Elena Manole is a time management and productivity coach, business owner and aspiring writer. She thrives on working with clients 1:1, giving workshops and leading her team. She is fired up by the idea of creating a job around a lifestyle that suits you, and not creating a lifestyle around your work.
When she got her dream job in the tech industry, she realised that having lunch at her desk in front of the computer and spending her evenings and weekends in events promoting her company’s services wasn’t the way to go.
The burnout that resulted from overworking in that “dream job” made Elena reflect on her life’s ambitions and on what is worth the hassle and the battle. She decided to keep striving and grow, but with a different goal/vision in mind.
She worked hard on creating a vision that made sense for her and started working on it with the same passion that she showed to any project she embarked on.
These days she wakes up with a desire to show up for her clients, she is not afraid anymore of Sunday evenings and has ownership of her time.
Elena Manole, Productivity and Time Management Coach
Elena, you are a business owner and time management and productivity coach. You help your clients build systems that work and help them gain clarity around their vision. How did you get to this point and what kind of audience do you target your business towards?
Thanks for the question. It’s quite interesting to reflect on the beginnings of this project. Well, to start with, I had to learn the hard way that, living my life based on intentions and visions rather than on inertia, wasn’t anymore an option but a necessity. I have always been a bit more controversial in my thinking and followed a path that was different from my peers, but when I landed the dream job and I felt the misery that one feels only when they don’t live their true life, it dawned on me. I don’t have to live like this, nobody is forcing me. Having the fancy title and the salary wasn’t making me happy. There was something different I was aiming for.
Today I thrive on working with clients who want to live with intention, who decide where their time is spent, with whom and on what projects. I usually work with small businesses (one or two people) but also homemakers, creators and therapists. We work on their finances, starting from account statements, to building a budget that feeds their vision and not the typical consumer attitude.
It makes me really happy to work with clients who are in the process of learning how to delegate, how to say no to projects (and invites) that don’t align with their vision and how to prioritise their most important tasks. I help them build systems, which usually starts with checking their calendar, what goes there and what shouldn’t be there. We make sure that there are appointments they keep with themselves, whether resting or taking themselves to a fancy restaurant/cinema date.
You’ll find my clients working in all types of industries. I work with makeup artists, film producers, music producers, property business owners, writers, painters, etc. The list goes on. It doesn’t matter what the industry is. What really matters is that they are looking to build a structure that helps them thrive and to go to the next level, as opposed to burn-out and exhaustion.
You are famous for following the 7/7/7. What is this about?
Sure. It’s a very simple concept. After having experienced burn-out in my previous career, I decided to be intentional with my time off. No matter where my business is, I take a whole day off every 7 days/week, a week off every 7 weeks and a month off every 7 months. It is
hard to say no to client work when there is so much abundance, but I decided that my health and mental well-being were more important than anything else. I cannot give from a place of exhaustion. My clients thank me for taking some time out.
I don't recommend anyone to follow the 7/7/7 plan. What I do recommend is that they are intentional with their holidays and that they take at least one or two holidays a year, which can also be a staycation for sure (my fav one). Nurturing relationships and taking care of ourselves is what need to go on the priority list these days.
In my weeks off, I love spending extended time with friends, or exploring my own city (London). On the months off, I make a point to have a 10-day silent retreat to reconnect with what is important for me. This year I was blessed enough to spend those days in a beautiful ashram in India. It was a wonderful experience.
You have a Master’s in accounting and an Undergrad in business administration. You worked with big corporations, small start ups and scales up, shifting from Italy to Spain and then to the UK. Why this journey and what are your current goals for your business?
I was always curious about the world, hence the travelling. But early in my career I asked someone who had their own business what advice they would give to someone who was just starting their career. They suggested I’d get myself in the small start-up world and learn everything I need to learn about business and how to run one. Given that I have a master’s degree in accounting, managing the admin side of the business hasn’t been difficult for me (although I still need some mentoring and support around forecasting, etc.). With regards to my vision of the business and my current goals, I’d say that my most important goal for the year is to let people know I exist. And yes, I’m referring to marketing. I used to hate this topic back in uni but now I see how fundamental this is. Through my marketing efforts, I aim to reach as many people from my targeted audience as possible. Marketing, done well, helps those who need me, find me. And I know for myself that having mentorship and accountability worked really well in my life. I would not give up on my support network under any conditions. And I want the same for my clients. My clients are a treasure for me and a testimony that having the right support is needed when one decides to live a life with integrity and intention.
