Harnessing the power of intention
How to escape the back-to-back life…
“Do you ever stop for lunch?” I asked Dean.
“Rarely,” he responded. “Every day just seems to be back-to-back meetings.”
“There are some days when I even struggle to find time to go to the bathroom,” Dean continued knowing that this wasn’t a healthy way to exist.
Although some might find it surprising, this type of statement is one I hear all too often from those in leadership roles. Struggling to find any free time during the day they end up jumping from meeting to meeting, never really feeling like they are keeping up.
It is not a race
When caught in the trap of back-to-back living, where you’re struggling to find time to go to the bathroom let alone have lunch, it’s easy to feel like things are spinning out of control. It feels like the race is on. But, rather than knowing whether it’s actually a race or not, you’re just launching from the blocks on Monday, sprinting all week and then collapsing over the supposed finish line on Friday night before getting ready to go again first thing Monday morning. Or worse than this, you start Sunday night with a ‘few emails’ hoping to get a jump on the week ahead.
Getting trapped in trying to sprint to keep up results in you assuming that the only way to get through each week is to keep running. You allow every moment of your day to be filled, meaning no longer are you in control.
“I’ve realised that I don’t control my diary,” Dean said to me as we continued our conversation. “My diary controls me.”
The power of intention
In a back-to-back existence, whether conscious of it or not, your goal often becomes to survive rather than to maximise your impact or fulfilment. Yes, you might have some goals you want or need to achieve, but these goals become secondary to just making it through to Friday night still standing.
Employing the power of intention helps you regain control. You no longer get swept along by the pace of life. Instead you define what you want to achieve, and through this, you set your own pace ensuring your attention and energy is always directed toward maximising your impact and fulfilment.
What’s more, intentional is, as intentional does. That is, through the power of intention you are not only intentional with what you want to achieve, but you are also intentional about how you invest your limited time and energy to achieve this.
3 Practices to being intentional
To escape the busy back-to-back existence, becoming intentional requires three simple practices:
- Be clear about what you want to achieve – using time periods to your advantage, make sure you intentionally define what you want to achieve. This could be what you want to achieve this year, this quarter, this month, this week and this day. Regardless of the timeframe you set, make sure that there is a golden thread across each so what you achieve this day contributes to this week and to this month, and so on. Being clear about what you want to achieve is more than setting goals, it is making sure that you are clear about what you want to achieve from every valuable piece of time you have.
- Be ruthless in cutting out what will get in your way – it is all too easy to just get swept along. Ruled by your diary each week you don’t stop to address what’s getting in your way from achieving what you desire. Whether this be valueless tasks, pointless meetings, or energy draining people, you don’t stop and consciously identify what is consuming the precious time and energy you need to achieve what you desire. When you consciously cut these things out, it allows you to redirect your time and energy toward that which is going to be more productive. Applying the simple question of does this task add value to what I want to achieve or not, is a good starting place for applying a more ruthless approach.
- Be intentional with your habits – with clear intentions and with more time and energy to focus on them, we need to find a way to sustain focus. Building in habits are the mechanism to do this. Whether they be set routines that you do every day or once a week, habits are what keeps us on track. We already have habits and so where our habits are not effective, the goal is to replace these with habits that are more useful. A starting place for establishing the better habits is considering what habits result in wasted time or effort. Whether it be setting time to ensure you do key tasks or even to plan your week, it’s these habits that support you becoming more intentional that you want to reinforce.
Staying the course
In the busyness of the modern world it is all too easy to get swept along. The pace of life seems to be increasing each year, as does the number of things to consume our time and energy. Escaping the back-to-back existence starts with the decision to become intentional. This is both intentional in terms of being clear what you want to achieve, and being intentional in terms of how you invest your precious time and energy.
If you’re seeking a way to become more intentional why not arrange a 30min call with Rob to understand how you establish a better practice which will help you become a Purposeful Leader.