Reader question: How can I make time to start a side business? (with a side discussion on personality)

Today’s reader question comes from a woman with a full time job and two kids. She’s thinking of starting a side business, both because she’s interested in the work, and because she’s looking to help her family’s finances. She wanted to know how much time she should budget for this, and where she should find the time.

She kept a time log, and “After looking at how I spend my time, I think I may be able to make somewhere between 14 and 20 hours a week,” she reports. “Or am I being a little delusional/ ambitious and should scale back on the hours I’d dedicate to this?”

There’s no great answer to the question of how much time it takes to start a business. You can slowly pick up pieces, or you can do the “blast start” strategy we talked about recently (from Linda Formicelli’s book, Commit). I think this is more a personality thing than anything else.

But speaking of personality, one thing I did take away from this reader’s time log is that yes, she could find 14 hours, but doing so might take a different approach to time — an issue that is related to Wednesday’s post on the downsides of flexibility.

Our reader had a lot of flexibility with her job, and she used that in great ways: to work out during the day, to meet her daughters after school roughly two days per week. However, in her attempts to do lots of different things, she often wound up running from one thing to the next, and not optimizing this time. For instance, on the first Thursday she logged, she met the bus, got snacks for the kids, then drove to the gym, realized there wasn’t enough time for a workout before the child-teacher-parent night at school, so took the girls out to dinner, then went to the event, then went home and got the girls to bed, then went back to the gym to get her tempo run in. Coming home from that, it would have been tough to knuckle down and work on the side business. Indeed, her log notes that she had a crappy night of sleep after her great workout, and wasn’t productive the next day. Some work days she did very little work, but then she’d do 9 hours on a weekend day.

The time is there. It’s just hard to seize when schedules are constantly in flux.

So I emailed back and asked what she thought about building more structure into her life. Some people are more regimented than others, but since our reader noted that she’d figured out that she’d become more of an INTJ (like me!), not an INTP as she used to be, I think she could get more into scheduling vs. leaving open possibilities. Ps think maybe you’ll be inspired to work on that business tonight. Js suspect that’s unlikely, but if you build in time, it will happen.

I proposed that she first try scheduling the hours she intended to work at her first job. Just because you have flexibility doesn’t mean you have to use it. This is a completely legitimate choice. Over two weeks, she worked 64 hours, or 32 per week. The closer she could get this to working, say, 9-2:30 p.m. daily on the days she does school runs, and then 8-5 on the others (minus lunch), would make her feel a lot more in control of her schedule. She could focus on work during this time, and leave workouts and errands for other times.

Confining work to work hours meant she’d be able to find clear times when she could work on the business. Tuesdays and Thursdays could be workout days, and Mon and Wed could be business days. If she worked during work hours, she might not have to do as many weekend hours. That would open up, say, one weekend morning for business work too. While 14 would be doable, I think it would be better to start with 10. She could do 3 hours in the evenings on Monday and Wednesday, and then one 4-hour chunk on the weekend. If that worked, and she could stick with that schedule, she could then add more time if she wanted.

So what did she think? “I’m so used to having to be flexible, I never considered having actual set work hours and working during those hours,” she noted. “I noticed that I do use or waste a lot of time during the day which I could or should be working on my normal job.  I’m great at scheduling stuff for myself and not so great at following the schedule. I’d say it’s a 50-75% success rate if I don’t have to commit to anyone else.” So that’s an option too: find an accountability partner for the side job, and bring up the idea of core hours at work with the people you work with.

Are you a scheduler, or a roll with it sort? I suspect being a “J” has its upsides when you have a demanding job, small kids, and aspirations for your other hours. And possibly, people who were more “Ps” discover that for this stage of life, they tend to become more J-ish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.