7 ways to get your ducks in a row (and your life in order)

How often do you feel overwhelmed or unorganized in life? Like there’s too much going on, and you’re exhausted trying to keep up? Well, my friend, it may be time to get your ducks in a row and your life in order.

If you’re tired of barely getting by and ready to get a handle on your ducks, let’s walk through these seven ways to help get your life back in order.

Ducks in a Row 1 - Woman taking notes in planner

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How to get your ducks in a row

Ducks in a Row 2 - Mama Duck and her ducklings

1. Set goals, big and small

What do goals have to do with getting your life in order? Well —everything, to be honest. If you have no idea what goals you are trying to achieve, how will you know which direction those little ducklings should even go?

Goals don’t have to be huge, life-altering aspirations; often, setting smaller goals continuously over time can be just as valuable in creating your best life. If establishing goals feels overwhelming, try setting individual milestones to work towards instead of one big end result. (This approach is especially helpful as you can adjust your path as your plans change.)

Reflect upon where you are in your life and what you want to see in the future. Develop both short-term and long-term goals, and WRITE THEM DOWN. Writing down your goals not only reinforces the commitment to yourself but creates a visual reminder to keep working towards these accomplishments.

Write your dream on a Post-it and stick it to your bathroom mirror. Enlist an accountability buddy to have bi-weekly updates. Make a calendar appointment once a month to check your progress. Establish whatever kind of reminder you prefer, but keep those goals front and center in your life as you continue to get your life in order.  

2. Schedule life admin time

While we all have good intentions when we buy that new planner or declutter the kitchen counters, the truth is organization doesn’t just happen without your continued effort. This is why it is crucial to schedule administrative time in your calendar and stick to it!

For each aspect of your life, pencil in a periodic appointment on your calendar to assess, organize, and plan.  For your career, carve out 30 minutes every Friday afternoon to review your outstanding items, plan your calendar for the next week, and reset your objectives going forward. (This really helps fight off those dreaded Sunday Scaries!) In your personal life, take some quiet time once a week to evaluate your upcoming personal and family obligations, do grocery and meal planning, or tackle a few things from your home maintenance to-do list. Also, be sure you have designated admin time with your partner or children to discuss family responsibilities and plan for fun quality time in your busy agendas.

Yes, scheduling time on your already jam-packed calendar to manage your life feels counterintuitive and maybe even impossible. But I promise if you get into the habit of creating dedicated admin time to take inventory of your ducks, you will end up saving time and feeling less overwhelmed in the long run.

Ducks in a Row 3 - Desktop with Digital planner

3. Set daily priorities

Every day, set one to three must-do priorities for yourself. You can plan for one larger, more time-intensive task like completing a work assignment, or you may need to tackle a few smaller tasks like scheduling an appointment or responding to an email. 

Of course, these daily objectives will not be the only thing you accomplish each day, but this method is an effective way to ensure the important tasks always get done. 

Set your daily priorities based on your capacity that day and what is most urgent. You can do this each night before bed to prepare for the next day, every morning while drinking your coffee or tea, or each week during your admin time. But, define your priorities —and then do them.

4. Designate one calendar

Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a busy stay-at-home mom, you must have an efficient and sustainable system to manage your schedule. You can use a digital or physical planner to track all appointments and deadlines —however, the trick is to have ONE place to track everything. 

For example, let’s say you manage two separate calendars —one for your job and one for personal/family. While having different calendars makes sense in many cases, it’s definitely not ideal when you schedule a meeting over your dentist appointment. 

Choose or create one calendar that you can easily access anytime and ensure everything gets logged there. Get in the habit of always sending yourself invites to this designated calendar, or integrate your various accounts in one digital app to see everything at once. (I personally integrate my personal and professional calendars in ClickUp for easy time-blocking and planning.) No more flipping between devices or guessing on your schedule. It’s really as simple as that.

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Have you tried it yet?

Ducks in a Row 4 - Woman washing dishes

5. Do your future self a favor

What can you do today to make life easier for your future self? This seemingly simple life hack will have a significant positive impact on your daily routine.

