Running a new business can take over your life.
In fact, 89 percent of small business owners invest a significant amount of their personal time into their business, according to a survey conducted by American Express OPEN.
If you run a side business, you’re even more pressed for time compared with full-time business owners. Juggling your personal, professional, and business tasks can be daunting.
Because of this, it’s important to learn how to manage your time. That way, the essentials get done and you don’t have to worry about important tasks falling through the cracks.
It’s not going to be easy but, by taking the following steps, you’ll be able to free up enough time to get your side business running on schedule successfully.
Step 1. Audit Your Current Schedule
The first step is to take a look at your current schedule, from the time you wake up to the time you usually go to bed.
After you’ve listed a typical day’s activities, think about your corresponding energy levels throughout the day. This involves looking for opportunities for getting some work done, as well as some problem areas.
For example, if you’re usually tired after work, it’s unreasonable to expect that you work on your side business as soon as you come home. Instead, schedule a break. Or, if there are specific workdays that tend to have a lighter load, you can schedule more time for your side business then.
It’s also possible that the best time for you to work on your side business is the early morning. If this is the case, look at your schedule to see if it allows for you to sleep early and wake up hours before you have to be in the office.
It will also help to list the number of free hours you could use each day to work on your side business. It’s important to be as realistic as possible when assessing your free time. Operate on the assumption that you have less time and energy than you think. Be sure there’s enough wiggle room for you to accomplish all the important tasks without rushing through the day.
Although listing out your schedule can be a good start, you can take it a step further by following these guides on scheduling tasks based on your energy levels and commitments:
- Time ManagementGet More Flow: Sort and Schedule Your Tasks by Creative Energy LevelAnnie Mueller
- ProductivitySetting Boundaries: The Key to Maintaining Control of Your LifeAnnie Mueller
- ProductivityHow to Stay Productive and Stick to a Daily RhythmAnnie Mueller
Step 2. Schedule Your Micro-Goals
After you’ve audited your schedule for periods where you can work on your side business, it’s time to schedule your key goals.
Rather than having goals or deadlines that look at the big picture—such as “finish all marketing tasks” or “sell all units for the launch”— instead list smaller goals that can be accomplished in just a few hours.
These “micro-goals” will be easier to qualify and tick off your list, giving you a sense of progress throughout your launch. For example, instead of “finish all marketing tasks”, list goals like “write 50-word Facebook post announcing the product” or “take 2 quality photos of the product”.
This granular look into your goals will help estimate the time it takes to accomplish each goal, since it’s more difficult to estimate the duration of a bigger goal. This can help you plan out a realistic time frame of your launch from start to finish.
Once you’ve listed all your micro goals, go over them again. For each goal, ask yourself if it can be accomplished in one or two hours at most. If the answer is “no”, see if you can break down that goal into smaller goals. Then, put them on your schedule as actionable tasks. The following resource can help you print out a launch calendar you can follow:
Step 3. Maximize Your Motivational Bursts
Learning how to manage your time effectively also involves capitalizing on your bursts of energy.
Throughout running your side business, there will be some days when you feel really excited to work on it. But there will also be days when you’re not feeling as inspired or motivated. Whenever you do feel a burst of motivation and your schedule allows for it, take advantage of the burst and work on your business as much as you can.
According to some studies, intrinsic motivation is a strong predictor of one’s performance. This means that not only will you feel better about working, but your performance will be improved compared to days when you just aren’t motivated.
Step 4. Use Your Commute
If your job and other commitments require long commutes, put all that idle time to use. For long train or bus rides that aren’t too crowded, you can probably get some work done on your mobile device, or even a small notebook.
For commuting situations where it will be hard to work on your business directly, like when you’re driving or are in a crowded space, you can listen to podcasts or audio books to learn new skills relevant to your business.
Step 5. Plan for Holidays
There are many reasons for business owners to plan for holidays. Be aware of any upcoming holidays where your potential customers might be out of reach, in a contemplative mood, or too busy celebrating to buy from you. In some cases, holidays that involve gift giving— such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas—might provide a needed sales boost to your side business.
Also, many countries have non-working holidays where most people have time off but don’t necessarily participate in festivities. If holidays like that are coming up during your launch, plan out the tasks you need to accomplish during those days.
Still, it's inadvisable to spend entire holidays working on your side business. For example, if you or your family have traditions for New Year’s Eve, it would be unrealistic to expect yourself to be working that day.
Plan around your commitments and traditions like you would plan around work related events. If there will be an hour or so where you might be motivated to get some things done, go right ahead. If your schedule will be full, there’s no need to fit your side business into it unless it’s an emergency.
As for vacation days, be clear about each vacation you take. Before you go, know whether your vacation is exclusively for rest and relaxation or if you wouldn’t mind working sometimes during those days. After all, establishing work-life balance is essential for all business owners.
Step 6. Take Advantage of Weekends
If there are regular days where you don’t need to work at your job, such as weekends or days off, use those days productively.
Having recurring non-working days can be beneficial to side business owners, since they can bring some predictability to your schedule. Also, you’d be able to work on your side business for longer hours than you typically would during a workday.
But this doesn’t mean that you should fill all your weekends with business tasks. Don’t forget to include recreational activities, spending time on your personal relationships, and even rest.
You don’t want to risk burning out before you’ve even completed the launch of your side business. Disconnect from your business and work tasks regularly so you can get back to them feeling refreshed and invigorated.
Step 7. Automate What You Can
Running a business on your own often comes with repetitive tasks. Depending on your products and services, this may include following up with clients, scheduling key events, posting on social media, and keeping track of orders.
For a side business that conducts a lot of activities online, you can automate several of these tasks using apps and automation tools. For example, rather than individually posting product pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a social sharing tool like Buffer and HootSuite can do it for you.
Sometimes, you might need to integrate two different apps to work together—such as automatically adding a reminder onto your online calendar to respond to incoming customer support emails. In cases like these, you can use automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT.
For more ideas on what you can automate and how to do it, check out the following guides:
- Productivity15 Business Productivity Apps to Work Better + Save TimeLaura Spencer
- AutomationWhat Is Zapier? How to Automate Your Business Tasks BetterHarry Guinness
- Automation15 Best IFTTT Recipes for Productive Business AutomationHarry Guinness
Step 8. Learn to Delegate
How to manage your time better also requires you to look at what you can potentially delegate.
Even if you’re the business owner, this doesn’t mean you should do everything yourself. From your business tasks to your errands, don’t be afraid to delegate.
If you know someone who can be faster and better at some of the business tasks than you, it might make sense to delegate business tasks to them for a small fee. The following tutorials have some tips on how to do this:
- ManagementHow to Decide What to DelegateAndrew Blackman
- ProductivityHow to Reduce Busy Work as a Small Business OwnerLaura Spencer
As for some personal or family obligations, if you have family and friends who are supportive of what you’re trying to accomplish, find out if they are open to helping you out by taking some tasks off your plate as you work on your launch. Just make sure that they are more than willing to help, and that the terms of your arrangement are clear.
It's Important to Manage Time for Your Side Business
Given the above tips, it’s clear that planning is the most important part of time management as a side business owner.
Now you have clear steps on how to manage your time: make better use of your routines, work where available in your schedule, and successfully carve out the time you need for your side business.
From the very beginning, be specific about what your commitments are and how much time and energy you can devote to them. If you do this part right, you’ll be able to work on your business confidently, without worrying about delays, distractions, and missed opportunities.