Thanks for tuning in last week as we took a look at what organization looks like—in real life. To put it simply, if we look at organization as some sort of perfect state that we’re trying to achieve, we’re bound to never get there.

Read the previous post if you missed it, or watch this video chat on real-life organization!

Living a well-organized life is a work in progress. It’s time to redefine what “being organized” can mean to you—by taking a more realistic approach. When you look at organization this way, it becomes a tool . . . not a state of being.

After years of thought, research, and applying principles to our own lives, we’re outlining the top 10 habits that can help YOU lead a well-organized life. Starting today . . . set out to make progress in these areas.

1. Be Goal-Oriented

Discover your goals and map them out. Goals take shape when you write them down. Whether it’s setting quarterly, yearly or multi-year goals, spend some time outlining what you want and how you plan to achieve it. Make it a habit to revisit your goals and adjust them as needed. This will ensure that they’re at the forefront of your mind—setting yourself up for success and ensuring that you’re making progress.

Having a designated place to record your goals—and a plan for reviewing, adjusting, and tracking them—creates a domino effect, enabling other key habits to fall into place.

2. Write It Down

According to Getting Things Done author and TED speaker David Allen, your mind is for processing—not storage. Instead of trying to remember everything, write things down. It’ll free up your mind for thinking and focusing on the tasks at hand—and you won’t have to worry about forgetting anything. Here at Day Designer, we’re big believers in utilizing a daily planner as a tool to keep information organized—from your goals and plans to your schedule and tasks!

3. Have a Schedule—and Stick With It!

Having a to-do list and a schedule in one central location will help in keeping you focused and organized. Map out your day in line with your overarching goals. It will enable you to stay on track and show you how your everyday tasks fit in with the bigger picture. Take control of your day rather than letting your day take control of you!

4. Stay on Top of Things

Staying on top of things, such as putting things away as soon as you are done with them, is another great habit to get into. Clean up after yourself before moving on and you will have a cleaner, more organized life. (This is an important skill to teach the kids too. You can lead by example!)

Staying on top of less tangible things is also key: your to-do list, your schedule, your projects, and your goals. Have a system to check back in on your progress throughout your day, week, month, and year. Mark these times and dates in your planner.

Remember: You can’t do it all, so this is where prioritizing comes into play. Prioritize your “top 3” tasks or commitments each day to make sure you’re staying on top of what’s most important.

5. Learn to Say No

We often feel compelled to say yes for a number of reasons: We feel badly! We don’t know how to say no! We feel like we should! We don’t want to let anyone down! We’ll make time for it!

But saying yes to too much can leave us stressed, overscheduled, and with little time left to unwind or spend on projects of our own. When we’re feeling these ways, it’s incredibly hard to live a well-organized life. We lose sight of goals, we’re unable to stay on top of things, we don’t have time to put things away, and so on.

Need help deciding what to say no to? Take a look at your schedule. Think about where do you spend the majority of your time vs. where you want to be spending the majority of your time. It’s important to say no to some things, so we can say yes to the best!

6. Make Homes for Things

If your items don’t have ‘homes,’ they’ll quickly become clutter. For things that you use often, make sure they’re in easily-accessible locations. Items that are used less frequently can be placed in places that are more out of the way.

7. Spend Time Cleaning Up—Everyday

Have a schedule that includes time for straightening and cleaning up. Even just 10 or 20 minutes every day can help you keep your space clear. Spending a little bit of time every day decluttering your desk will help keep things well-organized.

8. Plan Ahead

Plan time to plan! Set aside a few minutes every afternoon or evening to plan out the following day. Mentally run through the things you would like to accomplish, and write them down in your daily planner. Start tomorrow with a schedule, a list, your “top three” for the day, and the right mindset to make the day a success!

Having a plan can help your day run more smoothly and help you to be as productive as possible in the time that you have—all in an effort to make time for what matters most whether that’s relaxing at the end of your day or spending time with family or hitting the gym!

9. Involve Others

Getting your family on board is an important part of staying organized. If your children are old enough, you can create charts and set guidelines to ensure that the kids pick up after themselves. While it may add more work at first, teaching the kids to help will pay off in the long run. Instilling these habits in young children will also be beneficial as they grow up!

Another way to stay organized when it comes to those around you is reviewing the family calendar at the beginning of each week (or day or month). Prepare everyone for what’s coming up, have them help gather what’s needed to head out the door, etc.

10. Throw It Out

Getting rid of things that you don’t use, items that you don’t need, and stuff that simply hangs around is a great way to simplify your life, and will make it easier to keep things clean and organized.

* * *

As you can see, there are tons of ways that you can stay organized—but that doesn’t mean you should feel overwhelmed. When in doubt, make small changes. Start by setting your goals, and making a list of things that are important to you. Then, think of areas that you could improve to make yourself more productive. Organize a drawer, commit ten minutes a day to tidying your workspace, or resolve to map out your day the night before. These little things will make a difference. Most importantly, remember that organization is not about perfection. It’s about progress. It’s about making life a little bit easier for yourself.

Learn about how to best maintain an organized life later this week on the blog!

From time to time, you’ll get off course. Nobody is going to adopt all 10 of these habits today and continue without setbacks forever. When you get off course, know that it’s okay. Don’t throw in the towel and lose the momentum you’ve already gained. Think back to your own personal why, start over with one of the strategies above, add in another one after that, and so on! You can do this.

Looking for some extra guidance? Download our Get Organized Printable Kit! You’re sure to love our 15 most-raved-about planning pages, worksheets, and checklists plus three all-new printables. Download your exclusive kit for free—today through August 1!

What keeps you from living as organized as you would like? Which habits from the list above will you work on first?

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