Picture a day in which you keep your goals top of mind. From the moment you wake, you’re conscious of how you plan your schedule. The choices you make throughout the day are deliberate and intentional.
By the end of the day, you feel accomplished. Not because you crammed an enormous amount of work and activities into your day. Instead, it’s because you chose to do the things that made an impact and brought you joy.
Sounds pretty great, right?
And it’s all a matter of being intentional with your time.
In this article, we’re looking at everything you need to know about building an intentional and balanced life.
What does it mean to be intentional with your time?
Being intentional with your time means paying attention to everything you do daily. You’re mindful of how you fill your days, from work tasks to spending time with loved ones. Instead of rushing through your task list, you slow down and enjoy the day as it passes.
Intentionality with your time aims to combat our near-constant urge to cram as much into our days as possible. There’s a misconception that doing more equates to greater productivity. But this isn’t exactly true—having more work doesn’t make you more productive. It has quite the opposite effect of negatively impacting your well-being and, in some cases, leading to burnout.
Being intentional every day with your time is focusing on the present and being deliberate with how you choose to spend your time. You’re keeping your mind trained on what you’re doing now—not reminiscing about what you said yesterday or stressing about what tomorrow might bring. At the same time, you have a clear understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it to ensure you prioritize work that makes an impact.
Why is it important to be intentional with your time?
We know that being intentional with your time is essential, but why?
In today’s world, it’s easy to slip into autopilot mode to get as much done as possible. It’s an approach to working and living that feels like a necessity when your task list is a mile long.
While some stress is good, it ends up having negative effects on our physical and mental health. If you always focus on what’s happening next, you may also experience increased anxiety. This anxiety can make it challenging to maintain your focus and productivity in the long term.
If you notice these traits in yourself, it’s time to pause. Reassess your daily schedule and stress levels. Are you planning a sustainable daily routine? How might living in the present improve your stress and anxiety levels?
Being more intentional with how you spend your time can lead to greater satisfaction day-to-day, less stress, and boosted productivity.
Now, you might wonder if you’ll get less done in your day by being more intentional with your time. The short answer is that it depends. If you plan a day that packs in as much work as possible, you’re probably not giving those tasks the attention they deserve. You probably struggle to work deeply and might multitask, which increases the risk of making mistakes.
Working more intentionally might mean doing fewer things, but it ensures your work is completed well.
You may still have one or two items on your task list at the end of a work day, but you’re more likely to leave the day feeling relaxed, present, and satisfied. Why? Because being present means you get to enjoy the little things about your day. It also sets you up to be more creative and productive. Focusing on one thing at a time creates space for your mind to wander into uncharted territory to think up creative solutions to age-old problems.
7 tips for being more intentional with your time
Being more intentional with your time is often easier said than done. The first step is recognizing a need for slowing down and paying closer attention to how you plan your day. From there, take small steps toward having more intention with how you spend your time.
- Be clear on the goals you want to achieve
Your goals can be anything. Career goals, life goals, or personal goals are all fair game as you assess how to be more intentional with your time. Are you aiming for a big promotion at work? Do you want to get stronger at the gym? Do you want to spend more time outdoors?
Assess how you spend your free time. Do you make time for your important relationships? Does your daily life align with your personal values? Are you maintaining a realistic work-life balance? How much time do you spend scrolling on social media?
When setting goals for how to be more intentional, make sure to look at the bigger picture. Don’t only examine your career goals; focus on all the simple ways you could be more intentional in all areas of your life.
Consider setting clear SMART goals for yourself. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. This level of self-awareness is the first big step toward being more intentional about how you fill your calendar. Next, break these goals down into steps for how you can work toward achieving them on a daily basis.
- Establish a realistic daily routine
Realistic daily routines can be game changers for helping you achieve your goals. You’re ensuring you start and end your day by doing things that help you feel relaxed and set you up for success. You’re building healthy habits.
Start with your morning routine. Once you have your goals in mind, consider if there is anything you can do during your morning to help you achieve them. Make a nutritious breakfast or go for a morning walk. In the evening, create your task list for the next day and tidy up your workspace.
