When I first started working on my side business, I had a full time job as a programmer, I was studying at the university, and I had a girlfriend as well. I know how HARD it can be to actually find the time and energy for your side business.
That’s why I’m SO EXCITED to have a friend and a long time client of mine, Charles Bordet from Become a Top Performer, write a post on my blog about this exact topic.
Charles has made amazing progress over the last few years – he went from being stuck in a PhD, feeling burned out and without energy, to finding tens of hours each week to work on things that were important to him – including his side business.
Charles, take it away!
Last year, when I started to work on building a side business, I didn’t realize is was that much work.
As something “on the side”, I thought it would be easy to find 5 to 10 hours every week to occasionally work on it.
But it wasn’t easy. I was working on a PhD, had a part-time job and was involved in several other important projects. Because of this very busy schedule, finding these 5-10 hours was a big challenge without some sort of agenda management software.
I quickly realized that the strategy “Work when I feel like it” working. My business would never be successful this way.
I needed to make a conscious effort to work on it consistently.
My first approach was to take the habit of working on it every day for 1 to 2 hours. When I was back home after work, I took a few minutes to relax, but not more, and sat down before my computer to work. Even when I didn’t feel like it.
At least, this was what it should have been, theoretically. In practice, it was often very different.
I had the time, that wasn’t the problem. Usually, I spent hours watching Netflix or browsing Facebook in the evenings. I could do less of that and get the time I needed to work on my business.
But, some days, the 15-minute break to relax I took transformed into a break that lasted the entire evening. It was hard to force myself to work when I didn’t feel like it, simply because, well, I didn’t feel like it.
My willpower supply was very low because I used it during my work. If I usually watched Netflix, there is a good reason for that. I was exhausted from my work, my body and my mind wanted to rest.
Even watching the videos of the online business course I was taking was hard. After 10 minutes, I felt distracted and started something else at the same time. It was very hard to stay focused.
When I was doing research around my business idea, I caught myself endlessly browsing the internet without finding anything relevant. I always ended up visiting websites that were clearly not related to my business.
From there, I felt discouraged, it was already late, so I surrendered and opened Netflix. Hopefully, I would do better the next day.
I tried hard. Some days I was very productive, that was encouraging, but most days were simply a waste of time.
I could have kept going the same thing over and over, hoping that it would get better, or change the way I was working.
Fortunately for me, I chose the second option.
When are you feeling fresh and motivated to work on your side business?
The main problem that prevented me to work in the evening was that my energy and willpower supplies were empty. This made it very hard to stay focused, motivated and to be creative.
So, when do I have a lot of energy? In the morning, of course! After a good night of sleep, and before spending all my resources during my job or academic research.
But I didn’t have time in the morning. If I wanted to have 1 or 2 hours to work on my business, I would have to get up between 5 and 6 am.
That was SO early to me!
When I tried to do it the first time, I didn’t understand what was happening. I just turned off the alarm clock and went back to sleep.
I know that some people are getting up that early every day, because they start work very early, or they have a long commute, but they have no choice. Here, I had to willingly get up at 5 am.
Nobody was forcing me. It was much easier to go back to sleep.
At night, before sleeping, I thought about all the reasons that I had to get up early. They all made sense, it was a rationally good decision.
But in the morning, when I tried to explain that to my half-awaken brain, it didn’t make that much sense. The will of going back to sleep was too strong.
Another problem I had is that if I need to get up at 5 am AND get 8 hours of sleep, then I also need to go to bed at 9 pm. That is very early. Most of us wouldn’t even consider it.
I remember of a time when going to bed before midnight wasn’t even an option. Much have changed since, fortunately.
Do you feel ready to sleep at 9 pm? Well, me neither. I’m the kind of guy who can feel asleep in less than 5 minutes, but it took me a long time when I tried to sleep that early. That wasn’t a good experience at all!
Usually, at this time, I was watching series, playing video games, or chatting with friends on the internet. I was supposed to stop my activity, tell my friends I had to go to sleep, even if I didn’t want to.
Again, it was hard to force myself to do that. Series are too addictive. Most of the time I just forgot to go to sleep.
The problem wasn’t even that I didn’t want to sleep, it was that I forgot it. I didn’t feel tired enough and I was absorbed in the activity I was doing.
Finally, sometimes I get out with my friends and come back late. I told myself I had to be serious and wake up at 5 am the next day.
