Resolutions: we’ve all made them and broken them.
One of the most popular New Year Resolutions is “Get Organized.” It’s also one of the most abandoned resolutions as people find it to be an overwhelming task, don’t know where to start, end up getting busy, and just generally falling back into old habits.
Last year, I did a series on small steps to take each day of the month for organizing your home office, one of the messiest parts of most homes. This year, I’m bringing the series back, with a little different flavor and sharing some tips for how to organize the rest of your life.
Being organized in all aspects of your life can make you a more productive worker, mean that you spend less time cleaning and searching for things, and help you save money. Improving the amount of stuff I can accomplish while saving time and money is my motivation for making organizing a priority this year.
So here are some quick tips to get us all moving in the right direction this year.
Simple Get Organized Resolutions You Can Stick Too
1. Organize Your Calendar.
Organizing is a tool, for living and for working. Getting things done requires us to identify the important things and giving them a space in our regular schedule. Nothing causes more stress than realizing we forgot an important meeting, deadline, or to pick up our kids from pickup. *Gasp.*
Further more, being able to plan out and schedule your day can help you be more realistic about what you can actually accomplish in a day, and cut out things that you don’t have time for. Effectively managing your time and knowing you’re doing the things you need to get done while still scheduling time to hang out and spend time doing the things you love will make you feel very accomplished.
So, let’s make using a calendar as the first step towards getting organized.
Paper or electronic, it matters not: choose whatever works for you and try it out for 30 days. Make sure you know where it is. If it’s paper, be sure it’s a size you can carry with you at all times.
I personally prefer an electronic calendar. I honestly don’t use anything fancy, just Google calendar. I like that it has multiple views and that I can access it from anywhere so long as I have an internet connect. However, since I do like to have things written down as well, I usually like to have a written down to-do list with me as well so that I can physically check things off as I go and write down notes or items I remember as they come up.
How to Organize Your Calendar
1. Put in the “big rocks” first. Big rocks are those important, time sensitive things that you can’t really move around or forget about. Think like big projects, picking up your kids, time when you have to be online and available at work, etc.
2. Now, it’s time to look for the medium-sized rocks to start and fill in the space. These are tasks that are also very important and that will have a negative impact on your life if they don’t get done, but are more flexible or smaller tasks that can be schedule where they fit well and don’t have to be done at a certain time.
For me, tasks like these include many household chores, taking care of the pets, mowing the lawn, daily work items, etc. I schedule them into the time spaces between the big rocks, and try to keep them as consistent as possible from day-to-day or week-to-week so that I can fall into a routine.
3. Next, fill in the pebbles. These are really small rocks that can fit into any odd gaps you might have left in your calendar. They’re usually not too important, so if they get overlooked or pushed to another day, it’s not going to be a stressor on your life. They’re more just little items that you’d like to get done and can do in just a couple minutes of downtime, but could at some point begin to feel overwhelming if they’re never addressed.
For example, my pebbles usually include things like remembering to send someone a birthday message, answer some emails, getting a couple chapters of reading in, and those annoying all tasks that I like to put off, like cleaning off a pair of shoes that got really muddy on our last hike. These things can even be done sometimes when I’m waiting to pick up my kids, but practice ran long. And unexpected downtimes like this. So, I often just keep a to-do list of small pebbles for when I have unexpected downtime or for when I finish a task earlier than planned. They don’t always need to be scheduled out on your calendar.
Doing these small tasks in the random breaks you have throughout the day can keep them from building up and one day feeling like 100 overwhelming tasks that you’ve been putting off.
4. Don’t forget to schedule in breaks and fun! Remember when I said that having an organized calendar can help you be more realistic about what you can accomplish in a day? There’s two reasons for this.
First, it’s visually very apparent when you can’t fit an entire to-do list into the space available on your calendar each day, which forces you to prioritize your tasks and let some things go.
Second, it allows you to schedule down time as well so that you don’t end up working 24/7 until you’re burned out. No one should have to work all the time. Your calendar shouldn’t be filled from sunrise to sunset with just work and productive things to get done, but it should rather be an accurate representation of your day. Make sure to prioritize scheduling time for your hobbies and family as well as work.
