How to Be More Intentional and Why it Matters


Three simple steps with examples

First, let’s talk about the problem I believe being more intentional can help with. That is, in a nutshell, anxiety about the chaos of life — feelings of having a lack of structure, plans, and progress.

Generated on Midjourney. Prompt: “anxiety chaos”.

There are ways to combat this.

I like to think about how people operate as being split into two different levels, intentions and actions:

  • Intentions — high level, strategic (intention to be healthy; run a marathon)
  • Actions — low level, tactical (action of running 5 miles @6am on Monday)

If we are not clear on our intentions or don’t take actions aligned with our intentions, we can experience more of those feelings of chaos, as well as a lack of accomplishment and progression.

What’s an example of an intention, and actions aligned to it?

About 6 months back, I thought of an intention to have closer relationships with each of my kids. I have four sons, and we do things together often, but it’s always as a family or some portion of the family, and very rarely is it just me with only one of my kids. So, I got clear on that intention and then brainstormed actions I could take that would align with it. I ended up adding actions to my to-do list for a 1:1 (yep, kind of like at work, but more fun) with one of my kids each week, rotating through, from oldest to youngest. We’ve done rock climbing, bowling, putt-putt, and dirt biking to name a few, which are all fun, but more importantly, I get to know each of them better and have a closer relationship (my intention).

Here are a few more to get you thinking:

  • Intention: Have eggs from our own chickens.
    Actions: Plan for the area in the yard, build a coop, decide on the count and type of chickens, etc.
  • Intention: Increased strength and longevity — complete a marathon.
    Actions: Buy running shoes, choose a 16-week training schedule, etc.
  • Intention: Improved love life with significant other.
    Actions: Date night every Friday evening.

Is anything coming to mind that’s meaningful to you that you may have intentions for?

Imagine if most of the actions you got done were organized and aligned with to clear intentions you have. Could that help with feeling less chaos and having more meaningful progression?

Seems interesting, but how? Well, here’s what helps me.

Step 1: Create two distinct levels on your to-do list.
One for high-level intentions, and the other for low-level actions (what most to-do lists only focus on).

Step 2: Connect actions to intentions.
That connection will be different depending on the tool you use for tracking to-dos, but even if you put an acronym or prefix on your task names to indicate which intention it aligns to, that’s good enough, do whatever works for you.

Note — not every to-do will have an intention, some things you just have to do, like take out the trash, or fix a flat tire, no need to force anything here.

Step 3: Regularly revisit your list of intentions.
The biggest value is in spending time thinking high level about what your intentions even are! You might be surprised how many you have, and that’s ok, you can keep them on the list for consideration when prioritizing, but make sure you only prioritize 1–3 at a time. Then connect or create corresponding actions appropriately.

Am I perfect at it, and always intentional, definitely not. But I’ve learned the value of being intentional over and over, both in my personal life, and in my career. As a former technology executive, I would say that getting clear on the WHY behind the work we were doing and the intentions we had for outcomes we wanted to create were the most important things I could do to help the business and the motivation of the people making it happen. The same applies to personal intentions in life.

Generated on Midjourney. Prompt: “structure, clarity, happiness, a plan”.

As one of my favorite executive coaches once said…

Take time regularly to get clear on what’s most important to you and the intentions you have. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I’m passionate about this topic, so much so that I recently left my job to create my own business focused on it. Follow me to hear more of my thoughts and learnings as I dive in more, and to get updates on tools I intend (pun intended) to create to help people, including myself, to be more intentional.

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