Life has many facets and, depending on your circumstances, it’s likely that at least one of them is lagging at any given time. So below are 13 ways to seriously get your shit together when you just don’t know where to start.
Now, fair warning, you shouldn’t try all these at once or you’ll probably end up losing your sanity as well as your shit. But pick one and roll with it ’til you’ve got it down pat, and then move on to the next. The beauty of this list is that it doesn’t have to be done in order — you can take the one that suits you best or speaks to you most, and start from there.
13 Surefire Ways to Get Your Shit Together
1. Use a planner
Missing meetings and appointments is a classic sign of not having your shit together. Nobody ever looks at the person who’s perennially late and thinks they’ve got their lives in order. Get yourself a planner, no matter how basic, or start using the calendar app on your phone, and get into the habit of plugging in dates as soon as you hear about them. Knowing where you’re supposed to be at any given time, and never double-booking or over-extending yourself, will go a long way in the war to get your shit together.
Related reading: The Proper Way To Use A Planner
2. Prioritise your to-do list
You can be as busy as you like, and work flat out until you fall face-first into your bed, but if you’re not working on the important things, it’s all for naught. You can praise yourself ‘til the cows come home that your inbox is empty and all your social media notifications checked, all your clothes are organised in rainbow order, or that you’ve alphabetised your cookbooks, but if there are bills that still need paying and you’re about to run out of clean underwear, you’re fooling no-one. Take a few minutes to look at your list and figure out which are the most urgent and important tasks, and bump everything else.
3. Keep your main space clean and decluttered
For me, if the kitchen is cluttered, I’m just not in a good headspace. Ditto my desk. Those are the two places I spend most of my time and, if they look like a bomb went off in them, I’ll be subconsciously sizing up the debris the entire time I’m there. Not to mention all the time spent looking for that lost piece of paper. Now, I’ve no problem with the space getting progressively more messy as I’m working in it — I’m not going to take time out of the creative process to put everything back immediately — but a quick tidy-up after I’m done means I’m not facing filth next time I sit down.
Related reading: Reset Your Space -- Set Yourself Up For Success
4. Plan the night before
If you’re unsure where to start, this is the tip I recommend to most people. Sit down in the evening and take a look at where you have to be and what you have to do the following day. Be sure you have enough time to achieve everything, that your tasks are prioritised so you’re not spending your day feeling “faux busy”, and that you have everything you need (bag packed, snacks prepared, clothes picked out and pressed, etc.) Your day will run a lot smoother if you don't spend the first five minutes frantically searching for your keys. A perfectly productive day starts the night before!
Related reading: How To Get Your Shit Together As Early As Tomorrow
5. Use a timer
I can’t tell you how many times a day I set a timer. (I’m using one right now to help me focus on writing this post, and I’ll be using another when I’m done so I can blast through some laundry.) If there’s a task you’ve been putting off, set a timer for just a few minutes and plough through as much of it as you can. If you need to concentrate, set a timer for a longer period and then let your brain work away, safe in the knowledge that you’ll soon get a break. Things can be overwhelming because we think they’ll take too long or be too hard or we’re just not sure where to start so we don’t bother. But there’s very little resistance you can give to a timer that’s set for just 5 minutes. No excuses for why you can’t try just for that short amount of time.
I use the timer on my phone, but you could also look out for “natural” timers — the ad break during your favourite TV show (empty and refill the dishwasher), the time it takes your microwave to ping (sweep the floor), the moments you’re waiting for your tea or coffee (clear the counters)… You’ll actually be amazed at how much you can get done in a really short space of time. I generally alternate between 45 minutes (to get focused work done) and 15 minutes (to get chores done and force myself away from the screen).
Related reading: Time To Get Your Shit Together
6. Eat a frog
As I mentioned above, it’s too easy to be “faux busy” and not make any progress on your more important tasks or goals. To really get your shit together, the bigger jobs should be knocked off your list as early in the day as possible because, let’s face it, you can be full of great intentions but, when the day starts to wind down, the last thing you’re going to want to do is face into a large task. I’m not saying you have to complete it, but set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and see how big a chunk you can knock off it before going about the rest of your day. (Bonus benefit of making you feel super pumped up and motivated, meaning the rest of the day should be a doddle.)
