ways to be intentional

18 Easy Ways to Be Intentional in Your Life and Habits

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There are so many things I want to accomplish in a day. My task list is constantly growing, and most days, the second I check one thing off the list, I need to add 6 more to it! 

As a working, homeschooling mom of 4 amazing kids, I have so many roles. Every single day, I need to keep my family, home, homeschool, business, and job running smoothly. 

I do this by living intentionally.

When I first began simplifying my own life, I didn’t even know what intentional living was. I just knew that my overly busy life was overwhelming me to the point of burnout. I was questioning the point of everything. 

In the words of Lysa TerKeurst in her book The Best Yes, I was “living with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and aching with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” 

I’d lost myself in the craziness of my family life. I lacked purpose, and I had no idea what was truly important to ME anymore. And I had no idea how to change it.

Making small, daily decisions about what was important to me and what wasn’t, I started to declutter my home, set boundaries with my time, and find activities that brought ME purpose and joy. 

Over time, I noticed that I was generally happier. My approach to the mundane, everyday tasks changed. My attitude toward my husband and kids improved. The new habits and routines that I’d been putting into place to help maintain some sanity in my home were quite literally life-changing.

It turns out that making deliberate, purposeful choices made for a more peaceful and joyful home and life.

(As I’m typing all of this out, I feel like it sounds a bit selfish, particularly the part about finding activities for myself. Let me tell you, it’s not. I was dealing with bouts of depression, I was always cranky with my family, and I was not able to handle the demands of a working homeschool mom of 4. Finding activities and taking time just for me has saved me – I’m happier, less depressed, and all around more fun to be with.)

What is “Being Intentional”?

Living a life of intention is different for everyone. At its most basic, it means that you’re living a life that’s aligned to your values, beliefs, and passions. It means focusing on the things that truly matter to us. It’s not a one-time choice. You do have to remember to make almost every single moment count. 

But don’t let the idea intimidate you. It just means living life on purpose – not on autopilot.

Intentional people aren’t perfect and definitely don’t have it all together all the time. The beauty of intentional living is that there are no hard and fast rules to follow. It’s a lifestyle of habits and routines that leaves a lot of flexibility each day. It’s more of a framework for decision-making than anything. 

Oxford Languages defines intentional as “done on purpose; deliberate.” Being intentional with your time means that you are aiming to do everything consciously and on purpose. 

Nobody is perfect, but striving to live with intention means that we are allowing only that which serves us and brings us contentment into our lives. 

Living intentionally means living your life according to your fundamental values. It means that you are living a life that’s meaningful and fulfilling to you, and that you’re making thoughtful, deliberate choices in your life. 

It means having a purpose or a “why” that you’re working toward. You set clear goals that guide your daily actions, and you do your best to make choices in alignment with these goals.

You actively interact and engage with your life. You wake up every day excited to get up and get going. You start each day by asking yourself, “How am I going to make this day great?” You’re proactive instead of reactive. You take charge of your days instead of your days having control over you.

What is Intentional Living NOT? 

It’s not mindlessly moving from one task to the next, being a slave to your to-do list, or living life on autopilot. 

It’s not constantly questioning whether or not you should be doing what you’re doing, feeling like you’re running in a hamster wheel all day long, and having every day look and feel exactly the same.

It’s not a perfect life – it’s a purposeful life.

You’ll still have sacrifices to make, and you won’t be able to do all of the things you want to do, but you’ll know why you’re giving certain things up. It’s about knowing what you can and can’t control and taking responsibility for your life and happiness.

Intentional living empowers you to take action to make your hopes, dreams, and goals a reality and to bring joy back into your days.

ways to be intentional
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

Living Intentionally is a Two-Part Process

First, you need to know what you want. What are your values, dreams, priorities, and goals? What is your “why” – your reason for doing what you do and for getting out of bed every morning? What makes you joyful? 

