If you’re looking for a simple but extensive guide for how to organize your life, then you’re in the right place.
The outcomes you’re currently getting in life are a direct result of your system — and your system is a product of your daily habits.
It’s not what you do once in a while that matters, it’s what you do every day.
The problem is that life can get messy. We all have days where it feels like we’re aimlessly wandering around without any clear direction — constantly going from task to task without really feeling like we’re making progress.
A systematized plan for getting the most out of your day is the antidote to this feeling. We all need to find a way to prioritize the important stuff while keeping the rest of our lives in check.
That’s exactly what you’re going to learn today. By the end of this article, you’ll have a simple and effective system for how to organize your life and advance rapidly towards your most ambitious goals.
How Do You Mentally Organize Your Life?
The average person has 70,000 thoughts every single day. Think about that for a second — 70,000 suggestions about what to do, who you are, and what to believe.
How is it possible to focus on what we need to do when our mind is doing everything possible to sabotage our productivity?
Well, it really comes down to one thing — effectively prioritizing your life.
Most of us fall into the trap of thinking that we don’t have enough time to do what we want to do. Here’s the truth — most of us feel this way because we want to have our cake and eat it too.
- We want an incredible social life filled with rich experiences
- We want to have fulfilling careers that pay well
- We want to manage our finances like an accountant
- We want to engage in hobbies that fill us with joy
The good news is that you can achieve all of these goals if you think in terms of years, instead of months.
The bad news? Well, it takes years — and we hate waiting for things to happen.
Learning how to organize your life first means getting your mindset right about how long it’s going to make your reality align with your ambition.
Organizing your life isn’t a 30 day challenge that leads to rapid improvement. It’s a slow process that you need to take one step at a time.
The Simple Framework For How To Organize Your Life
Any good system is guided by specific principles. The finer details of a system are always a derivative of overarching guidelines.
Let’s lay out those guidelines and the simple four-step process for organizing your life:
- Step #1: Define Everything That You Want: In this step, you’ll focus on getting everything out of your head and onto a sheet of paper. All of your goals, dreams, and desires will pour out as you think about everything that you want out of life
- Step #2: Prioritize: Next, we’ll focus on narrowing this list down and prioritizing only the most important goals that you have
- Step #3: The One Thing: Next comes applying the one-thing philosophy to figure out the crown-jewel on your list of goals.
- Step #4: Crafting A Daily Routine: To conclude this process, you’ll ask yourself The Focusing Question and craft a daily routine centered around high-impact tasks.
Feel free to follow along with a sheet of paper or open up a note in Google Doc. You’ll want to complete this process as you read for best results.
Using this 4-step framework will remove any doubt about the path forward towards your goals. It will help you define exactly where to focus your time and attention for maximum results without feeling overwhelmed.
Let’s get into the details of this framework for how to organize your life.
How To Organize Your Life Goals (Steps 1 & 2)
The first two steps in this process for organizing your life involve defining and prioritizing your goals.
When most of us say that we want to organize our lives, what we’re really saying is we want a clearly defined system for achieving our goals.
We want the pursuit of our goals to feel less overwhelming. In order for that to happen, we first need to identify where to focus our attention. In other words, we have to get rid of a lot of our goals.
Step #1: Define Everything That You Really Want
The first part of this process is super simple, all you need to do is listen to your mind.
First things first:
- Get out a sheet of paper or open a Google doc.
- Sit down in a quiet place free from distraction
- If you need to, put on some background music that helps you focus
Now, take the next 10-15 minutes to write down everything that you want to achieve over the next 12 months.
There are no guidelines here on what to include and what not to include — simply write down everything that comes to mind.
Goals Don’t Have To Be Specific
One of the most common phrases that you hear in the self-development world is,” Goals need to be specific! They must have a deadline!” Blah, blah, blah.
Not true. Let’s just look at the dictionary definition of a goal according to Oxford Languages:
- Definition – the object of a person’s ambition or effort: an aim or desired results
Do you see anything there about goals having a deadline? Or needing to have a specific target.
Nope, that’s because they don’t. As long as you’re aiming at something, specific or not, it’s still considered a goal.
