TPP #5: 16 Productivity Tips for Part-Time Entrepreneurs

“We are in control of the one asset that we all give the most f#%ks about, and that is time.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Do you work a full-time job but struggle to find time for side-projects or your part-time business? You work 9-5 and come home motivated to work but often lack the energy to do anything. This is the reality for so many people out there (including myself at times).

We live in an age where more and more people are starting up businesses and transitioning to work for themselves. It’s more and more common to come across the “part-time entrepreneur” or “side-hustler” in the workplace. But being this person isn’t easy – you’ve got to balance your responsibilities at work, family life, spending time with your family, keep up with friends and somehow find time to build a side-business that can take over your full-time job.

In this episode of The Productivity Podcast, I talk about productivity tips for part-time entrepreneurs. Listen below!

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Building a business while working a full-time job is tough, the good news is that it’s possible and people do it every single day!

I’m currently facing this challenge as well. I work a day job as a Marketing Gorilla at Mighty Ape and during my spare time I’m growing this website which one day is going to support me and my wife Hayley. Detailed below is my advice for battling with these challenges and growing your side-business. These tips have come from my own experiences and are things that have worked for me. If you have other tips for building a part-time business then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

BONUS: This awesome article was posted on Shopify earlier this week. I was actually already writing this post when this came out. Great ideas in here none the less!

 Grab a tea or coffee and let’s get into it…

1. Start Now!

This first piece of advice is for those people who are only thinking about doing something on the side. If you haven’t quite decided what you’d like to do or have some hesitations about committing to an idea, my advice is this – start now!

If you don’t know what you want to do, set up a website and start writing about your interests (this is how I started. Go back and look at my early posts if you like). Share these posts with your friends and you’ll get a better sense of what you enjoy writing about, what you’re good at and how you can help people.

In doing this, you’re going to start building an audience, which is going to be crucial when it’s time to market your product or service.

With anything that you’d like to do, whether it has anything to do with building a website or not, I guarantee it’s going to take longer than you plan. So start now! The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll learn, the sooner you’ll succeed.

Check out this episode from The Fizzle Show which outlines some great tips for getting started on your business.

2. Create a Strong Vision of Where You Want to Be

Building your side-business is going to be tough. It takes real patience, determination and commitment. There are going to be times when you question everything you’re doing and you’re going to want to give up. Don’t do this!

Instead, create a clear vision of what you want your life to look like and remind yourself of what you’re working towards.

I ask people to do this in the first few days of my 7-Day Productivity Plan. Not only does creating this vision motivate you, it helps you measure your productivity. It lets you evaluate whether the tasks you’re working on are advancing you towards your goals.

Steve Jobs

3. Share Your Vision to Create Accountability

After you create this vision of what you want your business to look like and where you want your life to be, share it with your friends and family. When you do this it helps create a sense of accountability. In other words you don’t want to look like a failure or appear as someone who doesn’t keep their word, so you work harder to achieve your goals.

The other great thing about sharing your goals is the more you talk about your goals and vision, the better you can articulate it and the clearer it becomes in your head. The clearer it gets the better you can work towards it as you filter distractions and focus on the things that really matter.

4. Utilise the Morning Before Work

When you work a 9 – 5 job, your time is precious. When you spend 40 hours a week working that’s a third of your time gone. When another third (roughly) is dedicated to sleep, that leaves only a third for everything else you want to do – spending time with the family, socialising with friends, chilling out, reading and of course, building your business.

For this reason, I highly recommend you take advantage of the early hours of the morning to get some real work done. It’s a great time of day when you can pretty much guarantee you won’t be distracted. I also find it’s easier to concentrate during this time as you wake up with a full tank of brain power. Learn more about why waking up early is hyper-productive.

[ctt title=”The madness of mornings is a key reason most of us believe we have no time!” tweet=”“The madness of mornings is a key reason most of us believe we have no time” via @paulminors @lvanderkam” coverup=”e3Uc5″]

Author and productivity guru Laura Vanderkam advocates this idea in her best-selling book “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” (check out my book summary for a quick rundown of this book).

5. Plan Your Week Ahead

This one is easy – plan your week in advance.

Because you’re juggling so many balls at once; work, family, friends and a business, you need to allocate enough time for each area of your life and ensure you don’t double book appointments.

When planning the week ahead, I recommend you 1) think about the 1 or 2 key things you’d like to achieve in the coming week 2) schedule blocks of time before and after work for working on these few things.

Sunrise Calendar

Here's a snapshot of my calendar. I fill this out with everything from social events to gym workouts.

