Life Design: How to Take Control of Your Life

In this post, you’ll learn what you need to do to get a sense of direction in life and how to design your life.

I love my life.

Really.

And I want to show you that you too can live a life you love. A life you’re excited about.

They say we need to focus on systems instead of goals: systems help you work towards whatever you want to achieve, while goals might sound static and abstract to some.

In my opinion, you need both.

Systems are crucial to doing what you need to do daily to make your goals a reality.

But… what are systems without goals?

The trick with setting goals is setting realistic goals that you care about.

Here I’ll show you how to set both goals and a unique system to reach them.

This exact same system is what allows me to work as a freelancer, work out, study online, cook my healthy meals, read around two books a month, run a business, and sleep 7-8 hours a day.

And, what’s most important, it helps me work towards my greatest goals and dream life every single day.

Now, bear in mind my life wasn’t always this way.

Everything felt wrong in my life before I decided to change.

That’s when I started developing a personal development and organization system that fits my life and helps me make progress constantly.

What to expect

I’ll walk you through the whole process from start to finish, including pictures and examples.

Plus, you’ll also find advice and tips that’ll help you hone in your vision and end up with a realistic, achievable, and inspiring plan.

Remember, you can always return to this post to recheck it if you need to refresh ideas and concepts.

If you follow this step-by-step tutorial, you’ll end up with a beautifully organized life that makes you feel inspired, motivated, and ready to take action every single day of your existence.

If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

Before we begin

Doing all this may seem overwhelming at first, and I’m sure it isn’t for everybody.

However, once you put it all together in a day or two, you won’t have to do a lot daily. It’ll help you save time instead.

It’s a time investment.

And the best thing is, you don’t have to wait for a week or a month to start seeing progress.

If you put this all together, you’ll start feeling great about yourself immediately.

You’ll feel refreshed, motivated, in tune with your deepest self, and there’s no better feeling than that one.

This is a very personal process that, as I said before, works for me because I’ve mixed several life organization methods and put them together to fit my exact lifestyle and preferences.

If you feel disorganized all the time and don’t have a system of your own yet, then this is a great one to try and see if you like it or not.

You can adapt it and make it work for you.

This system will help you set and organize:

  • big dreams
  • bucket lists
  • 3-year vision
  • yearly vision
  • yearly goals
  • monthly goals
  • weekly goals
  • daily goals
  • habits
  • things that inspire you
  • books you want to read and books you’ve read

This system consists of three (+ an optional one) excellent tools that work great on their own, but life gets magical when you put them together.

  • Trello: a fantastic tool that lets you organize projects easily using boards, lists, labels, and many other features.
  • Google Spreadsheets: this is what I use to create my simple habit tracker. I this post, you’ll find a free template and instructions on how to use it.
  • A notebook: practical to set weekly and daily goals as well as checklists for the day.
  • (Optional) An app to manage your to-do lists: If you prefer to go digital all the time, you can replace the notebook with an app. The one I like the most is Todoist, but there are many options, like Wunderlist and Google Tasks.

The Step-By-Step Guide to Design Your Life

1. Evaluate where you are now

You can’t plan for your future if you don’t really know where you’re standing in life right now.

And there’s no better way to assess your current life than by performing a simple but powerful life audit.

A life audit is a process that allows you to look at your life from several perspectives.

Basically, you organize your life into different areas and then ask yourself what you want to achieve or improve in those areas.

It’s great to break everything into small pieces because it makes it easier for you to know what you want to improve, what’s important to you, and what you’re doing right.

Once you’ve finished your life audit, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you like and what you don’t like about your life.

Look at that with honesty and ask yourself what you want to change.

Picture yourself living that dream life and then compare it to your current life:

  • Is it a lot different than it is now?
  • What’s the main difference between your current you and your future you?

These questions will help you set a solid starting point for your new life organization system.

If you get stuck here, spend some time knowing yourself better.

2. Start with the end in mind

Let your wild imagination run free and ask yourself how your dream, perfect life looks like.

Don’t be afraid to dream big. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I want to live in another city?
  • Would I like to change careers?
  • Do I see myself starting a family?

Another great way to do this exercise is by picturing your perfect day from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed.

