How To Organize Your Life When Everything’s A Mess

I recently helped my brother through making an organizational system since he had basically no system set in place. It was getting really difficult for him to get things done on time and to take care of himself on top of schoolwork and a job. After helping him establish a system that worked for him, I gave it some thought and decided to share my tips in hopes that it’ll help some of you. So, here it goes:

  1. For starters, there has to be a desire to change things. The first step to making a substantial change is to acknowledge that there’s a problem in the first place. You need to have a system for managing your life, and if you don’t currently have one then you need to develop one and try to stick to it. And you can always change it up later if it’s not working! These are designed to help you and make life easier, not harder. And of course, as you grow, so does the way you organize your life.
  2. Write a list of all your commitments. This can include things like work, school, a hobby, a club, taking care of yourself, or any other categories that are relevant to your life! Be as specific as possible to write down all of your recurring commitments, this will help you later in the process.
  3. Figure out what isn’t working the most. What’s the biggest problem? Do you keep missing important things because you don’t remember when things are scheduled for? Is your email inbox overflowing? Do you start every day by scrambling around in the morning, unsure of what to do first? Do you keep turning in assignments late? All of the above? Figure out your most important problem to fix and make that your top priority for now. We can also address other issues, but this will be your main focus.
  4. Brainstorm solutions to your main issue. Do you need to set up a calendar system? Need to sort through your email and create a system moving forward so it stays manageable? Do you need to set a specific morning routine? Need a planner or other time management system? Think of some solutions to your main issues and some reasonable, actionable steps that you can take to do it.
  5. Take the first step towards tackling this issue. This can be a small step or a big step, whatever you have time for! If you need to set up a calendar system, for example, you could start by inputting important commitments for the upcoming week. If you need to figure out your email system, you could start by making a couple of folders to organize things. It’s totally up to you!
  6. Once you’ve started to tackle your main issue, now it’s time to focus on how you want to be spending your days. Make a list of any habits you want to incorporate into your life on a regular basis (whether that’s daily, weekly, or monthly), and determine what specific days (and times, if applicable) you want to do each habit. If they are time-specific, put them into your calendar as a recurring event! These habits aren’t permanent, you can change them up as you go if you find they’re too much or not a right fit, so try not to put too much pressure on yourself! Also try to just focus on doing 2-5 things on a regular basis, since I’ve found doing any more than that can get overwhelming and frustrating. Start smaller, and you can always add more later.
  7. Now for another list, this time it’s our short-term to do’s! What do you need to get done in the next week, or next few days? I find it helpful to sort tasks by categories based on my recurring commitment list, as well as a miscellaneous list for anything that doesn’t fit in the other categories. Write down the due dates next to each task, if they have one. Then, write down what day you want to work on each task, and try to estimate how much time each task will take. No worries if a task is going to take more than one day, just write it down for all of those days that you think it might take to complete it!
  8. Then, write down a list of long-term to do’s! Not everyone will have stuff in this category, but this is for bigger tasks like essays or projects that need to be broken up into smaller steps. Write down any longer-term projects you have, and then below them write down some smaller steps that you need to do to build up to the completion of the project. Be as specific as possible! Then, write down “due dates” for each sub-task so that it’ll help to pace out the project over time instead of just doing everything at the last minute.
  9. Look at your lists and ask yourself if all of them are entirely necessary. It’s okay if they’re all important, but taking time to consider if there’s anything you can cut down on to make your life a little easier can really pay off in the long run.
  10. Make one last list for the next week or next couple of days, sorting through your habits, short-term to do’s, and long-term to do’s lists and order tasks based on what day they need to get done. For example, on Monday you might have to do laundry, to do a homework assignment, and to create an outline for your essay. If you have an overwhelming amount of stuff all on one day, try to re-allocate some of the tasks to other days if possible. Otherwise, at least you know ahead of time that it’s going to be a busy day and you can plan accordingly.
  11. If you aren’t sure if you’ll remember to check your list, I’d recommend setting a reminder on your phone to check it every day. I’d also recommend taking a photo of your lists if you’re the kind of person who loses things!
  12. The last step is to continue! Keep working on tackling your main issue and follow your lists to the best of your ability! Once you feel like you have a handle on things, then you can work towards getting a hold on another issue that you have with your organizational system! It’s totally okay to continuously revise your system, if anything it’s even better to keep improving it since continual progress is amazing!

Now that you have all the steps and tips, go ahead and start organizing that life of yours! Thank you for reading.