When I talk about how I stay organized in my personal life, I realize that list can be a mile long and could very well cover any and all areas of my life. I’ll give you fair warning here, too: this blogpost will inevitably overlap with some previous organization posts, as well as a few that are still yet to come. However, one theme that is extremely important in the Ray household is this: personal responsibility. Today I will endeavor to explain how I take personal responsibility for myself in the following areas: scheduling, self-education, fitness/health, my personal belongings, and resting. I think in order to make a household, marriage, and simply a fulfilling life work, it is up to ME to do just that.  We live in a culture that loves to blame others for our unhappiness, so my heart in writing this post is to encourage you to take responsibility for you! Don’t blame your spouse, your friends, your family.

1. Scheduling

I schedule all of my daily activities first thing in the morning. I love Whitney English’s Day Designer and Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner because they offer 2 things that I make use of every day:

1. An hourly schedule
2. A daily to do list

(Photo by Shay Cochrane)

This allows me to prioritize everything first thing in the morning, so I get the most important things accomplished for the day!

I use iCal for my appointments. This way I can glance at my phone and know what appointments are happening that day/week, without having to carry my Planner around with me everywhere I go. I also sync my ShootQ photography calendar with my iCal, so all of my weddings and sessions appear at a glance, all in the same place!

I have my iCal color coded into  different categories:

Home (yellow)
Work (green)
Church (personal)
Will’s financial coaching schedule (blue)
NRP team booked shoots (gray)


This helps me glance over my week and know exactly what’s coming up. I look at my iCal every Sunday and talk over what is happening the upcoming week with Will. Then I glance at iCal every day at the end of each day so I know how to plan for the following day!

2. Self-education

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a day, you probably know how much I love and value reading. I’m not the fastest reader, and I haven’t been a reader my whole life. But over the recent years, I’ve grown a love for reading that I thought I’d never have. I can honestly say I have learned more important and applicable life lessons reading than I ever learned in college. It’s SO important to take that responsibility for that yourself, because guess what? No one can read for you!

To stay organized with my reading, I make a long list of books I want to read in Wunderlist, and I add to it whenever I hear a good book recommendation from a friend. I create a yearly book list at the beginning of each year, in hopes of reaching my reading goals and keeping a well balanced booklist going.

Another way I love to keep my mind sharp is listening to Podcasts. My favorites include Entreleadership (business), Michael Hyatt (leadership), Dr. Axe (health), Dave Ramsey (finances), and Elevation (faith). That one sentence is worth this entire blogpost. Honestly, if you choose only one of those podcasts and begin listening, you’re life will be better for it!

Nothing nothing nothing is more valuable than continuing your education, and I don’t mean school! My goal is to be a student of life, to listen to those who have gone before me, to embrace their wisdom. In addition to reading and podcasts, I attend workshops that will push and inspire me to be my best self. I’ve gone to several over the years, and I’m now speaking at many of them. My business and personal life would not be the same if it weren’t for these!  This year I am so excited to participate and speak at Making Things Happen, The Shine Conference : a women’s retreat at my church this weekend, the Influence Conference and Amber Housley Inspired.  Can’t go to a retreat? Check out the Influence Network – another favorite of mine – that regularly offers classes on life and faith. Good stuff, I tell you!

3. Fitness & Health

Never stop learning in regards to your health. My first advice is to read, to gain as much knowledge as you can, to hire a professional if you need to. (My own health journey began after hiring Coach Bob to train me for my first half marathon, and it completely changed my life.)  Coaches help you stay organized and on a track for wellness, while also teaching you as you go. Let me warn you – there are so many opinions out there on health and wellness, it can be very overwhelming. There are a million multi-level marketing companies and books and opinions out there. My best advice is to sit down with someone who is healthy and fit – someone that you trust, who is healthy, who knows what they are doing – and simply ask them what they believe about fitness and diet, then go from there.  Let your knowledge fuel your health decisions – don’t just sign up for things on a whim!

The best way to stay organized and get your butt moving is to simply pick a race and put it on the calendar! When I decided to run a half marathon in 2012, I was NOT a runner. The 2 things that kept me on track and healthy? My coach and the date on the calendar. I KNEW I couldn’t miss a day of training when that half marathon was staring back at me in July of that year and when I knew my coach would be checking in on me every week for a training update.

(At the Crystal Coast Half Marathon: Feb 2013)

Staying organized with what we eat takes deliberate planning, and again, it all stems from what we believe about the food we eat! It’s also tied into our finances, since we operate on a monthly budget for groceries. My steps for planning for our menu and staying healthy looks a like this:

1. Set the food budget for that month
2. Choose new meals I want to try (recipes from friends and healthy cookbooks are where I get most of my ideas. Pinterest is great too!)
3. Make a thorough list (and never buy things on impulse or shop when you’re hungry!)
4. Shop weekly for healthy staples to and meal ingredients

Will eats pretty much anything and I’m a pescetarian, so I try to change things up a bit and cook meat for him when I can so he doesn’t feel too deprived! Thankfully we love leftovers and he is not picky, and we both love to try new things! The important thing to remember is that every family is different, but healthy living takes a lot of learning, intentional planning, and self discipline. But in the end, it’s worth it to stay organized and focused.

