Disclaimer: This post may contain partner links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links at no extra cost to you. full disclosure for more info.

I don’t need to tell you that time is your most valuable commodity– we all know it.

But despite this knowledge, it becomes really difficult to be intentional about how you spend your time. We all want to spend 100% of our time on our relationships, hobbies, and other pursuits that bring happiness, but life doesn’t work this way. Nearly everyone has some responsibility that starts taking away slices of our time. And some of us find that these responsibilities end up eating away at nearly all that time, leaving very little left for us.

I hate when everyone says we all have the same 24 hours. It’s simply untrue. I have three kids, two businesses, and disability that take away my time. You can’t compare that to a healthy college student who doesn’t need to work.

But, I’m here to tell you that although I have “less time” today than I did five years ago, I feel like I actually have MORE time because it’s spent with great intention.

In order to live a more intentional lifestyle, you need to break free of the cycle. Here are the most common “reasons” I see every day.

  • We have to work. Someone has to pay the bills. This may be one job, overtime shifts, or two jobs to make ends meet in an inflated economy.
  • Maybe you have children or parents to take care of. This means when you’re not at work, you’re cooking, cleaning, and doing bedtime routines, and then you’re spent.
  • Your mental health is down the drain, which means you end up using any free time you have left watching TV, doom scrolling, or other things to wind down instead of things that fulfill you.

You may have every intention of living a well-balanced life, but then life gets in the way.

So the question remains. How do you break this vicious cycle in today’s economy and lead a more intentional life?

First, What’s The Goal of Intentional Living?

If you’re new to intentional living, it’s the act of living a life that is true to you, not what society expects of you.

Here’s the question I want you to ask yourself: If money was no object, how would you be spending your time?

Please do not answer this by buying a mega-mansion or sailing on a yacht through the Mediterranean. Those answers are reserved for lottery winners who claim bankruptcy two years later.

I want you to think about what activities or experiences bring you true joy.

Here’s an example of what mine looks like:

  • I want to be able to establish a business in something I’m passionate about that excited me everyday. I love working, but I want to work doing something I love.
  • But, I also want work that’s flexible enough to be a fully present parent to my three toddlers.
  • I want work that is location-independent so that I can visit family across the States on school breaks without having to get PTO approved.
  • I want to spend money on experiences. Fancy cars and clothes don’t bring me joy.

So do this for yourself. If you could allocate all the hours you have in a day, a week, and a year, how would you be spending that time?

Why Living Intentionally Matters

You’re probably thinking, “This sounds great in theory,” but it’s just not possible.

This is where I give you my absolute favorite quote to help you reset your mind frame.

The Bad News is Time Flies. The Good News is, You’re The Pilot”.

If you’re not steering your own plane, no one will magically give you control. You need to make deliberate choices today that will have a positive impact on your future. The goals of intentional living is to:

  • Enjoy your everyday routine.
  • Spend more time on hobbies or with people that fill up your cup.
  • Help you say “no” to those things that won’t drive the needle or bring you happiness.

6 Steps On How To Be Intentional With Your Time

Okay, time to put in the real work. At this point, I think I have been able to greatly improve where my time is spent. Spending your time intentionally is very similar to spending your money intentionally. Just like you assess where every dollar is going, you should assess where every hour is going.

Here are the six steps that I took to help me be more intentional with my time.

1. First, Find Out Where Your Time Is Going.

You can’t make every minute matter if you don’t know where your minutes are going.

With the daily hustle, it’s easy to lose track of where your time is being spent.

Most people won’t do this, but I highly urge you to write down at least a few days or a week’s worth of where every minute of your time goes.

Method 1: Do It For Free With Some Pen and Paper

If you’re on a budget, the good news is you just need a pen and some paper or the Notes section of your phone. You can even use a calendar to document each task.

First, write down the “skeleton” of your day to make it easier. Here’s an example of what this may look like:

  • 7:00am-7:30am: Wake up, morning coffee, scroll through phone.
  • 7:30am-8:00am: Wake up kids, dress them, pack lunches.
  • 8:00am-8:30am: Breakfast, throw a load of laundry in, unload the dishwasher.
  • 8:30am-9:00am: Drop kids off at school, Starbucks, Drive to work.
  • 9:00-4:30pm: Work
  • 4:30pm-5:00pm: Drive Home & Pick up Kids.
  • 5:00pm-5:30pm: Unload the car, pick up a bit, start dinner.
  • 5:30-6:00pm: Eat Dinner
  • 6:00-7:00pm: Clean up dinner, chill out for 15 minutes
  • 7:00-8:00pm: Kid showers and bedtime routines
  • 8:00-10:00pm: Adult downtime, doom-scroll, get ready for bed.

