Time is the biggest obstacle for bootstrapped entrepreneurs. I hear the question quite a lot of: “How do I make time for my side business?”
And the honest but overly simple answer is: You just have to MAKE time.
But I don’t like giving that answer. It’s obvious. You make time for what you care about most.
My goal here is to offer you some golden rules for making most of your time that have helped me the best.
But first, let’s go over the options for how to make time:
1. Beg or Borrow Time
You can beg and borrow time whenever you can get it. From your family, you can borrow time at nights, weekends, holidays and even vacations. It will mean missing out on some things. But the key is to make sure you ASK before borrowing someone else’s time!
2. Rent or Buy Time
You can rent time from other people to help, which is typically called subcontracting. I did a lot in my freelance business when I didn’t have the time or energy to do some work.
Or you buy your own time. That’s what I finally did. After about 2+ years of doing side work, I found partners who gave me enough money to go full-time and thus buy my time to focus on my business.
3. Steal Time (Not really an option)
There is another option that some people use … it’s called stealing from someone else, typically an employer. For those who I want to associate with, this is never an option.
It’s unethical. It’s wrong. It’s a foundation of sand for your business and your life.
It can get you fired or sued (and rightly so).
I only mention it here because you will be tempted to do it. But don’t.
Don’t steal someone else’s time; it’s not yours to steal.
So there are the three options about making time. But really, there are just two.
Making time is simply about HUSTLE. It’s about working hard EVERY single moment you can find it.
So let’s get on to my 6 golden rules for making time for your business while having another full-time gig.
My 6 rules for making the most of your time:
Rule 1: Congrats! You’ve got another job!
This is your life. You’ve just got another job. And adjusting your mindset to approach your side hustle as another job … just as if you’d applied for a part-time job at The Gap, or Starbucks, it comes with responsibility and commitment.
Therefore, you MUST approach your side business as a new job to tack on your full-time gig. You are clocking out of one, then clocking into another one.
This is what made a huge difference for me when I was freelancing and had a day job. And I don’t think this comes naturally for most of us. But it’s vital for you to do so. Or else your side business will flounder because you’re not commited to it. Don’t slack off. Don’t be late. If you don’t show up, you’ll be fired.
And unfortunately that means a lot of work for little pay sometimes. So find a method of accountability if you need it just like any other job, because you’ve got one.
Rule 2: Obsessively focus.
Your side hustle is very jealous of your time. I wrote a post a while back that compared a startup to a jealous girlfriend (or boyfriend). It is demanding. It wants all of your available attention and energy. In fact, it knows when you’re cheating or looking elsewhere.
I want to give a quick disclaimer here. I am not saying that you consistently neglect loving and caring for your family, especially your significant other. Don’t ruin relationships with the people you love most only to be lonely when your business takes off.
True focus comes from authentic motivation and inspiration. If you’re having trouble focusing on your side business, then you need to ask yourself if it’s truly your passion and if it is part of your life’s compelling vision.
If it is, then you should have a problem with focus.
Rule 3: Reconfigure and purge
You need to minimize everything else that’s not your loved ones, your full-time gig, and your side hustle.
Rearrange your priorities, which means bowling night might be on hiatus. And purge unnecessary distractions and noise. You might have to catch Mad Men on Netflix next year sometime.
Some hobbies that don’t either make you better for your side business might have to get the ax.
This means sacrificing some things for the critical key things. And making time available for the fluff that can easily go.
Rule 4: Maximize the time you have
Time is money, so spend it on what matters. And that means what makes the most impact and progress toward your goals and dreams.
Think big for a second … what major steps can you take that will make the most difference?
Then once you’ve identified those, list out the action steps and baby steps you need to make in order to accomplish those. This will give you a to-do list with milestones to accomplish.
Focus on those things with your available time and energy. Water and grow the BIG stuff that will produce the results you need … and let the small stuff whither and die.
But the caveat here is … don’t just work harder, work smarter. Find ways to streamline your process and focus on the stuff that matters most.
Rule 5: Set and celebrate milestones
Along the way as you’re working hard on your side hustle, you need to reward yourself.
Marathon runs have water stations, milestones. Runners keep track of their progress and know how close they are to the finish line.
So dream about the journey and your goals, and slice it up and put markers along the way to hit.
Determine ahead of time the celebrations and reward for yourself you’ll enjoy for each leg of the journey.
Could it be scoring your first client? Your second client?
Earning $10K in gross revenue? Or turning a negative into a positive — having to pay quarterly taxes for the first time? Or could another be when a client refers another?
Or the granddaddy of them all — turning in your resignation letter?
How will you celebrate those milestones and markers along the way in your journey.
Another point in the golden rules is something my wife Lindsey reminded me of …. along the way, make time for rest and relaxation.
Celebrating key milestones can include rewards like a weekend getaway with your significant other, a night watching reruns of your favorite show, or a formal dinner with toasts and hoorays.
Whatever you decide, take time off occasionally to get some mental and physical downtime. Overworking yourself isn’t healthy. You’re no good to yourself, your family or your business if you’re sick or burned out.
Rule 6: Seek help
I preach the need for help, support and accountability to entreprneurs because we’re stubborn and don’t think we need anyone but we really do.
Your significant other is your first key partner. So post your big, measurable goals in your house so that you can celebrate together when you mark them off and accomplish them. (Because the previous golden rule talk about celebrating milestones, right?!).
You should also consider finding and hiring a coach to help you along your journey. Athletes have trainers and coaches, why should’t entrepreneurs?
Assemble a board of mentors to be available as you have questions and for lunch and coffee meetings.
I also suggest you take care of your brain and body. So find a good mental health counselor and doctor to check in with regularly to make sure your systems are doing well and on go! After all, if you’re not well (yes, mentally or physically) you’re not going to be good for your customers, clients and family.
So that’s it … my 6 golden rules for making time for your side business, but here they are again:
Rule 1: Congrats! You’ve got another job.
Rule 2: Obsessively focus.
Rule 3: Reconfigure priorities; purge distractions.
Rule 4: Maximize the time you have.
Rule 5: Set and celebrate milestones.
Rule 6: Seek help, support, accountability.