Diana Kerr »

31 systems I use to organize my personal life

Is it just me, or is “system” a huge buzzword? It seems like all the productive people in the world are talking about systems and how fabulous they are.

(Hint: Those people are on to something.)

We’ve all been told we need systems to organize our lives, but what does that even mean? And what systems should we set up?

It’s hard to define a system, but as you’ll see from my list, I personally view a system as things I’ve set up to make my life more streamlined and consistent.

In other words, these things make my life easier, make me more efficient, reduce stress, and reduce the amount of brainpower I have to use to succeed at “adulting.” (Having systems means you have to make a lot less decisions!)

My systems include and encompass everything from checklists to routines to productivity apps and more. Just like a ton of you told me that this post gave you a bunch of great ideas for outsourcing in your personal life, I hope this post does the same! (Check out my Resources page for a bunch of helpful tools not necessarily mentioned here.)

As I was typing this up, I realized that some people will probably read this post and think I’m insane/overly organized. Looking at this list I realized, yeah, I’m pretty organized, maybe more than I realized. However, all of these systems have been implemented little by little, one by one, so it hasn’t felt difficult or extreme. The more systems I set up, the more we experience the benefits I mentioned above to our personal life and sanity. I should also mention that I married a guy who loves order and organization, so he appreciates all this a lot. :)

What I’m trying to say is that this type of life works for us. Most importantly, it helps us steward our time and possessions and relationships, etc. It helps us honor the life God’s given us and approach it wisely. I love the way these systems free us up mentally and free us up time-wise to do more of the things that really matter in life. Everyone needs to have toilet paper in their house and everyone needs to have clean clothes, so if you’re going to have to take care of those necessary adult things, why not make sure they detract as little as possible from the priorities you really care about, right? (And to that, I say, Amen. :))

In no particular order, here are some of the random systems I use to organize my/our personal life!