Not only that, some goals don’t even make sense when combined with a specific target. For example, let’s say that you wanted to become more confident.
How do you actually measure confidence?
You can’t — it’s something that you either have or you don’t. It’s based upon a general feeling that you have about the kind of person that you are.
You can’t quantify it with numbers or performance targets. Now, you can create daily targets for certain actions that will help you increase your confidence, but overall the feeling of confidence can’t be measured.
Same thing with goals like “I want to improve my personal relationships.” How in the world are you supposed to measure that with numbers?
The point is don’t get bogged down in making your goals super specific. Just focus on getting your thoughts out on paper — whether they’re broad intentions or defined targets.
By the end of this process, you should have around 15-20 goals. Don’t get crazy and spend hours writing down 74 goals, the following steps will become much harder if you do.
Step #2: Prioritize
Next, you need to take that list of goals and then remove anything that isn’t highly important to you. You need to make the distinction between nice-to-have goals & need-to-have goals.
Now you might be saying: “But wait! All of these goals are important to me.” If you really believe that, then it’s no surprise that you feel overwhelmed and disorganized.
Successful people are masters of prioritization. To illustrate this, here’s an inspiring story (which may not be 100% true) about Warren Buffet and his pilot.
Warren Buffet’s 25/5 Rule
Mike Flint was Warren Buffet’s personal pilot for 10 years. According to Flint, one day he was trying to figure out his career priorities and he decided to ask Buffet for help.
Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 goals. Immediately, after Buffett told Flint to circle the top 5 goals from this list that he felt were the most important to him.
Flint confirmed that he was going to start working on his top 5 goals right away. When asked about the other 20 on the list, he said:
“Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
Buffet immediately corrected him:
“No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
The Importance of Prioritizing Your Life
The main lesson from this story is that you just can’t do everything you want to do all at once.
That’s why in this step, most of the goals you just wrote down will be removed. Deep down, you know that there’s only a few goals on this list that really matter.
They’re the ones that you’re always thinking about. They run like an endless loop in your mind — constantly demanding your time and energy.
It’s these goals that you want to organize your life around. To find these goals, you’re going to go through two rounds of elimination. Here’s how to complete the first round:
- Take your list of goals and label them as “nice to have” or “need to have”
- Immediately cross of every goal that you labeled as nice to have
- Your goal is to narrow down the list to five goals
- If the labeling the goals doesn’t achieve that, then just keep narrowing the list down until you get to 5
In the second round of this process, you’re trying to get down to a singular goal. The following steps will outline how to find the crown-jewel in your list of goals
- Analyze each of the five goals on your list
- Rank them on a scale from 1-10 using the following question
- What level of impact would achieving this goal contribute to my overall success, happiness, and fulfillment?
- Use decimal points if you want to be even more precise
- Once you’ve scored each, the goal with the highest score is the winner
- If you score each goal and still don’t have a clear winner, just trust your inner wisdom and make a judgement call
How Do You Organize Your Daily Routine? (Steps 3 & 4)
Now that you have one goal that you are going to organize your life around, the next step is to set up a daily routine to facilitate achieving this goal.
The Facebook Story
When Facebook IPO’d in 2005, everyone agreed on one thing — it was a fun app, but would struggle to make money.
Aside from the few early investors, most people didn’t believe that Facebook was going to become a profit-machine churning out billions of dollars per year.
One day, Noah Kagan, employee #30 at Facebook, came to Mark Zuckerberg with an idea. He wanted to prove his worth and remove doubt that Facebook could become a behemoth in the techspace.
Here’s how Kagan recalls the story:
“Mark listened to the pitch and then wrote out one word on a whiteboard: “GROWTH.” Then he “proclaimed he would not entertain ANY idea unless it helped Facebook grow by total number of ‘users.”
Zuckerberg was interested in one thing — growing Facebook’s user base. Every subsequent move he made revolved around that ambition, and it’s safe to say that things worked out pretty well.
That “fun” company that wasn’t going to make money now has a market capitalization of $1 trillion.
The One Thing Philosophy
To Zuckerberg and other highly successful people, the secret to productivity is adopting a singular focus. You don’t get to have four or five priorities, you get to have one.
