Glad you could make it back this week! Since this is a self-improvement blog I figured we should probably talk about something that will really actually help you to feel better this holiday season, particularly as we come up on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a few weeks I have a similar post that is 100% dedicated to staying sane around the holidays, so this post is just some methods I use to stay organized throughout the year. Hopefully you’ll find one or two techniques (or maybe all four will be useful!) that you can implement in your life to make things a little easier.
In general, I’m a pretty busy person. I work full time, write this blog (which takes a lot of time, just FYI), have something like, 100 different hobbies that I’m trying to keep track of and also have a fiancé who needs love and attention.
I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it does keep me strapped for time on a constant basis. I use these five methods that I’m about to teach you at least once a day (well, except for one because that would be weird) to keep myself organized and on top of the crazy schedule I’ve created for myself.
My first tip for you is pretty obvious:
1. Plan Ahead
You heard me. Take an hour or so once a week to figure out what needs to happen for the rest of the week, or if that’s too much, sit down at the beginning of the month and figure out what you want to happen for the month. Are you trying to attend Yoga classes more frequently? Instead of saying, “I’d like to attend Yoga more frequently” figure out an exact number of times you’d like to go to Yoga and then go sign up for Yoga classes that number of times. If you’ve got a solid number in your head (for me it’s once a week) and you’ve signed up for classes ahead of time, you’re much more likely to actually achieve that goal.
Same thing goes with running (I’d like to run at least three times a week), grocery shopping (on Sundays), house cleaning (Saturday afternoon), working out (every other evening), etc!
I’ll be honest with you though – just saying it and planning it is not the same as actually doing it but at least you’ll have specifically decided what you want to do and when which will allow you to fill in your schedule so that you don’t accidentally schedule two things at once. Yes, things change, but with things planned ahead of time, you’ll feel a lot less stressed when you think about them.
Which brings me to my next point:
2. Write Everything in your Calendar!
I don’t care what it is. If there is something you want to do and you have a time period in which you want to do it write it in your calendar. Having that visual reminder of something and having the mindset that “this is when I’m doing it” means you’re more likely to actually get it done.
Now, you’re probably responsible enough to remember things like ‘switch out the laundry’ and ‘take the dog out’ or ‘get gas’ but if you aren’t and if it will help you, yes, put it in your calendar and then check your calendar each day so that you know what you have going on!
But what calendar should you use? Whatever calendar works best for you.
I like Google Calendar on my phone because it is easy to set up, flexible enough that you can have items repeat on a custom schedule (helpful for my job where our schedule is whacked out) and they have a lot of colors to choose from for activities so everything can be color coded (work is blue, overtime is green, exercise is purple, etc.) You can have things repeat on a monthly basis (pay bills!), a weekly basis, a bi-weekly basis (payday!), etc. Plus it can be shared with other members of your household so that everyone can see what everyone else is supposed to be doing (if that’s what you want to do). You can even add notes to various things so if you have a ‘grocery shopping’ time, you can add the shopping list into the notes section.
Maybe a phone calendar isn’t your cup of tea. That’s cool. Maybe a day planner, a whiteboard or just a normal twelve month calendar is more your speed.
Whatever you choose to use, stick with it. You might not see the benefits of writing things down on a calendar right away (although I can’t see why you wouldn’t) but if you stick with it you surely will.
Bonus: If you have an Alexa or Google Home you can set them up so that they can read to you what is going on in your calendar from your phone. You can even set up a routine wherein you tell them ‘good morning’ and they’ll give you the weather, news and whatever is on your calendar for the day. Pretty nifty!
3. Make a To Do List
This one sort of naturally comes after planning ahead and making a calendar. In the mornings when I’m not working I like to sit down with my coffee, my journal and a notebook for some quiet time. I’ll write down a few things I’m thankful for, keep track of my goals and write a little bit about what has been going on with work, the blog, photography, whatever is on my mind really. I want to get everything cleared out so that I can start fresh with my to do list.
Once I’ve finished writing in my journal which can be a long time or not too long, I’ll open the notebook and start thinking about what I want to get done during the day. Generally the list is fairly specific:
- Wash Dishes
- Studio time – Pottery
- Take/Edit Flatlays
- Wash Hair (because this is a two hour endeavor, friends)
- Straighten up the House
Etcetera. Sometimes the list is longer but generally the most I’ll have is six or seven medium to big items (things that will take at least 30 min but potentially more) and a handful of smaller tasks (things that will take anywhere from 5 to 30 min). There is a limited amount of time in the day after all.
Then I figure out what is going to take the most time (washing my hair and studio time) and figure out if there is anything I can do while I’m also doing something else. For example, once my hair is washed I have to wait a little bit (about an hour) before I can blow dry it (just a personal preference) so while I’m waiting for my hair to dry I can start laundry, wash the dishes, vacuum and straighten up the house. Bam – four things marked off. Then I’ll dry my hair, change the laundry out, and start working on the flatlay for this week. (Follow me on Instagram if you want to see the Friday Flatlay! @watchlizgo) Then, once those things are all done I can leave for studio time which is in a city about twenty minutes away from where I live so it really has to be the last thing on my list.
