One of the most common entrepreneur dreams I hear deals with being free from the “9 to 5”. The term “9 to 5” almost seems to carry a certain stigma. It almost seems as if it’s looked at as a curse word in certain circles of entrepreneurs – a term that you definitely shouldn’t say if the kids are around.
As appealing as this “lifestyle of freedom” may be, for many of us, it’s just not a current reality. There are bills to pay, kids to feed, significant others to wine and dine, and the list goes on. Not only that (and forgive me for saying this), but some people even love their jobs. Yes, it’s true! I’m actually one of those crazy individuals that enjoy what I do and I’m not really looking to leave my job at the moment (although I do see that changing in the future).
I’m a High School science and Math teacher who enjoys teaching and interacting with my students. However, I’m also an entrepreneur at heart, and as a result of that, I’ve found myself blogging (with two active blogs), running a network of 6 Incentivized Freebie websites and a forum with over 35,000 members (recently sold), among other things.
Because of my situation, I usually receive the following questions on a regular basis.
* How in the world do you manage to run a profitable online business while having a full time job?
* Is it even possible to do both effectively?
* Does your family suffer?
* Are you insane?
Well, to tell you the truth, I’ve never done this perfectly. There have been times where I’ve completely mismanaged my time and was very unproductive. However, in an effort to achieve balance in my life, I’ve managed to come to a point where I feel as if I’m able to manage my time well, get lots done and still have a significant amount of down time.
What I’d like to do here is share 5 tips that I’ve learned to help me achieve balance.
TIP #1: FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANT STUFF AND GET RID OF THE EXCESS FAT
While growing my online business, I came to a point where I was extremely stressed out. It seemed as if there wasn’t enough time to accomplish my goals. My family suffered and so did my job. My wife started complaining that I wasn’t spending enough time with her, and my students started complaining that their grades weren’t being updated fast enough.
I then decided to take inventory of EVERYTHING I did on a daily basis. When I did this, I received the shock of my life. Yes, I was busy, but a large majority of what I did was unnecessary stuff.
The next step was to establish priorities. I realized that there were a of things that I did in my business that actually resulted in increased profits. At that point, I decided to focus only on those things and work on eliminating the rest.
What also surprised me was the amount of things I did at work that didn’t contribute to my productivity on the job. Yes, some of those things were necessary evils. I decided to eliminate the unnecessary things I did on my job and delegate some of the other tasks to my student workers.
The end result was that I started spending less time working, but ended up being more productive.
TIP #2: HAVE 1 GOAL AT A TIME
There’s a common myth that has been spreading like wildfire. It says that in order to accomplish a lot, you have to multitask. I used to think that I got a lot done when I did a lot of things simultaneously. In fact, I tend to suffer from what I like to call entrepreneurial ADD, where I’d constantly jump from task to task.
In the past, when I start up my Internet browser, 6 of the websites I regularly check would pop up instantly, My facebook alerts would instantly turn on, my instant messenger program would automatically connect and within 2 or 3 clicks, I’d be ready to “take on the world”. As you can imagine, the result was constant information overload and high levels of inefficiency.
Yes, it’s important to get rid of the excess fat. However, even with all that stuff gone, the remainder can be quite overwhelming. The solution is simple – Do one thing at a time, until the one thing is complete. At that point, move on to the next.
Shut down instant messenger. Stop checking your email every few minutes. You aren’t getting anything done. Decide on a goal and spend the majority of your time focusing on that goal alone. You’d be surprised at how much you can get done when you intentionally try to do less.
TIP #3: LEARN TO GIVE UP CONTROL
Yeah, I know – If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, right? WRONG!
I’m a very picky guy when it comes to attaching my name to a product, website or anything else. Because of that, I tend to be the kind of person who wants to oversee everything, and if possible, do everything. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), time is a very limited commodity. It’s necessary to give up control and let others share the load.
After running a forum with tens of thousands of members for a few months, I finally decided to bring a community manager on board. Guess what happened as a result! Many of the things that were once overlooked due to lack of time started happening. I also had significantly more time on my hands.
When I made the decision to stop designing all of my websites and graphics, I came to the realization that there were many individuals out there that were able to do a much better job than I could at a very reasonable price.
TIP #4: AUTOMATION IS YOUR FRIEND
One of the things I LOVE so much about the Internet and running an online business is that, if done well, automation can be an effective tool for nurturing relationships with your followers and growing your online business. In some ways, automation can make things seem more natural, as contradictory as that might sound.
One of the best decisions I’ve made since starting my online business is starting newsletters using Aweber. However, I didn’t use it to just send content. I used it to nurture relationships with my subscribers to where they felt as if they were getting to know me as a real person. Before using this method, I had a bunch of template emails that I would send out to my followers. That switch ended up saving me a TON of time and ended up allowing me to offer better support.
TIP #5: KNOW WHEN TO CUT SOMETHING LOOSE
If you implement the above 4 tips effectively, you will save lots of time. However, it’s very possible that there will come a point where you need to cut something loose. For me, this was when I made the decision to sell my forum and network of Freebie Sites.
I realized that I was spreading myself a little too thin and a decision had to be made. The forum had started doing very well. I had grown it from 10,000 members when I purchased it to over 35,000 members within a year. However, my interest started shifting to other projects I was working on and cutting it loose allowed me to focus more on those things and accomplish more.
Make sure you enjoy what you are doing. Why are you doing what you are currently doing? I imagine that for many of you, financial freedom is high on your list of priorities. However, if what you are doing is more a chore than something you love, then you might as well be working a “9 to 5”, and I mean that in the derogatory way that I started this post talking negatively about.
Because I love what I do, it doesn’t seem like work to me. I get paid to have fun and to help others. Can it get any better than that? In my opinion, absolutely not!
I’m not perfect, nor do I claim to perfectly implement all of the above-mentioned tips. However, the more I move towards implementing those steps, the more I accomplish while not being overwhelmed with what I’m doing.
Are there things you have implemented that allow you to be more efficient in your online business? Please share them by leaving them in the comments section below. We can ALL benefit from shared wisdom