Intentional days create a life on purpose.
Time – it’s our most precious resource.
Think about it. Death is the only given in this life. The odds of you being born at all are incredibly slim. Each morning that you wake up and are still breathing is a miracle in itself.
So why is it that time is also the thing you’re most likely to squander?
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to see how you can become sidetracked by a million and one things. And, even more concerningly, it’s not something that you’ve probably even thought about before as an issue… because no one ever taught you the importance of being intentional with your time.
If you’re feeling stressed, burnt out or unfulfilled in life, then taking stock of how you’re spending your time – and how this falls short of the life you’d like to lead – is without a doubt the best thing you can do to make a positive change.
I hope that this post helps you to honestly (and perhaps even uncomfortably) assess where you find yourself, as well as giving you strategies to build an intentional life that is not only more considered, but a reflection of what truly matters to you.
Why It’s Essential to Be Intentional With Your Time
It seems pretty obvious, but I promise you it’s not a trick question!
Being intentional means eliminating all the distractions, non-essentials and clutter from your schedule (and cupboards!), so that you can create more room for the things which are important to you. Using your time intentionally won’t miraculously solve all your problems, but what it will do is help you to feel a sense of purpose and direction – even when times are hard.
Most of us (and I’ve been totally guilty of this by the way) go through life at the mercy of the clock – we don’t have enough hours in the day, time slips through our fingers, or it’s not on our side.
Whilst no one is immune to the steady march of time, you do have a choice when it comes to using your time wisely or unwisely. In order to design your life so that it’s on your own terms, you need to make a conscious effort to stay focused with purposeful actions that align with your values, every single day.
Remember – whilst a few wasted minutes here and there on social media may not seem like much of an issue in the moment, all of your unintentional moments add up over the course of a week, a month, a year.
Protect your time fiercely because no one else is going to do it for you and the consequences are like a slow-killing poison.
Don’t get to the end of your life and wish you’d spent the time you had differently.
3 Unintentional Profiles: Do You Recognise Yourself?
The best way to become more intentional is to do some serious self-reflection, which means diagnosing the root cause of the problem.
Sometimes, it’s obvious that you’re not using your time intentionally. But other times, even a highly productive person can completely lose sight of the important things.
The following profiles are designed as tools to help you identify specific traits within yourself, but this doesn’t mean a blanket one-size-fits-all approach. For instance, I can see elements of my past self in all of these areas! The aim is rather to bring awareness to common issues with our 21st-century lifestyles, so that you can begin the inner work to overcome them.
1. The Distracted Scroller
The distracted scroller is… well, probably pausing right now to check their phone.
However, is it really any wonder when brands are bombarding you 24/7 with exclusive discounts that end tomorrow, you’ve got a new Whatsapp notification, and social media algorithms are designed to keep you addicted to your screen?
In the short term, you get the immediate dopamine fix of clickbait distraction. But long-term, you trade a life of active creation for one of (often shallow and trashy) consumption, topped off with a mountain of impulse purchases that just end up cluttering your space.
What it looks like
Starting the day scrolling Instagram in bed
Going down YouTube rabbit hole of no return and resurfacing 2 hours later
Scouring 50 pages of ASOS for the perfect pair of jeans at 11 pm
Obsessively checking the number of Likes on your latest profile picture every 2 minutes
How it feels
Anxiety, stress, urgency
Pressure to keep up with the Jones’s
An underlying sense of lack and unworthiness
2. The People Pleaser
On the surface of it, people pleasers appear as though they’ve got it all together. Master of the to-do list, the perfect employee, and getting dinner on the table reliably at 5 pm every night, there is no task too big or small for this martyr.
The issue is that they have no boundaries around their time and get pulled from pillar to post with all the unrealistic expectations they heap on themselves. They think that if they just work a little harder or give a teensy bit more, everything will suddenly fall into alignment and all their blood, sweat and tears will have been worth it.
Hint: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. It quickly becomes a vicious cycle.
What it looks like
A daily task list you can’t remember ever getting to the end of
Multitasking – hell, you’d happily multitask in your sleep if you could
Finding it virtually impossible to say ‘no’
Suffering in silence rather than asking for help
How it feels
Burnout, overwhelm, blaming others
Guilt over ‘me’ time or downtime
Inability to appreciate the little things
3. The Comfort Seeker
In today’s world, it’s not difficult to spot the comfort seekers.