For this exercise, it’s key to picture even the smallest details.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you do first thing in the morning?
  • What does your home look like?
  • What do you have for breakfast?
  • Who do you live with?
  • What smells can you perceive?
  • What do you wear?
  • What do you do for a living?

Go deep on these and more questions and write everything down.

Pay attention to what you feel when you picture yourself living that dream life.

Then, take notes of all the possible scenarios that come to mind when you think about your future and how they make you feel.

This is a great journaling exercise that’ll help you clarify your vision.

3. Use Trello to organize your entire life

Trello is a fantastic tool to organize projects visually.

It consists of Lists and cards you can move around to help you visualize projects, goals, tasks, etc.

Plus, it has many excellent features like an integrated calendar, stickers you can use to mark cards, and checklists inside every card.

It’s wonderful.

For this exercise, you’ll need to open a free Trello account if you don’t have one yet.

a) Create your dream life board

Create a board called LIFE or DREAM LIFE.

This is the board you’ll use to organize your biggest dreams and goals.

It’s the one that’ll keep you inspired to take action every single day. It’s a pretty big deal.

Set a nice picture as a background for it. To do it:

  1. Click on Show Menu (top right of the screen)
  2. Background. You’ll be able to select a great background from a wide range of cool pictures.

Your board should look more or less like this:

b) Create your dream life list

Now create a List called MY VISION.

This is the List you’re going to use to describe your perfect dream life; the one you wrote about on your life audit and the one you dream about all day long.

To create it:

  1. Click on Add List
  2. Enter a title (MY VISION, or anything else you prefer)
  3. Click on the green button that says Add List

Create a different card for every dream or vision you have:

  • Click on +Add a card, write and then click on the green button that says, Add Card.

Important things to keep in mind:

  1. Write everything in the present tense (Write “I own a house” instead of “I’ll own a house”)
  2. Be mindful of the line between dreaming big and being realistic. Dream big, but stay realistic.

I like to set as a cover a picture that represents my dream life as a whole. For example, I’d love to live in Manhattan for at least a year, so let’s set a picture of New York as the cover for this List.

Sometimes I change it, but it’s always a picture that keeps me inspired and in line with what I want to achieve.

To add an inspiring picture as a cover for this List:

  1. Create a card the way I explained before
  2. Click on the card. A pop-up should appear
  3. Click on Cover (last option on the ADD TO CARD list, located on the top right of the pop-up)
  4. Click on Add a cover

Then, drag that card and place it on the top of the List. You should end up with something like this:

Read all the cards on this List every single day.

c) Create your 3-year (or 5-year) life plan

A lot of people get scared when asked how they see themselves in 3 or 5 years.

We can’t predict the future.

However, just like you did in one of the previous steps when you thought about your dream life, you can now use that same imagination to picture yourself in 3 or 5 years.

Don’t be scared. Just try it for 5 minutes to see where your imagination takes you.

For this one, it’s not necessary to be super detailed.

Just think about one or two areas of your life you want to improve and start from there.

And, if you still have a hard time figuring out what you want to be doing be then, don’t worry. We’ve all been there. Take your time.

A great way to make this step easier is by journaling about your perfect, ideal day.

Remember that whatever you write isn’t set in stone. 

Our tastes and preferences are constantly changing. And that’s ok.

But it’s super important to have at least an idea of where we’d like our life to go.

Go to your Trello, create a list called “MY LIFE IN 3-5 YEARS,” and write 3-4 paragraphs describing your dream life in 3 or 5 years.

Remember to use the present tense (“I work as/in…”) instead of the future tense (“In 5 years I’ll be working as/in…”).

d) Create your biggest dreams list and bucket list

Now it’s time to get dreamy.

Create a list called “MY BIGGEST DREAMS + BUCKET LIST” and let your imagination run wild.

We all have crazy things we’d like to experience, own, see… I know for sure you have those too.

Don’t be afraid to dream big, and don’t worry, if you’re a little embarrassed to admit what your big dreams are, remember nobody else, but you have to check this List.

e) Create a new board + List called “my year”

This will be our second and last board for this exercise.

