You landed on an amazing idea, you can envision it as a business, and you even have the contacts to help make it happen. There’s only one problem: You work full-time, and there are just not enough hours in the day to get your side hustle going.
If you’re trying to start a small business while running the 9-to-5 loop (or 9-to-6, or 9-to-7), you know better than anyone how difficult it can be to take on any other tasks that require even the slightest bit of cognitive energy.
However, sometimes the only thing standing between your passion and a full-blown business is having a few productivity tricks up your sleeve.
There may be tons of productivity hacks out there in the world, but these are some personal favorites intended to help you balance your full-time job with your entrepreneurial spirit.
So, if you’re ready to bring your small business to life, continue on for tip #1!
1. Go into Time Out
Picture this. You finally finish your workday, fighting through traffic and congestion to make it home by 7 P.M. After you’ve prepared dinner, eaten, and cleaned up (of which the latter will only happen on a good day), it’s at least 8:00 and you’re just ready to sit down at your computer.
So you sit, and you’re about to start working, but you figure you might as well just check Facebook for a sec – just one scroll.
2 hours later, you look at the time, realize the day is basically over, watch an episode or 2 on Netflix and then hit the pillow with all the force of a Greyhound catching the neighborhood cat.
Sound familiar? If yes, you’re not alone. After a long day at work, sometimes the last thing you want to do is sit down and do more work – even if it’s for your own project or business. So, if you found yourself relating to any part of the above scenario, consider actively eliminating the time-sucking websites from your life.
Need help? Great! SelfControl lets you manually add websites that you know you’ll find distracting to a list, and the app automatically blocks your access to the sites listed for a specific period of time. There are also Chrome extensions like StayFocusd, which gives you a limited amount of time to surf the web before your access is cut off.
And, if you really want to take yourself to task, Cold Turkey is as hardcore as it gets – letting you block any website or application, or even your entire computer. That Reddit thread may be calling your name, but you’re not going to be able to look at it until you’re ready for bed.
2. Ideal Week Technique
Initially coined by Michael Hyatt, the Ideal Week is essentially a budgeting system – but one that works with time instead of money.
The method is simple. Take a pen and divide your week into blocks of time, starting by giving each day a theme. For example, Sunday’s theme could be “outreach day” while Monday’s may be “creative work” day.
Then, you further segment each day into “focus areas” that are based on specific time slots. Maybe 6-6:30 will be your cardio workout, while 7:15-8:00 is devoted to a hot shower and filling breakfast. Don’t forget that 20-minute meditation, from 8:20-8:40.
“That’s nice and all, but what makes the week ideal?” you ask – and here’s the kicker.
Next to each focus area, you write down how you’re going to feel after every activity. That hot shower? Super refreshing. Those cold calls? Accomplishment at its best. By writing down the way each task will make you feel, you can help visualize yourself completing every segment – turning your imagined ideal week into real, actualized habits.
Ideally (see what I did there?) you’ll only need to do this exercise once. However, you may find that over time you’ll need to change parts of your schedule because you can’t realistically get to everything on your list.
And that’s fine!
What you can do is account for how the week went by looking at your journal at the end of each day, seeing what you managed to complete and what you didn’t. Then, simply refine your ideal day so that it reflects a more realistic schedule and can help you get everything done.
3. The Perfect 15-Minute Day
This is a slightly different approach to a similar idea as we saw in #2: Structuring your day with intention.
Coined by Pierre Khawand, the technique involves sparking short bursts of energy in yourself, so that your post-work work is more focused, directed and distraction-proof.
The process is simple. Take out a pen and a timer (NOT the one on your cell phone). Set your timer for 15 minutes, and then get to work on a task. When the timer runs out, you’re allowed to put down your pen and focus on other things. That’s it!
These 15-minute intervals are structured to help you renew your focus on a specific task, without lending any of your attention to the daily interruptions we often run into in our lives. And, when you only have 15 minutes, it’s a short enough time span to keep your focus strong but still get things done.
4. Ritualize the Hard Stuff
Some activities (like a full-time job) are giant energy-suckers, while others put a whole bunch of pep in our steps. But what separates the taxing chores from the ones that make us feel alive? Why do some people feel jazzed and ready to go after a one-hour run, yet those same people are sluggish and spent after two hours of doing nothing?