When you’re scheduling out and managing your time, you may be amazed by how much you can accomplish day-to-day without having to give up the things you love.
- Use organization as a tool
- Remember the “big rocks” first, and fill in the medium rocks and pebbles later
- Use a calendar to prioritize and make sure the important things get done
2. How to Organize Fitness Resolution Goals Into Your Life
I’m not really a runner. Like, at all. I hate it.
I also hate going to the gym and traditional working out. Like, a lot. I’ve tried it and failed many, many times.
However, I’ve discovered that there are other ways to get more fit without having to force yourself to go to a gym you hate five times a week.
I think that almost everyone these days could benefit from being a little bit more fit. The trick is to find an activity that you love so that you’re getting more fit without even realizing it.
For me, I like to sign up for classes to get more fit. I tried a bungee fitness class for a few months, then I tried some hot yoga, then I tried some adult dance classed, then I got into race walking, then it was rock climbing, kayaking, and I also love lots of good hiking adventures during the summer. Heck, I get a ton of “working out” in every time I go rock hounding. There’s tons of walking around, digging holes, using a hammer to break open rocks, you get the picture.
Hopefully, this has demonstrated to you that there are many activities and ways that you can fit without having to do traditional exercise activities that many of us are resistant too. Just find something you love where you have to be active and move your body, and the results will follow.
Once you’ve thought of an activity you enjoy, make sure you get it schedule on your calendar and make time for it. Setting individual goals like to go to a class for six months, or work up to a particular skill, can also help motivate you to keep your activity going.
- Pick an activity that you love and that getting more fit will feel like an added bonus
- Make time for it by getting it on a schedule
- Think up goals in regards to your activity to motivate you to keep at it.
- Make a commitment to yourself and follow through, however imperfectly. Just get moving!
3. How to Organize Your way to Managing Money Better
Procrastinating won’t improve matters. Trust me, I know. I used to hide my eyes, bury my head, and pretend things weren’t happening. That credit card slowly filling up, shh. . . just look the other way.
Well, surprise, that didn’t work. Knowledge and keeping your eyes open is power, baby. The first way to improve your money management is to keep your eyes open
You need to open your eyes to the reality of your situation. Ask yourself:
- Why do you keep overspending?
- What are the items you’re spending the most money on?
- Is there a way you could be saving money on these items?
- Is there something you could be doing to pay off credit cards and debt faster?
- Do you need to look for additional streams of money for a while to help you get back on your feet?
- How much money can you really afford to spend each month?
- Do you have a saving account for emergencies? Or do unexpected things keep pushing you back into debt?
- What are some goals about saving money that you have and what can you do to get there?
Be honest about your answers to these questions, then try to think of ways to hold yourself more accountable and aware to your spending habits.
For a while, I forced myself to write down everything I spent. It’s easy to just swipe your cards sometimes, and you lose track of the real value of having money that you actually have to hand over. Writing down all of your perhaps and calculating your new total amount in a bank can be a great way to start to recognize the effect of your money coming and going.
Organize your purchases into needs and had to buys, nice to haves, and luxury items and wants. Decide on a budget and how much money can go to each category each month, and try to use a notebook, sticky notes, financial tracker, etc, to stick to it.
Sometimes, it takes something else to help get you on track. Look into getting help if you need it. Whether it’s a tool or an app, a finance class, or hiring a professional to help get your finances in order, there are always options that can help you learn better money managing habits.
Don’t forget to get your partner on board. It’s not fair if one partner is doing all they can to save money while the other partner is spending money whenever and whatever they want.
- 1. Open your eyes to the reality of your situation
- 2. Get help if you need it
- 3. Get and use the right tools
- 4. Set up a simple system to make it easy on yourself
How are you going to better manage your money this year?
4. Manage and Reduce Stressors
What stresses you out?
For me it’s: What’s for dinner? Wasn’t my best client’s birthday yesterday? Did I have a meeting today? What was the thing I wasn’t supposed to forget to do today? Did I switch over my laundry? Are my kids doing their homework? Did my dog get enough attention today? Did I leave something on in the kitchen and my house is going to burn down?
1. “Will this matter in 5 years?”
