Living and Working with Intentionality
by Jamie Spannhake
June 06, 2022
How many of us have picked up our phone to send an email or text, gotten distracted by a pop-up alert or something else we see on the phone, clicked … and suddenly it is 20 minutes later? How many of us have forgotten why we picked up the phone in the first place? I’m raising my hand here.
The onslaught of information constantly distracting us can sometimes be mind-boggling. There is always something to do, somewhere to be, someone who needs something, and some issue we feel we need to be informed about. Add in client expectations, billable hour requirements, and work-from-home distractions, and it can feel nearly impossible to stay focused on what matters to us.
Thankfully, things can and do get better when we live and work with intention.
What Is Intentionality?
Intentionality is actively choosing how to live and work, considering the big picture, day-to-day, and moment-to-moment. It is related to Much like mindfulness requires us to be aware of the present moment — or, more accurately, to be present in the moment — intentionality asks us to be aware of what we are doing. Being intentional means bringing focus and attention to things that are important to us and committing to keeping them “front of mind” in our work and lives. Think of it as living and working aligned with your values.
The opposite of intentionality can be distractedness or acting without thinking — living and working on autopilot. In other words, because our lives are full of obligations and distractions, we can spend our days moving mindlessly from one thing to another, never stopping to assess whether what we are doing is aligned with our values. We can forget to ask ourselves if what we are doing is what we intended to do that day and in our lives.
Why Intentionality Matters
When we are intentional, we are more likely to achieve our desired outcomes. This is true both personally and professionally. One of my favorite quotes about intention is from Stephen Covey, best-selling author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and other books:
“We become what we repeatedly do.”
For example, if we want to be healthy but don’t set an intention to live a healthy life, we won’t take time for exercise, won’t make daily decisions to eat healthy food, won’t ensure we have an annual physical and the like. In sum, we are not likely to live a healthy life.
The same is true in our law practice. If we want to grow our book of business but never schedule time for business leader networking or keeping in touch with contacts, we are not likely to be the rainmaker we’d hoped.
Hope is not a substitute for intention.
This is why we must harness the power of intentionality. Here are five ways to live and work with intention.
Five Ways to Practice Intentionality
1. Choose what’s most important to you.
To act with intention in our life, we must first know our values. It is important to be clear on big-picture goals for life and work. If you are not clear about what’s most important to you, create your personal values statement using this simple technique.
To practice intention daily, we must be clear at the outset about what we want to achieve each day. We need to set goals, break goals into measurable steps, and focus on taking those steps to achieve the goals. Choose one to three tasks to prioritize for the day. Schedule these tasks in your calendar. Be intentional about how you use your time and commit to focusing on these prioritized tasks.
2. Seek and create environments for exercising your intentions.
Being in a place and with people who share our values helps us live out our intentions. Seek out these places and people. The best way is to live and work with people aligned with your values. But even having the freedom to practice your intentions without judgment works too.
Often a “gut check” will let you know if you are in the best environment or with the right people. Listen to intuition; if the place or person doesn’t feel right, it might be time to seek out something different.
3. Say no when something doesn’t align with your values.
One thing I’ve learned in life is that people will ask me to do more and more until I say no. This is especially true when we are good at things. I’ve also learned about myself that I like opportunities and often want to say yes because I think it will be interesting. But we must say no when a task or opportunity does not align with our values — or when it distracts us from our stated intentions for a particular timeframe.
When you are asked to take on something or presented with an opportunity, review your intentions first. It may be appropriate to review your intentions for the hour, day, year or lifetime. If the task or opportunity will distract you from your intentions, it’s time to say no.
4. Be aware, self-aware and present.
To be intentional, we must reflect on our ideas and actions. We must be aware of what we are doing at the time we are doing it by being present in the moment. We also need to review our day at the end of the day. These practices allow us to set goals, self-assess while we are living and working throughout the day, and determine whether we are on track. If we are, we can continue to move forward in the same way. If we are not on track, we can recalibrate to get back to living with intention.
5. Avoid the too-full life.
A caution to consider when living with intention is avoiding feeling frazzled because of overscheduling. When we overschedule, it means we have no time for downtime. You may have felt this when your days are back-to-back full with no margin for change. These kinds of days can feel really stressful, prevent us from being present, and can be a “kill-joy” in life.
Remember that we need downtime for our mental health, creativity and problem-solving skills. Perhaps one intention you want to set is living a life with time for downtime!
Whatever they may be, set your intentions for your life and commit to living them every day.
This article first appeared at Attorney at Work and is reprinted here with permission.
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