May 14, 2021  

The 7 Planning Tools & Systems I Use To Organize My Whole Life (2021 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!

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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 7 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:

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

The Tools I Use To Get Organized

1. Weekly Routine

Creating a weekly routine is the foundation that everything else is built on. Without one, I’d definitely not be very organized! Establishing solid routines is crucial to staying on track and making sure you can keep 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.

Creating a schedule you can follow week after week is the first step to a more productive, less stressful life. (I wrote an entire book on this topic because I’m such a believer in the power of weekly routines!)

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

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2. A Paper Planner

Although I am obsessed with Google Calendar, I also love using a beautiful paper planner to plan out the week ahead. I use the Full Focus Planner to plan out the upcoming few days’ appointments, schedules, and to-do lists.

I tried out the new Bold line of Full Focus Planners in 2019 and absolutely loved them and am using them again in 2020. They’re a really nice quality quarterly planner that has some neat features beyond the standard daily pages. You’ll find goal setting pages and tracking built right in, 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.

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

You can check out the Full Focus Planner here.

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3. A Goal Setting System

I am a huge believer in the power of setting goals. They can really give you a sense of purpose and help you see the bigger picture. It’s really easy to get bogged down in the daily grind and end up wasting time and energy on trivial things. Having bigger goals in place helps you step back and see the bigger 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 putting them on the shelf, Powersheets help you revisit and refresh your goals every month and a quarter so you stay focused and actually make things happen! There are lots of pretty pages of worksheets and reflection exercises to help you stay on track with your goals all year long.

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

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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.

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

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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: 10 Brilliant Meal Planning Methods To Make You A Meal Planning Rock Star

This happy kitchen is full of whites, blues and greens. Shows even small kitchens can look pretty!

7. A 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

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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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  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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