Feel like there’s just not enough time in the day? As an attorney, I learned to live by my calendar. This habit helped me tremendously when it came time to start my own business. My calendar exercise will help you find the time. This exercise helped me build a business on the side while practicing law full-time as a wife and mom to 3 kiddos. It can help you too.
The harsh reality is: we all have the same 24 hours in the day and the same 7 days in a week. Whether you want to admit to that or not. Building a business on the side requires you to take advantage of time, not let time take advantage of you. Each of us prioritizes based on our individual perspectives. If someone told you that they would pay you an extra $500 a month in exchange for 5 hours of your week, do you think you could find those 5 extra hours? If someone told you, they’d pay your mortgage for you if you could dedicate 15 hours a month to them, do you think you could find the time? I bet you’d find the time. Finding that time as a bet on yourself, now that’s a different story isn’t it? But it shouldn’t be.
When I first decided to start a side hustle, I seriously thought “I’m not sure when I’m gonna have time to do this!” In fact, my husband questioned my choice on multiple occasions simply due to my lack of time. But my desire to build an income stream that allowed for a flexible schedule compelled me to at least give it a try. I knew my priorities needed to align with my side hustle goals. So, I thought, I need to get my priorities straight. But not just straight inside my head. I need them straight on my calendar.
I saw my calendar as a tool. A tool I could use to my advantage. Except at first glance, my calendar (read: my life) revealed no time to add anything to my plate. I could have easily thrown in the towel on my side hustle goals at that moment. Instead, I chose to actually study my calendar rather than just glance at it. As I studied it, pockets of time opened up here and there. Some pockets consisted of only 15 minutes. What can you really get done in 15 minutes? You’d be surprised.
In the beginning, I didn’t have large sections of time to commit to my side hustle. I mean during that phase of my life with three kids, a husband who was traveling for work and practicing law full time, I was busy. But, here’s the thing, WE ARE ALL BUSY. That excuse never lets up. If you want to grow a business, you simply have to accept being busy.
I thought maybe I could find 15 to 30 minute increments at least 2 to 3 times a day to work my business. So that’s what I did. In the morning, 30 minutes, at lunch, 15 to 20 minutes and then in the evening, another 15-30 minutes dedicated exclusively to my side business. That amounted to almost 1 1/2 hours a day and over 6 hours per week only working 5 days a week. Here’s the key: I blocked that time on my calendar as dedicated time for my side business. I let my husband know that time was dedicated for my side hustle. If I was at work, I shut my office door or left the office completely and worked from a park or restaurant while I ate a quick lunch. I realized my productivity directly correlated to the days I literally blocked the time out on my calendar.
My calendar exercise will show you how you can find that time you don’t think exists. To start this exercise, you’ll need your phone calendar, a paper calendar or sheet of paper in front of you with hours in the day and a few different colored highlighters or markers. PIN this post for when you are ready to go through this exercise with your calendar.
So, grab a pencil and your calendar because we are about to find some time! Open your calendar to your nearest clean slate week.
Step 1: Input the time for tasks when you just absolutely CANNOT work your side business. Some examples of when you CANNOT work your side business might include: your set hours for your full-time job, or set volunteer hours and any other non-negotiable commitments. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s beneficial to start in reality. You still need to pay the bills, so you must prioritize those commitments. When marking these tasks on your calendar, mark the amount of time dedicated to each. If you work an 8-hour shift, mark off the entire 8-hours. So, right now, write in or fill in the slots for those hours. Don’t forget if you have a long commute to block out the travel time accordingly.
Step 2: This step takes into account your personal life, family life and lifestyle. Add things like workout time, family time, date night or me time. Even if you don’t exercise, I highly recommend you set aside some time for wellness activities like yoga, a walk, or a bike ride. We add in dedicated family time, a dedicated date night, and some dedicated me time because you still need your life. You still need time for the things that make you happy and keep you sane. I’ve learned that often these are the first things to get pushed to the back burner when we’re super busy. So, write them in. Additionally, look at how many hours of sleep you need and mark it on your calendar. Yes, I’m telling you to calendar your sleep. I know that sounds odd but this calendar exercise illustrates how much time is readily available for you to follow that passion of yours.