Photo: Laurelyn Savannah PhotographyPinIT

Photo: Laurelyn Savannah Photography

  1. Kyle and I use the Wunderlist app and have shared Wunderlists for our Aldi list, Trader Joe’s list, and Target list. I have additional Wunderlists for the mall and other places.
  2. I run errands only once a month, all in one day.
  3. Kyle and I created a shared Google Sheet with our monthly budget so we can both access and add to our expenses throughout the month from anywhere, even on our phones.
  4. Kyle and I have a weekly meeting on Thursday mornings to go through a list of things to discuss and plan out each week, in both our personal lives and in our business.
  5. Every time I open the last item I have in stock of a toiletry, makeup product, light bulb, or cleaning item, etc. I add that item on the appropriate Wunderlist right away so we never run out of an item. (I hate unnecessary trips to the store for just one thing!)
  6. Since we only go to Trader Joe’s once a month, I have a simple spreadsheet with a list of the inventory we’d like to have of each item so that I or our personal assistant or Kyle can quickly check our stock on things and write down about how much almond butter we need to buy, for example.
  7. Every Thursday afternoon, I go through my CEO checklist for my business and personal life. It’s a long list of little maintenance things for my business and life that I might forget otherwise or would have on my mind constantly if they weren’t on a list.
  8. I write out all greeting cards for clients, family, and friends at one time once a month, then put a Post-It with the mail date on each of them and put them in our personal assistant‘s binder. Each week she mails out cards for any events coming up next week.
  9. Anytime I go someplace even for just a night, I refer to my Master Packing Checklist I created. I can pack super fast by running through that list and making sure I have everything I need.
  10. I have a paid subscription to Dropbox and save all our photos there so they’re safe, accessible from anywhere, and so I can easily upload phone photos to files. I organize photos in folders by year, then month, and sometimes have a specific folder for a significant event, like a vacation.
  11. My nail tech comes to our house every other Friday, like clockwork, to Shellac my nails, or they rip and cause me a ton of hassle. (I don’t even own nail polish. No need!)
  12. All my appointments and events are on my Google Calendar. If there’s something I need to remember to take to that appointment or something I need to remember to bring up with someone, I put a few asterisks (***) ahead of the title of that event, which tells me to check the event’s Description for the extra details I added in.
  13. I use Google Calendar to share events and appointments with Kyle that he needs to know about. My entire calendar is shared with him, so he can look at that anytime, but when there’s an event that involves him, I “invite” him via Google Calendar. He is more of a paper calendar guy, but this lets him know about it (via an email notification) so he can write it in his calendar.
  14. Kyle and I also keep a pretty wooden clipboard sitting out in our kitchen with a calendar for the week and any meals we have planned. (We are not hard-core meal planners in this house, but we try to have a teeny bit of forethought or we end up eating eggs or grass-fed beef hot dogs for dinner every night at 9 pm. haha Seriously, though, I’m not joking.)
  15. I use Todoist to track all my tasks–both business and personal. I set up recurring tasks for a lot of random things like calling our credit card company each year to have them apply credit card points to our annual fee, sending notes to the kids we sponsor through World Vision and Compassion, and taking care of home maintenance stuff.
  16. I use Subscribe n Save through Amazon to set up deliveries of things I use consistently. (Note: You can still cancel deliveries or change up which month you receive things; it’s not set in stone.) I have toilet paper, paper towels, organic spices, and other random things delivered that way–cheap and easy. I get a 2-pack of Brita filters every 4 months since they last for 2 months each, and I even have cheap whitening strips delivered every 6 months–the same month I go to the dentist for my semi-annual cleaning.
  17. I keep random reference items in Evernote. I consider it my library for my business and personal life. Using my phone, I snap photos of things like my running shoes so I remember the size and style when I’m out buying a new pair or things like cleaning instructions for my Norwex products so I don’t have to save the packaging. I also save blog posts and electronic records I know I’ll need to reference later (like blog posts on maternity leave tips) and soooo much more in there.
  18. I do laundry each Sunday, or Saturday if we’re home. Once a week is laundry day. I ignore laundry piles if it’s not laundry day.
  19. I created a spreadsheet template for tracking the items we donate to Milwaukee Rescue Mission, Goodwill, etc. so when we go through the items I can quickly input the item, quantity, value, etc. and it all gets automatically totaled. I print that out to staple it to the donation receipt they give us when we drop the stuff off.
  20. I created what I call my “daily worksheet” in a simple Word doc, which takes the place of a paper planner. I keep that one worksheet out in front of me each day because it has time slots for the whole day in 15-minute increments along the left side, along with boxes on the right side to write out to-dos, my objectives for the day + what my tasks have to do with Eternity, my must-dos (that I transferred from Todoist), etc.
  21. I use my PowerSheets Tending List for each month to track progress on my daily and weekly habits (and monthly goals).
  22. I don’t set out magazines when I get them, or start reading them right away. I’m down to just one magazine subscription now, but when I get Real Simple I put it in my office closet next to my books and then grab unread magazines the next time I go on a trip.
  23. I keep a folder of junk mail and once a month go through that folder with the PaperKarma app to unsubscribe so I get barely any catalogs or junk mail.
  24. I deal with mail immediately–put wedding dates on the calendar, buy the baby shower gift online, pay the bill, etc.
  25. I keep a list in Todoist of things I need to bring up to Kyle for us to discuss, then refer to that list at our weekly meetings. If there’s something I need to ask him about that night when he gets home, I just set out a note in the kitchen so I’m not texting him and interrupting him every time something comes to mind.
  26. I set up filters in Gmail so that all the emails I get about coupons and promotions go directly to my Trash. Gmail doesn’t delete my Trash until it’s 30 days old, so if I end up going to World Market or wanting to buy some jeans from The Loft, I search “World Market” in the trash and can easily see if there’s a coupon available.
  27. I use Boomerang for Gmail to bounce back emails involving little tasks that I don’t want to deal with yet. For example, our local library emails me before my books are due. If I want to renew those books on the actual due date so I can keep them as long as possible, I just click Boomerang and choose the date the books are due for the email to bounce back to my inbox.
  28. I use MightyText to send and answer 75%+ of my texts from my computer instead of my phone. (It’s free. You can’t go wrong with that.)
  29. I keep a list of gift ideas–for myself, but especially for other people, and add to it every time I hear someone mention something they’d like or I think of an idea for them. Anyone who’s ever tried to buy something meaningful for someone with no hobbies knows how valuable a list like this can be. (Some of us in our family also use Amazon lists. I even made an Amazon list of items needed by Inner Beauty Center, the non-profit I volunteer with that combats sex trafficking. I can share the link with people who want to contribute and they can buy items from there; they’re shipped right to my house for me to drop off at the Center.)
  30. We have our home professionally cleaned for about an hour and a half every other week.
  31. Last but not least, we have a personal assistant who comes every week! A household assistant, you might say. This was a controversial topic when I posted about it, but so many of you loved all the ideas! You can read a list of what our personal assistant does here. (This post includes a whole bunch more of our systems!)

