The Focus Course

“Yes” Management

Not long ago, we held a training on Time Management for the leadership team of an organization. I love getting to do in-person training. The interaction is rich and feedback is always so thought-provoking. When you pack a room full of smart people and spend a few hours riffing on a topic, good things happen. I personally walked away challenged and renewed in my posture toward the topic of time management. To be honest, it can be a sterile topic to talk about — kind of like budgeting.

Usually, time management is talked about in a prescriptive sort of way. “Got an issue with productivity? Time management should fix that.” As if becoming wizards at managing our time would result in magic happing and all of our dreams coming true. Except, it doesn’t work that way.

Time management is not a metric for productivity. In fact, there’s a whole lot more to time management then just time. While I’m all for being more productive, it’s kind of like telling someone to budget so they can save more money — as if saving is the only thing that budgeting gets you.

The whole point of managing your time well is so that in 15 years you don’t regret how you spent it.

Time management is not…

  • Maximizing every moment of every day
  • A way to keep management happy
  • Something to rule your life
  • A strict list of to-dos and to-don’ts

Time management is…

  • Identifying what’s most important
  • Owning your limitations
  • Living without regret
  • Making sure every area of your life is cared for

Let’s talk about Margin… We’ve got a new course in the works all about reclaiming margin. Margin is essential to living a meaningful and fulfilled life. And chances are good you could use some breathing room in your days. If you’d like to be kept in the loop just let us know.


I’ve been re-reading Essentialism in preparation for a new course we’re working on and came across this quote.

Essentialists systematically explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing to any. Because they will commit and “go big” on one or two ideas or activities, they deliberately explore more options at first to ensure that they pick the right one later. — Greg McKeown

Time management is often presented in terms of what you have to say “no” to. And while I agree that we need to learn how to decline things more frequently and tactfully, we also need permission to “go big” on things. As in, knowing what is important to us, exploring the options and alternatives, and giving a resounding “yes.”

Saying no has its place. I love how Sean McCabe frames it.

Saying no is your tool for creating time.

Eventually, you become really good at saying no, which is a good thing.

But, saying no all the time can start to feel like a bummer. As any parent can relate, saying no a thousand times a day gets old.

Sean nails it. “No” is the way we make time, and “yes” is the way we fill it.

  • Yes is a promise
  • Yes is bringing our strength
  • Yes is providing value
  • Yes is showing up
  • Yes is an agreement
  • Yes is crushing it
  • Yes is being present

When we say yes it should carry weight, it means we’ve contemplated what it will cost us and have said, “I’m in.”

As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it. […] If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no. — Greg McKeown


I’m not advocating to simply say yes more often. Rather, when saying yes, give it a wholehearted stamp of approval. Whether big or small, saying yes has a cost. When committing, are we ready to allocate any or all of these resources?

  • Financial
  • Time
  • Mental energy
  • Emotional energy
  • Physical energy

Time is only one form of currency, and yet we talk about it as if it’s the only one. It’s not “physical management” or “financial management,” but both of those are real things that need our attention. It’s not simply time management, it’s yes management. What are you committing to when you say yes?

Time management feels contained. Yes management is holistic. In saying yes, what resources am I committing to allocate, and is it really worth it?

If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. — Derek Sivers


Let’s talk about Margin… We’ve got a new course in the works all about reclaiming margin. Margin is essential to living a meaningful and fulfilled life. And chances are good you could use some breathing room in your days. If you’d like to be kept in the loop just let us know.


Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash.

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