By Leo Babauta
Yesterday I was on a call with an active member of my Fearless Training Program, and she asked a question about how to spend her time more intentionally.
Her key insight for me was that a lot of people in the program (and I think many people reading this blog) would like to do the same thing.
How do we spend our days with more intentionality?
How do we stop from just going through it on autopilot, just running to distractions and busywork all the time, just getting through things? How do we keep from feeling overwhelmed and lost at sea? How do we change our habit of being too busy, never having time for the things we want to spend our life on?
The answer isn’t simple, but I’ve created a guide for spending your time intentionally, things that I’ve been implementing in my life.
Let’s walk through this guide step-by-step.
The Mindset of Not Enough Time
Before we get into practical steps, it’s important to address the mindset that many of us have, which just gets in the way:
These are just stories that we have in our heads, and they’re not really true. We have enough time, and we’re not too busy. We just need to let go of those stories, those complaints about our time, and instead adopt a new mindset.
The mindset is that we have complete ownership over our time. This comes from Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap, where he tells us that we are the creators of our time.
When we complain that we don’t have enough time, we are avoiding taking ownership over an area in our lives. When we say, “I don’t have enough time for this activity,” we are really saying, “I don’t want to do it.”
Instead, we choose to do everything else, and then shirk taking responsibility for that.
What if we could drop our complaints, and take full ownership over our time? That means intentionally deciding how we want to spend the hours we have available.
What if we could be fully present and fully in love with the activities we choose to do? Instead of going through the motions, we show up fully, whole-heartedly?
Ask yourself where you are avoiding taking ownership of your time. Ask yourself how you can take full ownership of that area of your life.
Then ask how you can show up fully, not just doing the activity zombie-like, but with full presence.
Start Your Intentionality with Small Blocks
You’re not going to magically transform into a master of intentionality, spending every second of your day intentionally.
Instead, you’re going to pick a small block of time and practice. Then just two small blocks of time. And so on.
Let’s start with a couple questions:
You want to think of the one thing you could do that would change your life in some way: for me, it’s writing this post or creating a new course. For you, it might be meditation or starting that non-profit you’ve been wanting to start. Maybe you want to create videos or start a T-shirt business. Maybe it’s getting your finances in order.
Pick one activity that would make the most difference.
Then set up an intentional block of time at the beginning of each day, and spend it on this one activity. For example, if I want to write every day, I’ll set up a writing block of 30-60 minutes at the start of every day — before email and messaging and checking websites.
It could be a block devoted to starting your business, where you do different activities each day that move you closer to getting launched.
Now here are your intentional guidelines:
Learn the Art of the Sacred “No”
One of my teachers taught me the term, “Be a Sacred No.” For me, that means that what we have chosen to do can become sacred, something we’re fully committed to … and then we can be a Sacred “No” to everything else that tries to interfere with that sacred space we’ve created.
Imagine that this 30 minutes you’ve set up for yourself at the beginning of your day is a sacred space — it is so important that you’ve created something very intentional instead of just letting it mix in with everything else you have to do. You carved out the time. You deliberated on your Why, and kept the love of those you serve in your heart.
You are fully devoted to this activity. You are deeply committed, like you’ve never committed to anything else in your life.
And when distractions come up, or someone asks you to have coffee during this time, or there are other demands on your attention … you become a Sacred “No” to all of that. So that you can be a Sacred “Yes” to what you are fully committed to.
Expanding Into an Intentional DayOnce you practice with one sacred block of time that you spend with intentionality … you might want to expand that slowly into the rest of your day. I recommend doing it one sacred block per week (blocks of 30-60 minutes).
Here’s what I suggest:
The Joy of Letting Go
At the end of the day, you won’t get everything done on your task list. There will be a feeling of, “I can’t get everything done, I don’t have enough time.”
Actually, again, that’s just a story you tell yourself. In truth, it’s physically impossible to do every possible thing you could do. You only have one body, and so much time. So we have to decide how we spend our time, with intentionality. That’s taking ownership — you decide what to do with the time you’re given. Do you learn to surf or do you write a book? That’s your choice.
And so, accepting that we are choosing how to best spend our time, we can then accept that we have to let go of the rest. We can’t do everything. In fact, if we tried to do everything, we’d do everything poorly. We are owning the fact that we choose to do these things, to be fully there with them, and to do them as best we can, fully and with love.
Then we let go of the rest. We are a Sacred “No” to them, so that we can be a loving yes to what we’ve intentionally decided to spend our lives doing.