Now that you have a skeleton schedule, I want you to spend the next three days filling in the gaps and adding in anything that expells a ton of mental energy. These are things you’re worrying about, things you have to plan for upcoming events, etc.

Here’s what the extended time allocation may look like:

  • 7:00am-7:30am: Wake up, morning coffee, scroll through phone. Worried about the birthday gift I need to buy for this weekend.
  • 7:30am-8:00am: Wake up kids, dress them, pack lunches. I need to add more variety to my kid’s lunches. I need to buy more pants for my son as he’s outgrowing the old ones.
  • 8:00am-8:30am: Breakfast, throw a load of laundry in, unload the dishwasher. We’re almost out of syrup.
  • 8:30am-9:00am: Drop kids off at school, Starbucks, Drive to work. The car is trashed, and I need to vacuum it.
  • 9:00-4:30pm: Work I hate my job, is the day over yet.
  • 4:30pm-5:00pm: Drive Home & Pick up Kids. The kids are overstimulated; they need a snack and downtime.
  • 5:00pm-5:30pm: Unload the car, pick up a bit, start dinner. What are we having for dinner tonight? What will each kid eat? We’re not eating healthy, we need more vegetables.
  • 5:30-6:00pm: Eat Dinner. Always a fight. kid throws plate on ground, vacuum ground.
  • 6:00-7:00pm: Clean up dinner, chill out for 15 minutes. Doom scroll, watch some TV while kids play.
  • 7:00-8:00pm: Kid showers and bedtime routines. While showering, worrying about all the things I have to do tomorrow and to get ready for this weekend.
  • 8:00-10:00pm: Adult downtime, doom-scroll, get ready for bed. Completely burnt out. I want to not think about anything at the moment and just turn off.

If you’re anything like me, you’re exhausted just reading this. Hopefully, you resonate a lot with all the extra energy spent on your mind and realize how much stress you may feel on a daily basis.

Method 2: Use Some Tech To Help You Out

To determine where your time is spent, you just need to do everything above. But if you want to take it a step further, I highly recommend writing down your to-do list and all the tasks you accomplish at work and at home.

  • Add in every single task you complete. Most of us have some sort of work-life integration, so we may be doing these things on breaks at work, too. Examples: Grocery shopping, event planning, checking emails, taxes, etc. You can also just use a task-management app to make this easier.
  • Point out every distraction. Are you easily distracted by things that don’t matter? This is things like checking your social media, responding to a phone call, intervening with family drama, etc.

I really love using a tool like Opal in this scenario. It’s a screen time app that will track how much time you spend on each app, like social media, etc. Then, it tells you how much of your life you will spend in that app, and it’s a HUGE wake-up call to how much time is wasted.

2. Next, Determine Which Events Are Aligned With Your Personal Values & Which Are Not

Next, we want to objectively look at your life from the outside. This is not the time to get defensive but to critically look at your daily schedule and find areas needing improvement. Don’t be harsh on yourself! This helps you get one step closer to leading a more fulfilling life.

Here’s an example:

  • Morning Routine: Kids. Yes, this aligns with my values of spending time with my family.
  • Work: No, my job doesn’t align with my values. I do not love what I do at all.
  • Evening Routine: Yes, I want to spend time with my kids, but I find this time of day completely unenjoyable and dread this part of the day.

Go through each moment of your daily routine in this fashion to pinpoint where the joy is coming from your day and where it’s not. Understanding where your happiness comes from makes all the difference in owning your life.

Lastly, rank each part of your day from best to worst. Which part of the day do you absolutely hate the most? Is it your job? Is it your after-work responsibilities?

Also, focus on the best parts. What daily tasks bring you happiness? When are you laughing?

3. Determine What’s Essential and What’s Not

After completing step two, you’ve probably figured out that there are a ton of tasks or “to-dos” that bring stress or just plain negativity to your week. So, let’s now break down what things are essential and what are not.

Let’s build off of the previous checklist.

  • Morning Routine: Kids. Yes, this aligns with my values of spending time with my family. Yes, this is essential.
  • Work: No, my job doesn’t align with my values. I do not love what I do at all. But it’s essential. I need to pay the bills.
  • Evening Routine: I want to spend time with my kids, but I find this time of day completely unenjoyable and dread this part of the day. And yes, it’s essential. The doom scrolling at night is not essential, but it’s how I get some self-care.

At this point, you may be rolling your eyes, thinking that everything you do is essential and you can’t cut anything out. Just stay with me.