Tidy up the kitchen, or get your morning coffee ready to brew every night. Fill up your gas tank on your way home from work so you don’t end up scrambling the next day. Plan a much-needed day off for the day after that huge presentation is due. You get the idea.

By doing your future self a favor, you will automatically feel more prepared and in control. And every time your future self encounters one of these little favors, the resulting dopamine rush will help you feel satisfied and incentivized to continue this pattern. It’s the gift that keeps on giving for a happy and ordered life.

6. Set aside time to enjoy and take care of yourself

I know, I know —I love to preach about taking care of yourself. But that is because it is such a critical yet overlooked habit for many women today!

If you are always “on” taking care of everything and everyone but yourself, you will end up burnt out and unhappy. Period. It doesn’t matter how much you love your spouse and your kids and your pets and your job —if you do not carve out some downtime to enjoy life, you will never feel like your life is in order. 

We all need time without an agenda or responsibilities to give our brains a break. We need to engage in activities that help us detach from our routines and fill our souls. We need to take that quiet walk. Read that fantasy novel. Cultivate a creative outlet such as painting or graphic design. Dance like no one is watching to Lizzo in our living room.

(And no, scrolling social media in bed does not count. This tends to trigger anxiety and overstimulate your mind, not relax you.)

Find the activities that provide you respite and engage in them often. Your brain (and your soul) will be happier for it.

Ducks in a Row 5 - Woman holding cup of coffee

7. Practice gratitude

When your life feels chaotic, and you’re exhausted and stressed, it’s very easy to fall into a negative pit of despair. But by practicing the art of gratitude and acknowledging all the good in our lives, it is easier to overcome our daily struggles and stay motivated to keep going.

The beautiful thing about gratitude and the resulting positive energy it brings is its self-fulfilling dynamic. A scientific study from the University of California Berkley indicates that the more you notice the beauty and good in the world around you, the happier and more satisfied you are in life. 

If you need help to incorporate a gratitude practice in your hectic daily life, start simple. Every evening, reflect on your day and identify three things you are grateful for. Three things, big or small. It could be a great conversation with a friend, a warm cup of coffee, or the car in front of you that let you cut in on the highway. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you acknowledge and appreciate three positive things.

The more good you recognize, the more good you will see. And that —no matter the arrangement your ducks are in —is the best way to embrace the beautiful order of your life.

Ducks in a Row 6 - Rubber Ducks lined up in a row

Nurture your ducks

I have spent most of my adult life hustling at home, at work, and for my family —which, of course, inevitably led me down the Burnout Highway. As an extreme Type A, organized person, I always hoped I would someday finally “catch up” by managing the heck out of my life. Yet, the more efficient I tried to be, the more behind I actually felt.

It turns out I was missing some huge pieces (or ducklings?) in creating the ordered life I desired. Specifically, I was too focused on doing the organizational work and not focusing on the important aspects such as setting clear goals, taking care of myself, and practicing gratitude. But without having a clear direction and taking time to appreciate the good in my life, I was merely working my tail off to waddle around in circles.

Find your own balanced order

To truly create order in your life, you must find the balance between the work and the passion. You must put in the effort to keep things running (at least reasonably) smoothly while also enjoying the process itself. You have to keep your well-being near the top of your priority list at all times. And you have to know what you want to achieve this week, this year, and in this life in order to keep growing and moving forward.

Good luck getting your ducks in a row and headed in the right direction.

What are your go-to tactics to get your ducks in a row? Tell us below in the comments!

Ducks in a Row Infographic Pin

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  1. I love setting goals for myself and doing little things in advance that will help me tomorrow, like empty and fill the dishwasher before bed rather than leave them. an optimized space and clear mind sets me up for success!

  2. Such great ideas! I love practicing gratitude and the idea of doing something for your future self is so genius, I’m definitely going to start incorporating that. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Setting daily priorities is a great way to stay productive when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed – definitely give it a try. Thank you for reading and the note Stephanie!

  3. This is a great post with realistic and actionable ideas! I rely heavily on my calendar and my daily to-do list to keep my ducks in a row (although there always seems to be at least one little ducky breaking formation most days, lol!). I especially love your tip about doing your future self a favor. Thank you for sharing!

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