Characterised by aimless drifting and living paycheck to paycheck, they hope to escape the humdrum of their boring lives by planning their next big night out or summer holiday lying on a beach.
They can’t stand being on their own for more than five minutes because it might mean having to look at themselves a little too closely. What they don’t realise is that their relentless pursuit of comfort and pleasure is stifling them and making their comfort zone smaller and smaller.
What it looks like
Hitting the snooze button 3 times before rolling out of bed late for work
Vegging out in front of trash TV after a long day
Escaping life by living for the weekend and holidays
Finding solace in takeaways, junk food and alcohol
How it feels
Comfortable, numb, boring
Highs and lows of energy – no middle ground
A gnawing sense of unfulfillment
Self-Reflective Questions to Understand Your Own Relationship With Time
Perhaps you slot neatly into one of the profiles above and it’s a wakeup call to become more intentional with your time. Or maybe it’s not so clear-cut, but something definitely feels slightly out of sync.
To better understand your own relationship with time, allow yourself a few quiet moments (preferably with a nice cup of tea) to honestly reflect and answer the below questions – no judgement here!
What percentage of your time is currently reserved for the things YOU want to do? (Hint: not what your partner, kids, family or friends want to do)
Is your daily schedule proactively designed, reactively inherited, or have you just never really stopped to consider it before?
Do you get to the end of the day and feel satisfied with what you’ve achieved? Are you fulfilled at a deep level?
Is your life jam-packed with things you have to do? Who made these rules in the first place? Can you reassess them?
What does a day look like for the best version of yourself? How do they spend their time and what does their daily routine entail?
Does the way you’re spending your time today support where you want to be in 5 years’ time?
What are your values and how do you keep yourself accountable to them on a daily basis?
10 Ways to Be More Intentional With Your Time
There are many ways to be intentional, so I’ve tried to gather together my top suggestions in the list below. These are the ones which I’ve found really move the needle the most in my own life, and have helped me to quite literally transform from procrastinating, distracted and unfulfilled to feeling more of a sense of focus and purpose each day.
1. Know what’s important
First and foremost, let’s be clear that being intentional with your time doesn’t necessarily equate to getting more done; it’s about concentrating on the right things. And surprisingly, that can often mean doing less. You’ve got to understand your values and what you want out of life to boil things right down to the essentials.
Everything – and I mean everything – becomes a thousand times simpler once you’ve done my crucial personal values exercise. If you know what’s important to you, it’s easier to stop wasting valuable time because it’s clear what you need to prioritise.
If you’re not honouring what’s important to you, then you’ll never feel truly fulfilled. Period.
The problem is that most of us go through life never having been taught the importance of this. Whether it’s family, creativity, freedom or career, you can use your value system as a compass to guide you. Make sure to intentionally carve out time for all the things that light you up.
2. Restrict your screen time
It doesn’t matter whether your weakness is watching TV or scrolling TikTok – if you know that you’re easily distracted and consistently lose track of time passively consuming mindless crap… then it’s high time to do something about it.
It can be incredibly helpful to spend a week simply tracking how much time you waste on a daily basis. If your screen time adds up to a few hours a day, multiply this by a week, a month, or even a year to put this wasted time into perspective. Think of all the other things you could be doing with it!
I get it though – it’s not that easy when you’re addicted. If you’re still struggling, then consider tough love. Lock down your social media between certain times or install an app which prompts you whether you really want to go ahead. This mindful moment to pause and become self-aware can sometimes be all you need to make a better decision.
3. Create systems
Automated systems might sound (dare I say it) a bit boring, but hear me out!
If you haven’t read James Clear’s Atomic Habits, then you need to get on it ASAP! In it, he discusses how you can build healthy habits that become so automatic, you don’t have to rely on willpower or motivation anymore – and they will supercharge your days with intention.
For instance, create a morning routine that eliminates decision fatigue and sets you up for success before the rest of the world is even out of bed. Know your gym days. Make a cleaning schedule that means you keep on top of your chores and aren’t having a manic deep-clean of the bathroom at 1 am (just me?).
As an adult, you can choose to design your days in whichever way you please, so why not put as much as possible on autopilot that will support you to live your best life?
4. Set an intention for the day
Everything starts with the thoughts you think, so articulating them or writing them down is an even more powerful step. In fact, studies have shown that students who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them.
