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Making time to work on your side hustle can be difficult. You want to grow your side-gig into a full-fledged business, but you also have to find time for family, friends, and most importantly, yourself.
You work 40-50 hours a week at your full-time job, and have to commute to work, so after that, eating and spending time with your family, how do you find the time to add ANOTHER thing onto your plate. I mean, you have to sleep after all right?!
The reality is….you just have to. You make the time. The simple answer is that there is no simple answer, and it’s not easy either.
But growing a side-gig is rewarding in SO many ways, and it can literally change your life. So in my opinion – you must make the time.
I’ve been there, and I’m going to walk you through how I made the time for my side business. You have to understand that I was ALL IN at this point, I knew I wanted to take this full-time and was willing to make the sacrifices.
I’m not asking you to make all of these changes, maybe just one at a time until you have enough time to grow your side project.
Work On Your Side Hustle in the Morning
Of course, every list about finding time to work on your side business always says you can wake up 30 minutes or an hour early.
I took this to the extreme: 3:00 am.
Yes, I was waking up at 3 am to get a full 3.5 hours in before I had to get ready for work at 6:30am.
Why 3 am? Well it started as waking up at 5am instead of 6am. I found joy in being able to work that early before most other people were awake.
That extra hour not only allowed me to work, but I was able to be more relaxed getting ready for work, and not be in a rush.
Since I enjoyed 5 am so much, I decided to try 4:30 am. Even MORE time to work on my business! It was great.
Then I heard Hal Elrod’s podcast and he mentioned, or one of his guests did, that they were waking up at 3:30 am.
Impossible, I thought. So I decided to try out 4 am. TWO HOURS OF WORK before I had to get ready, I was ecstatic.
Let me take a second to point out that it’s a really good sign if you’re excited to wake up at 4am to work on your side project. I’ll go ahead and say that you’re definitely on the right path, and that should motivate you even more. If you’re dreading getting up to work on your project, it might be time to look for something you do enjoy.
So of course I had to try and push it to the next level: 3:30am.
Who does that???
People who want to win – that’s who. Someone who is on a mission with a clear goal at the end.
Once I conquered 3:30am, 3am was next and it was a little challenging. My eyes burned BAD the first morning I woke up that early.
My dog, Bear, even started giving me some strange looks when I kept getting up earlier and earlier…and he had every right to.
I also tried 2:30am once or twice, but it was just too much. I actually had to go to bed at 7:30pm to get 7 hours of sleep in to do that. And since I got home from work at 6pm most nights that was kind of stretching it.
My coworkers or someone I was riding the elevator with would complain that they had to get up at 5am, and often times I would just stay quiet and smile on the inside.
Other times I would giggle to myself and if they noticed, they often asked why I laughed. When I told them what time I woke up I’d get one of two responses:
- “Are you insane?!” Which I would then have to explain why I woke up so early.
- “Couldn’t sleep, huh?”
Usually I just stayed quiet to avoid answering too many questions.
As I explained in a post about how to wake up early, I didn’t do this all at once. I started with an extra half hour of work, realized I loved it and kept pushing my boundaries.
The key, as with anything, is consistency.
I woke up at 3 am no matter what time I went to bed, or how crappy I thought I’d slept. Not once did I get back into bed (unless my girlfriend was staying over, then it was kind of hard not to).
Work on Your Side Hustle During Your Commute
When I first started helping clients on the side, I was driving to work. That makes it a little more difficult to get work done, but not impossible.
How to Work on Your Commute If You Drive to Work
I made my commute my learning time.
Most days I would listen to podcasts about business and entrepreneurship or other related topics I found interesting. If we’re being honest, in the beginning I listened as if they were entertainment, because they were for me.
But as time went on, I learned about this thing called “just in time learning” which essentially means learning only about topics that are useful to you at that exact time. Not “oh I might want to start a blog in 6 months, so I should learn how to set up my WordPress website now.”
It was more like, I’m having trouble figuring out how to get people to opt-in for my lead magnet, and listen to an episode about high converting lead magnets and what makes people subscribe.
I recorded my thoughts.
There were also quite a few days where I’d be so inspired by something I’d heard on a podcast or had a dream about, that I’d have words flowing out of me and I couldn’t control it.
For that I would open my Voice Recorder app on the iPhone and just start talking. Sometimes a full blog post outline would be done, or an idea for a new series on the blog. Or even the best way to help a client achieve their goals.
Once I got home I would go back and listen to that audio file and transcribe it myself. Although, there are tools you can use that will do this for you and make it even easier – but I was cheap.
How to Get Stuff Done if You Take the Train to Work
In July of 2015 I sold my car. Once I did that I started taking the train to work. Well, for a while I was taking the bus to the train, but no matter what method of public transportation you’re taking, the rules kind of change a bit.
Speaking your thoughts aloud on a train, especially if you ride in the Quiet Car like I did, was frowned upon. But there are still ways to get work done, and actually you have even more options with this method of commuting.
Listen to Podcasts, Audiobooks, or Online Courses
The same as above for when I was driving, once I started taking the train to work, I would still occasionally go back to listening on my commute.
The best part about this was I would be able to furiously take notes since I was no longer driving. This allowed me to retain a lot more information and be able to put it into practice, sometimes before I got off the train that day.