I prefer to create a different one, so I don’t end up with many lists on a single board.

Now, looking at your life audit and your dream life list, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I see myself by the end of THIS year?
  • What do I have to accomplish by the end of THIS year to reach my 3-5 years’ plan?

I know doing this might be hard for some. If that’s your case, don’t give up on yourself.

But don’t give up.

Engage with yourself and this exercise, and really go deep on your goals and wishes.

Use your imagination and if that’s not enough, just look at what people you admire did to get where they are now.

Make a new list on this new board and create cards that describe that vision in detail.

You’ll end up adding cards that resemble the ones under “MY VISION” (on the first board) but are like the child version of those.

This means this year’s goals are your big goals, only a little smaller because they’re smaller actions and milestones that’ll take you where you want to be in 3 to 5 years.

f) Split your life into categories and create Title Cards

To make this List of goals even more organized, we’re going to set different categories.

Create a card for every single area of your life you want to work on, like:

  • family
  • money
  • career
  • hobbies
  • self-care
  • mental health
  • etc.

The life audit exercise you did earlier should give you a good idea of the areas of your life you want to improve.

Since these cards are going to serve as titles, let’s call them “Title Cards.” I place mine with no particular order in mind, but you can set priorities here and place the most important to you first.

Besides the Title Cards for categories, we’re going to create one more called COMPLETED.

After you’ve done that, take every card you created earlier for every goal you have for the year and drag it to place it below the corresponding title.

As time goes by and you get tasks done, you’ll move the corresponding cards to place them under COMPLETED.

i) Use the checklist feature to organize smaller tasks

After you’ve filled every area, let’s use the checklist feature of the cards to organize the steps we need to follow to achieve that goal in particular.

Let’s say we want to plan a wedding.

To complete this step:

  1. Click on one card. A pop-up should appear.
  2. Click on Checklist (third option on the ADD TO CARD list, located on the top right of the pop-up)
  3. Title it “Steps”
  4. Add items on the checklist
design your life with Trello

What I love the most about the Checklist feature on Trello is that it has a progress bar to see how far you’ve come and that you can drag individual items and place them wherever you prefer.

Remember, there’s no need to place these steps in their logical order.

Just transfer what you wrote earlier into this checklist and if more ideas pop into your head, then write those too.

You’ll end up with something like this:

Use your best judgment here to arrange the steps, and don’t forget this isn’t set in stone.

You can always go back and add new steps, discard steps or rearrange them.

g) Create a List for the current month for monthly goals

With this List, you’ll do exactly what you did earlier with your yearly goals, but you’ll set monthly goals this time.

Create a new list and set the current month as the name of that List.

Go to the previous List, the yearly one, click on every Title Card’s (including COMPLETED) little pencil that appears on the bottom right, then Copy and then send a copy to the monthly card you just created.

Do it with every Title Card:

Now, take a look at the checklists you created for every major task on the previous step and ponder:

  • what can I take care of right now?
  • What needs to be postponed for later?
  • Is there any step I have no idea how to complete? (For those, you’ll have to do some research. Set “research” as an additional step.)

Then ask yourself:

  • What can I handle this month?
  • What needs to be done this month?
  • Which tasks are necessary but not urgent?

Create a different card for every sub-task, and again, place each of them below the corresponding Title Card.

Find your balance. Please, be realistic. And also, please, push yourself.

It’s great to live life without stress, but sometimes you’ll need to handle a bunch of things at once.

Don’t be scared to aim high, but also don’t try to achieve the impossible.

Setting too many tasks for a single month will leave you frustrated and overwhelmed.

You’ll end up with something like this:

h) Done

This step completes this part of the tutorial.

So far, you’ve:

  • described your dream life,
  • analyzed what you need to do to make that dream life come true,
  • broken your life down into categories,
  • set goals for the year,
  • organized the steps you need to take to reach those goals,
  • and set monthly goals.

Plus, you’re now familiar with Trello’s basic features.

5. Get inspired with your favorite quotes

A great way to feel inspired all year long is to place great quotes on your board.

Create a List called Quotes and add a card per quote.

These are some great quotes I like to read every day, like:

  • “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become” – James Clear

Find quotes that resonate with you and add them here.

