It is depressing to know that I have spent so much of my life just floating along, with no real direction or purpose. Even as a mother, I hardly remember the first year of Liliana’s life. I think between postpartum depression and severe sleep deprivation, it has become nothing but a foggy dream.
My brother has a little wooden block in his room that reads, “Every day matters.” I remember reading it a while back and for some reason it was kind of a revelation for me. I was living each day as if I were just waiting for the next. It went something like this: Monday, “Why didn’t I get to bed earlier last night? I am so exhausted! I need my sleep so I’ll just sleep in…tonight I’ll go to bed earlier and then I’ll be able to get up earlier tomorrow.” Later that day as I’m mindlessly scrolling through channels on the TV, “I really am so tired, I’ll do something productive tomorrow.” Then Tuesday, “I don’t feel like doing anything today, in fact, I might be sick. I’ll relax today and tomorrow the kids and I will go to the park.” Then Wednesday, “I forgot that today we have a dentist appointment so I’ll relax until then and we’ll go to the park tomorrow.” And so it went, all week long.
I had a lot of goals and things I wanted to accomplish but I was living each day doing the bare minimum. Part of that is the season of life I was in, I suppose. Newborns have a tendency of throwing us into survival mode. It was so refreshing to have this revelation that “Every Day Matters” and that I don’t want to “wait until tomorrow” to do something meaningful.
So I am working on living with more intentionality. And since “time” really is the only universally equal gift that we share, it’s important to make it count.
Here are 10 ideas to help you get your life back by being intentional with your time:
Just like when you need to know what your mindless eating situation looks like you are told to track it and write it down, so it is with the mindless way we spend our time. Laura Vanderkam has a great document to help you get started. Just print it out and use it for 2 weeks. Write down what you’re doing every 30 minutes or so. It can seem annoying but it will make you mindful of how you’re spending your time. Which is the first step to change.
2. Be mindful
We can’t change something we aren’t aware of. If you can’t figure out why you’re getting to bed so late every night and then you realize (probably through tracking your time), that you’re spending an extra hour on your phone at night watching YouTube videos, you can easily work on changing it now that it’s come to your attention. True story.
Just like we budget our money, we can budget our time. You can use the same document you used to track but use it to plan out your day ahead of time. You see that, it’s being intentional about our time. It’s acting instead of reacting. It’s being proactive, which is the first habit of highly successful people.
4. Have a bigger “Why”
I had the great fortune of attending the Build Your Blog Conference last year in Salt Lake where we got to listen to Jason Meade talk about “Your Why.” Wow. Can I just say it was an absolute revelation inside of me. We got free access to Simon Sinek’s Why Discovery Course and I was on that like a fat kid on cake. I was devouring the course before I even got home from the conference!
The point of this course and the book for that matter, is to help people figure out what their mission is in life. Of course, I have my own beliefs about what God wants me to do but this helped me to really narrow it down and put my finger on why certain things are so important to me and how I can make a difference in the world with my one passion in life. You can read the book and purchase the course if you want. I totally think it’s worth it. Even if you don’t though, make it a goal to figure out what your one thing is in this life. It will give you a greater purpose and make you a much better person in every role you are struggling to fulfill.
5. Set goals
After figuring out your “Why” you can easily set goals to help you accomplish what it is that will be most fulfilling to you in your life. There’s a 30 day video course you can get for free from Chalene Johnson that teaches you how to set a “Push Goal.” It’s a fascinating topic that will have you setting one 90-Day goal that will work as a domino effect and making all of your other goals much easier to accomplish.
6. The Focusing Question
“What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” This is a slightly different take on Chalene Johnson’s “Push Goal” and comes from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. Either way, it’s a critical question to make sure you’re asking yourself on the daily in order to be intentional about your time.
7. Eat that frog
Once you figure out what the ONE thing you need to do is, do it first. Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog!” is based on a quote by Mark Twain that goes something like this,
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Most often the frogs we need to eat in the morning are the ones we constantly avoid. They are the biggest dominoes and are what will move the needle the most, yet we resist doing them. Figure out what that is for you, and do it first thing. You will not only feel accomplished, you will actually be accomplishing your most important goals.
8. Time Thieves
We all have them. Mine is my phone. Maybe yours is the TV. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Find them on your tracking document and work on minimizing them or eliminating them altogether. Make sure you spend that recovered time working on your most important goals.
9. Be flexible
Just as with anything in life, be sure to have an open mind and be flexible. If your time budget doesn’t go as planned, just pick up where you left off and ask the focusing question again, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Or in other words, “What is the most important thing I can be doing right now, in this moment.”
10. Routines and Systems
Eventually, you will develop your own routines and systems. The more mundane tasks you can put on autopilot the more energy and time you will have to spend on the most important things in your life. A morning and evening routine are essential to starting and ending your day right. Anything you can automate or systematize will save you brain power and allow you to focus on what you’ve been avoiding for so long.
Don’t allow yourself to float through life with no direction. What do you want to think of yourself and your life when you’re old? What do you want people to say at your funeral? Commit yourself to act, not to be acted upon. Make a difference.
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Do you use your time intentionally? What are some of the things you do to accomplish your goals? Do you find it difficult to work on your goals? Do you feel like you’re living without a real purpose? What are you going to do differently now?