what I have first and make a list of the types of clothing I need and how many pieces. I do the same for groceries, hobby supplies and vacations.
- Live within the space you have: Just as it is important to live within your means financially, it also applies to your physical space. When we bought our first house we experienced the same thing most do when upgrading to a bigger living space. We moved the contents of our tiny little apartment into the seamingly huge three bedroom house and thought “we can’t possibly acquire enough stuff to fill up this much space!” Jump a year or two into the future when that “huge” house was stuffed to bursting. Make sure everything you own has its own place. When you are done with using something, immediately put it away in its place. This will save you time and stress when searching for that important thing as you rush out the door. You will also spend hours less picking up the clutter each week if you don’t let the clutter build up to begin with. If you have kids I understand you might be rolling your eyes at this. Trust me, it’s possible! From as soon as my daughter started to walk we got her in the habit of picking up her toys before bed. We also divide and conquer when needed. While I put our daughter to bed my husband picks up the dinner dishes. We usually finish around the same time and are both ready to start relaxing for the evening. Don’t let stuff start creeping out of your designated space. If you don’t have more space for something new, either don’t buy it or get rid of something else.
- Dedicate a space for what you do in it: Every item needs its own place and every activity needs a place as well. I have found that dedicating a space for what you want to focus on when using it helps keep things on track. For example, I always meditate in the same corner of my living room and never in my office or bedroom. If I tried to meditate in my office I would be distracted with thoughts of what needs to get done that day and the bedroom brings temptation of going back to bed. We always eat our meals in the dining room to focus on family meals without distractions. To help you identify the activities that need a space, make a list of all of the activities you do at home and dedicate a space for it. Arrange that space with useful tools ready at hand for that activity and decorate that space with visuals that inspire what you wish to accomplish there. Look back over your goals and make sure you have a space for the activities that move you toward those goals.
- Organize Your Time
Lastly and most importantly, is to organize your time. Life can be hectic and we all have limitations on how much information we can store and arrange mentally. That is why it is so important to physically organize your time and not try to remember it all. Whether you put it down on paper or keep it digitally, the important part is you get it out of your head and into the physical world. When we think ahead and intentionally plan out our time, we are more likely to spend our time on things that add value and help move us closer to our goals.
- Make a Plan! There are an overwhelming amount of planners on the market to choose from. Do some research and test out some different styles. I am old school and prefer a paper planner, currently I’m using the StartPlanner. Digital planners can work just as well and have an added bonus of being wherever you are. Test out different options until you find one that works for you. Just keep in mind that you need a place for your goals, tasks, obligations and passons. Make sure you can clearly see where you have available time and where you are overbooked and allow yourself the flexibility of moving things around. Most importantly, make sure it is easy and quick to use. As busy people if it takes too much time we won’t stick with it.
- Identify the most important tasks! There is always too much to do, so spend your time where it is most needed. On a weekly and daily basis asses the tasks you have on your list and identify the most important to complete that week/day. There are four categories you can sort your tasks into.
- Things you must and want to do – Schedule these things first! These are the easiest tasks to complete because it must get done and you enjoy doing it. An example of this for me is cooking dinner. I have to feed my family and I enjoy cooking so I block time out for this activity and look forward to it.
- Things you must but don’t want to do – Schedule these things second. They have to get done so assign a time and stick to it. An example of this for me is filing taxes. I don’t enjoy it but it feels good to get it out of the way and eliminate the stress of procrastination.
- Things you want to do but don’t need to do – Schedule these things next. These are flexible items that can be moved if they need to be but scheduling things you enjoy is very important. An example of this for me is monthly date nights with my husband. Our relationship isn’t going to fall apart if we have to skip a month but finding time for it and trying to make sure it happens is still important to me.
- Things you don’t want to do and don’t need to do – Schedule these last, if at all. If it doesn’t need to be done and you don’t want to do it, why is it on the list at all? The exception to this is an item that isn’t a must but is good for you. If it is something that isn’t a necessity but will help you reach your goals or improve your life, move it to a higher category.
- Create an action plan! Don’t just create a list of things you would like to accomplish that day. Create an action plan to get things done! Equate time to each task, ensuring that you have enough time to accomplish all of your tasks in that day or week. Allow buffer time for something to take longer than expected or an unexpected hiccup to disrupt your schedule. I find it works best to schedule items in a calendar and block out the time you want to dedicate to that task. Then stick to it, take action!
- Prep ahead! Don’t let efficiency ruin your day. If you tend to rush out of the house every morning, get your stuff together and ready to go the night before. Pick out your clothes for tomorrow before you go to bed. Pack the kids lunches after they go to sleep. Make sure your keys are wear you will easily find them. If finding time to cook is a challenge for you, prep freezer meals on Sunday for the week so you can just pop something in the oven after a long day. Planning and preparing ahead will save you time and stress throughout your day.
- Schedule time for personal development/self-care! As a Mom I understand busy. Spending all our time and energy taking care of everything and everyone. Burnout is a real thing and self-care is how you avoid it. Schedule time each day for yourself. I personally wake up an hour earlier than needed in order to have time alone. I light a candle, read, journal, do yoga and sit quietly with my cup of coffee. It is a vital part of my day and is necessary for everyone. When in your day it takes place and what you choose to do with it will look different for everyone, but make it happen!
Organize your life for a happier and more productive you!