How To Get That Darn Article Finished

One of EJ’s most popular guest columnists, Dr. Mani, has popped back in to submit this article. Take it away Dr. Mani…

Picture me sitting in front of my computer, writing this article.

The phone rings. I answer. It’s my friend. He’s moving, and wants some advice. For 5 minutes, we discuss his plans. Then I hang up, and return to writing.

Dad, can you get my towel, please?” my daughter calls out from the bath. I oblige.

As I walk back to the desk, my wife reminds me to turn off the switch to the water pump – which means a trip downstairs. Job done, I hurry back up, new ideas for the article running through my mind.

Time Management Is Not Possible

But just five minutes later, the front doorbell rings. Hesitant to break the flow, I wait for someone to volunteer… but then remember that I’m expecting a parcel, and rush down to pick it up.

When I finally get back to work, there’s a “Beep! Beep! Beep!” It’s my timer, set to alert me when 30 minutes are up – so that I can take my mandatory five-minute break!

So, that’s what I do.

– – – –

This work style won’t sound foreign to entrepreneurs like you. In fact, replace the specific instances with others of your own, and I could be describing exactly how you get through your typical work day!

Conventional time management teaches you how to overcome such ‘distractions’ and ‘focus’ on your tasks. It shows you ways and techniques to tune out other things as you devote yourself with mono-maniacal determination to accomplish your major chores and get that important project done.

Maybe that approach worked for the managers of yesteryears. But as a modern digital entrepreneur, you cannot afford to ignore or shelve other elements of life – because you know that all of them matter.

The challenge you face today is one of balance. And harmony.

That’s why you need a new paradigm of time management. One rooted in embracing every facet of your complex work day, managing each of them well, and balancing diverse components of the magical fabric that’s your life.

You want it all. You deserve it all. And you can have it all.

But not by following an outdated model of struggling to manage time. Why not?

Because time cannot be managed!

There, that’s a radical, even revolutionary concept, brought out in the open for you to assess, evaluate, and accept – or even reject.

Just think about it. You, me, and everybody else has the same 24 hours in a day. Some of us make better use of it than others. Yet none of us manages time. Each of us manages ourselves differently. And by doing it better than others, you can squeeze more out of your day than anyone else.

No, this isn’t a contest or competition. You’re not trying to beat someone else at this game. You don’t (or shouldn’t) care about how others are doing it. Your focus should be internal, on yourself and your unique needs, dreams and expectations. That’s the Time Management Tao style of becoming more effective.

To casual inspection, this approach is no different from any other. It has 3 tenets:

  1. Find your center – know WHAT to do
  2. Understand your order – know HOW to do it
  3. Pick your timing – know WHO to use & WHEN

Allow me to explain briefly.

Find Your Center

Conventional efficiency training is obsessed with drawing up lists of things to do – and then getting them done, while ignoring everything else.

It’s a great system, and works very well. There’s just one problem with it. You don’t always get to make a list based on your priorities and needs. In fact, most hyper-efficient managers don’t even know what those are, preferring to subjugate them to the needs of their organization, or company, or boss.

Not surprisingly, even when this makes you more efficient, it leaves you angry, upset and frustrated with your life – because rarely (if ever) does it resonate with what you truly want.

In the Tao way, goal setting begins from a self-exploratory standpoint. You start by finding out what you really want in the four major areas of your life – money, relationships, health and spiritual growth – and then weave everything else around them.

Understand Your Order

Time management courses teach you how to draw up a to-do list and prioritize each item on it (using an A-B-C-D rating), before getting to work on your ‘A’ list of activities.

That’s fine – as long as your priorities are correct.

Unfortunately, too often, they are biased and uni-dimensional. The result is that entrepreneurs who are super-successful in one area of life end up as miserable failures in other (equally important) areas.

  • A hard-working business owner may amass massive wealth – but ruin her health in the process.
  • A multi-tasking executive meets deadlines by bringing work home – but destroys his relationships permanently.
  • A well-travelled sales person breaks records and brings in high-value clients – yet feels empty and worthless, with no real purpose or meaningful relationships in his life.

By contrast, the Tao approach begins by defining priority rules before even opening your daily planner to jot down the day’s chores. That ensures every task is viewed in the broader context of other dimensions of your life, making each activity synergistic in crafting the life you dream about – and so richly deserve.