By setting an intention for the day, you focus your mind and efforts on this task or idea. For example, consider doing yoga or meditating on a single word first thing in the morning. You could also write down your intention for the day in your journal – perhaps something tangible like the number one priority on your to-do list.
I’ve personally found that actively guiding myself in this way is a powerful tool that keeps me on course throughout the rest of my day.
5. Batch your tasks
Whether you’re answering emails or cooking your weeknight dinners, you can be intentional with your time by grouping similar tasks in designated time slots. This saves time and makes you instantly more productive – freeing up valuable time for more of the things which matter.
6. Prep the night before
You’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of a morning routine, but what about the way in which you spend your evenings? Do they run away from you or do you use this time intentionally?
I find that you can hack your morning by doing just a little bit of prep work the night before with an intentional evening routine. Set a timer an hour before bed and complete some simple tasks like getting your clothes ready for the next day, putting the dishwasher on, and ensuring you go to bed with a clean sink.
Try it – I promise it makes all the difference!
7. Learn to say ‘no’
As we’ve discussed, bringing more intentionality to your life is as much about what you choose to eliminate as what you choose to do. If you’re the kind of person who regularly completes lots of unimportant tasks very well or has an overwhelming calendar and to-do list, then you’re likely feeling stuck and burnt out.
Where there are relationships that aren’t serving you anymore or commitments that just don’t add any value, then be ruthless around your time, set boundaries, and practice saying ‘no’. If you’re a classic people pleaser, then this may feel like the hardest thing in the world, but it will get easier and feel more empowering once you start!
8. Stop multitasking
We live in a world where multitasking isn’t just expected – it’s both encouraged and praised. If you’re not trying to do a million things at once and bending yourself into a pretzel to get everything done in a day, then the message you start to internalise is that you’re failing.
The problem with this method is that you end up giving only a limited amount of your full energy and attention to the task at hand, which often results in a half-arsed job. It also means that you rarely allow yourself to get completely engrossed in something.
To appreciate the present moment and the little things in life, try slowing down and concentrating purely on the thing in front of you. Whether it’s savouring each mouthful of a meal, playing a board game with your family or taking some time for quiet self-reflection at the end of the day, slowing down and practising mindfulness will not only improve your personal relationships – ironically, you’ll probably find you get more done.
9. Use a timer
If you find that you regularly waste time, then this handy little hack is the one for you!
Setting a timer seems so simple yet it has been a game-changer for me. It’s amazing how quickly you can quickly fritter away half an hour here and there scrolling on social media, but it’s even more surprising how much you can get done in this time if you actually set your mind to something!
For instance, I like to set a 15-minute timer to do some general tidying and cleaning each day. Tasks that you often feel a lot of mental resistance towards – like unloading the dishwasher or changing the bins – can be completed in less than 5 minutes and help to boost your sense of personal productivity.
I’m also a fan of the Pomodoro technique for times when I want to focus (writing this blog post, for example). This involves a healthy balance of setting work intervals of 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break and will supercharge your creative output.
10. Schedule downtime
It might sound like a contradiction in terms to schedule downtime, but it’s a vital part of intentional living and proper self-care.
If you’re always doing things for other people and feel completely guilty about the prospect of doing absolutely nothing, then it’s no wonder you’re always tired. On the other hand, if you’re aware that you have too much time free time on your hands, then it’s no surprise that you’re feeling guilty for binging 10 episodes of Love Is Blind in a row. Try scheduling this time instead so that you can enjoy some guilt-free indulgence.
Intentional Living Starts With Deliberate Choices & How You Decide to Spend Your Time
In short, how you choose to spend your time is a critical first step on the path towards living intentionally and steering your own ship.
I’m not saying that every second has to be perfect, or that you should beat yourself up when days run away with you, but bringing an awareness to your relationship with time is one of the best things you can do to make sure you’re focusing on the things which matter.
It has taken me a long time to understand that more than any kind of material success or wealth, it is living with intention that will result in a life of true purpose and fulfilment.
To learn more about my own journey towards intentional living, have a read of my personal story. Or for motivation to help you along the way, check out these super-inspirational intentional living quotes.
I’d love to hear about your own successes and struggles with being intentional with your time. Do any of the profiles above hit too close to home? Let me know in the comments below!