Sure. Of course you know what happened. I slept in, I felt guilty, and no work was done on my business this day.
Sometimes I succeeded though. I crawled out of my bed, reached my desk, turned my computer on and tried to do what I had to do.
But, what was I supposed to do by the way? My ideas weren’t very clear. I needed time to get this cloud out of my head. I had trouble to get clarity of what needed to get done.
I thought that working in the morning was better because I would be fresher and more energized. Was I wrong?
I wasn’t. But I was doing it all wrong.
It was a real struggle. I thought I wasn’t a night owl because I wasn’t able to work at night. And I thought I wasn’t an early riser either, considering all the difficulties I had.
Fortunately, I figured out how to make it work. It took me time. Not days, not weeks, but months. I tested different approaches, realized some experiences, and created systems to make every morning a success.
What if You Could Work Every Morning For 2 Hours on Your Side Business?
Today, getting up at 5 am every morning and working on my business has become a habit. My neighbor below even came to ask me to walk more softly in the morning. That’s when I knew it was a consistent habit.
I want to share with you how I transformed these past failures into a successful system so that YOU can do it as well. You will have absolutely NO excuse for not working on your side business consistently for at least 5 hours a week, even if you have a family and a full-time job.
My system is very personal and adapted to my own habits and schedule. It won’t necessarily work for you, but I will show you how you can gradually build your own system adapted specifically for you.
Also, my system is not something fixed. It was different last month. It will be different next month. Actually, I am experimenting right now with something a little bit different with what I’ll describe.
Life is constantly changing, so you simply adapt your habits and improve them with time. What’s important is that these changes are small. The hardest part is to have the basic system established. Then, you can tweak it from time to time to improve it.
At first, I took baby steps to get up just a little bit earlier. It was easy, and it worked. On the opposite, when I tried to wake up 2 hours earlier at once, it was hard, and it didn’t work.
If I had tried to directly implement the system that I am going to show you, I would’ve failed miserably. It is too complex and with too many new habits to take. Change happens slowly.
The key is to start really small, very easy, and to improve with time.
For example, don’t try to get up 2 hours earlier like I did at first. Try to get up 15 minutes earlier. It’s easy. 15 minutes aren’t a lot to work on your side business, but that’s a start, and you’re moving in the right direction. Next week, you’ll try 30 minutes, and so on.
Hopefully, my system will inspire you to create your own. Don’t feel that you should do exactly the same things as me and expect the same results. We’re different, and I’ll show you how to create your own system.
How to Guarantee You Will Get 8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
As I told you earlier, I struggled a lot to force myself to consistently go to sleep early.
This changed when I started to have an evening routine. The goal of this routine was to insure that I go to sleep at the right time, without me not wanting to or forgetting about it.
My phone is set up to ring at 6 pm to trigger the evening routine. When this happens, I stop working and I forbid myself to work more. I know that if I keep working, I will certainly mess up my sleep schedule.
This rule is very important to me. It also prevent me from getting burned out when I work too late for too many days in a row. At first I’m excited to work a lot, and after a few days I feel exhausted and need days to recover.
This is the first item of the evening routine. Stop working. I actually reboot my computer, so that I have a fresh new session, without all the tabs or files related to work still open.
The second step is to get up, put my shoes on, and go out for a walk. I’m usually still working at home at this time (I’m not always working by the way, but it is often the case), and since I’m at home, I don’t have a commute.
A lot of people hate their commute. But when you don’t have one, there is nothing that separates work and home. I need this separation, so I created it, by just going for a 20-minute walk.
I enjoy walking, this is really good for me. It is relaxing. I let my mind wander. In a way, as I have rebooted my computer, I’m also rebooting my mind.
Once I7m back home, I put my orange glasses on. Ok, this is definitely not for everyone. Only for the weirdos like me, and preferably if you’re living alone.
These glasses are made specifically to block the blue light. The problem with blue light (from computer screens etc.) is that it interferes with your melatonin production, which is the hormone that regulate sleep and wake cycles. I won’t go into very deep details, but basically, it’s good for my sleep. A less weird option is the use of f.lux, but this is much less effective.
Not only is it good for my sleep, but the action of putting these glasses and seeing everything in orange also give more strength to the separation between “work” and “home”, because I literally see things differently.
