Watch the video or scroll down to read this lesson instead.
Why 10 hours?
Because that’s the minimum amount of time I recommend you have available to build an online business. Anything less than 10 hours per week, and it’s hard to build momentum and make steady progress.
Important note before we dive in:
If you really are flat out working multiple jobs at the moment, or taking care of young kids, to the point where you feel exhausted all the time, then freeing up even one hour a week is going to be a bit of a stretch.
If you are in that situation then I gotta tell ya: building an online business probably isn’t the best idea for you right now. Put it on hold, and come back to it when you no longer need to work two jobs or when your kids are a bit older.
For everyone else, freeing up 10 hours a week should indeed be possible. You’ll be required to make some hard choices and sacrifices, but the time is there if you want it.
In this article we’re going to run through a three-step process for freeing up those hours.
And at the end we’ll also look at two extreme measures you can take if you’re still feeling stuck.
1. Take Stock
In the words of Peter Drucker
“What gets measured, gets managed.”
With that in mind, the first step is to track your time and get an accurate picture of how you’re currently spending it.
Two ways you can do this:
- Sit down with a pen and paper and jot down how you THINK you spend your time.
- Log your time for two weeks and see how you ACTUALLY spend it.
The second way is obviously superior, but I recommend you do both so you can see the difference and learn to be skeptical of your assumptions.
And to make this easier, here are some tools for logging your time:
- For your laptop or desktop computer install RescueTime. Their lite plan is free and will tell you how much time you spend each day/week on various websites and applications.
- For mobile, use Moment for iPhone and iPad, and RescueTime for Android. Free versions are available for each of those.
- For almost everything else, your best bet is to track manually. Here is a simple Google Spreadsheet you can use for that purpose.
Now, you might be wondering:
“How long do I need to track my time for?”
Two weeks should be enough.
Again, the whole point of this is to get very clear of how you’re currently spending your time. What gets measured gets managed.
- One important side note before we move on: if you find the whole time tracking thing difficult, that’s probably a sign that you’re not ready to work for yourself. Because tracking takes discipline, and discipline is not optional when you’re self-employed.
2. Identify And Fix The Leaks
What do I mean by leaks?
No, not that.
I mean activities you spend a lot of time on, that add little-to-no value to your life, or distract you from more important things you should be doing.
That’s where time is slipping through your fingers.
Some leaks will be very obvious to you, and you probably won’t need two weeks of tracking data to identify them.
For example, you already know if you watch an excessive amount of television or spend too many hours playing video games.
And you’ll want to tackle those big leaks first. Plugging even one of them may free up enough time to build your business.
Let’s run through a couple of examples.
Let’s say you spend 15 hours per week watching movies and shows on Netflix. In theory, you could just stop spending all that time watching Netflix, and use it to build your online business instead.
But that’s easier said than done, right?
You probably enjoy your Netflix time and use it to unwind each evening after your 9-to-5. Or maybe that’s time you spend with your significant other snuggled up on the couch.
The point is that you need to be realistic about what you’re giving up in order to build your business. There will be resistance to making these changes, both internal and external.
At the same time, recognize that you will have to make some sacrifices here. As the saying goes:
You can have anything you want in life, but you can’t have it all at the same time.
Most likely, you’re going to have to quit spending time on a few things you enjoy — at least temporarily — to make room for building your business.
Now all that said… don’t expect too much from yourself starting out!
Reducing your Netflix time from 15 hours one week to zero the next is a bit much to ask. Maybe you are one of those people who can quit things cold-turkey, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not.
Instead, gradually wean yourself off. Limit yourself to 10 hours of Netflix next week and see how you do. Once you’ve accomplished that, set your sights on 5. It doesn’t have to happen overnight.
Sometimes a leak will take the form of a commitment or obligation to another person or group.
Maybe you’re the go-to person in your apartment building when a neighbor’s computer breaks, or you volunteer a few nights a week helping underprivileged kids with their homework.
It’s hard to even call such commitments “leaks,” because you’re doing good deeds, right?
But, all too often, those kinds of commitments are a sneaky form of procrastination. They offer a convenient excuse for not doing the scary work of building an online business.
