Five Simple Ways to be More Intentional
Over the past few months, I have not been intentional with my time. I have often felt like I’m running on autopilot, more than I care to admit. I get up, I clean the kitchen (I am notorious for not doing it after dinner), feed the dog, make coffee, and scroll social media. For hours. Before I know it, it’s lunchtime, and I have completed absolutely nothing. Then I try to work frantically to play catch-up while helping my daughter with homeschool. I’m distracted by every little thing. Before I know it, it’s dinner time, and I’ve clocked a grand total of an hour and a half of work.
I know many of you reading this work outside of the home. I realize a leisurely morning on your cellphone with coffee in hand is not on your daily schedule. But I imagine that for many work-from-home professionals, my lazy, undisciplined day sounds eerily familiar.
Shifting My Intentions
Well, enough is enough, I say! For my first blog back after a month (or so) of the worthlessness mentioned above, I’m sharing five simple ways to be more intentional with your time and efforts. Being intentional means living with a purpose, and making decisions with a direction in mind. It’s getting off autopilot, and aligning your actions with your goals.
Before you implement my five easy steps to living a more intentional life, I recommend you take some time to decide what you want out of life. Sounds simple, right? Surprisingly, I find that many people don’t even take the time to dream about the life they truly want. We’re often so bogged down in the daily grind that we forget to look at the long game. I encourage you to take an entire day each year and write down your hopes and dreams for the next one, five, or ten years ahead. Then make smaller goals (yearly, monthly, weekly, daily) that will help you get to where you want to be. If you want to read a great book on the topic, check out Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy.
Ok, without further ado, here are five simple ways to be more intentional.
Being Mindful of the Media You Consume
When I was little, we had this fantastic Gaither Band cassette tape, where super cool kids and the robot, Colby, sang about Christian values. Hashtag wholesome, amiright? I must’ve listened to that tape a thousand times. That cassette contained a song that taught what you put into your mind is what comes out of your mouth. This song has a Biblical basis, mind you. Matthew 15:18 says, “But the things that come out of your mouth come from your heart” (CEV). Here are the lyrics to the song I’m referencing:
Input, output, what goes in is what comes out, input, output, that is what it’s all about.
Input, output, your mind is a computer whose, input, output, daily you must choose.
The message is; what we allow into our hearts and minds will ultimately manifest in how we speak, how we treat people, and how we view the world around us. Therefore, we should be mindful of what movies, social media, news, music, books, email subscriptions, and other various screen time we allow in. I don’t watch violent movies or horror movies for a number of reasons. One, call me crazy but, feeling terrified is not something I seek out. And two, I never want to become desensitized to that kind of human behavior. I want to be empathetic and loving towards my fellow human being, so I do my best to curate what intellectual material I consume to align with those goals.
Choosing How You Act and React
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said to someone, “I don’t want to hear what they did to make you act in this way. All you have control of is your actions and how you react to others.” I’d have at least $100. It is so easy to blame everyone and everything for the way your life and relationships have turned out. The truth is, however, that the victim mentality is so 2019, and it’s time to own up to your role in your life. You have the incredible ability to choose to not react out of habit or conditioned behavior. You can actively choose to act positively, and even – GASP! – react to negative things in positive ways! When I look at social media, I sometimes (always) wonder what happened to taking the high road?
You have opportunities each day to make the intentional choice to be the kind of person you want to be. We can deliberately choose to leave counterproductive, self-sabotaging, satisfying-in-the-moment-but-overall-detrimental behaviors in the past and decide how we act and react. How empowering to know we no longer have to repeat negative behavioral cycles!
Paying Attention to Where Your Money Goes
Matthew 6:21 says, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (NLT). In layman’s terms: If you want to know where your priorities really lie, follow the money. How will this help you live more intentionally? Well, it will help you gain some awareness, which in turn, can help you course-correct if necessary. For example, years ago, my husband and I said we would pay off debt, but we were eating out at restaurants at least a half-dozen times each week. Our priorities were clearly not where we said they were (paying off debt). Instead, our priority seemed to be filling our bellies with delicious food. When you can take a hard look at your finances, you can see where your goals and your actions don’t line up, and you can make the necessary changes to course-correct.
Regularly Reminding Yourself of the Life You Desire
It is ever so easy to lose sight of the life you want in the mundane of every day. This is why I believe it is so important to regularly remind ourselves of the “why” to maintain intention in our actions. When your dream is so fresh and ever-present in your mind, it is much easier to keep a laser-like focus on your goals. This is the reasoning behind some people pasting photos of fitness models on their fridges when they’re trying to get in shape. The fit bodies remind them of their true intentions (to get into shape) when cravings tempt their resolve. When I was trying to stick to a long term juice fast a few years ago, I watched documentaries on cleansing, juicing, or detoxing almost every day to remind myself why I was doing what I was doing. I’m happy to report I made it eighteen days! I was intentional about encouraging myself, so I was able to meet my goal.
Spend time each week reading through the goals you’ve written down for the current year or spend time looking at the blueprints for the home you’re saving up to build (or whatever it may be). It is important to be intentional with your time to consistently make progress and not just coast on auto-pilot and fall back into old patterns.
Being Open to Learning
I am a talker. I’m from the Midwest, and we strike up conversations with everyone we come in contact with. It’s just the way we are. While talking comes naturally to me, listening? Not so much. Through the years, I’ve had to really be intentional at building my listening skills, and listen to hear and not listen to respond. There is probably some sort of personality enneagram that says that I add my personal experiences to every story to relate to others so that they feel empathized with. I’m not just trying to make it about me, but I realize most people don’t see it that way. Through deliberate work, I’ve become more of an intentional listener. Through the years, I have been known to get extensive, often very personal information from complete strangers within minutes of starting a conversation. I guess I just have that “tell me your life story in every cringy detail” face because it happens to me all the time. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy it (most of the time).
Why do I tell you this? Because it is one of the many ways that I remain open to learning about the world and people around me. When we stay open to learning, we continue to grow and improve. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “When you know better, you do better.” The more you learn about the world and people around you, the more self-awareness you gain, which allows you to be intentional about your interaction with the world. You can’t move forward with intention if you have no idea what you’re doing in the first place. By remaining open to learning, you will gain more profound convictions, which will drive you to be more intentional with your actions.
Bonus Tip: Slowing Down
This world races at a million miles a second. We hear about breaking news from anywhere in the world within minutes of it happening. We are constantly bombarded with information from every direction, and it is a whirlwind that is so easy to get swept up in, but I encourage you to slow down. Refocus. Determine what is important to you and focus on those things. Be intentional with your time, with your actions, and with your interactions.
I hope you enjoyed my five simple ways to be more intentional with your time and efforts. Remember, being intentional means living with a purpose, making decisions with a direction in mind, and getting off autopilot to align your actions with your goals. With some simple reflection and some grit, I have full confidence that we can all live a life of intention.
About the Author
Melanie Lemus is the Communications Specialist for Vision to Purpose providing self-help, business, and career-focused topics.
About Vision to Purpose
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