How to Find Time to Start Your Side Project



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Side projects are fun. Side projects are hard. We do side projects because we are curious. We’re hungry to learn more. We’re passionate about more than just what we do at work. I understand the joys and pains of side hustlers, because I was one — and that is how FindSpark started.

There are many reasons to start a side project…there are also many excuses you can make to put it off.

Most excuses revolve around time, and lack thereof.

Most likely, you have more free time than you realize. It might look something like this:

  • Before work, 60 minutes
  • During your commute, 30-90 minutes each way (at least 60 minutes total)
  • Your lunch break, 45 minutes
  • After work and before bed, 4 hours
  • Weekends, between 10-24 hours

So most people have around 45 hours during the week in which they can do whatever they want. That’s essentially enough time for another job.

If you’re struggling to “find” that time, here’s some suggestions for how you can find it and get that side project off the ground.

1. Stop watching TV

Right now I would like you to go through your average week and think about all the shows you watch on a weekly basis and all the times that you binge-watch shows. Include movies in there.

2. Turn off notifications app your phone apps except texts

Stop getting distracted. Check your apps when you’re ready. Don’t live by the demands of your grandma liking your recent status or spambots following you on Twitter.

3. Stop going out on the weekends

When you stay out late, drink, and party, you get less sleep. You have less energy. You get sick more easily. You feel like crap. All of these things will make it that much harder to put in time and work. Be in bed between 10pm-12pm. Replace nights out with day-time excursions. Set a two-drink maximum.

4. Spend time with better people

Hang out with other people who have side projects. Work on them together. I used to go to Red Mango with a college friend after work because they had free Wi-Fi and AC (which my apartment didn’t). I’d go to coffee shops with friends and meetups where you set up shop and worked. I’ve also surrounded myself with other side hustlers who appreciate it, and don’t condemn or judge. This is important. People should bring you up, not down.

5. Stop staying up so late and figure out how much sleep you need

Everyone is different, but the average person needs 6-8 hours of sleep to feel fully rested. You get more done and can be more efficient when you’re energized. Figure out what your sleep number is and do everything you can do get it. The new iPhone iOS even has a handy new app to help you called “Bedtime.”

6. Create a routine and stick to it

If you decide Monday, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s from 6:00pm-9:30pm will be your designated “Side Project time,” don’t switch things up as soon as someone invites you to a happy hour. Respect the time you’ve set aside like you’re getting paid to work. You wouldn’t just skip work for a happy hour for another boss, right? So don’t do it when you’re your own boss.

7. Get someone else involved

Delegate. Create roles. Set deadlines. Involving someone else will help you become more accountable for putting in the time. Plus, if you’re going to spend all your time on a side project, it might as well be with some friends.

8. Find a better way to do what you need to do

Write blog posts using voice memo. Draft everything on a sticky note on your phone. Sketch things out on the subway. Do phone calls on Skype during your lunch break. Don’t use the excuse of not being in perfect environment or having all the exact tools to get started and to put in the work.

9. Work out and eat healthier

Let’s face it: if we don’t eat right and get any physical exercise, we’re going to feel crappy and be less likely to want to work. Think about little things you can do, like walking more and adding more natural food into your diet.

10. Stop telling yourself that you’re not ready

Baby steps people. Nothing will work if you don’t. Yes: you can learn, you can study, you can read, you can watch, you can listen to other people — but you have to take the time to actually start.

So, what’s your side project? What’s holding you back? What helped you start your side project? Share in the comments!

About the Author

Emily is Founder and CEO of FindSpark. Passionate about the power of social media and networking; Emily has spoken at numerous colleges, conferences, and events including The International Youth Leaders Assembly at The United Nations, SXSW Interactive, Internet Week, Mediabistro's Social Media Bootcamp, Time Inc, Columbia University, and New York University, among others. Emily is also an adjunct professor, teaching social media and career courses at multiple colleges. Learn more about having Emily speak at your next event and follow her on twitter @EmilyMiethner.

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