On how to organize your life and achieve things

Many lines that appear messy but are in order.
Many lines that appear messy but are in order.

Organizing your life to achieve things is not hard, as long as you keep some things in mind… starting by these two:

The secret to keep your life in order is to write everything down.

The secret to achieve things is to subdivide them in smaller tasks that, little by little, build what you are wanting to achieve.

Of course, limiting this article to just saying that would be too simplistic, so here onwards I will explain a method that works.

Organizing your life: getting ready

Sometimes we feel our lives are a mess, or that, no matter what we do, we do not achieve much. It happens. Just do not allow those feelings (or the stress or frustration they cause) to paralyze you. Start by taking some time to pause and think how you can do something about it. You are probably doing that right now by reading this article. So, yes, we can say you already began. Congratulations.

The next thing to do is to acknowledge that your life has different aspects and that all of them are equally important. We all need to prioritize things now and then, and it is fine. Yet we must not forget that neglecting one or several aspects of our lives to concentrate all efforts in one or two others is not positive in the long run, so it should be avoided. If you want an example, think about all those people who spent all their time working only to find they are sick when they finally achieve what they wanted with all that work. It is more than trying to find a balance between life and work. It is a matter of common sense.

You also need to accept that you are not alone in the universe. We, humans, are a social species. We all need help. We all should help now and then too. I emphasize this because it is very, very important. Being able to do all by ourselves might feel empowering, but truth is it consumes us.

I mention all this to help you get a more appropriate mindset for the task of trying to organizing your life.

Before continuing, let me explain you why writing everything down and subdividing tasks are important. Subdividing tasks is useful because solving problems bring us joy. The more problems we solve, the happier we are; and that joy allows us to complete more things more easily over and over again. So get used to subdivide your duties in smaller tasks. Next time you think you need to clean your house, for example, think that you need to sweep the floor, clean the bathroom, clean the kitchen, dust the tables, etc. It may sound like you are giving yourself more tasks to do, but it is just a perception. Once you get used to subdividing, life will feel less burdensome.

As for taking notes, it is key because our minds are lively. They like to move from here to there, imagine some things for a while, then imagine others… and when we are not awake, we dream! By writing everything down, we free our minds from the obligation of trying to remember, and this creates the mental space we need to concentrate in what we are doing.

Where to write? Either in paper or in software —it mostly has the same effect. Writing in paper, however, because of the connection between the mind and the act of writing, has a better effect in our ability to memorize and learn. So, if you need to remember things often, choose paper.

As for how to write, there are many systems and options already:

…and rest assured that, with some wit and creativity, there will more in the future. Choosing a method is not important now, so do not worry much about that. You can choose one of them, a combination or just create your own method later. What we need to focus first is on building a solid foundation for what you are about to do.

Organizing your life: the foundation

As I mentioned, the core of a good organization of your life is to realise that your humanity has several aspects and that all of them are equally important. I repeat it because, when people think about taking control of their lives, they tend to focus on these three main aspects:

Yet if you neglect the others, your life will feel unbalanced sooner or later. You need to consider these other aspects too for better results:

Now that you have a more complete list, I invite you to start. Grab some paper (or software) and write down all the aspects of your life, including as many sub-aspects as you want or need. You will see that it only takes minutes to start seeing a map of yourself. This is the foundation from where you will build the rest.

Just let me add three comments before continuing:

You must always keep in mind that your life will change. Some things that you consider central now may stop being so later. Life will introduce you to new things that, somehow, will become vital for you later too. Change is good. You need to remain open to it.

The unexpected can have a huge impact in our lives, depending on what happens. Sometimes, unforeseen events are simple, like when a road accident leaves you in the middle of a traffic jam. Sometimes they are complex, like when you wake up and notice there was a flood while you were sleeping. It is important to ask ourselves now and then how ready we are to face unexpected situations of all kinds (without becoming paranoids, of course).

Regardless of how complex your life might appear to be in what you wrote, you should never stop being curious. There is always time to learn something new, and you should embrace that because it is what makes you a more complete human being.

Organizing your life: from the panorama to reality

Getting back to the topic: If you followed what I mentioned in the previous section, you should be able to see a full panorama of your life now. The next in the list, in theory, is to start deciding what you are going to do here onwards, but before doing that it is sound to pause again and acknowledge some additional things:

Now, do it. Start subdividing your life and your tasks in smaller items —even if they seem to be a lot—, so you can decide how you will manage them.

Organizing your life: from the reality of life to the reality that every day has only 24 hours

Ready? Now comes the good part.

