Have you ever had one of those moments where you pull into a parking lot somewhere and you can’t remember how you got there? I mean, obviously you drove there, but you can’t remember anything about the entire car ride? It’s a weird feeling. It can feel kind of unsettling knowing that a portion of your day could pass by with you cruising on autopilot.
While the parking lot instance is likely a rare occurrence in your life (unless you’re like me and your car automatically takes you to Target when you’re trying to go to the gym), it can be easy to get in a funk where you feel like you’re just going through the motions every day.
Think about it. How many times do we reach the end of the day and wonder how we got there? How many times do we dread looking at our bank account because we know we’ve spent too much money this month? How many times do we live for the weekend and let our weekdays just pass us by? Or wonder why we’re not happier? Or why we’re not accomplishing our goals?
Why do we often feel out of control of our own lives?
The answer lies in a lack of intention.
Intentionality refers to the process of being deliberate in our actions to obtain a certain goal or state of being. Being intentional can be difficult in our 20s because we’re still trying to figure it all out: what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and who we’re doing it for. But, the truth is, we have more control over our lives than we give ourselves credit for. And when we take back control of the wheel, we can experience more happiness and purpose in this one life we were given. And who doesn’t want that?!
This blog is a different one for me. Normally, I hate giving advice (because as a fellow 20-something, I know NOTHING about ANYTHING), but I think we all need this one. To be cliche, we only have one life to live and while, in our 20s, it seems like we have a lot life left, it can be all too easy to let it pass us by. I hope these daily, weekly and monthly intentions can help you live the life you want – to the fullest.
1. Daily: Make Your Bed
For all of you who HATE making your bed, don’t stop reading just yet. This is the only New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever kept because all it takes is 5 extra minutes of my morning to create a sense of order to start my day.
It may seem like a pointless task to some because you’re just going to mess it up again that night, but making your bed has a lot of benefits including:
- Increased productivity
- Reduced stress levels
- Leads to other good habits
- Instantly makes your space look cleaner (and encourages you to keep your space cleaner in general)
Plus, I swear it’s the best feeling in the world to get into a made bed every night. I’ll die on this hill every time.
2. Daily: Limit Your Social Media Time
When we feel the compulsion to be connected 24/7, to pick up our phones 52 times a day (yes, that’s the average), it can feel like we’re not in control of our own thoughts, feelings or even bodies.
When you limit your time on social media, you’ll be surprised by how much more time you have to do things for YOU. Not to mention, you’ll be happier because the comparison trap on social media is REAL and harmful to your mental and emotional health.
When my husband and I got married, we challenged ourselves to do one night a week with no technology. Besides our vows, it’s one of my favorite promises we’ve made to each other. We use our technology-free nights to do puzzles or make dinner together or go for walks. It gives us time to focus on our own lives rather than on what’s going on in everyone else’s.
3. Daily: Get Active for 30 Minutes
Between work and friends and a house and pets and my husband, I can barely find the time to spend 30 minutes on much these days. Admittedly, I haven’t been able to work out as much as I used to or would like. So, I started re-framing the way I thought about exercise. On the days where it’s literally impossible to go to the gym or go for a run, I’ll use my hour lunch break to go on a walk instead. I might not burn as many calories but it’s better than sitting on my butt for an hour.
Being active doesn’t have to mean a full-on workout every day. It just means that we’re trying to actively combat our sedentary lifestyles in any way we can. I don’t have to tell you how important it is to get active, but just know that you don’t have to feel bad about yourself for finding other ways to get active instead of going to the gym.
4. Daily: Practice Gratitude
Can we just take a minute and acknowledge the fact that we are LIVING? How awesome is that? You, my friend, are so lucky to be alive… to have friends and family that care about you, to have a paycheck, to live in a world with Chick-fil-A! Take time to appreciate that even though bad things happen sometimes, it’s a good, good life.
I’ve mentioned this in my 30 Days of Gratitude post, but my favorite way to practice gratitude is to say out loud three things you’re thankful for before you go to sleep each night. This isn’t always easy on the bad days, but it makes you appreciate that even though things didn’t go your way, you still have it better than most. You have a roof over your head, you had access to clean water and you had enough to eat. Be grateful for that. ❤
5. Daily: Make a To-Do List
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s my favorite and most effective way to practice intentionality. I can honestly say that when I don’t write down what I need to accomplish during the day, I will forget about at least one or two things on that list AND stress over the fact that I can’t remember what I’ve forgotten.