What would you like to achieve for yourself and your business in the future?
I usually talk in my blog posts and in my work with clients about the importance of having a vision and clarity for one’s life. From clarity a plan can be designed and a discipline can be built to follow that plan. When I don’t have a vision of where I want to be in a year’s time or 3/5 years, etc., etc. it is harder for me to build a map. And yes, I love being open to spontaneity and to life’s decisions for me. I just try to make sure I take responsibility for my own life. And don’t you worry that life will let you know if you are leading in the wrong direction.
In my vision, I plan to publish my book in the next five years. I am on the first draft and I just submitted my book proposal with Hay House. I am in their membership community and I am learning so much. I am also a runner and planning to run as many races as I can together with my partner and friends. I love my spiritual life and I take 10 days off my schedule every 7 months and go on a silent retreat to meditate. I will do that in August next year with the SRF (Self Realization Fellowship). I want to continue nurturing my relationships and build strong connections. For my business I want to be more vocal, with my own gentleness and my own way of being in an industry that can be a bit harsh at times. I want to increase my client base by 70% and launch a course on time management on Skillshare. Attainable? For sure. Hard enough? I don’t know. It makes me happy. So I aim not to follow whatever standard comes from the outside, but to go within for that vision.
Who inspires you to be the best that you can be?
I have all types of mentors and inspirational people in my life. Through them I get inspired and get to work on my own life.
One of my biggest inspirations is Mahatma Gandhi. What he achieved through a nonviolent approach is beyond my understanding. Reading his autobiography, I realised that he had challenges to work through that I didn’t have, but also challenges that I also had to overcome. He faced all types of experiences related to his culture, but also to his personality.
Shy and desireful of knowledge, he started on a path of experimenting with the Truth. And so I did.
He walked everywhere, kept track of his spending, studied spirituality and believed in something bigger.
It is great to see how such a strong personality achieved such great changes in the world. One walk at the time, one pure intention at a time.
I live by the motto “Be the change that you want to see in the world,” and I aim to stay away from topics that I have no control over. I focus on what needs to be done on a daily basis and surrender to a Higher Power the outcome. The uncontrollable is none of my business. It gives me great freedom.
If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?
I would change the harshness of it. At times coaches appear to be too hard on their clients. Phrases like “You have to do it now”; “Do it”, “If not now then when?”. I prefer a much softer approach and I know that each of us gives ourselves a really hard time already and we don’t need someone else to do the same. Although I am not a therapist, I did a lot of work myself in the area and have a certificate in mindfulness counselling. I know that each of us responds in different ways to inputs. And although at times, tough love really works, a bit of compassion goes a very long way.
Tell us about a pivotal moment in your life that brought you to where you are today.
Leaving my job in 2018. I was at the top of my career. I achieved the goals I wanted. I was happy with how things were going. I had a perspective on what I could achieve moving forward, but I knew deep down I wanted to do something of my own. The more I was staying in that job that was a safety blanket for me, the more I was feeling like dying inside. Something had to change. Since I left the job it hasn’t been an easy ride. I wanted to stay there as much as I wanted to leave and do my own thing.
Change is scary, especially when it involves taking a leap of faith that implies an unstable income. Because being an entrepreneur is not simple. I did my due diligence and put money aside, so I wasn’t stretched by any measurement, and still it felt quite a bit. I left at a point where I was already burnt out. So instead of adventuring into opening my own business I had to rest. I had a long overdue rest, which turned out to be longer than I thought. For a year all I did was rest, meditate, take care of my health, eat well and meet up with friends. I would go out for walks, enjoy London at a slow pace and transform the life I was living from the inside. I knew I had to find a place for myself but I didn’t know exactly how and when. Slowly I started to reach out to people again and started establishing my own practice. I studied, I got certificates, had a website and started practising with clients. The joy I get from working with clients is beyond description. It is hard to describe the feeling I have inside on a daily basis. A weekend is not an escape from work but a continuation of my own life. Because life unfolds in a beautiful way whether I work or not. And this is the miracle of my life. Not dreading Sundays and singing and flying high on Friday is my true liberation in life. And for that I am grateful.
A last question to close this interview. What is your work inspired by?
A desire to explore my own limits and those of other people. A curiosity that goes beyond the normal. A desire to know what we are all capable of, really.