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I am something of a chronic planner. I can plan things to death just to make sure I am actually on the right track — often out of fear of taking a wrong step and wasting time. This is true even years after coming to the conclusion that there is no such thing as wasted time. All experience is valuable, even when it seems irrelevant.
Still, if we’re lucky enough to know where we want to go, we want to be able to make decisions based on where we are and what experiences we think are most likely to serve us on our journey.
The goal is always to spend less time planning, and more time doing. Intentional Living is about building a framework that allows us to focus on getting things done with confidence. It provides the necessary context for our actions, to reassure us that even if we end up taking a few detours we are still moving toward our dreams.
A Vision Board was a great start for me. The visual reminder of my long-term goals was helpful, both as a source of motivation and as reminder of what matters. But it wasn’t enough. I still lost track of my short-term goals and my day-to-day. The Vision Board was only a single level, and too far removed from the day-to-day to be useful.
I’ve spent the last several months exploring that gap until I felt like I had covered all my bases. Some people may not need this many levels in their framework, and some may need additional ones I haven’t considered yet, but here’s how I personally stack Intentionality to understand my life and direction.
The Six Levels
The six levels of Intentionality I have found are Values, Ideal, Strategy, Areas, Projects, and Tasks.
Values are the big ideas; what you care about, what you believe is important, and what gives meaning to your life. It’s what you want to be and what you want to share with the world.
Your Ideal is a snapshot of the perfect life. It’s a sensory representation of several aspects of your life such as career and family, along with a representation of the space you want to live in.
Strategies exist to bridge the gap between your ideal future and where you are today. Creating these requires an evaluation of your current situation, and the identification of the essential changes needed to move you closer to your ideal. Then, you plan.
Areas are the current aspects or categories of your life. They might include your job, your family, your social life, volunteer work, etc. They are static in that they don’t have an end date and cannot be “completed” or “finished”.
Projects have a clear goal, a start and end date, and perhaps a deadline. They likely belong to a certain Area, and are Milestones within the larger Strategies you build to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
Tasks are small, bite-sized actions you can take immediately in order to further a Project, or serve or maintain an Area. This is the part where you actually get things done. This is where you want to be spending the vast majority of your time. The rest is the context that ensures you’re doing the tasks you should be doing.
It’s important to note that figuring out each of these levels is not expected to be a linear process. Few people will know off the top of their head what their values are, or even what their ideal future looks like. And even those that do have answers within reach, might find them to be inaccurate or outdated once they examine the other levels. While I have them organized in a hierarchy for simplicity, the way each level influences the others is complex and unique to each person. My suggestion is to start with what you know now, and expand outwards by asking yourself a couple of questions such as:
What tasks do you spend most of your time on? are you satisfied with that? what do you think that says about your values?
What projects do you have going on? why did you start on those projects? what areas of your life do they serve? are they part of a larger plan or strategy?
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