Audiobooks are great to listen to while you’re walking or driving as well. I would read actual paper books on occasion, which was a nice alternative to an audiobook.
Often times I would sign up for online courses either through Coursera, Lynda.com, Skillshare, or a variety of other places. These would be specific to something I needed to learn, and I could usually download the audio files, or even the full videos and watch those on my laptop or Kindle on the train.
This was really exciting because I could actually make headway on the course AND take notes at the same time.
Get Some Writing Done on the Train
Because your hands are free and you aren’t driving, the possibilities are pretty endless for ways to get work done on the train. The only drawback was that there was no wifi connection because I was using public transportation, not fancy Amtrak or anything.
But this still left room for me to get writing done, and as a blogger this time was crucial to being able to stay consistent with writing.
In the beginning of my commute life, I was wayyy too nervous to bring my Macbook Pro with me. What if I got mugged or it got ruined in the rain? I considered buying a cheaper computer or a Chromebook, and almost pulled the trigger on this one, but I decided to bring my laptop with me one day and it eased my stress a bit.
But if you are nervous about that, Chromebooks are a great option because they are only a few hundred dollars and since everything lives in the cloud (just make sure to sync it everyday!) you won’t be losing any data.
Another way to get writing done without your laptop is to bring your Kindle (or iPad) and get a portable keyboard. Yes, it would still suck if someone stole it, but it’s a lot cheaper than a good laptop is.
Do Other Computer-Based Work
I also was able to build out images for social media using Photoshop, specifically the Hustle to Startup instagram, which at the time was an anonymous account.
You can also edit some of your writing, build out strategies for upcoming marketing campaigns or even get some email writing done.
If you’re really interested in getting some online work done, you can always invest in a portable wifi device, or use the hotspot most smartphones have – although I think they run about $20+ each month.
Whatever you decide to do, working during your commute typically affords you an extra 1-2 hours of work during the day, depending on the length of your commute, of course.
Potential Work Time Added: 1-2 hours
Get Work Done on Your Lunch Break
This one is something you have to be careful with. If your side gig is a direct competition with your day job, you probably shouldn’t be using their facilities to do your work.
Because my bosses knew that I was helping clients on the side, working on my lunch break was something I did often.
For better or worse, I would turn down getting lunch with coworkers to get work done. You can argue that I could have built my network up, etc. and that’s true – but you have to make your own decisions, and that was mine.
I would bring my laptop to work, and as long as I didn’t have a lunch meeting or pressing work to get done for my day job, this worked well.
A few times I even took sales calls during this time. Yes, I made SALES during my lunch break at my day job.
Our building had a whole floor dedicated to conference rooms, and there were usually at least 1-2 free at any given time.
If you don’t have an open conference room to work in, find a common area, like the cafeteria, a bench outside, or a nearby coffee shop.
If you drive to work, you have no excuses – your car is a PERFECT place to get work done during your lunch break.
Potential Work Time Added: 30 minutes to an hour a day
Work on Your Side Hustle After Work
I think this one is the most obvious, but maybe not. This is going to be different for each person, but you have to find some time to work on your business. Whether that’s after the kids are in bed and the spouse is asleep, or skipping your Netflix binge, you will make the time if it’s your priority.
When I first started dedicating my time to my side hustle, I didn’t have a girlfriend, a roommate, or anything I HAD to be doing outside of work.
I would come home from work, make dinner, and get right to it. Honestly, my meals were totally bachelor style most of the time – often it was literally tortilla chips, guacamole, and some Frank’s hot sauce on top.
Team Avocado over here!
No one said I was making the healthiest decisions, but I was minimizing time doing things that weren’t getting me ahead and focusing that extra few minutes on my business.
I had no TV, and didn’t even have Netflix – which for a millennial is seemingly unheard of. One time I ordered the free HBO trial for 30 days, and it wrecked me. I’m glad that wasn’t free because I would have wasted even more time, and who knows if I would have made this work.
Potential Work Time Added: 2-3 hours
Work on Your Side Hustle on the Weekends
Wait, you want me to give up my weekends?
Yes, yes I do. If you’ve decided that you want to build your own business, you NEED to make sacrifices.
Here’s how far I went with this (and you can ask my friends to confirm) – I turned down EVERYTHING people asked me to do. I lived in an awesome part of Philadelphia, right in the middle of everything.
My one guy friend loved going out, and our favorite bar was 150 steps from my apartment…not kidding.
He would come into the city, go to that bar, and ask me to come out, and I’d turn him down 95% of the time. How ridiculous is that? But I was committed to making this business work.
The only times I would make exceptions to this rule is when my best friend had her first child. I have no siblings, and she is like my sister, so that makes me this cuties Aunt.
Kids only stay little for a certain amount of time, so I would take the train to see them some weekends (of course while reading or working on the train there and back!). But other than seeing the baby, I was pretty much a hermit.
Now, I don’t expect you to work the entire 2 days of the weekend, but a majority of it should be focused on growing your business.
Potential Work Time Added: up to 30 hours
You need to figure out the balance between having a life, a stable family situation, and sanity. THAT is the key, and as I mentioned before, I don’t expect you to incorporate all of these ideas into your daily life, but you’re going to have to make some sacrifices in order to be successful.