I guarantee you that if you have never tried using a to do list before, done right, this will change your life. To do lists allow me to be incredibly productive because I have all of these things that I want to get done sitting right there to remind me to do them. Plus it feels really good when you check everything off your to do list and having a book full of to do lists that you’ve completed is really awesome to look back at!
4. A Place for Every Thing and Every Thing in its Place
I don’t know about you but when I come home to a cluttered house I instantly feel more stressed out. Having things out of place annoys me and makes me realize that I have more chores to do, even after getting home after twelve hours of work.
No, my house is not clean 100% of the time. Secret: Nobody’s house is clean 100% of the time unless you have a dedicated cleaning crew working for you. (Ah the dream.) So just get that out of your head. I don’t care who you are – people make messes. We just do.
But if you can figure out a system to just at least get most of the clutter out of the way your stress levels are going to be so much better.
This is not a post about de-cluttering your house (although I do have one in the works) but I’d just like to note here that if you have things everywhere (boxes stacked up on the wall, papers piled on the countertops and tables, things you haven’t used for three years but can’t bear to throw away…) you might want to consider if you actually need those items. Perhaps they can be donated or trashed. But again, that’s another post.
In my house (at least I really try for this, the fiancé makes it….difficult) I have a place where everything is supposed to go. Does it always make it there? No. But at least when I have five minutes to organize I can do so very quickly because everything has a place. Yarn goes in the yarn corner (yes, I have a literal yarn corner, don’t judge me). Music goes in the music closet in its predetermined bin (I have my sheet music very well organized thank you very much). Mail goes on the table of ‘things to be handled’ which is not the dinner table. Camera things go in the camera bin (it sounds less organized than it really is). Work things go in the work bag. Dishes go into the kitchen. Etcetera, etcetera.
If you are holding something and you don’t know where to put it, figure out a place for it right then and there and always put it there. This system also has the benefit of preventing you from losing things because you’re always putting them in the same place.
And anything that doesn’t have a place and that you aren’t using, consider donating or throwing it away. Just do it. If you haven’t touched it in five months and it holds no real sentimental value, get rid of it. You probably won’t need it later on either.
Things that you want to keep but don’t use that frequently should be stored in a plastic bin that you can seal and place in a closet somewhere out of the way. It never looks good to have plastic bins piled up around your house. If all of your closets are full of things like that, find a time to pull everything out and consider if you’re still using them.
Sorry, not a decluttering post. I’ll move on.
Moral of the story is – HAVE A PLACE FOR THINGS AND PUT THEM AWAY WHEN YOU ARE DONE WITH THEM.
5. Amazon Buttons
This is my last method for staying organized. No, it was not sponsored by Amazon, just hear me out here.
A few years back Amazon came out with these little buttons that you can press and they’ll automatically bill and ship you whatever it is the button is programmed to ship. These are a lifesaver for me because we have buttons for two very important things – toilet paper and paper towels.
You know how you always run out of toilet paper at the most inconvenient time? I don’t know why that is but you just do. Middle of the workweek, middle of the night, when your parents are in town, whenever. It’s always inconvenient.
With my Amazon button I just note when I’ve taken the last three rolls of toilet paper out of the cabinet where they are stored and, on my way past the button, I press it. The light flashes and I get a notification on my phone that I’ve been billed $25 or so and then two days later (yay Amazon Prime!) a gigantic (you think I’m kidding, it’s seriously HUGE) box of toilet paper shows up on my front doorstep. I didn’t even have to think about it except to press the button.
Same thing goes for paper towels. Whenever we pull the last roll of paper towels out of the cabinet we press the button and two days later a new box of paper towels shows up.
You can literally get buttons for anything. We actually have a button for Goldfish crackers which, if pressed, will deliver 12 bags of Goldfish crackers to the front door. I have never pressed this button because that is a lot of crackers but at least I know it’s there if I ever throw a Goldfish cracker party.
We also have one for Oxyclean (much more useful) and dog treats (the most expensive product of the four).
Do you know how much time this saves? Also money. The prices on Amazon as I’m sure you are aware are as good as or better than what you’ll find locally and pressing a button is a matter of three seconds whereas running out to the store would take at least twenty minutes.
The buttons are extremely cheap – ~$6 and again, work for anything you need, down to very expensive items that you might not want a button for. You can also cancel your order (in case of miscommunication) so that you do not end up with 60 rolls of TP because a well intentioned individual in your house thinks you have run out of toilet paper but in reality just didn’t bother to check the top shelf of the cabinet.
And that’s it!
Of course, there are many more methods out there, I just wanted to share my top five for getting your feet underneath you to get more organized, especially as we come up on the holiday season.
Do you have any tricks or tips for staying organized? What have you found that works especially well for you? I want to hear it! Leave a comment below!
Thanks for reading!