Have you ever gone to bed and not been able to remember many details from your day? Are you checking off weeks faster than items on your to-do list? Do you wish the answer to both of those questions were no?
If you answered yes to any, or all, of those questions, you probably need to start living more intentionally. That simply means being aware of what’s going on in your life, and being more deliberate in your actions. It’s a small yet substantial shift in perspective that is easier to achieve than you might think.
Here are nine ways to start living with more intention.
1. Find a simple breathing practice, and truly own it.
Just sit there. Breathe for a few minutes. Breathe in. Breathe out. In through your nose. Out through your mouth. Don’t think about anything in particular; let your mind wander to wherever it wants to go. But focus on each breath. Notice the sensations as you breathe, and keep going. Breathe in. Breathe out.
2. Ignore your phone.
How often does your bleeping phone actually require your immediate attention? Try turning off all notifications for one day, and only look at your phone when you want to. To begin with you’ll probably check it more than you ever have, but as the day goes on you’ll realize that you’re not missing much at all — and that 24 hours is more than enough time.
3. Ask more questions.
Start asking yourself more questions about things you encounter. Why don’t strangers say hello? Why do newspapers exist? Why does bad food taste so good? The more questions you ask, the more answers you’ll seek, and your brain will become naturally inquisitive. When you’re faced with a question in your life, you’ll be better prepared to figure out an answer.
4. Worry at specific times.
Set aside a 20-minute slot toward the end of the day to be your worry window. Whenever you find yourself worrying during the day, stop. Write that worry down instead. Once you get to your designated slot, worry about everything you listed during the day. If you’re not worrying for the full 20 minutes, you should probably worry about why. Once your time is up, screw up the list and toss it. OK, good job, same again tomorrow.
5. Look for the little things.
Your days can easily merge into one when your commute is the same, your office is the same, and your co-workers say the same things … every single day. Spend the next few days trying to discover things in your day that you’ve never noticed before. Contrary to popular belief, curiosity probably helped the cat to thrive and live a happy and fulfilling life.
6. Chew your food.
Make an effort to be more aware of what you’re putting into your mouth, and give yourself time to actually taste it. Think about what you’re eating, while you’re eating it. Let yourself process the flavors in each mouthful. Are you eating this for nourishment or something else? Does it taste better now you’re paying attention?
7. Record your day.
Try keeping a daily diary for the rest of the month. It can be one line, or one page, but try to write more about your thoughts and feelings than events. The best way to notice what’s actually going on in your life — and those areas where you need to live more intentionally — is to record and review it.
8. Control your time.
If you’ve ever wondered how everyone “finds the time,” the truth is that they don’t; they make the time. If you want to read, learn a language, or do anything that you currently can’t find the time to do, try making the time instead. Set aside a little time each day and just do that thing you want to do. The world won’t stop spinning, I promise.
9. Do one thing at a time.
If you’re reading this while answering emails, eating a sandwich, and “working,” I’m talking to you. No matter what you think, you can't multitask. Trying to do everything at once saps your energy, decreases your productivity, and adds to the general feeling that life is an uncontrollable blur. Start doing, and completing, one thing at a time. Let yourself enjoy that sandwich.