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The Single Most Important Skill You Need To Run A Side Business

Cat LeBlanc

I checked Facebook four times while writing this post.

Was I looking for something specific? Was I waiting for an important message?

Nope.  It’s just what we do these days, isn’t it?!

But when you’re running a business – especially a side business – focus is incredibly important.

If you decide to take my advice (I think you should!) and start your amazing idea as a side business before you quit your full-time job, I can look into my crystal ball and tell you right now what your biggest challenge is going to be:

Time management.

Argh, no one likes those words. They either make you think of an awfully boring corporate seminar you were forced to sit through, or they make you break out in a sweat because you know you aren’t very good at it.

Either way, it’s not everybody’s favorite topic.  But it’s something you’ll need to get very good at if you hope to run a business on the side.

Luckily, I have good news: It’s not as hard as you think.

Time management must be a conscious effort

As long as you’re working on your business on the side, you’re going to need to pay particular attention to your time. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  In my experience, most people can find at least 1–3 hours per day to work on their business (without staying up through the night).  That’s as much as 15 hours per week – even if you don’t work weekends!

How to manage your time

  • Trim the fluff. By fluff I mean scrolling through Facebook, watching TV, hanging out at happy hour every evening with friends. I don’t mean to say that you have to give up all your hobbies, but now is not the time to take up tango or join a knitting club! Give your schedule a good hard look and decide what might be fluff – because that time will ultimately get you to the lifestyle you truly want.
  • Schedule time to work on your side business. Note that I didn’t say, “Think about working on your business.” When you’re juggling a very full schedule, you must actually carve out the time to work on your business, and it helps to actually put that time in your calendar to stick to it. Depending on when you feel freshest, you may choose to get up early to work on your business, stay up late after work, or work on your days off.  You may find that you can use your lunch hour to get some things done as well. It really depends on when you have the most energy.
  • Make a weekly plan of which tasks you will do in those scheduled times. I plan weekly what I want to get done and while I don’t always finish everything it does mean that I don’t waste any energy wondering what I should work on when I’m at my desk. Also I don’t stress about all the other things that need doing and become overwhelmed. I’ve already know what is a priority for this week. The decision-making is front-loaded so you can just DO the task. The last thing you want is to have to work out what you should be doing when you are already juggling your business and a job. Make the decisions upfront and you’ll find you get a whole lot more done. In order to do this you will need to estimate how long tasks take. Overestimate! It will take longer than you think and you don’t want being organised to put extra pressure on you. Over time you’ll get better at judging this and have a better handle on what is achievable in your business.
  • Find creative pockets of time. In addition, if you know how long things will take, you can get more creative about finding “free” time. Maybe you can do small tasks from a phone or tablet while riding the bus or train, waiting at the doctor’s office, during a child’s sports game, class, or while waiting to pick them up. Those little drops of time can add up in the long run.
  • Have a clear timeline. While I do recommend most people start their business on the side, I don’t recommend it stay there forever! This is important because it will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. In other words, you might have to work quite a bit more than you’re used to (or hope to in the long run) for six months to a year, but you know it won’t be forever. Alternately, you might set goals like, “When I get six clients I will go to half time,” or “When I make X number of dollars, I’ll quit my job.” Having clear metrics of success will help you judge when it’s time to take your business full time.

Use technology to your advantage

While it’s true that technology can be a huge distraction (hello Pinterest!), it can also help keep you focused. These tools can help you make the most of the time you do have to work on your side business:

  • Cloud computing. When you are working on your business from multiple locations (at home, on your lunch break, on the train) having all of your files and accounts in the cloud is a must. Try free services like Google Docs, Evernote, and Dropbox to have a truly cloud-based “office.”
  • RescueTime is an app that will track what you do on your computer all the time. This can be a good wake-up call for those of us who think we’re sitting down to work – but actually end up faffing around on Facebook for an hour before doing anything useful. If you’re hustling a side business, you don’t have that time to waste.
  • Anti-Social. If RescueTime does tell you you’re wasting an awful lot of time on social media, you can use an app like Anti-Social to block problematic sites while you’re working.
  • Focus Booster is another cool app that helps you focus on any given task for 25 minutes and then signals you to take a 5 minute break. When I first got an app like this I felt like I was on holiday because it kept telling me to take a break! It really does help you focus and the regular breaks keep your mind fresh and allow for regular tea breaks. Being English I couldn’t work without my tea!

This was number 3 in the 6 part blog series – How To Start A Side Business

Here is the complete series:

1. why starting a side business may be the secret to your success.
2. 5 qualities you must cultivate to be a successful entrepreneur.
3. the single most important skill you need to run a side business.
4. why YOU are the weakest link in your business (and what to do about it).
5. the tools I use to run my online business.
6. starting your own business: not as hard as you think!

Now I’d love to hear from you…

What are some of your favorite time management tips and tricks?

Do you use any technology or apps to help keep you focused on your business?

Share your best tips in the comments below!

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6 Responses to The Single Most Important Skill You Need To Run A Side Business

  1. Oh wow this is super helpful. I don’t usually have issues with time management (I’m a born workaholic hahaha) but I didn’t know about these apps. Great resource! Thank you!

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