Related reading: 'Eat That Frog': How To Achieve Your Dreams
7. Break it down
Unless it’s something you really enjoy, the bigger the task or the greater the uncertainty about where to start, the less likely it is that it will ever get done. There’s no point putting something like "redecorate the house" on your daily to-do list because, realistically, that’s not a task that can be completed in an afternoon. Break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks, and just take it one step at a time. You don’t have to have the entire thing broken down, but the first few steps will build some momentum and, once you get moving, the rest of the steps will reveal themselves. If you’re really unsure where the proper place to start is, just dive in anywhere. You’ll figure it out as you go. Or set aside some specific time to do a little research or ask someone in the know.
Related reading: How To Break Down Your Master List To Make It More Manageable
Unwanted subscriptions take up precious time in your day and, if it’s a physical item, precious space in your home. Some even eat into your bank balance. The next time you get a new piece of post or a new email, ask yourself if it’s something you really want to dedicate time to on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. If not, unsubscribe on the spot (either by clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ button or, for post, sending a quick email to the company or — my preferred option as it takes a little less time — returning the item to sender with a note to please remove you from their mailing list). Look at any other subscriptions you have (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.) and, if you no longer need it, cancel it. Want to go a step further? Go through all the apps on your phone, accounts you follow, etc. and pare back. You’ll be surprised how much time you’ll save just by completing this simple step.
9. Switch off
If you're ready to get your shit together, start by slowing down. There’s a common misconception that being busy means you’re successful. “I’ve no time” is worn like a badge of honour when, really, it’s usually an indication of poor time management and a lack of clear priorities. You’re no good to anyone, least of all yourself, if you push yourself to burnout. And it’s very hard to get a ‘big picture’ view and to recognise your priorities if you’re always on the go. Stopping to smell the roses isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a clear indication that you value yourself and your health, and that you’re giving yourself the time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not so you can adjust course, rather than just constantly, furiously paddling.
You don’t have to meditate (though I highly recommend it), but build some breaks into your day. Giving yourself the time and space to switch off means you can recharge your batteries and have the energy you need to tackle your big tasks head on. (And yes, you should actually switch off your phone every now and again, or at least step away from it for a few minutes.)
Related reading: Is It Better To Always Be Busy?
10. Shake well before use
This is an area I frequently fall down in, but the fact remains that moving your body on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. And it doesn’t even require that you go to a gym and sweat it out for an hour every day. You don’t even have to “feel the burn”. Regular movement (even if it’s just dancing around your kitchen) gets the blood pumping to all areas of your body, sweats out some toxins, and increases your longevity. Adding in some strength training, where you’re working your muscles, is a great way to keep yourself strong and feeling energised. Let’s face it, when you think of someone who has their shit together, it’s unlikely you’re picturing a couch potato. Every good tonic requires that you “shake well before use”, so let that be your new morning motto.
11. Practice gratitude
What’s the point in living a life you don’t appreciate? You can combine this with #9 above but, however you do it, take a moment each day to be grateful for all you have. It may not be your best day, but you’re still living and breathing. We take so many things for granted — things that not everyone in the world has access to — so begin each morning on a positive note, reminding yourself of all your blessings. You may get cut off in traffic, you may spill your coffee down your shirt, you may have a tough day in work… but focus on the fact that you have a car, or that you can afford coffee and clothes, or that you have a job. And even if you don’t have these things, you’ll still have something that someone else would give anything for. Each breath is a miracle. Never take that for granted, because someone, somewhere, is taking their last.
12. Stop being so future focused
It’s a bit of a cliche to say “live in the now” but that’s because it bears repeating over and over again. I’m not suggesting you should stop aiming for things, that you should stop having goals you’re working towards. But, as a wise man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 😉 If you really want to get your shit together, don’t be so focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the journey. The best stories aren’t about where you are but, rather, how you got there.
Related reading: Mindfulness Meditation: What It Is & Why I Do It
13. Don't be a dick
You can do all of the above and still be losing at life. There are plenty of organised assholes out there, so don’t think that a full Filofax and a gym membership is going to get you very far. Sure, you could build an empire alone, but the job’s quicker with a team, and the launch party’s a lot more fun with more than one. Just remember that you can walk all over people but, at the end of the day, you’re the one having to clean the soles of your own shoes.
And one final word of advice: Shit is fickle. Some days it’ll stay by your side, but others it’ll spot something shiny in the distance and abandon you. Don’t despair. We wouldn’t truly appreciate what having it was like if it didn’t go missing now and again. Mourn its absence, stick its picture on the side of a milk carton, and wait patiently for it to come home.
It will come home.
Now go forth and get your shit together!
P.S. If you're REALLY ready to get your shit together, check out my e-course, the Productivity Power-Up, designed to help you get more done in less time. It's a step-by-step guide to planning your most productive day.