Do you have a blog, startup idea or just want to start/build something outside of you day job? Do you have enough time to make it as awesome as you envision? I’m sure most of you would nod your head in agreement.
Most of us that have a blog, want to start a side business or just have a passion project that is maintained outside a full-time job struggle with making time to work on such projects. Working hard by putting in extra hours — which is common in many work places — to get the work done is not an option. We cannot act like The Technician working more and more hours to get the work done as Michael Gerber describes in his book The E-Myth.
Time is limited by not only a full time job, but also by family and other commitments. In order to make time to progress in our passion projects we must work extremely hard, but we must also work smart. Working smart means being efficient and not wasting the precious time we carve out in the day. To get passion projects finished or make them a success we must combine working hard with working smart, while finding those few hours each week to do the work itself.
Since I’ve started working 40 hours a week for the first time in my life I’ve realized how little time we all have in the day. When I was unemployed or working part time, I had an abundance of time. I had hardly any constraints, so what ended up happening was I procrastinated on building my blog. Putting it off to the next day and finding something more urgent — yet less important — to work on. I can no longer do that today with the few precious hours I have outside of work, as well as having less energy every day. So, I had to find time in the day to work on my projects or else just give up and dream of what could have been.
I didn’t want to stay up late working because I value sleep and don’t function well with less than eight hours of shut-eye. I also didn’t want to spend my entire evenings working; I want to spend time with my girlfriend and friends, hit the gym, read some books and just relax a bit. I had to figure out the best time of the day to work on my stuff.
My solution? Wake up early.
6:00 a.m was a good starting point for me — and I’m working on getting up earlier. This might make some of you cringe, but hear me out. For me, waking up early makes the most sense because my girlfriend already wakes up at 5:30 a.m to get ready for work and I want to have flexible evenings so I can spend my time as leisurely as I want. My commute to work is also only a 10 minute drive, which helps a lot when I’m starting at 9:00 a.m. So for the past month or so I’ve been waking up at 6:00 a.m to do work. My own work.
The Benefits of Waking Up Early
Now let me preface all of this by saying that I’ve never been a morning person. Quite the opposite, actually. In college I tried to avoid classes that began before 9:00 a.m like the plague!
But after a few weeks of early rising, the morning time I have has become my favorite time of the day. With my extra hours I have before work I get to do a lot of things I would never had time to do if I got up even an hour later. I don’t have to rush to do all the things I want to do — like make a hot breakfast, shower, get dressed and make coffee. Making my own espresso everyday has been a ritual I look forward to every day. So with coffee in hand and computer open, I get to work between 7 and 7:30 a.m.
Now you may notice that I only have about an hour to an hour and half before I need to go to work at my day job. The funny thing is that this lack of time makes me work far more efficiently than when I had four or more hours to do what I wanted. Parkinson’s Law starts to kick in because since I know I only have a limited amount of time, I get far more done in that hour than I do in any other hour of the day. This deadline is like a swift kick in the ass to do work. Without that deadline, it’s really easy to be unproductive and waste time.
I highly encourage creating self-imposed constraints to get you to start working when nothing is forcing you besides your own willpower. You’ll find that procrastination simple melts away. The morning is also a great time for work because there are less distractions.
There is another unintended benefit I’ve found to working on my own stuff before my day job. I’ve noticed that when I work on my projects before I work on “somebody else’s” projects I am far more motivated at work…and just happier. It’s almost as if the work I do before my day job gets me warmed up. It’s not as hard to get straight to work now, when in the past it was difficult to get motivated to work. If you are on a salary and find that you spend more than 40 hours a week doing work, then this strategy should help you be more productive with your time.
I’m also happier at work because I feel good that I have made time for my own projects and have already made progress in the day. I’m not anxious to leave work so I can do my own projects because I’ve already done them. In this sense, waking up early to do passion projects also brings peace of mind.
How to Get Up Early
This post would not be complete without a few tips on getting up early. Now (as I mentioned earlier), I’m not inherently an early riser, but there were a few crucial steps to take that made it much easier.
- The hardest part to waking up early is beginning to do so. If you aren’t used to it, waking up early can be very difficult usually because you are not tired enough to fall asleep at 9 or 10. So the first step is to decrease your energy level by doing lots of errands, working out or whatever so that you are sleepy by 10. Getting enough sleep is crucial to making this a consistent habit — and the first step is being tired. Do what you need to do to be tired at 9 or 10 (that is, if you want 8 or more hours of sleep). Once you wake up at 6 or earlier for the first time, it should be much easier to go to sleep early and easier to wake up early going forward.
- Start waking up 15 minutes or 30 minutes earlier each day until you get to your target waking time. This will let your body ease into this new habit and make it more likely that you will be able to do this regularly.
- Get on the same page with your roommates or significant other. If your roommates like to party late at night or your significant other is prone to late nights, make sure you discuss your new schedule with them. Noise and distraction is detrimental to a good night sleep.
- Get the environment right. Your bedroom has to be set up for good sleep. This means having decent pillows, blankets and sheets. Comfort is a must; a few improvements go a long way. Also, make sure your bedroom is a little on the cool side. It’s well known that a cool room facilitates good sleep and a warm room does not.
- Invest in a DVR. If your favorite shows are on 9 or later, buying a DVR to record them will allow you to watch them at your leisure. The benefit of this is that you will save even more time by being able to “fast forward” through any commercials.
How do you make time for your passion projects? Share your tips and tricks in the comments.
(Image courtesy of Phalaenopsis Aphrodite under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.)
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