Next, you need to align your actions accordingly. How are you spending your time, money, and energy? Are you living in alignment with what matters most to you? If not, what can you change? 

Why You Should Be Intentional

There are sooo many benefits to intentional living that I couldn’t possibly share them all here. It enhances every aspect of your life – relationships, career, family, hobbies, health… The list goes on and on. It can completely transform the way you experience the world, live your life, and chase your dreams. 

You’ll make more progress toward your goals, whatever they may be. Decision-making will become easier, since you’ll be using your “why” to take the guesswork out of making the right choices. You’ll be happier because you’ll know that you’re living your life in alignment with your purpose.

I live intentionally because I want to do more than just get by – I want to love my life and my day-to-day. I live intentionally because I have dreams and goals, and I want to see them come to fruition. I live intentionally because I want to model intentional living for my kids so that they can make their own dreams and goals come true. 

One of the biggest reasons for being intentional? TIME. Intentionality helps you to focus on what you’re doing and why so that you can better choose what serves you and what doesn’t. It highlights areas of your life that can be made more efficient or even removed completely. You’ll be able to streamline your to-do list and shift your understanding of productivity to a more positive perspective. 

All because you’re making the choice to live according to your goals and priorities.

Being intentional is my secret to loving life. And I believe that it can be your secret to loving life as well.

How to Be Intentional

When you’re looking out at this enormous gap between where you currently are and where you want to be, how do you even start? 

This part’s easy – you take a small step forward. Then another. And another. 

Eventually, those small steps add up, and when you look back, you’ll realize how far you’ve come.

You live intentionally by carefully considering the choices you make – it’s those daily decisions, even when they don’t seem important, that will get you to that point where you’re living a life on your terms.

As you read over this list of ways to be intentional, think about the different ways you can incorporate each of them into your life. Then, as always, start small. Choose one or two things to implement at a time and make sure they work for you before trying more.

ways to be intentional

#1 – Remember Who You Are

When you’re in the midst of motherhood, it’s all too easy to get lost and forget who YOU are. But, momma, you’re also a person who needs a purpose.

Dig down deep and remember some of your own dreams and interests. Who are you? What do you want to achieve in your life? 

For many of us, myself included, being a mom is part of my purpose. But it’s not all I was made to be, and I suffer when I try to be a supermom 100% of the time. 

Knowing who I am definitely includes prioritizing my husband and kids, though. In particular, when I set boundaries with my time as part of living intentionally, it’s meant to benefit my whole family, not just me. 

Are you working toward a career goal? Do you want to spend more quality time with your husband and kids? Would you love to get back into your pre-kid hobbies like sewing, writing, or softball? Do you want to live more sustainably, helping to preserve our environment? 

To be intentional, you need to start by getting clear about your aspirations and goals for yourself.

#2 – Identify Your Core Values / Priorities

Once you remember who you are, it’s time to identify your core values and priorities.

Living intentionally is nearly impossible if you don’t know what you want to get out of life. You need to know what to focus on and what to let go of, and you can only do this if your values are defined.

If you don’t know what your values are, then you can’t make intentional choices. Your personal values encompass what is important to you, the things that motivate you, and anything that helps to guide your decisions. 

My number one priority is my family. I want to raise good humans, and I want to spend as much quality time as I can with these good humans before they leave the nest. 

(However, even though I prioritize quality time with my kids, that absolutely does not mean that I don’t need to also prioritize time by myself!)

Because my family is my priority, my home is also my priority – I want it to be a safe, cozy place that’s filled with things that we love.

All of this means that pretty much every choice I make involves making the people in my family safe and happy.

Whether your values are family, helping those less fortunate, wealth, creativity, or something else, by knowing what your values are and being intentional about living by them, you’ll live a more fulfilling life.

 #3 – Develop Healthy Habits

I know, I know – I harp on this one all the time. But it’s so important that I have an entire post on true self-care, which is all about what to do and how to make time for taking care of your body. 

By now, I’m sure you know that it’s important to take care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising. 

