July 21, 2022  

The 7 Planning Tools & Systems I Use To Organize My Whole Life (2022 Update)

These are hands-down the top 7 planning tools and systems I use to stay organized. Learn how they can help you organize your life, be more productive, manage your finances, and stay sane!


No matter how crazy and busy life gets, there are a few tools and systems I always fall back on because they truly help me organize my life – every single day of it. I often share specific organizing and planning projects here on the blog but thought we’d go back to the basics today and discuss the fundamental tools I use and recommend. I’d be completely lost without these seven things!

Take a look through this list for ideas of tools and systems you can incorporate into your life to get organized this year.

Looking for more planning inspiration? Check out these posts:


This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure for information.

The Tools I Use To Get Organized

1. Daily Routines & Rhythms

Creating routines and rhythms throughout your day is the foundation that everything else is built on. Having solid routines is essential for me feeling in control of my day and keeping all the balls in the air.

I’ve really found that structure creates freedom. It gives you peace of mind knowing you have time for everything you need to do. And it gives you the freedom to use your downtime to truly relax without feeling guilty for not working on something more productive or worrying you’ll run out of time for everything.

I will say that having a super structured routine has been more of a challenge the past year with a new baby, but having simple rhythms is still a very important part of my day.

For example, I have a short morning routine I follow almost every morning and even if I don’t do it at the exact same time every day due to kids waking up at odd times or me sleeping in after a rough night with baby, I still do my morning routine things at some point after I wake up.

I have bedtime routines for my kids and for myself, a rhythm of things I do when I’m starting my workday, a series of things I do at dinner time, etc. Having those small micro-routines sprinkled throughout the day really helps even when things feel hectic.

Further Reading: My Proven 5-Step System For Creating A Daily Routine


2. A Paper Planner

I use the Full Focus Planner to plan the upcoming few days’ appointments, schedules, and to-do lists. This is a quality quarterly planner that has some neat features beyond the standard daily planning pages.

You’ll find a quarterly goal-setting section along with goal progress tracking built right into each day and week, quarterly planning and reflection pages, and a really cool weekly preview spread. These extras are so helpful for productivity and goal setting!

A paper planner is a perfect place to keep track of daily to-do lists and time blocking. You can also fill it with lists such as shopping lists, reading lists, etc. While a digital calendar is a great place to track appointments, meetings, and other commitments, your paper planner gives you space to zero in on the day ahead and plan out your priorities and to-dos.

I’ve found myself being far more intentional with planning out my week because of this planner. It’s really an entire productivity system! I also love how the goal-setting elements are such a natural complement to the Powersheets Goal Planner that I’m obsessed with.

You can check out the Full Focus Planner here.

Further Reading: Full Focus Planner Review & A Look Inside My Quarterly Undated Planner


3. A Goal Setting System

I am a huge believer in the power of setting personal goals. They can really give you a sense of purpose and help you see the bigger picture. It’s easy to get bogged down in the daily grind and end up wasting time and energy on trivial things. Having purposeful goals in place helps you step back and see the big picture.

The key is breaking those goals down into small tasks or habits that you can incorporate into your weekly routine. By working on my goals every single week, I really do make meaningful progress on the things that are most important to me!

I’m obsessed with the Powersheets Goal Planner and cannot say enough good things about it. Rather than setting goals in January and never thinking about them again, Powersheets help you revisit and refresh your goals every month and quarter so you stay focused and actually make things happen!

There are worksheets and exercises to help you set intentional goals and stay on track all year long. I actually rip out the monthly tending list and tape it right into my planner so my goal action steps are always front and center!

Further Reading: Powersheets 101: How To Cultivate Intentional Goals This Year

4. Google Calendar

I would be lost without Google Calendar! It syncs across your devices so you’ll never forget an appointment or meeting. You can also use Google Calendar to track things like birthdays and anniversaries, due dates, special occasions, meals, shopping lists, blog posts, workouts, and more.

And you can set up events and appointments with reminders so you’re always reminded of your grandma’s birthday in time to get a card in the mail or of your kid’s field trip tomorrow. It’s so helpful to be able to see all of your obligations in one central place.

I have a calendar specifically for birthdays and important dates so I am reminded of them every year. And when we schedule a get-together with friends or a weekend trip, I can send the calendar invite to my husband so it’s on his Google Calendar, too.

Further Reading: How I Organize My Week For Maximum Productivity & Focus

Struggling with time management? Organize your schedule with Crush Your Week: The Complete Guide To Designing An Intentional Weekly Routine. This isn't simply an ebook, but an action guide packed with practical advice and helpful worksheets.

5. A Budget

Organizing your money is just as important as organizing your belongings and your time! I started tracking our budget in YNAB several years ago and it has been such a game-changer.

It’s completely transformed my relationship with budgeting and I now eagerly wait for the next paycheck to hit our bank account so I can log into YNAB and organize our money! I’ve never been a numbers gal, but YNAB makes so much sense to my brain.

If you truly want to be organized this year, you cannot overlook your finances. Find a budgeting tool like YNAB that works for you and commit to updating it and following it consistently this year. Trust me, it’s an amazing feeling to be on top of your finances and know exactly where all of your money is going!