More than your physical capabilities, your state of mind can make or break the amount of energy you have to put into a set of tasks. And, the thing that informs your state of mind may lie in the ritual surrounding any given activity.
Humans love using rituals, from our holidays to our graduation ceremonies. We like to mark the passage of time with familiar “ceremonies” that bring us joy – the cap and gown, the Thanksgiving turkey – and this extends to our everyday lives as well.
There are times you’re going to be thrilled to work on your business, and times the very thought of it will make you curl up and cry. Jot down both scenarios; when do you feel that burst of energy? What brings your motivation down?
After you note the circumstances of the energy bursts, turn them into a ritual.
If a coffee and book is your thing, make sure to kick back with both before your allotted time to work on your side hustle. If music does it for you, plug in your headphones and jam to your work. Or, if it’s a certain time of day that gets you going, capitalize on those hours (before or after work) to do your most difficult tasks.
Whatever the activity, make sure to adopt a ritual that gets you in the mood to do your best work.
5. Hold Yourself Accountable
Easier said than done, right?
Maybe you feel committed to turning this business a reality, but sometimes things just come up. A friend you haven’t seen in months asks you for drinks; your favorite artist is finally playing a concert after a two-year hiatus.
That’s life, right? Things happen, commitments change, and suddenly you’re six months down the line without having made any progress on your business.
Luckily, there are apps that help you stick to the commitments you make, even if these commitments are only to yourself.
Stickk, for example, lets you make bets with yourself that you’ll actually start your business. You set a personal goal and “bet” an amount of money (be honest about how much money will actually motivate you to get things done) that you will get it done.
The app will assign you a referee who will hold you accountable to get the task done; if you complete it, you get your money back. If not, the money will go to a charity of your choice.
And while donating to charity isn’t the worst thing you could do with your money, most people trying to start their business need every penny they can get; if that’s not incentive enough for you, it may be time to throw in the towel.
6. Eat the Frog (First Thing in the Morning)
It sounds weird, I know, but hear me out.
The frog, in this very specific metaphor, is the task you have to do but don’t want to do the most. Your mission? Eat it for breakfast.
In other words, knock out the most awful, off-putting thing on your to-do list right at the beginning of your day.
Brought to life by Brian Tracey, eating the frog is designed to help give you stamina throughout the rest of your day, as you ride on the satisfaction you feel from completing the most difficult task first.
Although a grievance in the moment, you’ll feel a surge of energy once it’s out of the way, because you’ve managed to tackle something worthwhile right in the beginning of your day.
So, how do you choose which task is the one that has to go the most?
First, set a weekly goal for your business; this could be anything from “find 10 customers” to “get building permits.”
Now, write down a list of the tasks that need to get done in order to help you accomplish the goal.
Then, rank them in order of difficulty, annoyance and necessity (three separate scores). The task with the lowest score (i.e. with the highest level of difficulty, annoyance and necessity) is the biggest, baddest frog – and the one you’re going to eat first.
As the name suggests, this is another method of task-management that helps you move through your to-do list more efficiently.
When we have a lot to do, we often tend to go the multitask route; however, contrary to popular belief, multitasking often kills productivity and is usually a recipe for quick cognitive burnout. After all, it takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus our attention, and imagine how much time gets lost when we have to do that multiple times in one work session.
When you task-batch, however, you group together similar kinds of tasks, based on their location and their function (emails, phone calls, writing, etc.).
Then, split your day into segments, so that you block out hours of time dedicated to each group of tasks. Phone calls can be from 5-6 (especially if you’re commuting home from work), emails from 6-6:30, writing from 7-10 – however it works best for you. Try using Google Calendar, Trello, or other task management tools to help you stay organized. And, if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can color-code each task batch so that you can take in your schedule with a blink.
Over to You
I won’t lie: It’s not easy to start a business while you spend most of your day working on other things. However, knowing how to prioritize and manage the free time you do have will definitely speed up the process – all you need is a little motivation!
Want an extra push? Check out this interview we did with CEO Yali Saar on how to get your business off the ground for his expert advice!