When everything seems important and urgent, it means that you believe everything you need to do holds equal weight. You’ll become busy and start rapidly crossing things off of your to-do list, but it’ll never feel like you’re actually making progress.
That’s because you haven’t yet learned how to organize your life around the important stuff. You haven’t realized that the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.
As you look at your goal, there’s probably a million ideas running through your head about how to achieve it. But if your to-do list contains everything, it will lead you everywhere but where you really want to go.
That’s why you’re going to build your day around one daily action. Your to-do list will be pretty simple from now on — it’ll be this one task and then everything else.
How are you going to find that one action? That’s what we’ll cover next.
Step #3: Applying The One Thing Philosophy
In order to calm your mind and narrow your focus, we’ll be taking a page out of Gary Keller’s playbook. Gary Keller is best-selling author of, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.
It’s an outstanding book, and we’re going to be focusing on a specific part of this book to nail down your own One Thing,
Answers come from questions, and the quality of an answer is directly related to the quality of a question. One of the most powerful parts of this book comes when Keller talks about The Focusing Question.
The Focusing Question collapses all possible questions you have about how to organize your life into one:
- The Focusing Question – “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
The Focusing Question cuts right through the bullshit. It forces you to cut out the non-essential stuff that stops you from achieving your goals.
It’s what allowed Gary Keller to accumulate a net worth of $200 million by building one of the most successful real estate companies in the world — and it’s what will help you set intentions that allow your most sacred goal to become a reality.
Finding Your One Thing
Time to grab your pen/ pencil, or open up that Google doc and find your one thing. Take look at your goal from step 2 and ask yourself the focusing question:
- “In regards to my goals of X, what’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
- Start brainstorming a list of possible high-impact daily actions.
- Remember to only write down important stuff. You shouldn’t have a giant list (maybe 5-7 daily actions)
- Once you’ve got a few ideas, narrow down the task that represents the largest amount of forward progress towards your goals
- Reminder – Trust your inner wisdom here because it likely already knows the answer
By the end of this process, you’ll have the one thing that the rest of your life will be organized around.
Step #4: Crafting Your Daily Routine
Alright, you’ve gotten the hard part out of the way. Now, it’s just a matter of fitting your one thing into your everyday routine.
Let’s work on creating a plan of action to ensure that you can realistically execute on a daily basis.
The Problem With Being Too Ambitious
If you read Keller’s book, he says that you should block out four hours for your One Thing.
Well, there’s a big problem with this advice — if you follow it, you’re going to flame out almost immediately.
It goes against everything that I preach on this blog, which is to start small instead of aiming at outrageous targets.
Aiming too high is the single-biggest reason why most people never achieve their goals. Does this sound like a familiar story?
- You get motivated to get back in shape
- You tell yourself you’re going to start walking for 45 minutes every day
- The first few days start off great — motivation is high, resistance is low.
- One week in, it starts to feel like a grind. One day you wake up and don’t really feel like walking, so you skip a day.
- One missed day leads to more missed days, and your motivation begins to crumble.
- Three weeks later, you’re in the exact same position as before, and no closer to your goals.
When it comes to forming new habits, we tend to shoot ourselves in the foot with unrealistic expectations about what we’re capable of. We get excited, set these ambitious targets, but almost always fail to live up to them.
And the worst part is that we think there’s something wrong with us! We say things like, “If I just had more willpower I’d be able to make it work,” or “Why can’t I just discipline myself to get things done.”
Ambition is the biggest roadblock to consistency. If you want to make these two daily behaviors into automatic habits, you’ve gotta aim lower.
Organizing Your Life Around Your One Thing
We need to figure out two things:
- Point #1 – When will your two new habits take place?
- Point #2 – How much time per day are you going to dedicate to each habit?
Let’s address point #1 first.
Keller advises that the morning is the best time to make progress on your One Thing, which is practical advice that you should follow. We tend to have far more control over our mornings than the rest of our day.
It’s also just a great way to start the day. If you begin the day by making progress towards your most important goal, the day will feel like a win no matter what happens.
Here are a few guidelines for figuring out where to place your one thing:
- When In Doubt, Opt For The Mornings – If you don’t have any early morning commitments, then it’s the best time to work on your goals. If you need to, try waking up a little earlier to ensure you have adequate free time in the morning.