6. Plan to Succeed (Don’t Try and Do Too Much)

Make sure you set yourself up for success by not committing to do too much. If you take on too much, failure is going to become a common theme in your week and this is going to kill your motivation. Instead, plan 1 or 2 key activities to complete and if you tick these off by Thursday you can dedicate the next few days to some ”bonus” tasks. WIN!

I used to make the mistake of trying to do too much thinking: “well I’m a productive person, I’ll get it all done”. But what ended up happening is that I’d rush my tasks to try to complete everything; I’d get to the end of the week and may well have completed everything on my list but wouldn’t be happy with the quality of my work. The lesson here is that you shouldn’t sacrifice quality in order to create a false sense that you’re getting loads done.


Download my FREE “Part-Time Entrepreneurs Productivity Checklist”. A complete list of things you can do to maximise your productivity while building your side-business.


7. Work on High Impact Tasks

Another benefit of focusing on 1 or 2 key tasks is that it forces you to focus and prioritise the most important and high impact tasks. By “high impact” I basically mean the tasks that are going to have the biggest impact on you getting towards that goal or vision we talked about earlier.

Because you don’t have the luxury of time this is actually going to help your productivity. This lack of time forces you to work on the tasks in your business that are most important. You’re forced to drop any smaller tasks that don’t matter (designing logos, printing business cards etc…) and this is a good thing! This restraint is going to make you much more productive and it’ll soon start creeping into your day job. You’ll drop tasks that don’t matter and really hone in on the important jobs.

8. Have Fun & Do What You Believe In

As I touched on before – this journey to building a successful side business is going to be tough. That’s why it’s so important that you work on something that you really care about. This journey needs to be fun as it’s the only way you can continue through the tough times. You can remind yourself of the importance of your work and of the fun times you’ve had.

By having fun and doing something you care about it’ll also motivate you to go above and beyond to get stuff done. It’s a lot harder waking up at 5am if you don’t enjoy your work. But do something you love and you’ll be excited to jump out of bed! I rarely go on the Playstation any more – my website is my Playstation. Blogging, building my audience and helping people is way more fun!

As Richard Branson testifies to, having fun is one of the most important aspects of running a business. Check out “Screw It, Let’s Do It” (book summary) for more on this. While you’re at it, have a read of “Start With Why” (book summary) by Simon Sinek to learn the importance of finding your “why”.

9. Create a Time Budget for Your Side-Business & Personal Time

When you’ve got so many balls in the air it can be easy to focus more on one than the others. Often you’ll want to put in a couple of extra hours into your business, or maybe you need to do some late nights at your day job. These short-terms sprints where your’e focusing on a new product launch or project are okay, but shouldn’t become an ongoing thing.

To ensure you don’t neglect certain areas of your life (like your family), create a time budget for everything you’re doing. Your day job will take up a minimum of 40 hours a week. I don’t advocate working late hours at work (if you have 40 hours a week to get stuff done and can’t do it all in this time you need to prioritise more). But sometimes you just can’t help it, so you say work should take no more than 45 hours a week. You could then allocate 18 hours for your business (about 2.5 a day) and the rest is for relaxing, spending time with the family, meeting with friends and so on.

Creating these time budgets reinforces these previous points. It forces you to be restraint and focus on those high impact tasks. It also means you don’t go crazy working on your business in your spare time and sacrifice the other important areas of your life. Instead you have to set a target to achieve X and Y within 18 hours the following week.

10. Be Patient

This one is tough – be patient.

I know better than anyone how frustrating it can be waiting for your business to take off. Even if you were working full-time on this venture it would still take time to gain any traction and really take off. But because you’re working part-time it’s going to take even longer. That’s what you have to put up with in return for staying at the security of your job vs. jumping into a business full-time (which is far riskier).

Often people will quit because it takes too long to reach this going where you really start making progress. They think their idea sucks or they don’t have what it takes. But often it’s just a case of sticking with it a bit longer. Listen to podcasts like Fizzle and you’ll hear lots of stories like this. The moral of the story is that by sticking with it, by persevering through those tough times and by being patient you’ll eventually reach that point where your business starts making real progress and sales take off!

