For the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be more intentional with my time, money and energy (because let’s face it—these things are often in short supply!).
What I’ve realised is that if I want to have more of the things that matter most to me, then I must be careful not to waste my precious resources on the non-essential.
I’ve been exploring this idea in my journal and observing what is (or isn’t) working for me, and the result is this list. Here are my top 10 ways to be intentional with your time, money and energy.
WRITE DOWN YOUR INTENTIONS
One thing that never fails to amaze me is the power of writing things down. I swear there is some sort of chemical magic that happens in my brain when I write down my intentions because when I do, it’s SO much easier to follow through with them!
Case in point: late in December, I mentioned in a blog post that I wanted to cut back on my shopping. I felt like my consumption was no longer in alignment with my values and priorities. I knew I wanted to change my behaviour but I was struggling with the follow through.
Fast forward over two months. Since writing that blog post, I’ve hardly bought anything! (I replaced a broken hairdryer and bought two tops from a secondhand shop.) After writing down my intentions, I was able to follow through with them and what’s really amazing is that it hasn’t been difficult to do.
I don’t feel like I’ve been using willpower or consciously thinking about not shopping. Instead, when I walk by a shop, I’m reminded of what I wrote and my motivation changes. I don’t want to buy anything because I remember why I set my intention in the first place.
(This is an important part of setting intentions; you should write down what you want AND why it matters to you.)
PRIORITISE TIME FOR SELF-REFLECTION
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”― often attributed to Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon, original quote by St. Francis de Sales in reference to prayer
The above quote is about meditation but I think it applies to self-reflection as well. I know that life is busy but if you want to live with intention, then you must prioritise self-reflection.
I honestly believe in doing a daily reflection but at a minimum, you should step back at least once a week and look at the big picture. How are you spending your time, energy and money? Are your actions in alignment with your values, priorities and goals? Or should you consider making some changes?
Think of it this way: if you were on a road trip, you’d check the map every once in a while to make sure you were on the right track, right? It makes sense that you should do the same thing with your life as well.
FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Another tip that can transform how you spend your time and energy is to purposefully seek out people, either in real life or online, with similar values and dreams.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean you should only connect with people who agree with you about everything; you definitely shouldn’t do that because it can stifle personal growth and also lead to having a very narrow view of the world.
Instead, you should intentionally seek out people with diverse experiences and backgrounds because they can open your eyes to new ideas and opportunities—and if they have similar values and dreams, these ideas and opportunities can help you live your best life.
For example, a few years ago I connected with Sam Brown, a personal development blogger and the host of the Perfection Project podcast. We knew each other from Twitter but decided to meet in person. Over coffee, she convinced me to take a leap and write my first online course (something I definitely didn’t think I was ready for at the time!).
That particular course is no longer for sale but creating and selling it completely changed how I felt about myself; for the first time, I felt confident calling myself a writer. I still meet with Sam regularly and I can honestly say that Simply + Fiercely wouldn’t be where it is today without her encouraging me and challenging me to grow.
If you’re not sure if you’ve found the right people or not, take note of how you feel after spending time with them:
- Do you feel inspired and encouraged to be your best self?
- Motivated to stretch beyond your comfort zone or to try new things?
- Are your efforts are supported, whatever the end results?
If so, odds are that these relationships are well worth investing in because they will challenge and nurture you, empowering you to achieve new things.
ASK THE “5 WHY’S” BEFORE YOU MAKE A DECISION
The 5 Why’s is a way of problem-solving, originally developed by Toyota, that helps you discover the “root cause” of a problem or situation. The system works exactly as it sounds; you simply ask the question “Why?” five times, each time referring back to your most recent answer.
It was originally used in manufacturing but I’ve found that it can help me make better decisions in my everyday life. Here’s an example:
- I want to buy new shoes.
- Why do you want to buy new shoes? Because I need new shoes.
- Why do you need new shoes? Because they’re beautiful and I deserve them.
- Why do you deserve them? Because I work really hard.
- Why do you work so hard? To support my family.
- Why do you want to support your family? Because I love my family.
This line of questioning helps me see that my desired action (in this case, buying new shoes) doesn’t really support my true needs and values. From my responses, I can see that rest, self-care or quality time with family would probably be better use of my time, money and energy.
UNDERSTAND YOUR ENERGY
Do you know what activities bring you energy? And what activities drain your energy? If not, I highly recommend reflecting on these questions so you can be more intentional moving forward.
For example, here are some of the activities I know bring me energy: writing in my journal, talking with certain friends, going outdoors, burning incense or diffusing oils, and even cleaning house (oddly!).
I keep this list in my journal (and update it often) because knowing what brings me energy empowers me. When I’m feeling rundown, I know there are tried and true ways I can turn myself around.
Alternatively, knowing what drains your energy is also empowering. You might not be able to avoid every draining activity (because of course, we all have work to do!) but we can be mindful about how we schedule our activities.
