I recently heard that intentionality is a huge buzzword for Millenials. As an early 80s baby, I’m an “old” Millennial and rarely identify with traits generally associated with my generation; but when it comes to intentionality, I am 100% on board. Intentionality is defined as “being deliberative or purposive” and these are qualities I desire for every aspect of my life—from my parenting and my faith walk, down to my reading choices and the meals I prepare for my family.
We all know that intentionality doesn’t just happen. Intentional living requires a stated purpose, a clearly defined set of values, a game plan, and a willingness to pay attention to our own habits and choices. I believe that intentionality can be cultivated and will eventually become instinctive, but it does require some planning—especially at the beginning. Intentionality requires awareness, and I’ve found no better way of raising awareness than tracking.
As Gretchen Rubin says, you manage what you measure: when we record or track something, we recognize what is going well and what needs to change. We force ourselves to become intentional. This is a huge motivating factor behind my daily journaling practice; it’s why Luke and I keep track of our expenses; and it’s why I’ve decided to monitor a few more areas of my life in 2019.
Which leads me to Evernote. I’ve expounded upon my love for this app in the past. Evernote is my digital brain and an invaluable tool for planning, organizing, and documenting my ideas. I keep Evernote folders for blog ideas and posts, medical notes, gift ideas, valuable content I come across, and so much more. This year I decided to up my Evernote game by creating a special 2019 folder with separate notes for things I want to keep track of this year.
For those of you who may be seeking ideas for your own intentionality-building lists, I’m happy to provide some inspiration! Below is a master list of the Evernote inventories I’m keeping up with this year:
VALUES FOR 2019
Purpose: Unlike the other lists, I won’t add to this one throughout the year. I created it on January 1 and regularly return to it as a way of keeping my priorities in check.
19 IN 2019
What I Track: This is my list of 19 things I hope to do (and some goals I’d like to achieve) this year. I check off each item as it’s accomplished. (As of today’s date, I’ve already checked off two of my 19 and remained consistent with all four of the habit goals on my list).
Purpose: To hold myself accountable to my goals for the year.
HAPPENINGS, HIGHLIGHTS, AND MILESTONES
What I Track: Big events from the year (similar to my Highlights that I share in my Lately posts), parties we attend or classes we participate in, and any big milestones for Charleston or our family.
Purpose: A small way of remembering and celebrating the big and little things in life.
What I Track: The funny things Charleston says, organized by month.
Purpose: A place to document the things Charleston says (outside of monthly blog posts). By keeping these in one place, I’ll be able to see how his language and thought processes develop over the year.
WHAT I LEARNED IN 2019
What I Track: Significant life hacks AND big-picture things I learn in 2019, beyond the things I learn (and write about) each month. I’ll also record any standouts from my monthly What I Learned lists that are becoming a theme for my year.
Purpose: To help me reflect on the things God is teaching me, and how I have grown.
MUSIC, BLOG, AND PODCAST DISCOVERIES
What I Track: The new albums I’m listening to, blogs I’ve started following, and podcasts I’ve subscribed to.
Purpose: I often find myself wondering how long a particular podcast or musical album has been in my life; this is a way of time stamping those new discoveries.
MOVIES AND SHOWS I’VE WATCHED
What I Track: Movie or show title, the date I watched (or finished), and a star rating.
Purpose: To eliminate mindless screen time and remain intentional with my viewing choices.
BOOKS I’VE READ
What I Track: The book title and author, the date I finished reading, category (fiction or nonfiction), reading format (audiobook, paper, or eBook), and a star rating.
Purpose: This is one list I probably don’t need to be keeping, as I already record my books in numerous other places (Goodreads, Pinterest, my Day One Journal, the blog, and my analog bullet journal). However, with reading being such a big part of my life, it felt incomplete not to include this list in Evernote as well.
VERSES I’VE MEMORIZED
What I Track: The verse or passage I memorize each month, along with the reference.
Purpose: This list helps me to keep past months’ verses at the front of my mind, so that I’m not simply memorizing a verse over the course of a month and then forgetting it.
What I Track: Every clothing item or accessory I buy for myself or receive as a gift. I was tempted to track Charleston’s clothing as well, but he goes through clothes so quickly (and also acquires quite a few hand-me-downs) that this seemed too difficult to keep up with.
Purpose: To hold myself accountable to only owning clothing items that “spark joy.”
What I Track: New tools and products that I buy for our home or for myself, outside of clothing items.
Purpose: To rein in my spending in this area and become more aware of what I’m buying and what we own.
NEW PRODUCT DISCOVERIES
What I Track: New foods, beauty items, or cleaning products that I find and love.
Purpose: This list is primarily for blogging purposes; I like to highlight all of my great discoveries with you, and writing them down helps me to remember new products I’ve tried.
GIFTS GIVEN AND RECEIVED
What I Track: The gift giver or recipient, the gifted item, and the occasion.
Purpose: This is a list I’ve kept for the past several years. It’s especially helpful when writing Thank You notes, and in helping remember gifts I’ve given in the past so that there is no overlap.
CHRISTMAS CARD LIST
What I Track: A list of families we send Christmas cards to (along with addresses), as well as families who have sent us cards.
Purpose: This is another list I’ve been keeping for years. It’s a lifesaver when it comes time to send out those Christmas cards!
NEW WORD DISCOVERIES
What I Track: New words I come across in books or articles, along with the definition and the place where I encountered the word.
Purpose: To keep me accountable to noticing new words and hopefully begin incorporating them into my own vocabulary. Only two months into the year, this list is already quite long; I hadn’t realized how frequently I come across a new word! This list gives me the motivation I needed to actually look new words up rather than simply guess at a meaning.
NEW RECIPES I’VE TRIED
What I Track: Recipe title and source (cookbook or website) as well as any recipe modifications.
Purpose: To motivate myself to try new recipes, from a variety of sources.
What I Track: Favorites I want to remember from any of the above lists.
Purpose: To celebrate the best of my year!
There’s quite a bit of overlap between these lists and my various blog posts, journals, and other apps where I also do a fair amount of documenting. However, most of those other sources include a lot of words/reflections related to each list item; it’s nice to have simplified lists, knowing I can dive deeper in those other locations if needed. And most of these lists extend beyond the calendar year, but I’ve decided to keep them all in a single 2019 Evernote folder to keep my lists from becoming unwieldy or overwhelming, and to have them all in one easy-to-find spot. This will prove especially helpful when I write my 2019 Highlights Post in December. (The writing of my 2018 Highlights post was actually my original inspiration for forming these lists.)
I plan to create a new folder each year; my 2020 folder might contain all the same lists, or I might add or remove a few. Regardless of my future documenting plans, I know that my current lists are already helping me to be more intentional with my time and resources this year.
To some this may seem like a lot of tracking, but I’m already in the habit of documenting a lot of my life, so these additional lists haven’t required much extra time, effort, or mental energy. I try to keep track of items as they come up, or at the end of each day when I sit down to journal. It’s helpful for me to have these lists in Evernote, which I can access on both my computer and my phone. Others might find a bullet journal or different app works better for this.
Now I’d like to hear from you: have you made use of the strategy of monitoring to become more intentional in your life? What areas have you monitored? I’d love to hear about your successes, or even what hasn’t worked for you. And if this idea of hyper-documentation is new to you, I’m curious to hear your thoughts: is it something you would try? If so, where do you plan to start? Let me know in the comments!