Several weeks ago, I took a walk around my neighborhood trail. A little routine I do on the regular, but this time was different. I was by myself (no kids in step beside me or strapped on my back). Also, I didn’t take headphones. No podcasting.
I came into that space depleted, head foggy, and frustrated. What am I doing with my time that I can’t seem to get ahead, I asked. Why do I end the day feeling distracted, frazzled and overwhelmed even when my to-do list is checked off and dinner is on the table? Something was coming up short and I couldn’t put my finger on it, but somehow that spring evening, I felt prompted to think about the word intentional.
The next morning, I had coffee with a mentor of mine and we chatted through my prayerful walk the day before and what it meant. As we fleshed it out, I began to understand that intentionality was an answer—not a band-aid—to the foggy space I’d been dwelling in. And one thing became abundantly clear to me.
It’s not about the white space I leave on my weekly calendar as much as the minutes I use intentionally during the day.
This slower way of living, this unraveling busy—a huge goal of mine for almost two years now—doesn’t mean much if I’m looking at my days from a 30,000 foot view. Just because we have no after-school activities four days a week doesn’t suggest that my life is better balanced than your very full weekdays. No, it’s how I’m spending my minutes, all 1440 of them, that counts.
If May is stacking up to be one of the busiest months of the year—as it is for most parents—claim these 4 ways to live more intentionally:
To be intentional, you must set your intentions. Duh, right? But really. Intentions are like aims. Purpose. What you hope to get out of the time you have. Maybe you want to be more present for your children today, pay some bills, catch up on your favorite podcast, call your mom, and finish that project at work.
Look at your day ahead first thing in the morning. What’s obvious? You’re working 8-5, your kids have lacrosse practice until 6, your spouse is out of town, you’re taking an evening yoga class. Whatever is obvious, write it down. Then, look at your small pockets of time during the day and record those. You wake up one hour before your kids, hair and makeup takes 20 minutes in the morning, you have a half hour commute to work, the drive home from lacrosse practice with your kids in tow is 45 minutes.
How can you make your intentions fit your busy schedule with the minutes you’ve been given? Find room in your pockets. Give your children 45 uninterrupted minutes on the way home from lacrosse. Listen to your podcast while you get ready in the morning. Create the right headspace for that big work project on your 30 minute commute, and pay those bills over your lunch break. Call your mama on the way home from yoga. Making the most of your 1440 starts by setting intentions.
Intentional time doesn’t mean more productive time. This was a very clear message for me on that walk a few weeks ago. The feeling was very strong that a prayer for greater productivity is very different from a prayer for more intentionality. Spending time with intention means I might very intentionally rest instead of run, quiet instead of quest.
Sometimes the most productive days in my professional life were feeling the least intentional. Am I making sense?
If you’re being left out of your 1440, it’s time to reassess. Listen ladies, we are quick to care for everyone else while patting ourselves on the head as we walk to the back of the line again and again. Being intentional with your minutes means valuing yourself as much as you value your other priorities. If there’s not 30 minutes of “me” time in your day (just 2% of your 1440), it’s time to reassess. In George Bernard Shaw’s My Fair Lady, Eliza Dolittle says, “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.” Let’s treat ourselves with kindness, girls. And can I say one more thing about this? “Me” time is not scroll social media time. Just in case there’s any confusion.
To start simply you must simply start. Did you wake up late this morning? Forget to pack lunch and are suffering with junk food from the break room instead? Spend an hour on Insta this morning when your goal was to post a pic and caption in under five minutes? Pull the laundry out of the washer to find that it had been sitting for three days and needs to be washed again? I see you. It’s okay. Start over. Try again. The way our days begin and the way they end don’t have to look the same. The best way to start practicing intention is to start practicing intention.
Now go get ready for the next 1440.