How To Find Time To Start A Side Business

Whenever I mention to anyone that I work a full time job, help my wife run our online store and maintain MyWifeQuitHerJob.com all while having two kids in the house, one of the first questions I always get is how I find the time to do all of these things.

juggling

Photo by Morbuto

Believe it or not, even with all of these items on my plate, I still feel I have time to take on even more. The secret is being more efficient with your time and managing your day a little bit better.

I know. It’s easier said than done. But I’m going to describe in this article how my wife and I organize our time to run our online business and and how we manage to cram a ton of activities into a single day.

The reality is that there’s plenty of free time lying around. You just have to learn how to extract every last minute.

The Time Granularity Problem

One of the biggest hurdles to the launch of our online business was that there were too many gargantuan tasks to accomplish. We had to launch our website. We had to write product descriptions. We had to market our store. We had to establish relationships with vendors. We had to establish internal processes.

What ended up happening early on was that we became overwhelmed by these large tasks because each one of them took too many man hours to complete in a single sitting. As a result, even if we had a 1 hour block free, we put off working on our online store because we didn’t think that we could get any meaningful work done in such a small amount of time. We kept telling ourselves that we would start when a large enough time slot was available but it never ever materialized.

The reality is that most of us don’t have huge blocks of time to devote to any given project. Especially if you have a full time job or children running around the house, you often only have small .5-1 hour chunks of free time available. And more often than not, these valuable time slots are wasted away with the belief that nothing can get accomplished in such a brief moment of time.

Breaking The Problem Down

Looking back, much of our success was the result of making efficient use of these small time slots. In order to manage our time more effectively, my wife and I broke our large tasks down into small pieces that could be completed in a single sitting. We ended up dividing our business tasks into half hour time slots. So if we had a spare 30 minutes, we could easily switch gears and cross one of these tasks off the list.

While some tasks took longer than a half hour, no single task exceeded more than a couple hours long. For example, for our website, one of our tasks was to enter in 10 product descriptions into the shopping cart database. Another task was to take 10 product photos. On the product sourcing side, an example task was to contact a short list of vendors or locate a small subset of products that we wanted to sell. Each and every line item was something that we could do quickly and efficiently even in the shortest of time slots.

By crossing these things off the list, we felt like we were always making progress which fueled us to work even faster because we saw light at the end of the tunnel. What also ended up happening was that we worked more often on the business because the tiny size of each task lured us into working longer and harder. Each task seemed so small and easy that we always felt as though we could hammer out another one in no time flat.

Find A Pace You Are Comfortable And Maintain It

Early on, my wife and I also made time for the business by making sacrifices. Not only did we stop watching television but we also drastically cut down on our sleeping time as well. On some days, I would arrive at my day job a walking zombie.

Making healthy sacrifices is fine, but I gradually learned to never make sacrifices at the expense of my health. My main problem is that I like to tackle everything in a single sitting. When I’m excited about something, I’m all too eager to try and get things done in a timely manner even if it means pulling all nighters. But with a business, I discovered that the list of tasks is endless and it’s impossible to just cram through it. You might be able to get through a week of little sleep, but things will eventually catch up to you and you may well burn yourself out.

The strategy I ended up finding far more effective was picking a comfortable, maintainable pace and sticking with it even if the slow pace felt like torture. To find out what pace is right for you, simply ask yourself the following questions. How many hours can you comfortably devote to the business per day for months or even years on end? Can you maintain this frequency easily without impacting your mental well being? It might take a short adjustment period but eventually you’ll discover your sweet spot.

Set A Schedule

Once you’ve made some progress on your business, it’s important to maintain your momentum. And the best way to do so is to establish a routine. Set aside a specific time or day that you can devote solely to the business.

For example, my wife reserve and still set aside Sunday afternoons for business related activities. Not only does this prevent our business from stagnating but it also makes working on our online store involuntary. It’s almost like we’re on autopilot!

Don’t Lie To Yourself

The moral of the story is that time is always available so stop making excuses! No matter what, you can always squeeze out a small block of time even if your schedule seems packed from day to day. By creating tasks that can be accomplished in small chunks, you can make better use of random time slots and consistently make progress. Good luck!

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19 thoughts on “How To Find Time To Start A Side Business”

  1. Hi Steve,

    Great post! I love your information because it is so useful. And it is straight from the real world.

    I think the #1 reason we don’t have enough time is because we don’t make time for what is important. It is so easy to just say, “I don’t have time.” And I think that is partially correct. When we spend all day working in a job we feel like we don’t have enough time to do other things.

    One thing that works great for me is waking up early in the morning. For most people it takes discipline and it is really hard, but if we are committed we will make it happen.

    Another great point you make is about how we use our time. We are so used to wasting time at our job, wasting time watching TV, wasting time driving. As we become more conscious about the results we get from our time, we naturally tend to use it better and better.