11. Be Careful of “The Dip”

And now I’m going to contradict myself – while you should be persistent and patient, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of continuing with an idea that’s not going anywhere. You have to be careful of “the dip”.

the dipAs Seth Godin writes about in his book, “The Dip” there will come a time in your business when the initial fun of setting it up wears off. As that initial excitement goes away, you’ll start going into what’s called “the dip”. This is where a lot of people quit and give up. Their motivation is gone and it seems there’s no reason to continue (which is why I previously mentioned the importance of having fun and working on something you care about). However, the dip is just that, a dip. It’s temporary. That dip in your growth often occurs right before your business hits that hockey stick growth curve and it’s just a case of sticking with it while you navigate this dip.

But here comes the caveat – often the dip can turn into a chasm. You have to be careful that you’re not sticking with an idea that’s never going to recover from the dip. You need to become a master in recognising when it’s time to stick with it, or get out. Be patient, but not too patient. I realise that’s probably not very helpful. What I’m saying is that you should stick with it when times get tough, but be smart about it and look for signs that indicate whether you’re going to recover or not. Ask yourself, is this dip due to your own motivation and enthusiasm, or is it due to some other pressure on your business?

12. Don’t Forget to Sleep

sleep smarterAnother word of warning – don’t fall into the trap of sacrificing sleep for your business. By getting quality sleep each night, you’re going to do better quality work during the day. Sure, if you’re currently getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night then you could experiment with cutting this down to 7 and getting up earlier. But don’t be that person who tries to get by on 3 or 4 hours each night. This may feel like it’s working in the short-run, but long-term (remember, this is a long-term game), you’re much more likely to burnout and hit a wall in your business.

I recommend sleeping from about 9:30/10pm to 5am. This is about 7 – 7.5 hours of sleep and sets you up for an early start when you can do some work. Check out Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson for more sleeping tips and advice. It’s a quick and easy read. You can also check out my book summary.

13. Cut Out the Non-Essentials

Be ruthless with your time. If something isn’t going to advance you towards your vision then don’t do it. With such a shortage of time you have to start focused on those high-impact tasks that matter the most.

Opportunities are likely to come up in your business. Perhaps someone wants to work with you, or you have an idea for something really cool to try. Often these great ideas and opportunities can serve as a distraction and pull you away from those crucial tasks that really matter. When this happens, bookmark these ideas for later. I have a “Someday” tag in Evernote which I use to record ideas and opportunities I’d like to come back to. You’re not saying “no” to them, you’re just saying “not now”.


Download my FREE “Part-Time Entrepreneurs Productivity Checklist”. A complete list of things you can do to maximise your productivity while building your side-business.


14. HUSTLE!

While I’ve talked about the importance of keeping a time budget so that you don’t neglect family and friends, make sure that when you are working on your business that you HUSTLE!

I love this video from Gary Vaynerchuk who really pushes on this idea of hustling to make your business succeed. Working smart is important as we know, but if you’re going to build your business, your’e going to have to work smart AND hard.

15. Look After Your Health

As well as getting quality sleep each night, make sure you take the time to look after your general health.

Managing your time is one thing, but if you don’t have the energy to sustain quality work, you’re going to waste a lot of time and probably make a lot more mistakes. I'm a big fan of the FitBit. It's a great reminder to stay active and look after my health. I track my food consumption using MyFitnessPal and together with FitBit this gives you a great view of all the things you're doing that could affect your general well-being.

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Make some time in your schedule for some exercise – go to the gym, take a walk, go for a run, swim or cycle. Keeping active like this will boost your energy levels and keep you fighting fit.

I’m no food expert, but as a general rule, make an effort to fuel your body with quality food. Start your day with a decent breakfast and smoothie. Take regular breaks and grab a cup of tea and some fruit. Stick to whole foods and avoid anything processed like he plague.

16. Create a Winning Mindset

Stay positive and adopt a winning mindset. As discussed in The Magic of Thinking Big (book summary) the power of positive thinking, believing in yourself and managing your attitude is highly conducive to your success or failure.

How you approach your business and perceive new challenges and opportunities will play a huge part in determining your business progress.

ACTION STEPS

Download my checklist of steps every entrepreneur should take to plan their time:

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  • Get article, Paul! Lots of actionable takeaways and, as a blogger myself, a lot of useful tips!

    2 suggestions:

    1) I wish it was easier to share this article! I recommend setting up Sumome (www.sumome.com) on your site to have a sharing sidebar that allows me to share without having to go all the way down to the bottom of the page.

    2) If your CMS allows for it, get rid of the time stamp in your URL. It overcomplicates your URL for no reason – making it harder to share – and also hurts your SEO.

    Other than that, the content is great and I look forward to more!

    • Hey Colin! Thanks for these two great tips I’ll definitely sort these two things out 🙂

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