Sign up for a new YNAB account using this link and you’ll get a free month!

Further Reading: Need A Budgeting App? Here Are 9 Reasons You Will Be Obsessed With YNAB


6. A Meal Plan

There’s no question about it – your house will run the smoothest when you make meal planning a priority. Planning lunches and dinners for the week and making sure you are stocked up on groceries saves so much time and will keep you sane.

I hate the feeling of getting home from work and having no idea what we’re going to make for dinner so planning ahead is crucial. Having a meal planning system in place is such a lifesaver in our house!

Further Reading: 

7. Homemaking Routines

Keeping up with household chores can be exhausting and super stressful, right? I’m often asked about my “cleaning routine” and in all honesty, I don’t really have much of a routine! But there are some simple rhythms in place in our house that keep everything somewhat clean and running smoothly (for the most part, anyway!).

I don’t believe in rigid routines where you have to mop the floors on Mondays and scrub the toilets on Tuesdays. If you like structure, that’s great! But if your life is crazy and unpredictable like most people, I find it best to build my household routines right into my daily rhythm.

For example, after dinner, I do my quick kitchen shutdown routine. The routine is triggered by us finishing dinner, not by a specific time on the clock.

Saturdays are laundry day in our house so we always know laundry will get done. And if we’re not home on Saturday? We either plan ahead and do it on Thursday and Friday nights or we do it on Sunday.

Meal planning happens every weekend so I can order groceries on Monday or Tuesday and stock the kitchen with ingredients for the week ahead.

As for actual cleaning, we’re pretty fluid in this department. Since David and I both work full time, we don’t tend to accomplish much cleaning during the week beyond keeping up with the kitchen. David usually cleans the bathrooms while the laundry is going on Saturdays, and I usually do a couple of other cleaning-related tasks on the weekends. I don’t have a set list of things I clean, I basically just pick one or two things that haven’t been cleaned in a while and are bothering us and tackle those.

So while we don’t have a rigid cleaning schedule, we definitely have rhythms and systems in place in our house to keep up with all of those little homemaking tasks.

Further Reading: 6 Must-Have Homemaking Routines For Busy Moms

emily counts holding organized cleaning caddy in green bathroom

Bonus: 8. Digital Planning Tools

I’m adding a number 8 to the list this year because Asana has become such an integral part of my planning process. I’ve used the free version of the Asana digital planning tool off and on in the past but started using it a lot this year for tracking tasks at my corporate job.

Whenever I’m assigned a task at work or think of something that needs to be done in the future, I add it to my Asana account along with a due date. And then each Monday I like to look at my weekly view in Asana and drag and drop tasks around to different days. It makes quick work of planning my workload throughout the week and giving me a preview into what’s going on this week, what my big projects are, any red flags of things I might not have time for, etc. Asana is also amazing for recurring tasks, like the monthly reports I do.

I’ve also recently moved to using Asana for planning and organizing all of my blog-related things. Managing all of the content I create for my blog and social media along with project checklists and sponsorship deadlines has become a lot to keep track of and Asana gives me one place to organize all of the various dates and details.

I have an editorial calendar for my blog, Instagram, and TikTok; a project calendar to plan out checklists related to DIY and organizing projects; checklists for brand relationships; and more. I give everything a due date and can assign each subtask to myself or my assistant. I also love how the mobile app gives me an alert each morning with my checklist of tasks for the day.

Previous: My Abandoned Journaling Routine

I’m updating this blog post and realizing that my journaling routine has fallen by the wayside. I still do a bit of this in my Full Focus Planner weekly, but I don’t currently devote time to journaling like I used to. I’m going to leave the next few paragraphs here as I previously wrote them because it’s an awesome practice and might be very useful to you even if it’s not currently something I’m doing.

My (previous) morning journaling routine:

I benefit so much from my 10-minute morning journaling routine. It really is a fantastic way to ease into the day by gathering your thoughts and setting goals before you jump into the crazy day ahead of you.

If you feel like you are scattered and having a hard time slowing down to focus or if you just want to become more self-aware, journaling is a great way to slow yourself down and really reflect on things.

You can try journaling for just a couple of minutes every day, or at the very least I’d suggest trying to journal once a week as a way to reflect on how things went over the past week and how you want to approach the week ahead. Head to this post to see the exact journaling prompts I use every morning.

Further Reader: Creating A 10-Minute Morning Journaling Routine For Self Reflection & Goal Setting


When I think about it, my ability to stay organized really does boil down to these six systems. I use them every single day!

What planning systems and organizing tools could you not live without? I’d love to hear!

Looking for more planning inspiration? Check out these posts:

Happy planning!

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a working mom juggling two young kids, a corporate job, and all that goes into managing a home. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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  1. How do you you remember to do all of this in a routine? This is my problem . I start and the I fall off from doing the routine.

    1. Great question, Steph. I certainly wouldn’t try incorporating all of these things into a routine all at once. When I want to incorporate a new habit into my routine, I choose one and associate it with something else I do every day. So for me, I eat breakfast every day so I starting leaving my journal on the kitchen counter and journaling while I eat in the mornings. Stacking habits by pairing a new one with an established one is a good way to start.

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