Pick Your Timing

Nature cannot be rushed. You can’t harvest a crop overnight, even if you stay up all night watering your seeds. You can’t get a newborn baby to sit, stand and walk in a week, even if you train it with all your heart.

Yet time managers all hope vainly that by following rules and working to their plan, they can twist things around and control their future. When this approach fails, bitterness and weariness sets in.

Enthusiasm wanes. Passion fades. Hope dims.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Getting things done is a natural extension of setting the right goals and prioritizing them according to your overall life plans and ambitions.

When this is done well, the rest is merely a matter of execution. Finding the right people to help you. Delegating work intelligently. Having faith in the process. And – most important – staying patient and persistent until the result of your efforts appears.

– – – –

So… what about this darn article?

It’s an example of the process at work.

A cup of tea later, I returned to writing it – and got it done in 15 minutes!

Plus, there are some nice fringe benefits:

  • My wife and daughter are still on speaking terms with me.
  • My friend has invited me for coffee later this evening.
  • And the courier delivered a book I’ve been looking forward to reading all week long.

Life is good.

That’s what time management tao can help accomplish in your life too. Efficiency combined with effectiveness. Balance and harmony with the other elements of success. Deep satisfaction, combined with a sense of productivity and purpose.

Don’t you want to learn more about it?

Dr. Mani

Photo courtesy of Orange42

About Dr. Mani

Dr.Mani is actively engaged in spreading awareness about congenital heart disease (CHD) and fundraising to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India.

An ardent group of volunteers and donors have embraced this noble purpose that is bigger than any individual or group, and grown it into a global movement that has touched and saved the lives of 87 little children. You can help too. Learn how at

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  • 🙂 I loved that, Mani! When I began reading this post, I wondered if you had a secret camera through which you could see my life – he he, just kidding. I go through that, except, with me, the additionals are a husband and son who feel the need to share every little thing among the three of us. Oh yes, we have boundaries when we work….but yet….on a holiday, it is very very hard.

    I’ve found the solution by waking up early – and putting in a couple of hours – with no phone, no doorbell, no voices – nothing but my computer, my soul and me.

    But that honeymoon is quite short-lived – and later through the day, I’ve managed to find the time-pockets that let me finish my work, happily.

    Oh, it is a challenge some days – and quite maddening.

    Great post. I’ve learned that I cannot manage time. I can only manage myself!

    Yaro – always a pleasure to read your blog. I still remember, fondly, four years ago, when I subscribed to you your blog. 🙂 It has been an interesting journey for me, watching your blog change, yet continuing to teach. Thank you!

  • Great article. It’s nice to know that others experience the same type of days that I do. In the past I have tired making lists only to be frustrated with my inability to complete the list and wonder if I am not putting in enough effort. I have also experienced the loss of passion mainly from pushing myself to hard and stressing out to much. After reading your article I decided to make me a cup of tea and settle back and let the day flow knowing without stressing that things will get done and what doesn’t will be here tomorrow.


    • Jenn, list making has a role. It’s just that things are such fun when we flow around items on our list, rather than trying to tune out everything else in an obsessive rush to tackle and finish everything on it – so we can “enjoy life” later on.

      I read this quote recently on Facebook – “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans!” How true. Embrace life through the work you do, and it becomes a magical experience!

  • I agree with Dr. Mani. Part of the pleasure of being a work-from-home entrepreneur is the ability to stop and “smell the roses” during the day. Play with the cats, do some gardening, talk with a friend… and it’s all ok because burn-out really does exist and depletes efficiency. I know because I used to be so hard on myself about my self-discipline, but then I realized that when I overwork, the work still doesn’t get done AND I don’t feel good.

    But, I also agree with Vidya. I do have to, at some point, during the day turn things off not only to get things done, but also to have the complete focus I need especially for writing. This can be a simple 2-hour block of time. Sometimes I pack up and find a quiet corner at the library.

    It’s definitely about balance. Thank you Dr. Mani.

    • You really ‘get it’ Natalie 🙂

      Keep up the wonderful balancing act you’re doing so well!

      Thank you for your comment.

