I pour a cold glass of water, find a comfy spot to sit, and start to write. I pull out my journal and watch the ink flow onto the paper resting on my lap. For a few minutes, I immerse myself in the task. Then, I check my phone, get up to make my kids a snack, and stare out the window.
I set aside thirty minutes to jot down my thoughts but only write for five of them. I’m frustrated. I want to write more often but rarely get around to it. The truth is, I have no excuse. I allow myself to get distracted by other things.
As a software engineer, I worked diligently to complete my objectives. I need that same focus now. I need to be intentional with my time and energy.
What Does It Mean to Be Intentional?
What does it mean to be intentional? To be intentional, we stop reacting to the events of our lives and instead take control of them. Rather than wandering through the day without a sense of purpose or direction, we set a proper course to complete tasks and center our effectiveness.
When we live intentionally, we make deliberate decisions each day that help us feel content and satisfied. As a result, we stop wasting time and instead start making the most of it. Each time we actively take control, we find ourselves immersed in a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
To be intentional, we must pause, take a deep breath, and stop living on autopilot. Next, we must recognize that life is made up of a series of choices. Thankfully, we have the authority to define and embrace those choices. So now is the time to sit back and silently observe our actions. Then ask ourselves, “Do our decisions and choices line up with our beliefs?”
Let’s say you want to live a healthier lifestyle. Do you carve out time to go to the gym? Maybe you want to form deep connections with family and friends, but spend all your spare time working. Perhaps, you want to become a stay-at-home parent, but instead, spend all of your excess cash in the clearance section of Target.
How do we listen to the little voice in our head that wants more out of life? It begins by learning to be intentional about life. So, how can we learn to live intentionally? Here is what I’ve discovered so far.
Be Intentional With Your Goals
First, we need to decide what to be intentional about. What do you want out of life? Do you want to build your own business, grow your career, become a stay-at-home parent, or leave it all behind for a life of adventure and intrigue?
Some people want to run a successful business, while others want to spend time with their kids or travel the globe. Your goals are yours to pick and choose. When evaluating your options think long and hard about your objectives, not the ones imposed upon you by well-meaning parents, friends, or the rest of society.
To begin this process, you have to define success for yourself. Don’t let someone else’s idea of achievement become your own.
If you still aren’t sure where to focus your energy, imagine yourself as a one-hundred-year-old. When you reach that age, will you have regrets? If so, dig deeper into those concerns. Ask your heart where it wants to go and what it wants more than anything.
To be intentional, you have to focus your time and attention on the things that matter most to you. What brings you joy? What makes you feel rested, relaxed, or content? If you aren’t sure, take some time to reflect on what you want out of life. Then, once you discover your passions and objectives, you can begin to focus on them.
Make a plan to figure out what you want out of life. Then take small actions to get you there.
To be intentional with your time, energy, and money, you have to figure out what is most important. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, you cannot take measurable strides to get there.
Remember, if you don’t act with intention, you are still making choices. You are choosing the path of least resistance. You are choosing to allow the river of life to carry you downstream. But wouldn’t you rather grab a paddle and set a course?
No matter what goal you want to reach, you have to set a course to achieve it. We inherently know this truth, yet we often ignore it. For example, if you want to run a marathon, you have to train for it. You can’t spend months before the race sitting on the couch watching Netflix and expect to run for miles on race day. It’s the same thing with every other goal in life.
First, you have to be intentional with your time, energy, and resources; you have to set time on your calendar to prepare for it.
Be Intentional With Your Time
To be intentional with your time, you’ll need to know how you spend it. If you aren’t sure, try tracking the minutes in your day. Write down the tasks you completed in fifteen or thirty minutes intervals and be honest with yourself. That means writing down the four hours of Netflix shows you watched or the amount of time you stared at social media.
Then review your time tracking journal to determine what to tweak. How do you feel looking over your entries? Do the activities in your day line up with your hopes and dreams? Are they focused on your priorities?
To be intentional, you need to align your tasks with your beliefs, values, and passions. Does your journal reflect what’s important to you?
If it doesn’t, it’s time to rework your schedule. After filling out your diary for a few days, figure out what to cut and what to expand.
Why We All Need Schedules
To be intentional with your time, it’s essential to make choices rather than letting things happen as they may. So instead of reacting to events as they occur, you will deliberately decide how to spend the minutes that make up your day.
Being intentional with your time means different things to different people. For example, some people need an up-to-the-minute all-day schedule jam-packed with events that tell them when to wake up, eat, exercise, and sleep. Others need time carved out for specific tasks.
Do you require one hour to write in the morning before your family wakes up, two hours to hash out business ideas, or five minutes to meditate before climbing out of bed?
The way you set up your calendar doesn’t matter. What matters is carving out a specific amount of time to complete your tasks and focus on your core values.
In some cases, it helps to create a specific routine to ensure you complete each task. Do you prefer to exercise every morning before starting work, or would you rather alter your practices? It would be best to find the patterns that work for you. Experiment with the days of the week and the times too.
When scheduling your tasks, pay attention to your energy levels. Some of us feel creative first thing in the morning, while others don’t get their creative juices moving until night sets in.
