The Myth of Time Management (and the secret weapon of enthusiasm)

The Myth of Time Management (and the secret weapon of enthusiasm)

A lot of people claim the key to getting things done is managing your time. And I agree.

But that’s a really short-sighted approach. What if you want to do more than just get things done?

If you want to have impact and do Great Work, then you need to move beyond just “getting things done.”

So, instead of just managing your time, I think the highest leverage thing you can do is manage your intention. What are you focused on right now?

Are you enthusiastic or lackluster?

You can do something to get things done. Or you can do something because it furthers a bigger vision. When you keep your vision in mind, you have context. You’re focused on the reason why you’re doing it in the first place.

Just getting things done is a meaningless pursuit. After all, there will always be more things to “get done” (you only stop getting things done when you’re dead). But, when you’re fueled by a purpose that stays in the forefront of your consciousness (like a mental tattoo), that’s when your actions move into another plane of impact.

You create change, and stop just checking things off a list.

You build a legacy, and stop getting sucked into the minutiae.

You have a sense of meaning, rather than a disjointed series of tasks.

So, my challenge to you is this: Today, instead of focusing on your list, focus on your intention, purpose and reason why. Then sit back and see what happens.

I think you’ll be blown away.

photo courtesy of uggboy

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Comment & Add Your Voice

AndyFossett August 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm


I’ve thought at various points that I had a time management problem, but what it always came down to was a mission problem. Of course I procrastinated on things that didn’t feel vital to my mission. Anything that doesn’t serve the greater goal is just going to leave me tired – this I’ve found to be true again and again.

And yeah, sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to deal with shit that isn’t fun or exciting, but they’re still a lot easier to do if you can convince yourself that they matter.

Thanks for the reminder.


Execumama August 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I dig this! That shift has meant so much for me, my vision, and what I’m doing with my life. The best part is that my daughters get to learn early in life that being fulfilled beats being “productive” any day, any time! Thanks for the reminder!


emeri1md August 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm

“Today, instead of focus on your list, focus on your intention, purpose and reason why. Then sit back and see what happens.”

The only issue with this is that you need to know what your intention/purpose/reason why even is. I’ve spent a great many hours thinking about this and, at the ripe old age of 31, I still don’t know.


MilkThePigeon August 11, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Solid post. The whole idea of intention has really gotten into my brain recently. I like the idea of having the intention clear and seeing where things go. However, I wonder if you combined the two strategies – tradition time management (e.g. setting a time limit, having a clear goal) with your strategy, and if things would be more efficient? Any thoughts?


sgm3444 August 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm

A great post and a solid reminder to remain focussed and thing long term


jens August 11, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Hi Jonathan,

That’s interesting. Getting things done is important, but what’s more important is what are you getting done. I know a lot of people who’ve been focusing on the wrong things (at least according to me). They get a lot done, but they’re always thinking in a short term perspective. What you say about vision is important.

I find it really hard to focus on the great intentions, but I always use parts of my day to think about a long term goal and what I can do to accomplish it.

Great post.



meganever August 12, 2011 at 5:24 am

Great post, Jonathan! Thanks for the reminder – Megan


meganever August 12, 2011 at 5:27 am

You’re on the right track if you’re really searching for it — To really find it you have to get out there and roll up your sleeves on whatever seems best at the moment — which will tell you “warmer, colder, really cold, really hot” — You’ll save yourself YEARS of wondering and thinking. @emeri1md


laurenp August 12, 2011 at 5:40 am

Great post. It’s all about awareness of our goals and then reaching them step by step. I love your mention of intention…we all get caught up in the little things in life which are very easy to do…and then lose our way. – Lauren –


ethanwaldman August 12, 2011 at 6:13 am

I like this. I think when you take the mentaility that you are managing your intention vs. time you quickly realize that being busy all the time isn’t the goal. Sometimes you can have a huge amount of impact in a half hour. Sometimes it takes 10 hours. Either way, it’s satisfying and fulfilling.


harleyroxanne August 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I’ve been finding recently that I’ve sort of ‘trained’ my brain to stay busy all the time, so much so that sometimes it’s hard to remember what is really important and what isn’t.

An excellent reminder to step back and clear the fog to see what really matters. :-)


harleyroxanne August 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm

@meganever@emeri1md I agree. Reminds me of Martha Becks’s “Shackles on” versus “Shackles off” approach. If it feels shackles on, it’s not right. If it feels shackles off, it’s more in the right direction.


JonathanMead August 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm

@harleyroxanne That’s an easy habit to get into. Action is awesome, but we should always regularly step back and assess the direction.

By the way, your new site looks awesome!


JonathanMead August 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm

@meganever Thanks for stopping by Megan. :)


Nikoya August 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Yes. This could have not been said in another way. Intentions & purpose is everything, and when you concentrate on both magic happens. You get more done by doing the things that serve the “why”.

Thanks for the reminder!


kristastryker August 13, 2011 at 11:38 am

Thanks for the push Jonathan.

I was feeling a bit down today… due to some crazy circumstances, I haven’t done all the great work I wanted to do this year yet. And it’s already August!

But like you said, it’s the intention that counts. And I have the intention and the motivation to do lots of Great Work. I know I want what I do to have meaning and to make an impact. And I’m confident that my work can be great if I just continue to push myself and focus on the bigger picture.

So, even though I have my down days… even though some days I get caught up in the “getting things done”… I know that if I stick with this mindset of enthusiasm, I’ll end up OK.


JanetBrent August 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

Great stuff Jonathan. Intention is truly powerful! Thanks for the reminder.. I know I need to work more with intention and align myself to my intention. Without it, I don’t have an anchor and I am prone to procrastinate..