6. Weekly planning

This type of planning (if not all) is better when it’s done from macro to micro:

You started thinking about your life as a whole, then about a 5-year plan, the current year, and the current month after that.

Following this logical order, now you have to plan your weeks and, of course, your days.

This is where you get to use the notebook (or the app!) I mentioned above.

If you prefer to go digital on this one as well, that’s great.

For this step, you can use apps like Todoist, Wunderlist, or even Google Keep.

However, writing by hand works wonders for many people because it helps take in all the information, so you don’t forget what you need to do.

This means you’ll end internalizing your to-do’s better.

If you’re not sure which method you prefer, I highly recommend you start with this one I’m about to explain.

If you find out you prefer to have everything on your phone, then switch to an app.

This is how I plan my weeks at the beginning of each month:

  1. Take your notebook, pick a blank page and write WEEK #X (instead of X, write which week of the month you’re in: the first, second, third, etc.)
  2. Have a look at your monthly cards on Trello. Of all those monthly tasks: Which one can you tackle first? Which are urgent?
  3. With that in mind, organize the tasks you’re doing on WEEK 1 and write them as a list under the title of that page in your notebook.

Then, set your weekly spread in your notebook. This is a simple weekly spread that does the work perfectly fine:

If you want to find more ideas for your weekly spread, simply look for “easy weekly spread ideas bullet journal” on Pinterest.

Look at that weekly List and schedule the subtasks for the week.

I like to set my whole month at once.

I just leave weeks #2, #3, #4 (and sometimes #5) blank and then fill them as the month goes on.

You can do so if you prefer, or you can set weekly planning sessions every Sunday.

7. Daily planning

For the smaller planning sessions of them all, this is what you need to do:

  1. Look at your weekly goals: Which ones can you take care of today or tomorrow? Schedule them.
  2. Reflect on what you got done and what you didn’t and
  3. Mark tasks as completed or reschedule accordingly.

You can do these planning sessions in the evening, right before bed, or as part of your morning routine.

Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, but the most important thing is that you do your planning.

Take a look at your Trello, at your cards, read your dream life vision, revise your weekly goals.

And always keep in mind that only you can take action when it comes to your life.

8. Monthly planning sessions

Something I love to do and find vital to my sanity is to sit 1-2 hours on the last Sunday of every month to reflect on everything I got done and everything I have left to do.

Usually, I do a small journaling session of about 10 minutes to write about how this month was for me.

This helps me set new steps to reach my goals, discard tasks or plans that aren’t working, etc.

I like to set “themes” for the month.

For example, if I know I need to learn more about growing my traffic, and I realize there is A LOT to learn in that area, then I set that goal as the primary goal for the month that’s about to start.

a) Schedule monthly planning sessions

It’s easy and refreshing (and necessary).

Just schedule 2-3 hours of your time during the last weekend of the month to plan your next steps.

During this monthly planning session:

  1. Take a deep look at your Trello and analyze what you did right this past month, what you could have done better, what you have/want to do next, what needs to get taken care of right now
  2. Create a new List on your “This is my year” board for the upcoming month
  3. Copy Title Cards and paste them to the new List
  4. Create new Title Cards if necessary
  5. Look at your subtasks on the yearly goals and analyze which ones you’re going to tackle next
  6. Create cards for the monthly tasks and place them under their corresponding category
  7. Read your dream life vision on Trello for the umpteenth time
  8. Set up your weeks lists and your weekly spread on your notebook
  9. Plan your next moves
  10. Feel inspired to take action

9. Setting habits

Now, listen.

I know you probably think you’ll never be able to follow up on this, so I’m going to share the secret tool and mind trick I use to get everything done, no matter how lazy I feel on a given day: habits.

Habits are micro-actions that you perform daily without giving it much thought, like brushing your teeth or taking daily showers. For better or worse, they can change your life.

The Routines & Habits Workbook is an affordable journaling tool that’ll help you figure out which habits to start and design a routine that works for you.

If you want to learn more about habits, check out James Clear’s blog. James Clear is a blogger and the best-selling author of Atomic Habits.