  2. Steve,
    I love the post because no-one ever has enough time to get it all done. I try to cram my work in during lunch hours, plane rides, and that precious hour every night after the kid is in bed and before the wife gets home.

  3. Granularity is the main challenge. As I prepare to launch my online store, I have now started practicing the GTD principle (David Allen) and I find that this is helping a lot.

  4. A while ago a colleague was signing up people for a time management seminar. And he had a great approach, leaving no room for a “no” reply. He would say something like:

    “Hey! How have you been doing? Do you have time for a great seminar?”
    If they would say “yes”, great!
    If they would say “no”, he would reply “Ok, then you need to come to this one and they’ll teach you how to find time” :)

  5. Steve,

    This is great. I struggle with this myself. I find that I have my “caffeine” days and my “natural” days, depending on how late I had to stay up the night before.

    It’s so true that time is always available. It’s on of the few things for which everyone is on the same playing field — only 24 hours in a day.

  6. I work a busy job and have a long commute. Instead of reading the paper or sleeping I instead bought a tiny netbook and write content on the train. The result is 100 new pages of content and a doubling a site traffic.

    The key thing in this business is to focus, focus, focus and don’t pay attention to your so called friends who think what you’re doing is a waste of time. I got all that when I started and now my friends are wondering how they could get something started similar to me.

    Mind you this all comes naturally to me. As a project manager I follow the principles of project management and project quality management

    Regards

    Susan de Sousa
    Site Editor http://www.my-project-management-expert.com

  7. Great points.

    I think that it’s quite a challenge for most people to get organized enough to get organized, so to speak.

    I like the way that you break tasks into manageable pieces. It’s true that most people assume that if they don’t have x amount of time, what’s the point, instead of realising that it may take longer to accomplish something with only, say, 1 hr a day, sure, but it’s better to put in that hour and build something over time and have a shot.

    I’ve learned how to be more efficient thanks to the tips and strategies of James Schramko, a very successful online entrepreneur who used to have a well paying ‘job’ but he hated it so he set aside time to learn online marketing and eventually quit his job. Now makes FAR more money in a lot less time. He offers lots of great advice for free on his blog: Internet Marketing Speed

  8. I so, so felt in tune with what you were saying. I have a full time job and I am working on my website. Initially – I would go for my job, come back, relax and before I knew the day would be up…Slowly, these days I have started going one hour early to work – to work on my website and when I take a break from my work, I do linking and other small tasks for my website. Also I am trying to work for 2 hours straight after i come from office everyday. Interestingly, this target is motivating me to work more and not just end the day wiling away time…..

    So yes, I just loved your suggesting making use of small chunks of time and setting targets…:) Thank you, for re-enforcing it in my mind. :)

  9. Hi Steve, you’ve been sharing a ton of extremely useful info on your site. If I am going to set up an online store one day, I am most certainly going to refer to your posts. As always, this post shares very practical advice. I like the fact that you encourage that we work at a comfortable pace and that there will always be time to get a part time business started!

    Thanks so much for sharing! And do keep up the good work!

  10. Steve,

    This post really hit close to home – my business partner and I often strategize about what things need to get done in our business so that we can continue to expand and grow.

    Like you pointed out in your early days of business, some tasks feel gargantuan so even if you have a small amount of time, you don’t feel like starting a task because you feel like you won’t get very far and you won’t finish it leaving a lot of things undone.

    You’re right about the trick being to break down the tasks in smaller chunks that can be taken care of in smaller time intervals. When resources are tight (like entrepreneurs’ time) this is the only way to go. Unless of course you can outsource some stuff to a virtual assistant or intern.

    Would love to see a followup post on that topic if you have any experience with it.

    Best,

    Xurxo

  11. My strategy is super simple. No TV and wake up early. You really only need 2 hours per day if you focus.

  12. Steve,

    Great post! I just found your website. There is plenty of useful information. Thanks for sharing your experience and keep the good work.

  13. i really like this post and the whole blog

  14. Like you said, you’d be really surprised to see just how much you can accomplish even within a limited amount of time.

    I think what we all do is wait for those large blocks of time in the afternoon but never really get anything done because we’re not focused enough. When you have 30 minutes or an hour to complete a task, you’re stressing and jump right into it nonstop.

    When you stretch your work across a large span of time, you never really get a whole lot done. This is one of the reasons why so much time is wasted during a 40 hour work week.

    If you give a person 8 hours a day to finish a few tasks, they’re going to drag it out to 8 hours. On the other hand, you give them 4 hours and it’s going to be done right away.

  15. Great advice…sounds very common sense but extremely helpful to see it in writing and in practice! Thanks!

  16. James says:

    I have been thinking about this subject for some time: how can I find time to do this. This blog is great. I’m also interested in one online business, just not that motivated. Still great information. Thanks.

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