PJProductivity August 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Yeah, you absolutely need both intention + time/action skills. (BTW, I hate that term “time management” – you’re not managing time, you’re managing your ACTIONS.) Great post. :)


henley.chiu August 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Have you read David Allen’s(I think that’s his name) GTD stuff? He says there are 5 different planes for looking at your goals. At 50,000 feet you’re asking: How does this related to my life purpose? Which is what you’re talking about here. However, to reach those goals, you often have to ask questions at 10,000 feet too which involves asking: how to break those goals into subgoals and tasks, daily habits, winnable games, and small victories? So there is merit in having both a higher level focus, and also on getting things done.


RitaGrohowski August 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Have you read David Allen’s(I think that’s his name) GTD stuff? He says there are 5 different planes for looking at your goals. At 50,000 feet you’re asking: How does this related to my life purpose? Which is what you’re talking about here. However, to reach those goals, you often have to ask questions at 10,000 feet too which involves asking: how to break those goals into subgoals and tasks, daily habits, winnable games, and small victories? So there is merit in having both a higher level focus, and also on getting things done.


laurenp August 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I so agree with you! The concept of managing actions to reach your goals is excellent! We all have the same amount of time in a day…our awareness of the way we use this time to accomplish what is important to us is the answer! @PJProductivity


SusanaFrioni August 13, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Thanks for this reminder!! My yoga practise is all about the intention. And your post just reminded me the value of intention with my ‘to do list’. Love love love your website!! xx


lalithambalvijayakumar August 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Nice and motivation blog. thanks for sharing


ammaslight August 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm

YES… that is such a crucial key. To-do’s are so heavy and “should-laden”. Adding big-picture intention and purpose can be like rocket fuel for action…. thanks Johnathan


LesleyRiley August 15, 2011 at 7:37 am

Thanks for this post, Jonathan. I am constantly checking things off my to-do list and feel like I am never getting anywhere. It’s an aimless feeling because I feel like I’ve really gotten nothing done at the end of the day. I know on the days I do take focused action and make major headway on my purpose that I am exhilarated. But it’s always happenstance, rarely planned.

Now I will always remember take action that serves my purpose, not clears my in-box or to-do list.


livelovework August 15, 2011 at 10:35 am

Great article! I wrote something very similar a few months ago, and I’m pleased to see this idea, this passion in the world around me. What matters is not how much I do, but what I do. I choose to live my life focusing on my intention to live my best life every day.


MaryFaulkner August 15, 2011 at 10:40 am

I love this post and I have been following some of my passion today and passing on information that helps some people that got in touch with me. And I have a road trip coming up to new town I have never been to for possible job that might be fabulous. thanks for the inspiration.


TechnicLee August 17, 2011 at 7:22 am

I disagree. The post seems to suggest that the choices are either getting things done (GTD) or doing something meaningful. GTD is agnostic about what you’re doing. It is simply a process for moving forward. What you move forward on is outside of the scope of GTD and totally up to you.


handsonbrand August 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm

@TechnicLee The idea I got from this post was more of the motivation behind actions; are you doing things just to tick them off your to do list or because it furthers your intention in life/business/etc? I did’t get the impression that he was specifically talking about the GTD movement, just productivity in general.


WoWyourlife August 30, 2011 at 6:31 am

This is a great post. The deeper thinking gives more meaning to your list and helps you prioritize better!


geraldine September 1, 2011 at 4:28 am

My take: Manage your enthusiasm and be enthusiastic about time management.


EnrichingLife September 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Great post. I believe without enthusiasm and motivation you are very likely to just “kill” time instead of managing it.


careercreatrix September 26, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Where did you get that picture?! :)


spiritsentient December 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Amen to that Jon :)

Reminds me of Anthony Robbins “The Why Guy.”

Know your … why.

Focus on your … outcome.

Do what … matters.

Preach on, visionary :)


Andi Roo March 24, 2012 at 5:44 am

So true! I always get more accomplished when I’m focused on the “why” instead of the “what”. Remembering the BIG picture is hard for me, but I it sure does keep the puzzle pieces fitted together properly when I take a good hard look. Thanks for the reminder!


kaizenjournaling April 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm

This is so true, and I’ve already noticed the difference since I started working on Trailblazer. It doesn’t matter that I don’t “have” time. I make time, because I’m driven by my purpose. Insanity, people call it. But they don’t feel the fire inside. 


james October 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm

great article. i whole heartedly agree, except for one thing. “getting things done” is great if your priorities are right & you get done what you want to do.


R. Silver October 1, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Of course, this never works for mundane tasks at school we are forced to do. I can’t say I’m disappointed, just that this doesn’t apply to students.


C. Monroy October 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm

It makes total sense. Every day you’ve got to have goals to attain in order for you to be able to say that you’ve been productive. Just getting things done isn’t a goal, it’s even a lousy plan.
For me, maybe before making a list of things to do, you have to identify first what your goal is. Even if your goal is as simple as just staying away from those things that waste our time at work. The important thing is, at the end of the day, you could totally say you’ve accomplished it.


Andrew November 5, 2012 at 1:02 am

Thanks for the post Jonathan!

Woke by accident at 4am and got straight to work coding my current project, was just fading but now after reflection over coffee and a shower – power on!


Carla Frett February 19, 2014 at 6:34 am

Different people have different approach for time tracking and management. Some do it manually with a pen and paper, some with spreadsheets, some use onpremise tools, but the most advanced version of time tracking tools is what I mean to be the best option in managing the time and keeping track of it.


click here May 28, 2014 at 3:56 am

I just signed up for the blog. I am really looking forward to learning more. My question is how can one drop out and quit one’s corporate job when dealing with a chronic illness? I need my health insurance. That is my single biggest fear about moving down the path to “dropping out”.


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