By now, you should have a map of your life and a somewhat full list of all that living it implies. (I say "somewhat full" because we always remember something later. It is normal.) Keep it as your panoramic view, the one that will prevent you from getting lost.

You may have also noticed both that there are aspects of your life you are currently not taking care of and that you are doing things that do not contribute at all with what you want.

Now it is time to turn all the previous theory into practice and start the change. How? By taking advantage of one of the most powerful tools our humanity came with: habits.

I recommend you to start one habit today: keeping a diary. By writing down what you do each day, every day, you gain something extremely useful: the power to remember. When was the last time you washed your clothes? It will be in your journal. When was the last time you watered the plants? It will be in your journal too. What happened that day that you forgot to congratulate your friend for his birthday? Right, your diary will tell you.

It does not need to be a complex diary. It could be a simple notebook or text files in your computer. You decide.

It will not only be fun but it will give you a second advantage: it will soon show you your reality. You see, we, humans as we are, tend to be very biased in favour of ourselves. We can swear that we just spend one hour a day watching television when we actually do it for three; or we may think that we just spend a few coins in sodas when the real figure is closer to a couple of bills. Reviewing our diaries now and the shows us how we are living, and it will let us make the changes we need towards the life we want to live.

And what are we going to do about our future? Start deciding it. This is the time to choose a system (from the list in the beginning of this article or any other) now. Get it and start planning your next moves. Yes, it is that simple.

There are things you must always do, like going to study or work. Write them down.

There are things you must do a few times a month, like cleaning the bathroom. When are you going to do them? Choose a few dates and write them down.

There are things you must do once a month, like paying the bills. Choose a date and write it down too. Add deadlines, as needed.

Do not limit these decisions to those things you have or need to do. Add what you want to do to. If you have wanted to visit the art museum for months, when are you (at last!) going to do it? Write it down.

All in all, the idea is that you should feel you are the one who are making the decisions now, not "life" or the circumstances. That is how you achieve things.

And above all, decide today that you are going to respect yourself now onwards. You are organizing your life to achieve things that you want. Keep writing everything down, planning your next moves, referring to your panoramic map now and then until it becomes a habit, because it is your habits will take you to the life you want.

Organizing your life: secrets to really make it work

When I began this text, I wrote that organizing your life is not that complicated as long as you keep some things in mind (starting by the two I mentioned in the beginning). Well, here you have the others:

The first secret is that any system you choose to keep your life in order must be flexible. Life is beautiful… because it surprises you! Sometimes surprises are positive; sometimes they are negative, as I already mentioned. The best way to defend yourself from "the unexpected" is to place your deadlines, if any, a couple of days before the real deadline date.

The second secret is that you must be realistic. If you are a night owl, you just should not set for yourself the goal of waking up at 5:45 a.m. every day simply because you will quite likely fail and just discourage yourself. Sometimes radical changes work, sometimes they do not. You can try. Yet do not let a failure knock down anything. Be realistic. Failure is part of life, and you will fail. When it happens, just forgive yourself and continue.

The third one is that it is good to remember that you are not alone in the universe. More often than you think, you can save a lot of time and energy just by asking (or paying) someone else to do it for you. We are a social species, after all. We need each other.

The fourth one is very important: keep some aspects of your life separate. I strongly recommend you to keep a record of your finances: everything you make and every cent you spend (or waste). It will speak for itself soon. The lists of things you need or want to buy should be separated too.

The fifth one is good communication. Misunderstandings can be huge time-wasters. They can hurt relationships too. Review how clear you are when communicating with others. Learn to communicate better if you need to.

The sixth one is order. If everything has a place in all the places you spend your day, you will save a lot of time.

The seventh is to remember that you are building a set of tools that will help you keep your life in order, and not a prison without walls for your soul. It is okay to just put off what you could not complete in a day. It is perfectly fine to just not do anything for a whole afternoon to relax or rest.

You are not a machine. Nobody expects you to become one.

Optional: how I am organizing my life

Some people learn better with examples, so here I share with you how I am organizing my own life.

I am using a combination of methods:

I have a mind map for my panorama view, and I open it very often to remember what I want to achieve.

I use a free financial software to track all my finances. Every cent is counted.

I use an electronic version of a bullet journal I built myself for both planning my days and keeping a journal of what I did.

How does it work? Well, I put off tasks more often than I would like, but besides that it works very well. I feel I am going somewhere.

This web page uses cookies, but do not worry: only safe ones.