Since you’re here, you probably already have good intentions when it comes to your habits. You don’t need to go crazy and revamp your entire life to be intentional about how you treat your body – just make healthy choices. And don’t forget to pay attention to your mental health as well by being aware of your emotions and state of mind. 

When you maintain healthy habits, you’ll have more energy and feel better, which will make it so much easier to enjoy a fulfilling, happy life.

#4 – Declutter Your Life

Getting rid of the clutter in your home can help you to live intentionally. If you don’t need it or love it, get rid of it. 

A decluttered space is easier to maintain, which will give you more time, energy, and space for the things that mean something to you.

But this doesn’t only apply to your home – take a look at the rest of your life as well. Eliminate the habits, attitudes, people, and situations that you don’t need, want, or love. All of these intangibles can also hold you back from living a purposeful, simplified life.

If something in your life doesn’t have meaning or value, don’t hang on to it!

picture of hourglass - don't waste time

#5 – Don’t Waste Time

You can’t slow down time. It’s going to pass way too quickly, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So why would you choose to waste it?

Time is probably the most limited resource we have – it absolutely, positively can never be gotten back once it’s gone. It’s also one of our most wasted resources. 

Be mindful of how you’re spending your time.

I’m not saying that you should stop taking an afternoon nap if it’s something that you love to do. Or delete all of the game apps off of your phone if it makes you happy to sit for a while and play them.

I am saying that you should take inventory of your time. Make sure that everything you do is something that you’ve either chosen to do or truly NEEDS to be done.

Good time management is essential to living with intention. If you can stop wasting time, you can get things done that you need to do and still have time to do the things that you want to do – those things that bring you joy.

#6 – Plan Your Days

Getting your days planned and organized creates more time, more calm, more freedom, and less stress. You’ll know what needs to be done and when, which will make you feel more in control of the chaos.

Set aside some time every week to be intentional about planning, preparing, and organizing the week ahead. Write out everything that needs to be done for the week, and block out family time and other unavailable time. 

This will ultimately save you time because you’ll always know what you should be doing throughout the day – no more wasting time wondering what you should be doing or stressing out about when you’re going to fit a particular task into your day. 

And all of your saved time will allow you to schedule some blank space for living according to your values and purpose, which is the whole point of living intentionally 🙂

#7 – Ask Why All the Time

As you’re getting started with intentional living, ask why:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • Why am I eating this?
  • Why is this long line at the grocery store stressing me out so much?
  • Why am I hanging out with this person?

Asking yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing will help you to understand the intentions that drive your decisions. You’ll be verifying with yourself that what you’re doing is in alignment with your values and priorities. 

And if it’s not, then it’s a great opportunity to change direction.

#8 – Learn to Say “No”

Choosing to spend your time intentionally means that you’ll need to say “no” sometimes, even to people you love.  

It doesn’t help anyone, least of all you, if you take on too many projects and activities. It will leave you exhausted, crabby, and stressed out.

Being intentional with your time means that you should only accept meaningful obligations. If an invitation or request stresses you out or if you don’t have time for it, it’s okay to decline. 

There are only so many hours in a day, so it’s not possible to fit in all of the requests for our time – last-minute bake sales, volunteer opportunities, even fun outings with friends.

Intentional people say no to things that are low on their priority list, things they don’t have time for, and things that don’t align with their values. 

It’s hard to say “no” at first. I often find myself feeling like I “should” do something, even if I don’t really want to or if I know it will take away from another thing I need or want to do. Because the reality is that whenever you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to something else. And that something else could be more aligned with your values or purpose.

So before you say “yes” to yet another invitation or request, stop and ask yourself if it aligns with your personal mission and if you have space for it in your life. 

If you try to do everything, you won’t be able to give anything your best. So say “no” to some things.

#9 – Live in the “Now”

Do you have these thoughts?

