September 13, 2017

Finding the Time to Build Your Business

Unless you're a single 22-year old with no responsibilities, one of the biggest challenges you have to deal with is simply finding the time to work.

Even if you have all the time in the world, it's still not enough to do everything your business/project needs. So it's that much harder when you have a family, a full-time job, a mortgage, or other responsibilities.

What are the best tips or stories you've come across for finding the time to get things done? For example, Mike Perham worked on his project at work, and Steve Benjamins negotiated a shorter work week with his employer.

And if you're in this situation right now, how are you making more time for yourself? What's hard about it?

  1. 7

    None of what's below are "hacks". Finding time is 99% prioritizing. You will lose out on some stuff when you do a side-gig. Remember that but don't build a life where you lose out on everything.

    Things that keep working for me:

    • Work early (like 5am-8am).

    • Sometimes, do a 6 hour workday on Saturday or Sunday.

    • Stay healthy (sleep/eat/exercise).

    • Vary your work. You can't code all the time.

    • Have a hobby that isn't artifact-driven. By this I mean do things that you enjoy without an end goal. Some people dance, some swim... I do improv.

    • Deal with your mental health. Starting a business is a lot of self-imposed pressure. I meditate, and I also choose to not work on my side-project sometimes and instead write to figure out why I'm in a mental rut that's blocking me from making progress.

    The things I've chosen not to do, that might be difficult for others to give up:

    • I don't actively pursue a romantic relationship.

    • I don't drink alcohol (although I miss it sometimes!).

    • I don't stay until the bar closes.

    1. 1

      Have a hobby that isn't artifact-driven. By this I mean do things that you enjoy without an end goal. Some people dance, some swim... I do improv.

      Interesting addition to your list. What motivated you to include it?

      Deal with your mental health. Starting a business is a lot of self-imposed pressure. I meditate, and I also choose to not work on my side-project sometimes and instead write to figure out why I'm in a mental rut that's blocking me from making progress.

      This is a big one. I almost always feel better about things when I take the time to step outside of an issue and reflect on it, rather than staying "inside" of it.

      1. 1

        What motivated you to include it?

        A friend and I love creating, and since she is in the creative fields (design/animation) a lot is about what you produce. As such there's a lot of discussion on how to deal with the feeling of never quite being satisfied with your work. So we added a rule for ourselves to also make sure there are things we do where the satisfaction comes from doing the activity rather than the fruits of it.

        I think it applies to indie hackers too.

  2. 6

    My best strategy is to use my non-side-project time to plan how best to use my limited side project time. That way, I'm making as efficient use of this limited time as I can. Keeping a notebook handy means that I can jot-down design ideas, copy, and other artifacts so that I can keep my coding time as productive as possible.

  3. 2

    I got this one from another thread, but I've found it really effective - get up early on weekdays, work on your startup before work and DON'T WORK WHEN YOU GET HOME - the last bit being super-important. It's surprised me because I'm really not a morning person at all, usually I get up around 9am.

    I found that having startup stuff and other things I had to do competing for time without a clear delineation stressed me - I either felt guilty for neglecting the startup, or stress at neglecting my other responsibilities.

    This also puts things in order of what I want my energy focused on - startup, then job, then exercise. Before this I'd get up late, go to work, be tired, go to Judo training, be exhausted, then try to do programming but find myself staring out into space for hours. Putting startup time first means that even though it only gets a few hours per day those are the best hours you can give it.

  4. 2

    I have a 4 year old, and I work full time so I have had to get super focused in order to work on my food project.

    My best advice is to plan out things the night before as small tasks.

    Make it a regular habit to work on your project.

    Keep a TODO.txt file where you keep track of where you left off, this makes it a faster context switch.

    Setup your deployment in a way that it is easy to roll out new iterations with little effort.

    1. 1

      What are your working hours like? Do you start right when you wake up, or do you work at night and end by planning things out for tomorrow?

      1. 2

        I generally work 8-10 hours a day at my regular job. The commute is a little long, but I have been able to turn the commute time into productive time for the side project by taking the train. If I take an earlier train, it gives me an extra hour at the coffee shop across from my office to code.

        I start coding as soon as I get on the train both in the morning and at night. In the morning this is without coffee, so you just have to use sheer will power. The best inspiration I can think of is Cal Ripken Jr who just showed up everyday.

  5. 2

    Keep your costs down, at all cost 😊

    That leads to a decreased need for income, which leads to less time spent on generating an income, which leads to more time and energy to developing a business.

  6. 1

    I've noticed that, despite being busy, I have more time than I think, and I end up wasting it worrying about being so busy.

    I've taken to writing down everything I want to do (I use Todoist for this), and then promise myself to finish some percentage of the work needed each day. Sometimes I fail, but most days I end up getting some amount of work done. This moves projects forward: any progress is better than none.

    Some of you will notice this is the basics of GTD. I also use the two minute rule, which is a game-changer if you're not used to it.

  7. 1

    Biggest way for me to free up my time for the high impact work is to figure out what things need to be done, but can be done by someone else other than myself.

    Some examples:

    • Use a VA to create prospect lists and research contact info.

    • Have the VA contact prospects and qualify them as leads.

    • Handle scheduling for calls with leads.

    • Converting designs into CSS & HTML.

    I have a day job and I'll set aside a few hours after work preparing tasks to be done by someone else the next day. When I'm done with my 9-5 the next day I can go through the results and do with it what I needed to do in a relatively short amount of time.

    I typically find the stuff that feels mundane and time consuming can be done by someone else. The more creative stuff that is the core of what I'm building is usually less time consuming and a lot more fun to work on, but a lot of times the core stuff depends on the boring stuff being done first.

  8. 1

    I used to try and find big blocks of time to sit down and do a lot of consecutive work. I found that I would work for 4-6 hours at a time, then do nothing for a couple of weeks until I found time for another large session. I never quite made enough progress to feel that satisfied.

    A much better strategy is to ensure I do something every single day, no matter how small. I will usually get like 10-15 minutes of progress per day, but it is surprising how fast that adds up. I've found that using this strategy doesn't require that I find a lot of time to work as it is usually fairly easy to find ten minutes in a day.

    I'm generally much more pleased with the progress that I make using this strategy than longer work sessions

  9. 1

    I work an eight-hour day on Saturday and Sunday on my startup. I get up at the same time as a normal workday, and start and stop working at about the same time as when I work from home on my full-time job. This means I turn down social invitations for events during the day on weekends, which isn't easy.

    On weekdays after work I relax for an hour or two after getting home, then do small tasks for the startup, like configure MX records or add a simple page. But most work happens on the weekend.

    I keep other parts of life simple, e.g. eat the same simple meals over and over, don't take on big projects, turn down offers to collaborate on other's projects. Once I have a lifestyle business I will have plenty of time for those things!