As a young newlywed, I had a great more “experienced” friend who helped me with some perspective on stress. I admired her ability to remain cool under pressure (she had 5 grown children & several grandchildren who frequented her home and an aging parent living with her at the time). When I asked her how she she seemed to keep a cool head when things got crazy, she replied, “I ask myself, ‘Will this matter in 5 years?'” If the answer was “no” she didn’t worry too much about it. Wise words, and they still ring in my ears today.
2. Structure isn’t a four letter word.
I recently heard a quote by T.S. Elliott: “When forced to work within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost–and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.”
When I talk to people at workshops or presentations, many of them are afraid of structure. I get it, I really do. I am not a very linear person and I used to poo-poo the idea of structuring my day.
When I had my son, I learned that children need and crave structure. Breakfast at 8am, nap at 10:30, lunch at 12:30, nap at 3:00, dinner at 6:30, bed at 8:00. I learned that my son was happier, well adjusted and just plain more enjoyable to be around when we stuck to the schedule. Now, of course we took side trips, went to special events and did other activities that called for flexibility in our schedule. However, we soon eased back into the routine when things got back to normal.
I found when I structured my day, planned out tasks, and arranged my calendar, it was easier to get the important things done. I didn’t worry about what I needed to do, because I had already planned it out and had some flexibility when other matters came up. I know when things start to slip and get out of control, it was time for a check-in to see what needs to improve.
Guess what? When I stick (sometimes somewhat loosely) to a schedule, I’m a happier, well adjusted, less stressed and just plain more enjoyable to be around. Go figure.
3. Find an outlet.
I love to read. I love self-improvement books, but I also love period fiction (like Memoirs of a Geisha). A friend asked me once, “Where do you find the time to read so much?” I responded, “I make time.”
Reading is an escape, a chance for me to go into another world and watch a story unfold. I wonder what the characters will do, say or experience next. I think about what I would do in that situation and what I can learn and apply to my own life and mind.
24 hours might not seem like a lot, but it really is. It’s amazing how much time I can fritter away without even thinking about it. But, I always make time for things I like to do. I believe it’s essential to reducing stress.
If we don’t give ourselves little pockets of time to do what we like, we’ll soon have nothing to give to others or our business. Make time for an outlet of enjoyment, and see how you feel.
How are you going to reduce stress this year?
5. Enjoy Life More
Is it really so hard to enjoy life?
All this week, I’m discussing how we can make New Year Resolutions a reality, using organization as a tool. One of the resolutions is “Enjoy Life More.”
This means various things to different people. I happen to be in the camp of “bloom where you are planted.” No one’s life is perfection. That’s the way it is. I think life is more about our attitude toward it, and less about what we do in it. It really comes down to being a choice whether we enjoy life. Gratitude for what you have will improve your attitude.
Is there so much in life, that it’s hard to notice the good things?
I’m subject to having too much going on, and too many belongings in my life. I use organization to help me weed it out and keep things under control for my own sanity. I also listen to my inner voice when I know I am reaching a breaking point. I say “no” a lot.
I think if we say “no” more than “yes,” our commitments and “yeses” mean more. It’s about being real, recognizing how much we can really handle, and staying true to the boundaries we set up. When there’s too much in your life, there’s not a lot of time to stop and enjoy the ride. All you feel is the rush of the wind, and all you see is a blur as you barrel down the road of life at 100 mph.
Packing light for the journey
Picture yourself on a road, walking, with lots of baggage you must carry yourself. In your mind, take one bag away at a time. How do you feel when your load is lighter?
If you’ve ever traveled with a lot of baggage, you know how stressful (and expensive) it can be. You’re more focused on all the belongings you have to keep track of and less about the views, people, places, and experiences around you on the journey.
Less stuff equals more time to enjoy life.
Ready to enjoy life more? Here’s a few tips to get started:
- Today, pick three things you don’t use, and can pass on to someone else. Make this a regular exercise.
- Look at your calendar and see if there is anything you can stop doing.
- Is there something intangible in your life that needs to go? How can you make that happen?
How will you enjoy life more this year?
6. Spend More Quality Time with Loved Ones
Spend more quality time with loved ones.
