Building a business while working full time

building a business while working full time

Last week, we talked about the fallacy of “I’ll do it when…” and all the things that may actually be getting in the way of building a business while working full time: the fear of failure; an act of self-preservation; and a lack of clarity on what you really want. Having confronted all these blocks, you may still find that there’s something that’s stopping you: you simply “don’t have the time”.

To be honest, you’re probably right!

Modern life is a whirlwind of activities and expectations. We fill our days with long office hours and social obligations, personal admin and home renovation projects, diet and exercise regimes to stay fit and healthy. Not to mention all that Facebook checking and box set watching… We’re constantly running, constantly trying to catch up, and never quite managing to get on top of things. How can we possibly add a whole new project into the mix, especially such an unwieldy beast as building our own business?

Well, the truth is that it’s completely possible. Or, at least, it’s possible if you are truly committed to everything that starting out on your own will bring you, and perhaps also willing to make some compromises in your day-to-day life.

Here are 5 things that you can do to help you with building a business while working full time

1. Decide what you want to make time for and why

Okay, this one may seem obvious but you need to be super clear on what it is that you’re trying to prioritise and why it’s so important to you. You’re never going to find the time for a false commitment to something that you feel you “should” do. Once you know exactly what it is you want to do and you know that it’s meaningful to you, you will be so much more motivated to actually get it done.

When you’re defining your goal, make sure that you get very specific. A massive project like “build a business” needs to be broken down into smaller actions, just as goals like “exercise more” or “spend more time with family” need to be turned into concrete and meaningful actions. What are the first priorities in terms of choosing and validating your business idea, developing your value proposition and getting clear on your ideal client? What are the strategies and actions you’ll need to take to reach that client and market your business effectively? What are the skills or knowledge gaps that you’ll need to fill?

You’ll also want to get clear on how much time you’ll need to carve out each day or week so that you can make the progress you want. Is it 30 minutes a day or an hour a week? Be ambitious with the time you allocate if you have big goals you want to achieve, but also realistic so that you will be able to stick with the plan. Small, consistent action is the key to getting meaningful results.

2. Track where you’re spending your time today

Before you rush into adding this new project to your to-do list, the best thing you can do is work out where you are today. Tracking exactly how you’re spending your week at the moment will help you see all the activities you’re spending your time on and work out where you can create that white space that you need. Plus, the act of tracking will in itself make you more productive and give you more free time! I like to use Toggl, a free tracking tool >>

Of course, tracking is just the first step: the next one is to look at the data (doesn’t this all sound so scientific?!) and see where you might be able to optimise. To do this, it can be helpful to categorise all your current activities:

  • The things you want to do – You’ll want to keep doing these! But maybe you can choose to cut down on some (e.g. binge watching Netflix)? Can you shuffle things around to be more efficient?
  • The things you have to do – Make sure that you really do have to do these things, and it’s not just a question of you feeling that you should. If you really do, then you’ll need to keep doing these as well! But do consider if you can be more efficient in how you do them, or if you can maybe get some help?
  • The things that other people could do – This is where you can consider outsourcing, for example, by getting a cleaner instead of spending hours cleaning the house or by getting an intern or assistant. You might also be able to talk to your partner about changing the division of labour in the household or even giving your kids some extra chores?
  • The things that you don’t need to do at all – Here, you need to be ruthless in cutting these from your life! Some can be ditched right away, while some may take more time to extricate yourself.

This exercise will be incredibly helpful in giving you an accurate picture of your current reality and not just that vague “I don’t have time!” excuse.

3. Design your ideal week

Armed with this information on where you’re currently spending your time and where there are opportunities to optimise, along with that clear idea of what you want to add into the mix from #1, you can now go about creating your new time plan. What would your ideal week look like? How would you reshuffle the activities that you’ve identified to make more space?

As you do this, you’ll want to consider a few things:

  • Follow your natural rhythm – Are you at your most alert in the morning, in which case you might be able to get up an hour earlier? Or do you have the most energy in the evening, when everyone else is vegging in front of the TV? Don’t plan your most important work in the middle of that mid-afternoon slump…
  • Eat the frog – Speaking of your most important work, the best time to do this is usually before you do anything else. If you let yourself get bogged down in answering emails, running errands, and so on, you’ll find that a whole day will pass that way. If you ‘eat the frog’ first thing, you’ll make real progress on the business while all those other things will get done anyway.
  • Include absolutely everything – You’ll want one calendar for personal and professional, all in one place. That means that you’ll want to block time for going for a run or going to the gym, having lunch, picking up your kids… Everything should be on that calendar – or it won’t get done!

Take a look at my article that goes into the details of how you can create your ideal week >>

4. Track your progress and see how you get on

This ‘ideal week’ that you’ve now created is just that: an ideal week. Real life happens, and it’s very unlikely that you’re ever going to follow your plan exactly as it is. What you’ll want to do is see if the plan is working more or less and if you want to make some adjustments.

You can keep using Toggl for the first few weeks, to see how you’re getting on and get that added benefit of actually being more productive! Once you’ve settled into the new rhythm, things will get done organically and you can stop the tracking if you want.

If you find that you never stick to your plan at all, then you’ll need to go back to the drawing board. What’s getting in the way of all those good intentions? Is it something that’s within your control and, if so, what can you do about it? How could you reshuffle your plan so that it works with this new barrier in mind? Where can you get the accountability that you need to keep taking consistent action?

5. Just do it

For years, I’ve been wanting to get back into playing the piano – which has been standing there in my room for the past 5+ years – and I’ve been putting it on my to-do list, my bucket list, my New Year’s goals… The result? I’ve touched those keys maybe a handful of times in that whole period. In the past few weeks, though, I’ve just been sitting down to play whenever I have a moment. It’s a few minutes here and there, but the new result is that I’ve been playing every day!

So I can give you all sorts of tips and tricks, and you can do all the analysis and planning in the world, but at some point, you just have to DO IT. It’s about taking that ONE STEP that I’m always talking about. Action creates both motivation and momentum to keep moving forward.

If you find that none of this working, then you need to ask yourself: how committed are you really to making this happen? And, if the answer is “not very” – be honest – then it might be best to make an intentional decision to put this on the backburner, or scrap it altogether, and to be content with where you are.

If you are committed, if you can make the time, and you’re ready to take your ONE STEP OUTSIDE, then I’d love to have a chat with you to help you do just that! Book a free consultation here >>


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