Because who’s going to criticize you for helping little Johnny with his math problems or old Mrs. Burke with her computation machine?
Nobody is going to criticize you for that sort of thing, and that’s the problem!
That’s exactly why many people never accomplish their goals in life. They’re not willing to be seen as “selfish” and endure some criticism.
Yeah, like that.
So the message here is to leave no stone unturned when questioning your time commitments. Nothing is sacred. Don’t keep doing something just because you’ve always done it, or because other people expect you to do it.
Plug those leaks and get on with building your business.
Once you’re earning thousands a month from your laptop, you’ll have more time and freedom than ever, to be of service to the little Johnnys and old Mrs. Burkes of the world.
3. Keep The Weight Off
Once you’ve cut back on time-wasting activities and freed up enough time to build your online business, you might think you’re done.
But that’s really just the beginning.
Lots of people can lose weight, but few keep it off long-term.
As soon as you clear time in your schedule, there will be temptation for you and other people to fill it right back up again with shiny new distractions, or to fall back into old, time-consuming habits.
This is where you need to be vigilant and start saying NO.
Saying no to bad opportunities is easy enough, but you also need to say no to good opportunities that don’t fit with your overall plan.
Please do not underestimate how difficult this can be!
Get used to disappointing people and missing out on some cool shit, because it’s going to happen.
In fact, IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN!
This doesn’t mean you suddenly have to start saying no to everything — because yeah, there should always be room to kick back and enjoy the now — but for every offer and opportunity that comes your way, ask yourself:
“How does this fit into my overall plan?”
As they say, entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.
So keep your end goal in mind when people make requests of your time. Remember that you’re building a business that will ultimately give you more freedom than most people will ever experience.
Here’s the three-step process for freeing up 10 hours per week to build your online business.
- Take stock, so you know exactly how you’re spending your time currently.
- Identify and fix the leaks
- Keep the weight off, by being very selective about what you commit to going forward.
Now, if you give that process a try and you’re still feeling stuck, it may be time to go…
These last two ideas I’m going to share with you are not for everyone, but they can sometimes be the best way forward.
Extreme Measure #1: Quit Your Job
If you’re currently working a full-time job, it can be hard to free up enough time on evenings and weekends to make a good run at building your own business, especially if you have a bunch of other commitments you just can’t shake.
So if you are in that situation, consider quitting your job and going all-in on your own thing.
I know, I know, that’s pretty extreme. But hey, I did warn you!
And of course, you shouldn’t make such a drastic move without first taking some precautions.
Ideally you would:
- Have at least six months of living expenses saved up.
- Already have some experience working for yourself (so you have realistic expectations of what it takes to succeed).
- Be confident in your ability to find another 9-to-5 job (with comparable pay) if things don’t work out.
Again, those are ideals.
I quit my job with no prior experience working for myself and I managed okay. But everyone’s situation and temperament is different, so you’ll need to decide what’s best for you here.
Extreme Measure #2: Go Work Abroad
If you feel like you can’t gain any traction at home but aren’t willing to leave the world of regular employment just yet, this could be a great option for you.
- You can often earn and save more money working abroad than you can at home
- Many foreign employers will give you free or subsidized housing
- The general cost of living at your destination may be far lower 2
Going abroad also gets you away from all prior commitments and obligations back home. So you can start fresh and be more intentional about how you spend your free time, meaning you can more easily devote entire evenings and weekends to building your online business.
But before taking the plunge with this option, a couple of considerations:
- Be prepared to feel lonely and homesick. Moving to a new country means leaving all your friends, family and familiarities back home. You will make new friends, sure, but it can take awhile, especially if there’s a language barrier.
- Be sure to do your due diligence before taking any job abroad. If possible, try to speak with other expats doing similar work, ideally for the same employer, and ask them what the day-to-day is really like.
If you’re a native English speaker, one of the easiest jobs to get abroad is teaching English. Dave’s ESL Cafe is a good place to start looking for such.
What Are You Going To Do?
Tell me this in the comments below:
- What one action you’re going to take to start freeing up more time to build your online business?
It doesn’t have to be anything big and scary. It can be just one small change to get the ball rolling.