Spending time with those we love is something to strive for. It never seems to be enough, even when we make it a priority. Extra appointments on the schedule, events we’ve committed to and other things get in the way. Or do they?
It’s not the quantity, but rather the quality.
How do you remember your childhood? I remember moments of happiness: seeing my parents in the stands at a volleyball game, sharing a holiday meal, or tearfully hugging my little sister at the airport when I left for a year abroad as an exchange student. I’ll bet you can remember some of those things too. I believe in making moments special and being truely engaged in that moment.
Here’s some ways to spend some quality time, and really being “in the moment”:
- Plan for it. Get chores done, wash the clothes, put things away, whatever. If it’s on your mind and you can do it quickly, take care of it.
- Turn off distractions. The “always on” cell phone can be really distracting (I get it, really I do), so put it on vibrate in another room for a period of time.
- Quit procrastinating and start acting. If you can’t spend time with those you love because life is out of control, take action. Get control of your action items, find a way to focus each day, or discover and address what is really bothering you. Get to the heart of the matter, so you can breathe and enjoy life.
What can you do so you can spend more time with your loved ones?
7. Make the World a Better Place
How do you give back?
I remember my mother gardening, giving our extra garden bounty away, helping others with their canning, and watching her teach swimming classes for special needs children. It seemed a part of her life (and still is) to help others.
When I was in high school, I had the distinct honor of being selected to study abroad as a Rotary Youth Exchange student. I grew up in a small town of 14,000, and had never been on a commercial jet until I flew across the Pacific to the Land of the Rising Sun. It was a year of excitement, frustration, happiness, sadness and a year of growth experienced by few. It changed who I was, and what path my life took. I knew at some point, it would be my turn to give back to an organization that did so much for this young naive country girl.
What is burning in your heart?
I don’t mean to sound contrite or like a line in a made- for-TV-movie, but really, what are you passionate about? Is there an organization that did something for you in your time of need? Were you afforded an opportunity you would not have had otherwise?
Make time, make a choice
There’s never a perfect time to give back, and there may never be a perfect financial situation to give all you would like to. But, we can make time to give back, volunteer and help make our corner of the world a better place.
If you want to volunteer or participate in a charity, here’s a few tips to get started:
- Be real about your schedule. How much time do you have to give?
- Find a good fit. Ask a lot of questions about the commitment expected, the time involved and if you are expected to cover your own expenses. Know what you are getting into so there are few surprises.
- Start saying “no” more. You may have to juggle your schedule around, even eliminating something to ensure you’re not overextending yourself. Don’t overdo it. No organization wants an unhappy, burnt out volunteer.
How can you give back this year?
8. Learn Something New
Learning is part of life. It seems too many of of stop when we leave school. It’s understandable – you realize you can read for pleasure and not for a test the next day. Learning seemed hard then, a struggle and a thing many choose not to do when they aren’t forced to. But, does learning really stop when we get the diploma?
Lifelong learning starts with curiosity.
Four years ago, I was curious about blogging. I wanted to learn how to do it. I liked to write, and yet couldn’t bring myself to write regularly. I thought blogging would be a good way to get in a practice of writing on a regular basis.
So, I did some research, listened to those who had done it successfully and read up on the subject. I didn’t know a plugin from a widget, or how it was possible for a stylesheet to cascade. But, I started with a purpose in mind, and I plugged into the Wordpress community.
I found mentors and people who were doing what I wanted to do. I joined in the conversation, read other blogs and took on little projects along the way. Little by little, I learned. It wasn’t always easy. Blogging is much more than just producing content (who knew?).
Could I be better at it? Of course. There is still so much to learn, so I have time in my calendar to make sure I am moving forward.
No better time than today.
Start today, don’t wait. Is there something you want to learn? Is there something you need to learn? What’s holding you back?
Here’s a few organization tips to help you learn something new:
- Pick one thing you are interested in, and write it down.
- Research a class at your local community college or go to your local library with a notebook and pen to take notes.
- Mark time on your calendar to continue learning and practicing your new skill.
- Start a file or an envelope, and put your research in it. If you have more information, use a small portable file box. Make it easy to maintain and organized enough to find it later.
If you are ready to learn something new, when will you start? Share with us int he comments below!