  • “Everything is going to be better next month, when things slow down a bit.”
  • “Once I have that new-to-me Suburban instead of this crappy old minivan, I’ll be happier.”
  • “I can’t wait until I get that raise – then my life will really start.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty. I’ve been there.

Life isn’t going to get better / be easier / slow down at some specific point in the future. Stop thinking in those terms. 

Life needs to be lived in this moment, enjoying what you have right now – not what may (or may not) be in the future. 

Yes, you’re still going to make plans for the future and work toward them, but find the blessings in the life you’re living NOW and be grateful for them

#10 – Be Mindful of What You Consume

Yes, this can mean food. I already covered that in #3, though. More importantly, I’m talking about books, social media, TV, and those types of things.

In today’s highly connected world, we consume more media than ever before. With the internet, SO much information is right at our fingertips for us to seek out. 

However, most of the time, we don’t even realize what we’re consuming – there are physical ads, radio ads, targeted banners on blog posts, sponsored posts on social media… The list goes on and on. It’s nearly impossible to escape.

The things you watch, listen to, and read can help you achieve your goals and dreams and live out your values and priorities. Or they can distract you. Even worse, they can completely turn you away from trying to make your best life happen, like when the Pinterest comparison game makes you feel like you’re not good enough.

It’s very possible to consume media in a more intentional way and turn an unhealthy habit into one that’s productive and beneficial. Set boundaries before getting lost in social media or letting hours go by in front of the TV. Ask yourself why you’re reading or watching something, and identify how it’s serving you. Pick up a personal growth book or listen to an inspiring podcast.

Put good brain food into your eyes and ears. If it doesn’t have a purpose, consider doing something more productive with your time. 

Keep in mind that relaxation can be productive – I’m absolutely not saying that you shouldn’t unwind with some mindless TV at night or read a trashy romance novel just because 🙂 Just pay more attention to the way that the media you’re consuming makes you feel. If it’s causing you stress and weighing you down, find another way to spend your time! 

#11 – Be Productive

As long as you’re continuously working toward your goals, you’re being productive. 

But remember that busy-ness is not the same thing as productivity. You have to be intentional while planning your work. You don’t want to look back on your day and realize that you did a whole lot of unnecessary or irrelevant work. 

Also remember that rest is sometimes the most productive thing you can do – it serves the purpose of setting yourself up to perform better tomorrow. 

#12 – Do Something That Brings You Joy

It’s so easy to get caught up in doing all the things without ever stopping to make time for yourself. We live in a world that puts the constant go-go-go ahead of the pursuit of happiness. 

It’s so important to make time for the things that make you happy.

These things don’t have to take a ton of time or cost money. They can be as simple as getting your favorite coffee from Starbucks or sneaking a few quiet minutes on the deck to read a book. Maybe you’re a crafter or a writer – make time for it. Have a handful of go-to simple pleasures that you can choose from when setting up your weekly plan.

Whatever it is that brings you joy, be intentional about making time for it in your schedule. Add it to your calendar or to-do list. The point is to find even just a few minutes every day or so to do something for you.

Doing small things that you enjoy can completely transform your day and change your attitude about life. 

#13 – Make Time for Rest and Relaxation

If you keep going and going and don’t take time for yourself, you’re likely to burn out. Be intentional about making time to completely rest and relax.

Rest and relaxation doesn’t have to be super involved or time-consuming. I try to find 5 minutes here and there when the kids are playing nicely together, and I just sit and enjoy the quiet. I also have a daily “coffee break” in my routine between homeschooling and working, which falls every day sometime between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. 

You should also be scheduling in longer periods of rest or fun time. For me, evenings are for family and rest. From after dinner until bedtime, I don’t do much with my to-do list – it’s all about board games or a movie with the kids, reading a book, or simply sitting around and chatting with my family.

If you feel your stress levels increasing, find some time to sit down and just breathe. And work a short daily break into your routine!