Step 3: Now that you have non-negotiable and personal commitments on your calendar, take a look and see if any of it may be adjusted. At first glance, you may not see anything. But remember we are finding time where you didn’t think it previously existed. Until I set my priorities straight I didn’t think my work day allowed for any time for my side business. But when I really studied it, I saw small increments where I could make it work. Do you get a lunch break at work? Does your commute lend itself to phone calls, podcasts or audiobooks that might provide training or inspiration for your business? Do you have a vacation day here and there that maybe you can utilize towards growing your side business? Do you have a job where you can adjust your hours to a schedule that might be more friendly to freeing up time to grow your side business? Like me, you might only find 15-30 minutes here and there, but every little bit adds up. So, make those adjustments where you see them by writing in “SIDE BUSINESS”, “HUSTLE TIME,” or you could write in the name of your new venture. Whatever you write, just make sure you dedicate those slots on your calendar to your business.
Step 4: Time to make choices and sacrifices. Now take a deep breath and take an overview of your calendar. What does it look like now that we have all those hours blocked? How do you feel when you look at it all staring back at you from your calendar? Do you see that you actually do have more time than you thought? Or do you look at it and get overwhelmed because you have zero clear space left on your calendar?
It’s time to think about what sacrifices you are willing to make or trade out in your life in order to pursue your side business. It’s time to think about whether you want this business enough to sacrifice what is necessary. Time to get 100% real with yourself. I’ll give you some examples of sacrifices fellow entrepreneur’s have shared: trading in a 90 minute workout for 45 minutes; taking one day a week off from a workout; cutting out ALL tv for one year; skipping lunch with co-workers to eat solo and work their business; cutting out personal social media (as opposed to business social media ); waking up 30 minutes earlier; going to bed 30 minutes later; hiring a babysitter for one morning a week to gain uninterrupted time; asking a parent or spouse to watch the kids for one weekend morning.
A key factor is finding what is palatable to you. Don’t completely remove things from your life that really fill your cup and energize you. If you look at your calendar and see lots of opportunity to fit in your business, great! But if you’re like me and you had to make sacrifices, this exercise gives you a visual to measure what adjustments and sacrifices might be necessary. Remember the reason you need to find time…this is your chance to decide to fish or cut bait. Is your side hustle, your passion project, your additional income stream worth those sacrifices? Only you can make that decision.
Once you’ve determined where to make sacrifices and where to trade time, make those adjustments on your calendar. Just as in Step 3, write in “SIDE BUSINESS”, “HUSTLE TIME,” or you could write in the name of your new venture. Whatever you write, just make sure you dedicate those slots on your calendar to your business.
Final Step: Color coding. Get out those highlighters or colored markers. Choose a separate color for tasks in Steps 1, 2 and 3 above. If you use a phone calendar, use the color coding system on your phone by creating a separate calendar for each task. Label Step 1 non-negotiable calendar and choose a color for it. Label Step 2 personal time and choose a different color for it. Label Step 3 “hustle time” or whatever you chose in Step 3 and assign a color to those tasks. Hint: I choose PURPLE for Step 3 because purple makes me happy. When I look at my calendar and see a purple section, it makes me smile and that sets the perfect tone for when I shift to “Hustle Time.” Highlight or mark all tasks according to color. When you are done, your calendar should be a pretty colorful masterpiece.
Your final calendar should include 3 color coded sections: non-negotiable commitments, your personal life and your side hustle. It should give you a good visual representation of your time. Use this visual to block out time for your side hustle for future weeks. Make the commitment to yourself to stick to your calendar. Use a timer if you need to, to stay on task and focused. Importantly, remember the reason WHY you want to build this business. I recommend writing a personal mission statement to serve as a reminder of your mission and your why on the difficult days. Learn more about how to write a personal mission statement in this POST.
Now you’ve found the time that you didn’t think existed. In order to maintain that time, you must block it off on your calendar every week. Utilize your calendar as a tool and except for the occasional emergency or distraction, live by it. You will find that 15-30 minutes here and there add up to significant achievements and productivity. It is worth repeating this exercise every 6 months or so as our lives ebb and flow, schedules change and commitments change.
I hope this post inspires you to take that next step in moving in the direction of your dreams.
P.S. If you like color coding, see my POST on how I keep my family of 5 organized with color coding.
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