- Consider The Habit: If you lack confidence, and the “One Thing” you landed on was going out and talking to people every day, obviously it doesn’t make sense to do this at 7 A.M. On the other hand, something like focused writing is perfect for the morning. Use your best judgement when nailing down a specific time for your one thing.
- Don’t Worry About Specifics Yet: Don’t feel like you need to nail down an exact timeframe yet, that’s what we’ll focus on in the next step. Just pick a time of day when your habit will take place (Ex: lunch break, evening, morning, etc.)
Now that you’ve established the time of day, let’s get specific and figure out how much time you’ll block off for your one thing.
My recommendation is to start off with one hour per day. Remember this is just a starting point that’s subject to change — guidelines for adjusting this target will be covered in a little bit.
Now that the length of time is established, it’s time to schedule work on your one thing during specific hours of the day.
Once again, just use your best judgment here. You know your schedule better than anyone else ever could, so just pick a time and stick to it. Consider potential roadblocks and pick the ideal time for performing uninterrupted work based on your present obligations.
What Happens If I Can’t Meet The Targets?
Is one hour per day really realistic? Well, it may be for some of you and may not be for others. We all have some current level of self-discipline that determines how persistent we are with starting a new behavior.
As mentioned earlier, it’s easy for willpower and motivation to crumble when missed days start piling up, and that’s the last thing we want. Here’s what you’re gonna do if you’re struggling to meet the one hour per day target at first.
- Apply The Two Day Rule – Missing once is fine, missing twice is the start of a new habit. If you miss two days in a row, that’s a sign you need to scale back.
- Scale Back #1 – The first time you miss twice, change your daily target from 60 minutes per day to 30 minutes per day.
- Scale Back #2 – If you miss the 30 minute target twice in a row, then scale back to 15 minutes.
- Scale Back #3 – If you miss the 15 minute target twice in a row, scale back to 5 minutes per day, per habit.
There’s nothing wrong with needing to scale back. You should expect to backtrack a little once you start with your one thing. Even if you end up at the five minute mark, the key is just to get comfortable showing up every day.
The bottom line is this — every single day should involve your one thing. Whether it’s three minutes or three hours, simply showing up and instilling the habit will create a tremendous ripple effect.
- Getting comfortable with 5 minutes → getting comfortable with 15 minutes
- Getting comfortable with 15 minutes → getting comfortable with 30 minutes
- Getting comfortable with 30 minutes → getting comfortable with 60 minutes
- Getting comfortable with 60 minutes → getting comfortable with 3 hour
Think about how much progress you could make towards your goals if you were able to work your way up to 3 hours of daily focus on your most important task?
One goal, one habit. It’s this kind of narrow focus that will allow you more freedom and help you become more organized than ever before.
When you stay on top of the main thing that drives extraordinary results, you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes to organize the rest of your life.
5 Tips For Organizing Your Home
We just walked through an extensive guide for how to organize your life. Now, we’re going to cover some additional tips that you can leverage to declutter your home life and even your digital life.
This section will focus specifically tips for how to organize your home.
#1: Get Rid Of Useless Stuff
Can your house use a little spring cleaning? Well, in the spirit of minimizing and organizing your life, start purging household items that only seem to be good for taking up space.
Simply go through your house and choose to donate, give away, or throw out anything that you feel isn’t a necessary part of your life.
You’ll find out very quickly how much stuff you’re keeping in your home that doesn’t really need to be there.
#2: Create A Minimalist Closet
Most of us live a life that is characterized by excess, and that’s especially true when it comes to our closets. One of the best ways you can remove unnecessary clutter in your life is to trim down your wardrobe.
It may feel a little uncomfortable, but the rewards are well worth it. You’ll find that with a minimalist wardrobe, you’re only left with clothes that you actually love.
Each piece of clothing will serve a purpose besides just resting on hangers.
- Related Article – The Minimalist Closet: How To Fall In Love With Less
#3: Tidy Up Workspace Before Bed Each Night
Keeping an organized desk isn’t just about the aesthetic, it’s important for productivity as well. Studies have shown that although people with messy desks tend to be more innovative, people with organized desks are less stressed and more focused.