While you do these things, focus on them and be present. A daily routine isn’t another series of tasks to add to your to-do list. These things help you feel relaxed and prompt you to be present. You’ll notice and appreciate the little things when you don’t always focus on what is happening next. It’s easier to do this with a daily routine that has become habitual.
- Check in often to assess your schedule
Without regular check-ins, task lists can get out of hand. Depending on your work and life demands, list items can pile up, and you’re suddenly drowning in to-do items. The trick is to schedule frequent check-ins to help you prioritize and plan.
When you plan your week, list everything you have for the next several days. How rigid is your schedule? How long is your task list? Do you have space to adjust if things don’t go according to plan? Build a schedule that guides you toward getting all your work done at the same time. It leaves time for you to do the things you enjoy.
Give yourself the space for this level of reflection at the start of every week. If you feel your schedule is getting out of hand in the middle of the week, consider whether it’s time to reprioritize your task list.
- Maintain a short to-do list
This step might be a tricky one for most people. Those who would benefit from being more intentional with their time often have the longest task lists—knowing which tasks to complete and which to say no to might be challenging. Here is where priority matrices can come in handy. Time management tools like the Eisenhower Matrix help you divide your tasks into categories based on the amount of work required and the impact each task will have.
Prioritization is crucial for maintaining a short to-do list. When you prioritize the work you should do, you can give that important work your undivided attention. It’s better to ensure you do great work on important tasks instead of getting caught up in every possible task you can do.
It’s easy to get busy. Between life, work, and personal demands, our schedules fill up quickly. Look at everything you do during the week and decide which tasks and activities you’ll give your energy to. When you’re doing those things, give them your entire attention. Be present.
- Optimize your day around your working habits
We all work best at different times of the day. If you’re a morning person, you’re at your most productive during the early hours of the day. If so, plan to work on your most mentally draining or essential tasks during these hours. “Eating the frog” is a helpful productivity strategy for these folks.
The opposite is true for evening people. If you work best in the late afternoon and evening, consider moving your work day back one or two hours. Do your housekeeping work first and save your deep work time for later.
Build a daily schedule that aligns with your work practices as much as possible. This small change can show instant results because you’re working when you naturally work best.
- Prioritize rest
Don’t underestimate the power of rest. Make sure you have good sleep hygiene practices. Stay away from technology before bed, avoid eating too late in the evening, sleep in a cool room, and do anything else that helps guarantee you a good night’s sleep.
Even still, you’ll always feel tired if you’re chronically stressed and anxious due to always thinking about what you need to get done the next day. No amount of sleep will help if you’re dealing with this level of stress. It wears your body and mind out, and it’s not sustainable. You’re more likely to get sick, and your work quality could suffer.
In planning for a sustainable and intentional day, schedule some time dedicated to rest. Intentional rest equals sustained productivity.
- Ditch multi-tasking
No matter how you try to be productive, multi-tasking will work against you. Nothing gets your undivided attention when you’re trying to do too many things at once. This can lead to a lack of productivity and mistakes. It takes a lot of mental energy to move between tasks. All this context-switching is the enemy of effective work practices.
So, what should you do? For starters, create a to-do list and timebox your day. Block out time on your calendar for deep work. Pause notifications during this time to remove the risk of getting interrupted. Timeboxing is an effective strategy for helping you stay intentional about what you’re working on and when.
In timeboxing, you’re setting aside time to focus on one task. Once the timeboxed period ends, you’ll move to the next task, so there’s no need to ruminate on what’s to come.
By ditching multi-tasking, you can more effectively stay present while working on the task.
Live and work with intention using Sunsama
Switching to being more intentional with your time doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, through a series of small and mindful steps is how you’ll build an intentional routine—one that fosters sustainable productivity.
Sunsama has features to support your entire day. Turn on Focus Mode to more easily achieve deep work and cruise through your tasks efficiently. Use the Guided Daily Planner for a clear and concise layout of your days. Weekly reviews and planning give you a sense of what’s working well and what should change, so you can take the small necessary steps toward being intentional with your time.
If you’re interested in trying Sunsama, sign up for a free trial and see how the tool can help you build sustainable working habits.