The last action of my evening routine is to clean up my apartment for 15 minutes. Having a clean place is very important to me because when my apartment is messed up, I feel less good, my mind is cluttered by the mess and I lose my focus when I’m trying to work.
By including cleaning in my evening routine, I make sure this is done every day.
After that, I’m free to enjoy my evening by doing anything I want. Because of the routine, I never forget to go to sleep. This is very powerful.
Again, this is something very personal and that’s constantly changing. Eric Conley has a very different evening routine, and he does it right before sleeping (while I’m doing it at the end of my workday), but the principle and the objective are the same.
Here is a summary of my evening routine:
- Reboot my computer.
- Go for a walk.
- Put orange glasses on.
- Clean for 15 minutes.
- Do whatever I want until I go to sleep.
How to Virtually Guarantee Every Morning Will Be the Most Productive Time of Your Day, Even If You’re Not a Morning Person
The radio automatically turns on at 5 am and wakes me up. What do I do?
I haven’t really found a way to be very energized every morning. Sometimes I am eager to work, and other times I just want to sleep more.
A few years ago, I couldn’t even consider going to sleep before midnight and always got up late. I clearly didn’t consider myself as a morning person.
Today, it’s very rare that I go to sleep after midnight and I now consider myself as a morning person. But I had no predisposition for that, I struggled to become a morning person.
This is not something that is fixed for life. If you don’t consider yourself like a morning person, it doesn’t mean you will never be. But it takes efforts to change.
The way I found to be consistently productive every morning, whatever my mood is, is to have an exciting morning routine that’s awaiting me.
Every morning, I repeat the same things, in the same order, so that I can expect to get the same results, which is a successful and productive morning.
Actually, pretty much everyone already has a morning routine. We naturally do the same things over and over in the morning. The difference here is that instead of stumbling upon a routine, I created mine. And I made sure it is exciting and leads me to success.
At first, after getting up, I turn the lights on (very important) and go to the toilet to pee. Then I weigh, every morning, because I like to have data. Later in the morning, I will enter the data point into a spreadsheet.
Now comes the first very important item of the routine: breakfast.
Every morning I do the same thing. I brew my coffee in a French press and prepare an omelette with bacon, tomato, cheese, and basil, plus a couple of toasts. I love it!
This is a big breakfast high in protein that sustains me for hours! I need this because I get up very early and donÌt want to feel hungry at 9 am.
It takes me 20 to 25 minutes to prepare it though. That’s why, for a few months, I tried to do ham, egg & cheese muffins. I could prepare them days in advance and simply warm them up in 1 minute.
But after a while, I missed my omelette, so I went back to it.
Then, I check my emails while eating my breakfast. This is the only time of the day I check emails. I’m using BatchedInbox, which is a pretty cool tool that delivers my emails every day at 5 am only. It means that if you send me an email at 6 am, I will receive it the next day at 5 am. I’m not bothered by emails during the day.
After that, bathroom time, where I read for 10 minutes, take a shower, brush my teeth and dress up.
I’m also ready for work, but I now need exciting and powerful activities to put myself in the right mindset. These activities build the momentum that makes every morning a productive morning.
The first activity is to go for a walk. Did I say I love walking? It’s even better in the morning than in the evening. The streets are very calm, the sun is rising, the birds are singing! It’s really cool. This is a very beautiful way to start the day.
When I’m back, I write in a journal about anything that I have in my mind. It can be about my struggles, my genius ideas, my successes, anything that I’d like to write about.
This gives me the opportunity to practice my writing every day, even if it’s only 100 to 200 words. It also tells a lot about what I’m focusing on at that moment.
I can later go back and read what I was writing 3 months earlier, what I was thinking about at that time, what were my preoccupations, etc.
It allows me to take a step back and see the improvements I’ve done. Or, on the opposite, it can also help to see that I haven’t made as much progress as I’d have liked to, even if I felt busy. Realizing this is essential and particularly hard to do when we’re busy all day long.
Finally, last but not least, I write my goals. It helps me to increase my focus and gives me the inspiration to kickstart the day.
I’m now ready to work and have roughly two hours for my side business before I need to go to work.
This routine ensures that I’m fully energized and inspired to work on my side business every morning, whether I was initially feeling tired or already excited. Quick summary:
- Get up.
- Toilet + Weigh.
- Prepare breakfast.
- Eat breakfast + Manage emails.
- Toilet + Reading. Shower. Brush teeth.