When trying to engage in deep work, our external environment needs to promote total concentration. Maintaining a workspace that’s clean and free from distraction makes it easier to achieve this feeling.
#4: Maximize Vertical Space
If you don’t have a lot of room to work with in your home, a sure-fire way to create more space is to go upwards when stacking items or building shelves.
This will help maximize the space that you do have for storage. For obvious reasons, just make sure to store the things you need less frequently on the higher shelves.
#5: Optimize For Accessibility
Here’s a golden rule of organizing your home — make sure that the things you need most are always easy to find.
Think of the common items you use every day — do you spend any additional time looking for them on a daily basis? If you do, that’s a good indicator that you should move them a more accessible location.
The items you barely use can be placed in very obscure places with no consequence.
How to Organize Your Digital Life (5 Tips)
Next, we’re going to discuss some simple tactics for decluttering your email inbox and smartphone.
It’s easy for us to lose focus on top priorities when we get sucked in by time-wasting apps or the endless piles of emails in our inbox. Here are some helpful tips for using technology to keep your life organized.
#1: Take An App Inventory
How many useless apps do you have on your home screen? If you’re like most people, there’s a lot of apps that just have no use being on your phone.
Let them go! Just go down the list one by one and delete any app that you don’t get any value out of.
#2: Create Folders For Your Apps
Once you’ve done that, create some individual folders for the remaining apps on your phone. It’s much less overwhelming to look at a home screen where every app is dedicated to a specific folder.
You’re free to set up the categories however you like. Here are the separate folders that I have my apps separated into:
- Social Media
- Services (Uber, Doordash, etc.)
#3: Use The Reminders App For Small Stuff
The reminders app on your smartphone can be an absolute life-saver when it comes to remembering the non-urgent stuff.
As someone who can get scatterbrained, remembering to do things isn’t in my DNA. If there’s something that needs to get done in two days, or five days, or two weeks, there’s a 100% chance I’ll forget about it when the time comes.
Instead of relying on my own brain, it’s better to just remove the possibility of error altogether — the task and deadline go straight into my reminders app.
By the time it’s slipped from my short-term memory, a simple notification on my phone ensures that whatever it is gets done.
#4: Unsubscribe From Useless Email Lists
We’ve all subscribed to email lists that we don’t have any use for, which is not an issue. The issue is keeping yourself subscribed to these lists and letting emails pile up in your inbox.
These useless emails get mixed in with important stuff which can interrupt your workflow.
- Monthly Ritual – Every month, go through any email you’ve gotten in the past 7 days from an email list. If the list is adding value to your life, keep it. If not, hit the unsubscribe button.
Another suggestion is to dedicate one email address to email lists only. This allows you the freedom to subscribe to as many lists as you want with no risk of overshadowing the higher-priority emails that you get.
#5: Keep Your Computer Files Organized
It’s eye-opening how many people use their computer as one great big library — no organization or folders, just a bunch of random files in random places.
The problem is that it’s a pain in the ass when you really need that one document from a few months ago but have no idea where to look. Creating a folder system for your laptop will make sure you never have this problem again:
- Start creating your folder system by drawing it out on paper
- Separate your life into a certain amount of categories (personal to you)
- Add each of the main folders to your home screen
- For each category, write down specific subcategories that certain documents would fall into
- For example, the “finances” might have sub-categories like — Tax Documents, Budgeting, Loan Documents, Miscellaneous, etc.
- Click on each folder in your home screen and add these subcategories to them
This process provides a foundation for organizing your life digitally. Now the only thing required is continued maintenance to make sure each document goes to the right place.
Final Thoughts On How To Organize Your Life
Well, there you have it! This article just walked you through a step-by-step framework for how to organize your life, along with some additional tips for reducing clutter.
Simplicity is usually the best answer to many of life’s questions. You don’t need an elaborate color-coded calendar to organize your life, you just need to find out what matters most and spend time on it every day.
When you remove tasks that are important and very important, the only ones that remain are the most important. And when your entire calendar revolves around the most important tasks that move you towards your goals, the rest of your life tends to fall into place.