Don’t force yourself to stick to a schedule that doesn’t match your circadian rhythms. I hate to wake up early in the morning. If I force myself to wake up to complete a task, I’m likely to fail. I’m better off carving out time at a later point in the day.
Being intentional with your time doesn’t mean you have to be rigid with your schedule. On the contrary, you can take a more relaxed approach to your day as long as you set aside time to focus on the tasks and priorities that matter to you. If you don’t carve out chunks of time, you will get distracted and waste it.
Create small goals for the time you allot. For example, say you’ll focus on gathering ten new ideas for your business, talk to your parents for thirty minutes, or reconnect with a business partner on your way home from work.
Find ways to remove distractions so you can focus. For example, close all of your browser tabs, disable notifications and send your kids out of the room. I’ve started writing with pen and paper, so I’m not distracted by everything on my computer.
Be Intentional With Your Task List
While being intentional with your time is necessary to accomplish your goals, so is being intentional with your task list. First, figure out what you want to achieve each day. Then create small steps to reach those goals.
If you’re going to make a million-dollar blog, set aside time to write posts, speed up your pages, or connect with your mastermind group.
If you want to grow your business, reach out to other successful business owners, sketch out a plan to acquire new contracts, or revisit your marketing strategy.
Divide each of these tasks into small segments of time. Ideally, you will complete a given task within the allotted time frame.
Most people think of tasks as work-oriented events, but add social and emotional goals to your list too. Be intentional with time outside of work and side hustles. For example, make time to read to your kids, snuggle with your spouse or sit with a cup of tea after a hard day.
Before going to sleep each night, review your task list. Did you feel good about the tasks you completed? Do you wish you checked off more of them? Do you feel excited and fulfilled or rushed or annoyed? Use this time to tweak tomorrow’s to-do list.
Be Intentional With Relaxation
When filling out your schedule, make sure to include relaxation too. It’s essential to set aside time for rest. By allocating time, you won’t feel guilty for watching television or scrolling on social media.
Feel free to lay on the couch and let your mind wander, but set a timer before you begin. Then, when the timer goes off, move on to a more productive goal you wanted to accomplish.
That goal can be more relaxation but in a different form. Go for a walk, take a bath, draw, write, or read. Do whatever helps you relax in a way that makes you feel good.
Be Intentional In Your Relationships
Being intentional in your relationships means taking the time and energy to strengthen them. Think about the people in your life right now and the people from your past that you miss. Then ask yourself why these relationships were meaningful to you. Foster those relationships that fill you with warmth and joy.
You don’t have to spend two hours talking to someone on the phone. Instead, tell people you remember a funny event that happened or that you passed by a place you used to frequent and thought of them.
Strengthen the relationships worth fostering and find ways to limit or abandon the ties that don’t support you or your beliefs.
Send a simple text message to see how someone is doing or a quick email. If you have the time and energy, write a letter to an older relative or a friend halfway around the world. Use your limited time on this planet to form connections with those around you.
When you reach out to others, be intentional with your words. Speak carefully to others. Learn to speak from a place of positivity when you can. Praise those who should be commended and thank others who help you in small ways.
Being intentional with your relationships is just as important, if not more important, than being intentional with your work and exercise goals.
Be Intentional With Your Energy
It’s easy to allow negative people and ideas to cloud our minds. Be intentional with the amount of information you read and search for positive stories when the world feels dark and dreary. Find a support group if you need one, and surround yourself with friends who believe in you.
When you are struggling with ideas or confidence, your friends and acquaintances can help lift your spirits. Don’t waste your time comparing yourself to others. Instead, take time to believe in yourself.
Be intentional with your emotions and spread kindness when you can.
Be Intentional With Your Money
Lots of us spend our lives chasing the all-mighty dollar. We think that rooms full of possessions will make us happy and bring us long-lasting joy. We define our success by promotions and salaries yet feel miserable in the process of filling our bank accounts.
To achieve wealth, you have to recognize the balance between earning and saving. Most of us give up our time in exchange for money. We go to work each day to support ourselves and our lifestyles. But is that act intentional? Do you enjoy your job? Can you make it more enjoyable? Can you align your passions and values with your career?
To be intentional with money, you’ll need to calculate the amount of time it takes to buy the items you covet. Then ask yourself if you are willing to work a few extra years to buy expensive toys. Are you ready to work even longer to buy the largest house in the neighborhood? Do the items you covet align with your values?
Intentional living involves thinking carefully about how you spend your money, rather than pulling out your wallet whenever you want to buy something new.
Most of us think we need more stuff in our lives, but we need fewer possessions and more joy in reality.
To be intentional with our lives, we must think carefully about the decisions we make each day. Life may seem like a series of random events, but we can control many of the things that happen on any given day.
To accomplish our goals, we must take small steps towards them. We can do this by carving out space, time, and energy.
Why should we be intentional? Because we want to want to live wholly and happily. We don’t want to waste the hours in our day. Instead, we want to picture our one-hundred-year-old selves and dream of a life where we take advantage of our time. Most of us aspire to live a life without regrets. To accomplish that goal, we have to be intentional.