#14 – Nurture Your Relationships

When you have a lot going on, it’s all too easy to neglect your relationships. I find that this most often happens with my longest relationships – my family, my brothers, and my best high school friend. I start taking these relationships for granted when my life gets busy. 

This is not the right way to nurture relationships – don’t do what I did 🙂

Be intentional about the people who you spend your time with. Nurture those relationships that are mutually supportive, and spend less time with people who aren’t a positive influence in your life. Make time to connect with, really listen to, and spend time with the people who mean the most to you.

#15 – Think Before You Buy

While it can be fun to buy new things, be intentional with your spending. Stop the mindless spending that happens when you’re bored or feeling down and like you need to treat yourself. 

The “high” that comes from retail therapy doesn’t last long. Getting new things is always nice, but it’s not good to spend money on things that are ultimately going to end up adding to the chaos by cluttering your space. 

#16 – Practice Gratitude

Being grateful for the things you have, rather than stressing over what you don’t have, is such an important part of intentionality. You’ll never feel fulfilled if you’re constantly looking for that next thing to make you happier, wealthier, or more successful. 

If you stop to think about it, I’d bet that you already have everything you need to be happy already. Living with intention will help you remember that.

I recommend implementing a daily gratitude practice – when I started doing this intentionally until it became a habit, it literally changed my life. I’m happier and more fun to be around when I remember that what I already have is pretty darn awesome. Plus there’s the added bonus that I struggle less with depression and anxiety when I’m actively seeking opportunities to be grateful!

#17 – Be Kind (to Yourself AND to Others!)

When you choose to be kind, you’re making an intentional choice about the type of person you want to be. 

Sometimes this involves stopping to think before you speak. I am soooo guilty of not doing this. It’s almost like the things I say don’t even pass through my brain at all – they just come flying out of my mouth. I don’t think that I’m saying mean things necessarily, but my sense of humor is of the dry, sarcastic variety, and I know that there are many people out there who don’t appreciate that 😛 

I’m sharing all of this to say that I’m also a work-in-progress! I try to intentionally wait about 3 seconds before I speak. 

Just as importantly, though, is stopping to think before you speak to yourself. Self-talk is SO powerful, whether it’s positive or negative. 

Your actions should demonstrate kindness as well. In addition to not being unkind, it’s important to make an effort to put kindness out into the world. 

This doesn’t have to cost any money, like those stories you hear about people paying for the car behind them in the Starbucks drive-through. I like to try to compliment someone outside of my family every day. It’s easy, quick, and painless for me, plus the person on the receiving end gets a boost as well!

Being kind to other people has benefits for you, the giver, as well – it makes you happier AND healthier.

I love this quote:  

“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”

Harold S. Kushner

If you value kindness, and I’m sure you do, look for ways to be kind and speak kindly every single day!

#18 – Check in With Yourself Regularly

Whichever of these habits you choose to try, check in with yourself after a few days or so. And if you continue further with the habit, check in again in a week. And then a few weeks. 

Evaluating your progress will help you to make sure that everything you’re doing is keeping you on track with your goal of living intentionally. 

Making time for self-reflection and analysis is absolutely essential for knowing that you’re on the right track. Go over your values and priorities (or whatever value and / or priority you’re working on right now), and ask yourself how your schedule, your spending, and your mindset are aligning with these values.

If you’re happy with your progress, carry on! If you’re not happy, consider changing one or two small things to bring yourself into alignment.

Living intentionally is a great way to make life more meaningful and live by your values, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a lifelong choice that you need to make day after day. Make some of these habits your own, and you’ll soon see that being intentional has such a positive impact on your life. 

Do you wake up every morning ready and excited for your day? Are you generally happy with your life? For me, every day of intentional living brings me happiness, engagement, and excitement. And I want that for you, too!

I hope that you find these ideas helpful in creating a life that you love – a life that brings you a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Which habit will you start with? How can I support you? Leave a comment or shoot me an email – karis@karishollis.com.

intentional living | intentionality | how to be happy | simplify | habits + routines

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