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Being Intentional about Intentionality

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about mindfulness and intentionality with time.

While it’s pretty common (and a badge of honor) these days to default to “I’m so busy” or “I don’t have time” as a frame of mind, the fact is that we do have time – a lot of it (168 hours to be exact). We are just not always as intentional about using our time as we could be. How much time do we spend scrolling through social media? Mindlessly watching television? Taking multiple trips to the grocery store because we didn’t make an actual list? The book I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam delves into this concept, talking about our time as a “mosaic,” allowing for the flexibility to make time for the things that give pleasure are meaning – as long as we’re intentional about it.

So, really, we do have time. We’re just so rarely present for it.

Most recently, I’ve delved into the world of mindful eating. I’ve always been a fast eater (I can now blame it on juggling four kids during meal time, but I ate quickly long before that). And sometimes a mindless grazer (I honestly don’t know where the food goes sometimes!). I genuinely enjoy food, though, so why don’t I take the time to enjoy it and make sure the food I’m eating is actually something I want to be eating? Some of that comes from what my attitude is towards food and why I am eating – Is it just to fuel my body with necessary calories? Is it to really taste the delicious food and make a pleasurable experience out of it? Is it to have something to do while I am sitting around with friends and/or family?

My intention for eating depends on how I would answer these questions – and then the food, the setting, and the time it takes me to eat said food should be adjusted accordingly.

All of this makes me think about another book – The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. This was a book I’d had on my shelf for a really long time before I read it. “How interesting or powerful or insightful can a book about getting together really be??” I thought to myself. Turns out, very.

Once I started reading the book, it turned out Priya was speaking my language! The overall theme is intentionality. Parker argues that we rarely stop to think about the deeper purpose of our gathering. She talks about the difference between a category of gathering (ie “baby shower”) and an actual purpose (such as “to bestow advice, support, and reassurance for the expecting mom”). She talks about the importance of limiting the guest list in order to align with the purpose (we often worry about being inclusive, she says, but we should focus on being exclusive in order to meet our goals). She talks about the role of the host and “generous authority” and the importance of the host’s opening and closing a gathering (she advises to never let a gathering fizzle out). She talks about setting rules and expectations for gatherings and sharing those with the guests or participants. And she talks about the value of allowing (and encouraging) guests to be authentic.

Priya Parker wrote an entire book about intentional gatherings. Something we are already doing. There are multiple books out there about mindful eating. Also, something we are already doing. There are a seemingly-infinite number of books out there about making the most of our time. And whether or not we include a sense of intentionality, we have the same number of hours in a week (168, to be exact).

I deeply believe in the power of intentionality. It brings a sense of meaning and purpose and efficacy to all the things.

So why isn’t it more common? Why did Priya Parker have to write a book about it related to gatherings? I mean, we’ve been gathering since the dawn of time; wouldn’t we know how to be intentional about it naturally?

I would imagine it’s because people “don’t have time” to be intentional, so they need the support and guidance and reminders. We do have time to be intentional, and, in the end, it saves us time.

It’s like that quote is always passed around when talking about our health: “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.”

When I work with clients, we are very intentional with every single step:

  • Each call or meeting has an agenda with clearly articulated goals and objectives.

  • The project itself is well-defined with a clear sense of “why” and a plan in place to evaluate efficacy.

  • We take time to consider all of the relevant stakeholders and how to include them in ways that are meaningful and constructive.

  • The process is outlined, using a backwards-design approach, so that each step makes sense, moves us forward, and is aligned with the goals.

The initial meetings take time and hard thinking. We have to get busy people together to have difficult conversations and be in agreement to do hard work.

The process takes time. There is research and data gathering and feedback and interaction.

And whatever the next step is takes time. There’s scheduling and implementation and follow-ups.

And, when intention is applied throughout the process, it works. We don’t have to start over when we thought we were finished. We don’t have to repeat everything two years later because it went nowhere. We didn’t just invest a lot of time and money into something that sits on a shelf and goes nowhere.

When we approach our time (and our tasks and our eating and our gathering…) with a sense of intentionality, it brings a sense of purpose that allows for great things to happen. We just have to take the time to do it.

What are you going to do with your 168 hours?

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