Once you’ve learned the basics of habits and how powerful they are, I’m sure you’ll want to make them part of your life.

And there’s no better way to do so than by using habit trackers.

What are habit trackers

Habit trackers are a record of your habits.

Some people come up with very complicated and intricate designs for their habit trackers, but basically, they look like this:

Source: @butterfliesandletters

Why are habit trackers important?

I used to roll my eyes whenever I saw one of those pretty Bullet Journal spreads showing people’s elaborate habit trackers.

Honestly, I thought you had to be pretty bored to keep a habit tracker. Why would someone do that? Boy, was I wrong.

Habit trackers are great for getting into new habits. If you work out every day, for example, you don’t need any help with that. 

However, if you just paid for a gym membership and are having a tough time waking up every morning to go, then a habit tracker may be the perfect tool for you to track your progress.

Once you go 3 or 4 times in a row, you’ll start feeling more and more confident.

According to James Clear:

Habit tracking is powerful for three reasons.

  1. It creates a visual cue that can remind you to act.
  2. It is motivating to see the progress you are making. You don’t want to break your streak.
  3. It feels satisfying to record your success at the moment.

FREE habit tracker template for Google Spreadsheets

This is where we use our good ol’ Google Spreadsheets.

They’re the bomb to organize a bunch of stuff, and one of my favorite ways to organize my habits and keep track of them is with Google Spreadsheets.

I designed this habit tracker, and you can grab it for free 🙂

I recommend you try it. It’s pretty simple to use.

How to use your habit tracker

Every single system to get organized relies on habits.

Now, take a closer look at your plans, goals, tasks, and subtasks.

Remember I just told you they depend on you being consistent? Well, that’s where habits come into play.

We’re going to be very clear about the habits we need to make all those goals happen as well as about the reason why that habit is so important.

This is key because sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day life that we may forget why we started this whole plan in the first plan or why we want to meditate every single day.

Look at your Trello and ask yourself:

  • Which daily or weekly habit can take me closer to these goals?
  • What do I need to do every day to achieve this goal in one month or one year?

What’s important about setting habits for your habit tracker is that you’re very specific about the exact activity you need to perform to mark that habit as completed on a given day.

So, instead of writing “Read,” you’ll need to write something like “Read ten pages a day” or “Read for 30 minutes straight”.

Write a specific title for your new habit, and right below it, write WHY you want to cultivate that particular habit.

Then, day after day, copy the corresponding block of color on the right column next to the habit and paste it below the corresponding date only if you actually “performed” the habit.

The single habit you can’t miss

There’s something you need to do every single day of the year, no matter what:

Open your LIFE board on Trello, so you don’t ever forget everything you want to do.

Reminding yourself constantly about what you want to do with your life is the ultimate and more efficient way to get things done.

Your cards on Trello will keep you inspired.

Conclusion

This whole thing we just created looks overwhelming for some, but if you look closely, it’s a life’s plan broken into tiny little steps you can complete.

And it’s pretty fun to do, right?

Just schedule around 2 hours to follow the tutorial step by step.

You’ll start noticing the benefits even before you finish this whole thing because it gives you a sense of direction, and that’s key to having a wonderful life.

Once you finish putting this all together, you won’t have to go through the whole process ever again. You’ll just need to perform some “maintenance” on your system, but it’ll be already set.

Plus, you’ll end up feeling ready to tackle any challenge you set up for yourself.

Your next step: work towards your goals every day. And use habits to your advantage.

Of course, there are going to be days when you’ll make little progress, while there are great days when you do a lot and feel accomplished and warm inside.

That’s perfectly normal. We’re only humans! So don’t get discouraged if you skip a task from time to time.

Having your dreams and goals beautifully organized like this in a single place helps you feel motivated, inspired, and organized. And that’s one of the best feelings ever because you know you’re not simply drifting through life.

About Trello, it’s a dream tool, in my opinion. I use it to organize the books I want to read, my blog’s content, ideas, and my whole life month by month.

I hope you liked this step-by-step tutorial to get your life together, and I hope it helps you as much as it helped me when I needed it the most.

Remember: Nobody’s going to do for you what you need to do for you to get your life together. So get started.

Similar Posts