4. My belongings

Ok, I’m going to try to tackle this from largest to smallest. Ready?

Household – Keeping our home organized is definitely a joint effort. Will and I regularly discuss and decide on things we want to keep vs. things we want to get rid of. (You can read more about our process here.) However, there a few things that are my responsibility: the pantry & fridge, my clothing, and my home studio. Will’s household organization responsibilities include his clothing and the garage. Everything else we do together. I won’t get into how we organize each, but I simply wanted to point out the fact that it’s important to communicate and take responsibility for different areas when you’re married. Otherwise, you’ll assume the other person should do it. Or you might assume that they don’t want you to mess with it, when that might not be true! In short, communicate about your households area of organization, then take charge of them.

Car – I love keeping my car cleaned out. Here’s how I do it:

– I organize my glove compartment by only keeping the following items: extra napkins, tissues, car manual, tire pressure gauge, car air fresheners, plastic forks, spoons, and straws. (I can’t tell you how often I’ve used these extras!)
– I organize my middle console by only keeping the following items: iPhone charger, pens, notepad, CDs, and a ziploc bag containing all the important documents on hand (insurance, AAA card, registration)
– I take stuff with me. If there’s ever something in my car (groceries, an extra sweatshirt, empty cups, etc), I always take it inside with me to keep the clutter out.
– Autobell. Enough said.

Clothing – I clean out my side of the closet every other month.

Purse – I keep the following items in my purse. I try to clean out my purse of receipts and extras at least once a week!


– My favorite pens (thanks to Callie, I’m hooked!)
– Wallet clutch (I can grab this on the go and put my phone and chapstick inside, if I don’t feel like carrying a big purse)
– Headphones
– Envelopes
Burts bees
Grandma’s hand lotion
– Gum

5. Resting

This is last, but probably most important. Different people struggle with different things, and I’ll be the first to tell you that resting is my weakness. I go too hard sometimes, planning too much, saying yes to everything. Over the years, I’ve learned how vital it is to plan vacations, Sabbaths, and regular time for myself. If I don’t organize them early on, I’ll burn out, period.

Will and I talk through the vacations we will take in the beginning of the year, and we block off those dates in our calendars. We also leave a few “open days” on our calendars to fill with everyday adventures, as my friend Emily calls it!

Each week, I choose 1 day to take a sabbath – usually Fridays. I do everything in my power to complete all of my work prior to this day, so I can fully rest and not feel the need to check my emails, prepare equipment, or do anything work-related. This is a big time challenge for someone who works from home, but every time I successfully embrace a day of rest, I am so grateful I did!

Making time for myself daily is also vital. I’ve established my morning routine as a regular part of my day, so I take 1-2 hours each morning to rest on the couch, to read, to drink coffee, to simply enjoy the things I love. I start every day like this! I feel rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to tackle my day. I also take “me time” when I exercise. Hot yoga and running are my go-to workouts. Writing them into my schedule in the beginning of the week is how I make sure I accomplish them!


Are there any other areas of my personal life you’d like to hear about? How do you stay organized personally?

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[…] of giving up on books instead of seeing them through to the end. After reading these posts from Nancy and Val, I want to develop the discipline of reading a little bit every day because there are so […]

Couldn’t agree more with you about podcasts! With a 40 minute/day commute, I can usually get in one podcast each day, and it’s such a good use of time that otherwise would be wasted. I have a rotation of sermons that I listen to (Kings Church, First Baptist Asheville, Ginghamsburg, Redeemer Presbyterian, Church of the Resurrection, Church of the City), Entreleadership, Planet Money, EconTalk, and Freakonomics.
Also, great point about planning out vacations at the beginning of the year. So many of my coworkers have time off sneak up on them with no plan to take full advantage of them. What a waste!

Nancy, what a fantastic reminder on personal responsibility…“We live in a culture that loves to blame others for our unhappiness, so my heart in writing this post is to encourage you to take responsibility for you! Don’t blame your spouse, your friends, your family.” I love this. Thank you for sharing and encouraging. I identify with a lot of your habits (and am pleased with that reassurance). One of my key things is preparing food for the week ahead – 5 nutritious, cooked meals (that I eat as my lunch meal; dinner is a lighter meal), prepared and portioned out on Saturday or Sunday, ready for the working week. (I know when this isn’t done, food intake takes a little dive). Planning and writing shopping lists, and having a set shopping day helps immeasurably too.

Love this post, friend! It’s so fascinating to hear how others tend to their priorities, even others you know well. Looking forward to the next post, too – I would love to hear (if you want to share) specifically what you write in your prayer journal. Do you write to God, like in a prayer format? Do you write down thoughts about what you’re praying for? This is something I’ve tried over the years but feel I still have a lot of room for improvement/trying new things! xo!


I love reading this series and I can’t wait to hear about your organization in your spiritual life. I would love to know how you keep your kitchen organized…Somehow, its the only room that I can’t seem to keep clutter free!

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