If you enjoyed this list and want to know more–more tips, or even the how behind how to set up these systems–make sure you’re on my email list! And, mark your calendar for October 5, when my group coaching program–Bold, Intentional Life–opens for enrollment. We spend a whole week of the program specifically on habits and systems, and I’ve also woven in easy-to-implement, high-result systems throughout the other 7 weeks of the program. (And not just personal systems, but systems to help your business as well, for those of you who are business owners!) October 5, the first 10 women who enroll within the first 24 hours will receive a huge, free bonus–so sign up for the email list and mark your calendar for October 5, the day you start your journey toward a bold, intentional life.

x-Diana-e1423090326698

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  • September 30, 2016 - 1:31 pm

    Cleo - Thanks for the interesting ideas and links. One idea you can use to save Post-It Notes (which are not inexpensive, money- or tree-wise!) is to write the date you want your cards to be sent where the stamp will go. With sheets or a roll of stamps in binder, it’s easy to stamp on the way to the mailbox!ReplyCancel

    • October 1, 2016 - 1:15 pm

      Diana Kerr - Wow, that’s frugal! Nice idea! :)ReplyCancel

  • September 30, 2016 - 12:46 pm

    Adrian Hein - I’m curious – do you feel like all of these things sometimes take the spontaneity out of life? I’m a long-time PowerSheets user and think planning is important (well, semi-important), but aside from things like tithe/bills/retirement, not keeping a budget allows me to be more generous because I don’t worry about which column “lunch for a friend” or “gift for a member” or “this organization just caught my eye and needs my donation” money comes out of. And if I only ran errands once a month, I would completely dread that day and would come to resent all the blessings associated with it (a car to use, money for stuff we use, free time, good music, etc.). Even using all the systems mentioned makes me want to take a nap! Do you ever experience any of the struggles I just mentioned? How would you recommend combating them and how do you stay spontaneous? Do you think your recommendations are for everyone or are some people actually more productive when they leave time in their lives that is NOT planned? Thanks for your thoughts, Diana!ReplyCancel

    • October 1, 2016 - 1:22 pm

      Diana Kerr - Hey, Ade! Such good questions. Since these don’t have to do much with my actual schedule, they actually increase my ability to be spontaneous, and to respond to divine interruptions, as I like to say. :) I always advocate with my clients not to plan your week or day too rigidly, although I do advocate planning. The point is the end result, not the system or lack of system, right? So if budgeting allows us to be more generous and better stewards, but NOT budgeting allows you guys to be more generous and better stewards, then it’s all good! Like I said, this is what works for us. I just want people to be as freed up to live out their God-given callings as they possibly can be, no matter how they get there! :)ReplyCancel

  • September 30, 2016 - 8:39 am

    Kyla Fetzner - This is such a helpful post Diana and inspires me to improve organization in areas I hadn’t yet thought of. Also, I read your MTH recap this morning and it made me all the more excited to attend the October intensive! :)ReplyCancel

    • October 1, 2016 - 1:14 pm

      Diana Kerr - Oh, that’s so exciting for you, Kyla! Is this your first MTH? It will change your life! Go in with an open mind and make sure you plan some time when you get home to start implementing what you want to take action on! Email me if I can help in any way or answer any questions! :)ReplyCancel

  • September 29, 2016 - 4:25 pm

    Jasmine Ryan - Systemizer, guilty as charged! I share a lot of these with you, but one takes the cake: Amazon Subscribe and Save is the best!!! It saves me so much for three reasons:
    1. Money: 15% off Amazon prices just for getting 5+ items a month? Easy! Almost always cheaper than Target and they have a lot more natural products. I also like being able to do the research before subscribing rather than trying to make a decision in the aisle.
    2. Time: Besides the obvious of not having to run the errands, I also don’t have to keep a mental checklist of everything we need or give it any bandwidth at all. It took some time and effort up front to find everything we need and calculate (&recalculate) how often we need it, but once we got a good system, smooth sailing!
    3. Bonuses: I don’t ever have to go to Target and that saves me time and money on extraneous things (lol!). My communication with my husband is better because he can make adjustments too, rather than telling me he’s out of something at the seemingly worst possible time!

    Thanks for sharing! I will have to check out some of your other tips. Especially Mightytext! Typing is way easier on my wrists and neck than using my phone.

    P.S. You might be interested–I get snacks on Amazon Prime too! You can get Terra chips in individual servings for way cheaper than the grocery store. https://amzn.com/B000EQYSLC

    Much love!ReplyCancel

    • September 29, 2016 - 10:10 pm

      Diana Kerr - Exactly! Yes! Thanks for sharing this! I could probably write an entire individual post on some of these systems, Subscribe n Save included! And now I really want some Terra chips. :) haha I get Larabars and coconut milk and some other random food from Subscribe n Save–if the prices make sense of course! :)ReplyCancel

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