Life gets busy. And when it does, taking the time to really meditate on exactly how you’re spending your time, money, and energy tends to fall to the wayside. This is especially true during the festive (and let’s face it, often stressful) holiday season.
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to take back control and be more intentional with how you spend your time, money, and energy. Get started with these 11 tips.
1. Keep track of how you spend time during the workday
We’ve all had the experience of looking at the clock, noticing it’s 5 p.m., and realizing we have tons of work left. Poof! There goes that relaxing evening you had planned. By taking the time to track exactly how you spend time during the workday, you can stop working late (or at least work late less often), and maybe even take more restorative breaks during the day. For example, maybe you unknowingly spend 45 minutes a day on Instagram or Twitter — hey, mindless scrolling happens to the best of us — so you start leaving your cell phone out of reach.
2. Audit your free time
Ah, free time: We all want more of it, right? Well, you probably have more of it than you think — so it’s time to be more intentional with it. Similar to what we asked you to do with your work day, spend a few days paying really close attention to exactly how you’re spending your free time, and see if it aligns with how you want to spend your free time. For example, maybe for you “ideal” free time means getting lost in a book, writing in your journal, or cooking a great meal. But instead, you flop down on the couch exhausted and watch a few episodes of a TV show and play mindless games on your phone. By truly understanding how you’re spending your free time, you can start taking it back.
3. When you spend money, pay attention to how it makes you feel
In an ideal world, we would only spend money on the things that made us really happy. Of course, that’s just not reality — we need money to cover our needs, like our rent or mortgage so we have a place to live, groceries so we can eat, the list goes on. But by paying more attention to how you feel when you spend money on things you want (or think you want), you can start to become more intentional with your spending.
For example, how do you feel after impulsively buying a few new items of clothing during a sale, only to realize they don’t fit you quite right a few days later? Probably not great. How about after that dinner out with friends when you engaged in really meaningful, soul-satisfying conversation? Probably a little better. By tracking how you feel after you spend money, you can take back a lot of your power around it.
4. Try an expense tracker
Expense trackers are built into every issue of Silk + Sonder, and for good reason: They help us truly understand what we’re spending money on so we can become more intentional with how we spend it. For example, you may not realize you’re spending $30 on gum every month by buying it on a whim at the grocery store or drugstore as you’re checking out. Is that an expense you really need? Probably not.
5. Plan in advance
A little planning in advance can go a long way when you’re working to be more intentional with your time. For example, say you have a vague idea that you’d like to spend a Saturday afternoon relaxing after a long, stressful week. As you slide into the bubble bath with a good book, you might suddenly wonder if this is really the best use of your time. There are so many other things to do! You’re out of the bathtub within five minutes, and there goes that relaxing day you had planned. To avoid this, schedule the time of day when you’ll do all those things you have to do, and then schedule the time of day when you’ll relax. By thinking this through ahead of time, you won’t have to wonder if you’re really spending your time the way you should be.
6. Track when you feel energized and when you feel drained
Silk + Sonder’s mood tracker is an excellent way to get a better grasp on why you feel energized and why you feel drained. For example, you might feel really drained after eating a lot of sugar (this is common!) and feel energized after spending time with a friend or family member who inspires you. As you get a better understanding of which activities, people, or foods energize you and which one drains you, you can become more intentional with your energy.
7. Take five minutes a day to reflect
Sometimes, being more intentional with our time, money, and energy, comes down to the simple act of taking a pause at some point throughout the day. By taking five minutes in the middle of the day to reflect on how your day has gone so far — and examining whether or not it aligns with your values — you can be more intentional with the rest of your day.
8. Journal on what saving more money would mean for you and your goals
Oftentimes, saving money can be difficult because we don’t have a clear picture of what we’re saving it for. So ask yourself: What are your long-term goals? Do you want to own a home someday? Travel more? Send your kids to college debt-free? By getting some clarity on what your goals around money are, it may be easier to become more intentional with it.
9. Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone
We all have those days — or, let’s face it, months — when we feel a little “blah,” and we know we need an energetic shift. When this happens, it’s time to do something that scares you and pushes you out of your comfort zone. No, you don’t need to go skydiving, but consider signing up for a class that will help you learn something new, have a difficult conversation you’ve been putting off for a while, or cook a new (and slightly intimidating) dish. You may just find that you get a much-needed energy reset.
10. Write down your intentions and goals
Understanding the big picture is important when you’re working to be more intentional with your time, money, and energy. So take out your journal and ask yourself: What are your intentions? What are your goals? How do you need to spend (or save) your time, money, and energy to make them a reality?
11. Examine what the term "personal growth" means to you
Is personal growth a core value of yours? If it is, sit down and work to define what that means to you. Then ask yourself: Are you spending your time, money, and energy in a way that's helping you grow? For example, if you constantly find yourself spending money on things that don't bring any joy or value to your life, that answer to that question is probably no. If you find that all your free time is spent scrolling or watching TV, again, you're probably not living in a way that's helping you grow. Once you define what personal growth means to you, you'll naturally get better at spending your time, money, and energy in a more productive way.
12. Ask yourself what your perfect day would look like
Often, we don’t use our energy or time in the way we want to because we don’t understand exactly what we want. By envisioning your perfect day from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, you’re taking an important step toward making that a reality for yourself, and it can help make you more intentional with how you spend your precious resources.
Next up, here are 30 Future Self Journaling Prompts for Happiness.