Intentionality, time, and jellybeans

Caroline H – February 2023

Do you ever find yourself wishing you had more time?

I know I do. But over the past year, I’ve found myself developing quite a different mindset to time. Maybe it was the advent of a big birthday that made me realise a healthy life shouldn’t be taken for granted, and it’s up to me to proactively make choices about how I use my time.

The thing is, we only have a limited number of days in which to make our mark on the world, so it matters how we spend them.

How can we make sure we spend our time in the most effective way so our leadership, our teams and our organisations can thrive and grow?

I’ve learned the best way to do this is by making intentional choices.

Why intentionality is important for leaders, teams, and organisations

In January, we ran the monthly leadership community session for a client, and were delighted when 50 leaders joined the call. During a discussion about vision and goals for 2023, one of the leaders commented that it was good to have a clear focus, but without the intention, the shift doesn’t happen.

We couldn’t agree more. A clear vision and focus must go hand in hand with intentionality to be effective.

So, what do we mean by intentionality?

At the start of each year, Caroline M and I both choose a guiding word, or words, for the year. Setting this big-picture intention is powerful because it becomes our ‘north star’ – it helps set our vision for the year and gain clarity on what we want to feel, do, and be to support that vision. We use our north star to drill down into the detail and make intentional choices about our time. Our guiding words bring meaning into our everyday actions.

My word for the year is ‘Balance’. This doesn’t mean work-life balance with one axis because life isn’t like that, it’s a 360-degree experience. This image helps me remember all the balls I juggle may take up different amounts of time and energy. But there’s still movement and it can still feel balanced.

Caroline M’s words for the year are ‘Focus’, ‘Space’ and ‘Light’.

‘Focus’ helps me give time and attention to the things that really matter in my life and in our business. ‘Space’ means creating space for myself to think and process, which helps me be at my best. Both of these words help me make better decisions about how I spend my time.

‘Light’ is about the energy I want to bring into a room, to give our delegates the best experience possible when they work with us.

In the context of leadership, whether you’re leading yourself, a team, or an organisation, it’s important to set your intention each year. With this north star, you can make deliberate choices about your time and ensure your daily actions and habits support and move you towards your vision. This is what we mean by ‘purpose-led leadership’.

Bringing purpose and meaning to your workplace environment has significant benefits for you as a leader and for your wider team and organisation.

When we find meaning in our work, we understand how what we do contributes to the bigger picture. It gives us something to believe in and sparks a passion for our work. We feel more connected and engaged.

This is why meaning is one of the seven attributes of a Compassionate Workplace Culture. Bringing meaning to our everyday enables us, our teams and our organisations to thrive and grow.

How to make intentional choices about your time

Perhaps you’re thinking this is ‘ideal world’ territory. For many of us, busy lives and work mean it can be challenging to be intentional about our time.

But we believe it can make a real difference to the impact you want to have as a leader, a team, and a business.

Here are some tools and tips to help you make intentional choices about using your time to support your purpose and vision.  

  1. A good place to begin is your north star.

If you don’t have a guiding word (or words) for the year, you might find it helpful to choose one. You could start by asking yourself the question, ‘What do I want to think, feel and do this year?’. We encourage our coaching clients to choose an image to represent their guiding word to act as a daily reminder.

2. Use your guiding word as a north star to inform your intentional choices and actions.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do I do what I do?
  • What daily habits and actions will support my purpose or north star? How can I remind myself of them at the start of each day?
  • What environments do I need to create to support these actions and habits?
  • What could get in the way and how could I work around that?

3. Choose 3 small actions or habits and decide how you will embed them into your life on a regular basis.

Make your actions small and achievable. Tick them off each day so you can build a picture of what you’ve achieved. Seeing progress like this will give you a boost when it feels hard.

    4. Measure the impact of your intentional choices

    We’d encourage you to take stock after a month of putting your intentional actions and habits into practice. Where can you see a tangible difference in how you feel and what you’ve achieved in that time?

    If the difference is small or even non-existent, that’s okay too. Rather than beating yourself up, take a moment to understand where changes could be made. A small step towards your purpose and vision is still a step forward and something to be celebrated.

    How to sustain intentional choices about how you spend your time

    On average, it takes at least two months for a new habit to become automatic*, which is perhaps why many new year’s resolutions fall by the wayside by the end of January! It takes perseverance and focus, and these things can be difficult to sustain by ourselves. Creating the right environment for these habits to stick helps.

    Here are two ways you could do this:

    • Join a leadership community. We run leadership communities in-house for our clients, creating an environment for learning, accountability, and growth. If you’d like to read more about what this looks like, read last month’s blog here.
    • Engage in 1-2-1 coaching. At Compassionate Cultures, we are lucky to have four incredible coaches who love to support individuals to develop impactful, long-term habits to move them closer to their vision and goals.

    If you’d like to learn more about our leadership communities or 1-2-1 coaching, email us We’d love to arrange a no obligation chat to learn more about you and your organisation.

    And if you’re wondering what jellybeans have to do with time, intentionality, and leadership, take a look at this video. It frequently inspires us to consider the choices we’re making on how we spend our time. We hope it inspires you, too.

    * Atomic Habits, James Clear

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