4. Start With The Little Things

Now it’s time to start living intentionally by tweaking where your time is spent. Anything that was non-essential try to get rid of it. But if you’re like most people, most of the things we do are essential in one way or another. The trick is to streamline and create systems for these small essential tasks so that they eat away less of your time and become less of a burden.

If done well, you can even turn a negative task into a positive one that aligns with your values.

Here are some examples of things I did in my own life:

  • Dinner is always an essential, yet negative stress. So why didn’t I make a positive change and make it joyful? After all, mealtimes used to be the cornerstone of family life; why does it feel like defeat every time? I spent one month creating a rotating 14-dinner schedule. These are recipes that (most) of my family likes. I wrote them down. Then, every month, we eat the scheduled meals. No more stress, there’s no question what we’re eating, most of my family likes it, and now we ENJOY dinner. We talk about our day and play games, and that time spent at dinner has now become intentional bonding time with my family that I look forward to.
  • Housekeeping: Implement ways to make this less of a burden. Teach your children to pick up after themselves (I know, I have three toddlers). Put laundry on a two-day schedule vs. every day. Delegate chores out where possible, and schedule the rest to declutter your mind. Whatever works for you.

Don’t create unrealistic expectations. Make one small change at a time, and see how it works for you and your family. The goal is to make these changes positive habits.

5. Make a Goal for the “Big Things”

If there is something that completely drains your soul (like a dead-end job), then you need to create an action plan on how to change it.

You have bills to pay; you can’t just quit. But you can’t just stay stuck and idle either because your job isn’t going to get better. No one is going to offer a newer and better position miraculously.

Create action items that you can check off to achieve that goal. For instance, switching jobs may be:

  • I like my career but not my company. Build your resume, elevate your LinkedIn profile with a great AI headshot generator, and actively apply to new companies.
  • If you want a career switch, determine how to achieve it. Add night school if needed, or start a side hustle until it takes off. Sit down and determine what would need to happen for you to start that dream career.

I would say this is the biggest roadblock to people’s achieving intentional living. It often seems unachievable and overwhelming. Feeling “stuck” in their career, responsibilities keeping them from doing what they love.

You need to take action.

Taking the steps needed to make the jump is the part I would say 99% of people don’t make the effort to do. Decide who you’re going to be.

6. Practice Mindfulness

Your life isn’t going to improve overnight. There are going to be tasks you can’t get rid of. So while you’re making moves to build the life you want, practicing mindfulness in your daily routine is important.

If your job sucks, take a deep breath and see if there are ways in which you can make it better while you’re creating an exit plan.

If you feel your family obligations are stripping your sense of self, plan a monthly self-care day where you can be yourself. Make an effort to take care of yourself.

7. Say No Moving Forward

This should go without saying, but being intentional means doing activities that are important to you. People pleasers will have a hard time with this, but you need to say no to things you don’t want to do.

We’re practicing intentional time management, which means you don’t want to spend the precious time you have going to events or doing things you don’t want to do.

You don’t have to take on that extra assignment at work when you don’t get paid more for it. You don’t have to go to all 15 birthday parties this month. Carefully select what you say yes to and, more importantly, who you say yes to. Friends and family should be a bigger yes than a company that would replace you in a second.

Learn to say no to the non-essentials that don’t add value to your life if you can avoid it.

8. Two Words: Productivity & Prioritization

You may have a busy schedule, but is it a productive schedule?

From a glance at the example schedule above, it seems that there is simply no more time left to achieve a healthy balance of fun and obligations.

But if you look closer, you realize that multi-tasking is off the charts. Being productive means getting more accomplished in less time, so here’s how I was able to more productive:

  • Purchase ten boys/girls gifts. This means I’m able to go to a birthday party and just grab a present from the closet instead of constantly adding it to my to-do list.
  • Use a productivity app or a digital planner to understand where your time is being spent. I use this for work, but Sunsama and Motion are good ones to look into.

Next, it’s important you’re being “productive” by accomplishing the right things. Getting a million unimportant tasks done is nearly as bad as not doing anything at all. Determine what your biggest priority is, and be sure to spend time getting those things done that will give you the most leverage with your time.

9. Reflect On Your Days and Weeks To Align Your Purpose

Lastly, always take the time to re-prioritize your life. There are different seasons in all stages of life, and whatever was important three years ago may not be as important to you today.

Take the time to reflect on where your time is going and if it’s still where you want it to be spent.

Final Thoughts

And that’s a wrap! I hope these steps help you find a way to take back more of your time for yourself. Whether your an entrepreneur, a student, or looking for a new chapter in your life, living with intentionality is a muscle that takes time to develop, so give yourself some grace if you’re just beginning in your journey.

Similar Posts