Making a to-do list sets the course of each day and leads you down the road of productivity. When you make a to-do list, even if you only cross one thing off a day, you are being intentional about accomplishing your goals.
Personally, I use the reminders app in my phone because I can type out my to-do list, set reminders for when I need them to be done and check them off after I’ve completed them. I also like Trello and the Productive Habit Tracker app as well.
6. Daily: Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness and intentionality go hand in hand because they both focus on living in the present moment. How often do you take 60 seconds to just breathe? To forget about work or school or what’s for dinner and pay attention to your breath and your body?
Practicing mindfulness can increase your productivity at work, help you identify and confront difficult or confusing emotions, alleviate stress and more.
We rarely live in the present because our thinking is almost always in future-tense. Next time you find yourself day dreaming or distracted, take 60 seconds to close your eyes, relax your shoulders, sit up straight, clear your mind and just breathe. It sounds silly, but it can work wonders.
7. Weekly: Plan Something to Look Forward to
Raise your hand if you love weekends. Raise your hand if you hate Mondays… and Tuesdays and Wednesdays… and maybe even Thursdays. Okay, so I exaggerate to illustrate, but why do we do this to ourselves?! It’s so easy to look forward to two days off each week that we forget about the other five.
I’ve found that life will quickly pass you by if you live only for the weekends. Which is why it’s important to plan something each week to look forward to – whether it’s making your favorite meal, going to happy hour with friends or indulging in the newest episode of your favorite show. Find ways to make each week special so you’re not just cramming all of the excitement into Saturday and Sunday.
8. Weekly: Keep A Journal
Journaling has a surprising amount of benefits for those who partake. Jotting down your thoughts can help increase your emotional intelligence, boost your memory retention, improve your communication skills and help you better process your emotions – especially the negative ones.
Now, before you panic, just know that you don’t have to journal every day to reap the benefits mentioned above. You don’t even have to write long-form entries if you don’t want to. I am a big fan of list journaling. I bought the 52 Lists Project book in January, which includes different prompts for each week of the year – like “What makes you happy right now?” or “What were some of your favorite childhood toys?”
All I have to do each week is jot down a couple bullet points related to the prompt. It helps me recall amazing memories, reminds me of my hobbies and passions and makes me thankful for everything I’ve been given in this life. Plus, I’ve made this part of my nightly routine, so it puts me in a positive head space as I get ready for bed.
9. Monthly: Create a Budget
How often do you feel controlled by how much money you make or how much debt you have? How many times do you look at your credit card statement and realize you spent way too much money on Starbucks? The best way to feel more in control over your finances is to focus on making intentional purchases. You can start by creating a monthly budget for yourself using tools like this online NerdWallet budget calculator or the Mint app.
Making intentional purchases doesn’t just save you money, it also allows you to feel more unburdened by STUFF. We have a LOT of stuff and it’s pretty likely we don’t need half of it. Living simply starts with how you choose to spend your money.
10. Monthly: Embrace Your Hobbies
We all need hobbies. Without them, we would spend the majority of our time and energy on things we HAVE to do versus what we WANT to do. In high school, you probably enjoyed extracurricular activities like sports or theatre but since those times are long gone, we need other hobbies to feel fulfilled.
For example, I recently took up calligraphy because I already had a knack for lettering and I find it super relaxing. Find something that interests you and dedicate a couple times each month to this hobby. Bonus points if you get your friends or significant other involved.
11. Monthly: Volunteer Your Time
As I mentioned, we are SO lucky to be alive and to have the basic necessities we need to live a healthy, happy life. However, there are so many people who don’t have those necessities.
When we get sucked into the doldrums of daily life, it’s easy to get caught up in ourselves and forget about those around us. We have so much power to change the world or even just our community. Just like finding a hobby, it’s important to find a cause to dedicate your time to. Pick an animal shelter, a soup kitchen or a humanitarian cause to support. Your time and commitment makes a difference in the lives of others.
Remember, your life is made up of a series of choices. YOU are in charge of those choices. By being more aware of the active role you play in your own life, you’ll be able to experience more joy and a sense of peace. Every day you get a fresh start to live more intentionally.
P.S. You have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyoncé. Make them count. 😉