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Why Intention Setting With Your Team Is Key to Success

It’s about the present -- not the future.

People often fall into the trap of setting big, lofty goals that they then fail to meet. Research has shown that incremental, day-to-day progress can lead to much better results. That’s why teaching your team the value of daily intention setting is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Intention setting is about the present moment, while goals are about the future. And the two are very connected.

Being intentional is about how you want to “show up” or be in the present moment, while goal orientation is about the future. Goals are typically externally focused, while intentions tend to be more internal. Think of intention setting as a stepping stone to accomplishing your future goals. If you set an intention to be more mindful in your interactions with the goal of being more collaborative, there will probably be a direct connection to how much you’re able to accomplish with your colleagues.

Setting an intention starts the moment you wake up. How you start your day can determine how the rest of it goes. Are you in control of your time or simply passively responding to every incoming email and interruption? Learning to start your day with intention is key to maximizing your productivity.

As a manager, being intentional from the start of your day has a huge trickle-down effect. We’ve all been on the receiving end of bosses who picks up the phone the second they wake up and fire off thirty emails about what’s on their mind from the night before. Hardly the best way for anyone to start the day.

So let’s start with the easiest way to get your day off to the right start: Keep your phone out of your bedroom. We talked about the benefits of unplugging and recharging in our Thrive Guide to Setting Boundaries with Technology (and if you want to read more about that, head over here), but the simplest way to get your day off to the right start is to make sure your phone isn’t the first thing you see. Regardless of whether it’s work email, social media or the latest news, starting the day with a flood of notifications and incoming requests isn’t a recipe for controlling your time. It’s hard to meet your intentions for the day if you never take the time to set them.

So protect that time — and your brainspace — by setting an intention for the day. And don’t limit yourself to what you want to accomplish—think beyond that and imagine what kind of day you want to have. Think about the impact this has not only on yourself but on those around you — your team, your family, your friends and anyone you interact with.

“Setting daily intentions can be helpful because it can create a ritual to engage in daily,” Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino told Thrive Global. And it can also help before a big meeting or project. “Engaging in rituals before performing a task improves our performance,” she said, “the same way pre-routines help athletes get into the right mindset before a game or competition.” And it’s not just about whether we set our intentions, but how we do it. “Setting daily intentions can be even more powerful if we write them down,” said Gino. “Research has found that writing things down or taking notes help us remember the information better, thus setting us up for success in executing the work and accomplishing our tasks.”

Here are a few simple ways to help your team get in the practice of intention setting:

  1. Bring intention setting into your meetings: Whether you’re meeting one-on-one or talking with your full team, ask people what their intentions are for the meeting. Perhaps two colleagues are having trouble aligning on a project, and they want to use the time to communicate more effectively.

  2. Be a role model: It’s not just talking the talk, it’s walking the walk. Be consistent in messaging to your team that you’re setting daily intentions for yourself and ask them to hold you accountable. If one of your daily intentions is to be less frazzled or disorganized, make sure they call you out when you don’t live by it .

  3. Give your team journals: Encourage the practice of writing daily intention lists by giving your team a journal they can use. The benefits of journaling are well known and can lead to a host of other benefits.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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