For example, if you’re an introvert and you find being around a lot of people draining, you can use this information to “hack” your schedule. Instead of back to back meetings, you might have a meeting followed by an activity that energises you, and then your next meeting.
PAUSE BEFORE YOU BUY
As a former shopaholic, I highly recommend putting time between the impulse to buy and the decision to proceed with a purchase.
One practical way of doing this is by keeping a shopping list in your diary or phone. Then when you want something, write it down instead of making the purchase right away.
Next, wait at least 24 hours and then come back to your list. Often, after the break, I find I don’t even want the item anymore! Or if this isn’t the case, waiting gives me the perspective I need to be critical of my desires. (At this point, I often use the 5 Why’s mentioned above to clarify my motivation for purchasing.)
When I use this system I definitely make less impulse buys and, as an added bonus, I make more purchases in line with my overall values (such as shopping from small, local business and/or choosing sustainable options). It’s easier to choose “quality over quantity” when you give yourself time.
CLEARLY DEFINE YOUR VALUES + VISION
One of the most important things you can do if you want to be intentional with your time, energy and money is to get crystal clear about your values and vision. Ask yourself questions like:
- What matters most to you?
- What makes you happy?
- What do you want your life to look like?
Clear answers to these questions are essential for good decision making. After all, how can you be intentional if you’re not clear about what you’re trying to achieve in the long run? You don’t need to have everything figured out but you should have some idea about the direction you want your life to head in.
Writing this direction down (in the form of your core values and personal vision) is important because it forces you to clarify your answers. I know from experience that it’s easy to think you know the answers to these questions—only to stumble when you try to articulate them.
CREATE SYSTEMS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
For my blog and business, I have an accountability partner. I check in with her weekly about my business goals and then throughout the week, we turn to each other for support and to help keep each other on track.
I’ve found that having external support really helps me stay focused and intentional with my time and energy, and science backs this up too.
If you’re not comfortable sharing your goals with others, or if you don’t have anyone you feel you can talk to, then create your own a system for self-accountability.
Most days, I use my journal to do this; I take a few minutes every evening to reflect on how I’ve lived true to myself and also, what I can do better moving forward.
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INVEST IN YOURSELF
I know that when we think about “being intentional” with money, our thoughts often turn to frugality (aka not spending) but the truth is the two don’t always go hand in hand.
Yes, you shouldn’t make mindless purchases but equally, you shouldn’t be afraid to invest in things that will add values to your life (within what you can afford).
It can be life changing or it can be something small that makes life easier (now that my daughter is a toddler, my cordless vacuum cleaner has become one of the best investments I’ve ever made!) but regardless, sometimes being intentional is more about how we spend our money than how we save it.
I’ve noticed that people really feel resistance to this when it’s something they believe they should be doing themselves (like hiring a cleaner—the mentality is “I can just do it myself“) or taking an online course (“why pay someone when I could probably find this info for free on the internet“), but being intentional about your time means learning to value your time.
Put it this way—I know there are many people who wouldn’t blink an eye dropping a $100 at Target (on a cart full of useless “stuff”) but they would struggle to justify spending $100 on personal development, therapy, or a cleaner. Arguably, these could add considerably more value to your life than a new sweater you might only wear once.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO START SMALL
Being intentional with your time, money and energy often means taking action: creating habits, working towards goals, and sometimes doing things that are hard to do.
Admittedly, this can be daunting, so we often cope by putting important things on the back burner, also known as the “someday basket”. Things like taking care of our health, saving money, or investing in personal development—all of which are worthwhile endeavours that are too often put off for some imaginary date in future.
One way you can intentionally overcome this is by choosing to start small. If there’s something that’s important to you, don’t wait! Instead, choose one teeny, tiny thing you can do now—something so small you can’t possibly find an excuse.
Put $1 in a savings account or take five minutes to walk around the block. It might not seem like much but sometimes one small step forward is all you need to create the momentum to keep going.
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KNOW WHAT YOU CAN + CAN’T CONTROL
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”― Steve Maraboli
Finally, if you want to be more intentional with your time, energy and money, then it helps to know what you can and can’t control—and invest yourself accordingly. Here are some examples:
- You can’t control the traffic, but you can control what you do in the car. You could sit there and be angry—or you could listen to an audiobook.
- You can’t control a mistake made in the past, but you can control how you react. You could beat yourself up over it—or you could learn from your mistake and move on.
- You can’t control what people think of you, but you can control your own behaviour. You could waste time trying to please everyone—or you let values guide you and work on being the best version of yourself.
When you’re facing something you can’t change, it doesn’t matter how much you complain or how much effort you invest. Ultimately, you’re wasting time, energy and money that could be better spent on something within your sphere of influence.
What did you think of the ideas on this list? Was there anything that stood out to you? Or do you have something new to share? Be sure to let us know in the comments! x Jen