Spoiler alert: you’ll never quite get your life “together.” But, that’s ok. Life is series of seasons. Each season has lessons for you, each one has a reason. We are here to grow and learn.
Then again, you don’t need to overstay your time in a season when you’ve learned its lesson. Sometimes, you need to go ahead and turn the page. So, if you’ve come to the end of a season, and you’re ready to make some changes, how can you, at least for this moment, get your life together?
We all have internal work to do. But for a quick fix that has real impact, start with the low-hanging fruit of changing your external circumstances. All permanent change happens from within, but making change in the physical world can accelerate your progress. Emotional change is easier to weather with some external fundamentals in place.
So, get your life together by tackling these topics. No need to take them all on at once. Each area – money, community, and health – can all be big projects. But, the sooner you start, the sooner you’re there.
How to Get Your Life Together: Money
You need a budget, and you need a savings account. Neither are particularly glamorous, but both will give you the foundation for security and freedom. A budget helps you build the savings account you need. A savings account lets you make changes you need to make, like moving to a new place or leaving a job you don’t like.
A budget starts with knowing what you make and what your life costs on a monthly basis. Monthly budgets are easiest because we mostly pay rent or a mortgage each month. Track your income and spending easily through on your phone with Mint. If you use a debit card for most of your payments, the app tracks most of your spending and helps you see trends of where your money goes.
Once you’re tracking your income and expenses, you’ll be able to make changes in areas of your life that have the most impact: housing, transportation, and food.
If you’re on the path to simple living or minimalism, you’ll have a head start in this area. A smaller house or apartment than you can theoretically afford gives you room for savings and expenses that are more important to you. Keeping your housing expenses – including utilities, taxes and insurance – below 30% of your gross income is a good rule of thumb.
You can align the remaining two budget areas – transportation and food – to fit your lifestyle. Nerdwallet suggest budgeting 50% of your income to the things you need, and leave 30% for the expenses you want and 20% for savings. Cut your transportation costs by relying on a good, used car or by using public transportation, if available in your area. Cook at home to save on groceries. I’m lucky to be able to walk to work, but my food costs are higher than average. You get to decide your priorities within the budget.
Having some cash in the bank “just in case” gives you the flexibility to leave a job you don’t like, move to another part of the country to follow an opportunity, or just give you some peace of mind. It’s a good first step toward getting your life together.
How to Get Your Life Together: Community
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
The people in your community shape more about you than you may realize. Take a look around at who you are spending the bulk of your time with and consider whether this group is moving you in the right direction.
At more than one turn in my life, I realized I was surrounded by the wrong people. Not people who were bad or wrong, but people who were not on my path. It’s sad in the moment because these friends feel comfortable. But, when you are trying to get your life together, you need to take a look at whether your friends’ or coworkers’ influence is moving you toward the life you want to have.
I recently left a job I’d held, happily, for 11 years. I joined a larger company and was suddenly surrounded with lots of new people. It was interesting to walk into an already-formed culture and see how the day-to-day expectations and values differed from my previous job. The contrast made me wonder what personal growth I had missed by staying with a smaller organization for so long. It also makes me wonder what growth opportunities might exist with in yet another organization. I understand now that changing a work environment can introduce you to a different energy and create change that you did not expect.
Similarly, bringing new people into your social life can create a change. Maybe give a new class a try or pick up a new hobby. Anytime you bring new influence into your life, you’ll experience growth. Take a look at who you spend your time with and consider how a change in community could move you forward.
How to Get Your Life Together: Health
For some, this is a big life topic to tackle, and often the hardest. Lots of experts have recommendations as to how to improve your physical health, but most focus on moving your body, eating food that is right for you and getting some sleep.
For me, it all starts with habits. Even micro habits are can help you make progress. A micro habit could be setting out your walking shoes before you go to bed so that you can easily go for a walk in the morning. Or, your micro habit could be leaving your desk at the actual end of the work day to get in a work out. (More about micro habits here.) Finding a type of movement that fits your schedule and gives you some pleasure is key to making it a permanent part of your life.
How about using some mental trickery to bring more excercise into your life? You can gamify your workouts to keep yourself committed and engaged. A Fitbit or other tracker will also help you monitor your progress and help challenge you to improve. Any type of movement is helpful, even if it’s a 20-minute walk each day.
On the food front, so much of eating well is addressed by planning ahead. This weekend, maybe you could meal prep for just one meal each day for the week ahead. For example, don’t meal prep for the entire week, just prep your breakfasts. For some meal prep ideas that won’t wreck your budget, check these out.
Lots of apps allow you to gamify your eating strategy, and these can be helpful. But, a simple focus on more whole foods, less sugar and white flour will get you pretty far, even if you don’t have the entire nutrition question sorted out.
Getting your life together takes focused action in the the direction you want to go. Put the fundamentals in place by getting serious about your finances, your community and your health. With these basics under your belt, you can take on bigger goals and do much more than get your life together.