  • Thank you for the article! I’d agree and say balance is definitely key. Although when writing I do sometimes find that even though I devote times to other areas of my life, some of my friends still get confused or even frustrated when I want a little quiet time to finish my article! I guess it’s sometimes hard to convince others to see that balance is key, and that you need some too (well, it can be for me)!

    • Nick, that’s why I set ‘rules’ with family about my writing time. But then, they seem to believe that “rules are just for fools” – and so it does tend to take about twice as long to get something done! 😉

  • A nice article, thanks. I’m a writer and I try a number of things to keep my brain flowing. Taking regular breaks is a must, and listening to the music of your choice is a good way to lift your mood. If you research into some of the famous writers from the past you find some peculiar methods of writing; Hemingway only wrote 500 words a day, Truman Capote preferred to lie in bed, Vladmir Nobakov would often be in the bath, and John Steinbeck blasted his way through an endless series of pencils. I think it’s down to whatever works for you!

  • Flexibility is definitely a must in this job, sometimes we need a break from writing and those distractions can often be a much needed break. As writers and bloggers once we get started we can become stubborn and keep at it until we get tired and drained.

    I actually look forward sometimes to a non planned distraction, once that break from the computer is made I am forced to think about putting the kettle on and taking that break I missed several hours ago 🙂

    Great post Yaro and Dr Mani.

  • I have found that taking a break helps me to clear my head so I can come back and tackle that tough article with renewed gusto. 🙂

  • Having a to do list has helped my productivity massively. It’s a double edged sword, though. I can’t let myself get too mad at myself if I don’t get everything done before heading to bed.

    A healthy work life balance is very important. I don’t think I could stay sane if I didn’t let myself go out with friends on Saturday night, or take time to spend watching a movie, reading a bookmark or hanging out with my cat. Sure the to do list is important. So is sanity. Doing this doesn’t matter if I can’t have the other things that make life worth living.

  • Anthony Jenks

    Thank you so much for this article. I found especially helpful the breakdown of the different aspects of life: relationships, money, health, and spirtiual growth, all things that are so important to me. At times my life is so out of balance and it can be overwhelming managing everything. I look forward to putting into practice the advice that you have shared. Thanks again.

  • Thanks Dr. Mani, When I went through your post, I felt like you were exactly describing the situations that I have to go through while writing. Getting disturbed, distracted all breaks our flow of thinking and as a writer our flow of thinking and creativity matters the most because we get paid for it. The solutions that you have presented in this scenario about time management and maintaining a balance is an ideal option and I am definitely looking to try out. I am now motivated more than ever, all thanks to you!

  • Peggy Dallmann

    Whatever the interruptions and distractions, I have to remember it is so much better than when I worked outside the home. I had absolutely NO control at the office. I may find myself covering meetings for my boss in the middle of the day, which meant working over to finish up my normal work. Or, I could be asked (read: commanded) to attend a meeting or social event in the evening (usually at the last minute), so I wouldn’t make it home in the evening either. Then, I had to put up with all kinds of contacts calling during the day, colleagues in the office asking questions, my own meetings and appointments, etc. etc. No wonder I never wanted to talk to anyone else by the time I got home. My home is so quiet, that I have to remember not to mind the distractions one iota when I compare it to the old days at the office. Ha!

  • I think consistency is also key. Once you have your priorities, your timeline or deadlines, your plan of attack, etc. it’s important to stay focused on that blueprint and be consistent in your routine.

    As a younger entrepreneur I still face challenges of “college life”; social life, Netflix, etc. Breaks are necessary but distractions must be avoided if you want to be successful!

  • Really interesting subject and a good theory on dealing with it, I think if I followed the advice I wouldn’t get a lot of computer time in at all, but it’s certainly worth trying out; thanks!

  • Hello,

    If you are a serious person and you want to change your life then you simply have to change your habbits. Now if you want for example to create an information product or to enage with some kind of business online you have to be alone in front of your computer and thing in order to produce! I really agree with you that there are also many important things to do in your ordinary life but you want to be a successful person you have to work consistently alone ….you and your computer…We all have 24 hours in our day but successful people take advantage of this and they spend the appropriate time to build success!!

    Thank you,

  • Discipline is one of the most important aspect to be consider for writers and bloggers. When you are well disciplined, that you can control all your actions and act appropriately without wasting time. The post is something need to be read by all the newbie bloggers to stay focus.

    Great post there Dr.Mani..

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