How to Be Intentional with Your Time
It’s 2pm on a Friday. You have that feeling of excitement as the weekend is fast approaching.
Hell, mentally, you’re already there.
But you can’t help but feel like you’ve wasted the week.
“What did I even do?”
“I didn’t accomplish anything meaningful this week.”
“I hate feeling like I keep putting off the things I want to be spending my time doing.”
Raise a hand if you’ve said any of these out loud 🙋
Procrastination at its finest
You have big goals and big dreams.
You know you’re not as fulfilled as you’d like to be.
But day-to-day, you get so lost in the minutia of your responsibilities and obligations that you forget to ask yourself if the work you’re doing is the work that’s most important.
An even more pressing question: Are you prioritizing what matters the most?
The Roadblocks to Meaningful Work
Well, you’re not alone. There are many theories out there for why people procrastinate on important and fulfilling work.
The harsh reality is that we’re faced with more demands on our time and attention than ever before. To name a few:
Endless Distractions: Notifications across four different smart devices; email pop-ups every two minutes; even that phantom vibrate on your phone (I swear someone needed me for something!)
Unplanned Disruptions: The lawnmower kicking up right as your Zoom call kicks off; the nosy coworker asking about your kid’s birthday party they weren’t invited to; March Madn… I mean… fire drill phone calls that seem to constitute an emergency for everyone else but you
Questionable Habits: Folding the socks when you should be writing a draft; doom-scrolling on TikTok when you could be learning something educational on YouTube; ordering out when you actually enjoy cooking and the benefits of a truly wholesome and nourishing meal
It’s unanimously agreed that our current way of interacting with the world is presenting a degree of challenges that we’ve never experienced before (See What We’re Reading below for more), at least not to this level.
The cost of all of these mindless distractions? The very things you value the most:
Meaningful, fulfilling work
Making lasting connections at work or with colleagues
Starting or progressing on your passion projects
Important projects that keep falling down the wayside
Small details that can cost you big-time
Valued time spent with family and friends
Is it all hopeless?
Not at all.
So you may be asking…
How do I align my actions with my priorities?
The good news is: there is a way to actually do the things you set out to do, and it’s not rocket science.
Introducing: Your Ideal Mix
A straightforward framework to help you prioritize your time with the things that matter to you the most.
Here are 5 steps to creating your Ideal Mix.
Step 1: Define Your Capacity for “Doing”
Everyone has their own expectations and limits for how much they can get done in a given day or week.
Get a sense for how many “doing” hours you average per week - perhaps by reviewing your calendar or keeping a schedule.
Now your gut might say “40” right off the bat (as is the standard working hours in much of the western world). But not so fast…
Do you typically work from 8-5 and then shut off? Or do you have spurts of productivity in the mornings and evenings? Maybe you’re a night owl…
Consider your peak productivity times and when you naturally are less focused.
There’s no right or wrong here – it’s just important to be honest with yourself, as this lays the foundation for the next 4 steps.
Note: This can include personal (outside of professional work) capacity, but should exclude any time to just “be” (i.e. recharging, relaxing, activities without a goal or agenda)
Step 2: Identify Your Priority Buckets
What are the “doing” activities you are committed to in your life right now?
Ideally, you’ll want to list no less than three and no more than five activity buckets.
They don’t have to tie directly and explicitly to a job role, but they can. For example, I have:
Connecting and community building
Both of the above are part of my job, but because they are different activities with different energy requirements, I’ve listed them as separate ‘buckets’
Consider how your values tie into the importance of each of these buckets, as well as what level of fulfillment they each give you.
While you may not have direct control over how much time you have to spend on say, your job, each week, it’s important to reflect on what aspects of your job might align most with your values and provide a sense of fulfillment – and perhaps allocate a bucket to that activity
Challenge yourself to think outside the box
Don’t be afraid to list your true priorities - especially the things you put off because they feel lofty, unattainable, or unrealistic right now. You’ll never know their potential unless you budget them into Your Ideal Mix!
Step 3: Assign Your Ideal Percentages
Now it’s time for you to allocate a percentage of your time to each of your 3-5 buckets.
Take your total amount of “doing” capacity in step 1 and break it up into percentages (think pie chart) to align with the buckets you defined in Step 2.
Here’s a very basic example: of Your Ideal Mix:
50% - Fulfilling customer requests
20% - Networking and pursuing new business relationships
15% - Writing & creating content
15% - Building community
Consider this a starting point
No one will ever achieve a perfect ideal mix
The goal is to create yourself a barometer that you can measure against
Give it your best shot, and then move into the next step after the first week
Step 4: Review, Refine, Repeat
Now that you’ve laid out your ideal mix, it’s time to get to work on the things you set out to do.
Once you’ve got a week under your belt, set up 15 minutes on your calendar to review and refine.
Set up a simple time tracking app to help you track how much time you spend on each bucket each day
Review and make small tweaks each week
Ask: “What can I do next week to get closer to my ideal mix?”
Step 5: Identify Patterns and Refine
Once you’ve done this for about three months, it’s time for a more in-depth quarterly review.
The goal now is to identify patterns, revisit your buckets & priorities, and realign as necessary.
Again, it’s important to be blatantly honest with yourself about any bigger changes that need to occur.
Some reflection questions to ask:
Are you way off base in one or two buckets?
Are there any buckets where you’re spending no time at all? If so, is this still a priority?
What are the roadblocks preventing you from achieving your ideal mix?
To illustrate that I don’t just talk the talk, but I walk the walk, here is a snippet of me going through Step 5 of the exercise myself recently:
Bagel’s Ideal Mix
I hope this five-step framework for creating Your Ideal Mix helps you get closer to achieving more fulfillment and prioritize the things that matter most.
Most importantly, use this as a starting point, a place from which to start measuring and make marginal adjustments each week to get closer to your ideal routine.
My Offer to You
Want to get feedback on this exercise? Click the button below and send me Your Ideal Mix. Provide as much context as you’d like, and I’ll reply with some feedback to help you get closer to your goal!
What We’re Reading
Recently, the book Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy was recommended to me after I shared my passion for living a values-driven life in an online community.
I’ve been learning a lot about just how precious our attention is, and just how manipulative the corporations and institutions are in monopolizing that attention for their benefit and to our detriment.
It’s a slightly more academic, but not an overly complex read (or listen - I highly recommend the audiobook version), and very eye-opening.
Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!
Catch ya next week!
🥯 Bagel 🥯