- Walk outside.
- Write goals.
- Ready to work
It might sounds a lot. And that’s actually a lot. It takes me almost 1h30 to do all of this. It wasn’t like that the first time I tried to implement a morning routine. And If I had tried, I would’ve failed, simply because this is a too big change.
Instead, I recommend starting very easy. Consider what you’re already doing as a starting point, and from there make small adjustments from time to time.
For instance, if you want to try meditation, add a 5-minute meditation in the morning. That’s really easy to do.
Then, you may realize you don’t enjoy meditation that much (I tried meditation for 2 months before stopping for this exact reason, and replacing it with walking), then stop doing it. It’s as simple as that.
After a while, you will have a much better morning routine that you love doing every day.
Step-by-Step Guide to Get Started
Do you feel overwhelmed? That’s normal. I just described the system that I built in months. I don’t expect (nor recommend) you to do the same things tomorrow. First because it will very probably lead you to failure, and also because this is not adapted to you.
Instead, I prepared a step-by-step guide so that you have NO excuse to get started.
Step 1: Where are you right now?
Assess your current situation by answering to these questions:
- When are you usually going to sleep?
- When are you usually getting up in the morning?
- How much time do you need to be ready in the morning?
- How many hours do you need to sleep?
Example: I’m usually going to sleep around 11 pm, getting up at 7 am and takes 30 minutes to get prepared. I think I need 8 hours of sleep.
Step 2: Where do you want to be?
Describe what would be the ideal morning so that you have time to work on your side business:
- When do you need to go to sleep?
- When do you need to get up in the morning?
- How much time do you want to work on your side business?
Example: I want to go to sleep at 10 pm, so that I get up at 6 am and have 1 hour to work on my side business.
Step 3: Create a very basic system.
The morning routine is that as important as the evening routine. I noticed that usually, people struggle to consistently go to sleep earlier. That’s why I recommend you keep doing the same thing as usual in the morning.
Instead, create a basic evening routine that contains the following items:
- The time when your alarm will ring to trigger the evening routine.
- A relaxing activity that you enjoy doing.
Example: Since I want to go to sleep at 10 pm, I will set up my alarm at 9 pm. My relaxing activity is taking a warm bath with a very good book.
Tip: If your computer is a distraction that prevents you to go to sleep, schedule it to automatically shutdown at a certain hour.
Step 4: Improve your system gradually.
Stick to the basic system for a while to get used to it. Naturally, you will want to improve it by trying different activities, different timings, and so on.
If you’re happy with it the way it is, don’t force anything. It means it’s working, so keep doing it and don’t break it.
But if you’re like me, you will want to make a lot of changes very often, because you like experimenting and testing. Be careful with that because it’s easy to break the system when you do too many changes at once. Restrain yourself to one change at a time.
What if I can’t get up in the morning?
When I first tried to get up very early in the morning, it didn’t work at all. That’s why I want to add this extra section with a few tips that will help you to NOT fall back asleep after waking up.
Have a gradual approach
Try to get up 15 minutes earlier the first week. It will be much easier.
Then, the week after, do 30 minutes earlier, and so on.
That’s how I did it the first time I wanted to get up very early. Yes, it took me a month to get up one hour earlier. So what? I succeed. Long term changes aren’t made in one day.
Make it harder to fall back asleep
Put your alarm clock far from your bed, so that you have to get up to turn it off.
Some alarm clock propose you to solve a small problem, walk a few steps, or do an addition, before it turns off. Give it a try if you struggle a lot.
What If You Want More Than 10 Hours Per Week?
Getting 2 hours to work on your side business every morning is really good. It means 10 hours per week if you’re doing it consistently every weekday.
But what if you want more? More time for your side business. More free time every day.
Because even during the day I had a lot of work to do, between with PhD, my part-time job and my other academic projects, I developed systems that helped me save more than 4 hours every day!
I used these hours to get progress faster on my projects, but also to have more free time and spend it hanging out with my friends.
I share these systems in my ebook Get An Extra Hour Every Day. It will help you to save at least one hour a day, but probably more, like it had for me. With just one extra hour, you can:
- Go out with your partner, forget about business, and don’t worry about ANYTHING.
- Send extra pitches to the websites you want to contribute on but never find the time to.
- Make progress quicker on your business and increase your income.
If you liked this article, you’ll love my ebook Get An Extra Hour Every Day!