The hardest part about wanting to do something on the side of your day job is finding the time to actually get started and stick with a plan. I’ve read countless articles on founders and business leaders about what their routines are and when they feel they’re most productive. I’ve probably read every morning routine article there is on Business Insider. Especially when I just started working and had no routine myself, it was really interesting to see what other’s routines were, because they were all so different.
What I realized is there’s no right or wrong answer. It really depends on what works for you and when you can best fit the time in. It also depends when you personally feel most productive. Is it first thing in the morning? Is it in the evening after the juices have been flowing all day? It really depends on you. I learned that the hard way. It was pretty terrible waking up at 4:30 AM when I was experimenting with what worked best for me. This was literally me:
It’s just too true to be funny.
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Real life examples of what successful people do:
To give you a few examples on what successful people did or still do to work on their side projects, I took a look at what Scott Adams, the founder of the Dilbert comics, Tim Ferriss, Daymond John, the founder of FUBU and Phil Knight, the founder of Nike do.
For all you aspiring bloggers or whatever it is you want to do, Scott Adams is the quintessential example of how patience and persistence, along with hard work, proves its worth in the end. According to his Wikipedia page, when Adams began his career after he graduated college in 1979, he started out working with the telecommunications engineers at Crocker National Bank in San Francisco from 1979-1986. Not exactly what you’d have in mind for a writer.
He worked for 7 years at his first job! Think about that. You can hardly find a millennial that’s stayed 3 years at their first job.
Adams only came up with the idea of Dilbert while he was getting his MBA at the University of California Berkeley in 1986. So not only did he work 7 years before even coming up with the idea of the comic strip, he spent time and money on an MBA program that most likely had very little to do with the success of Dilbert.
It was only in 1989 that he published the first comic strip of Dilbert. A solid 10 years after graduation. Between 1986 and 1995, Adams worked at Pacific Bell while finding the time to write Dilbert comics. He had to wake up at 4:00 AM in order to work on Dilbert. This was all so he could still keep his day job and find time to work on his side gig. So say he had to start getting ready for work at 7:00 AM. He allocated only 3 hours a day to his side gig for a total of 15 hours a workweek and some on the weekends. That’s really not all that much when you think about it. All it takes is to start small and work your way up.
Some of you may already know who Tim Ferriss is. I recommended a few of his books and his podcast in my Recommendations page. After he came out with The 4-Hour Workweek, there was an article on his blog from back in March of 2008, before he was able to wildly transform his schedule due to his successful books, investments and podcast to free up most of his time.
Instead of getting up super early like Scott Adams, he would get up 6 hours later at 10:00 AM. When he would get up, he would do radio interviews and brainstorm ideas for writing from 10:30 AM-2:00 PM. He worked out at 12:00 PM, ate at 12:30 PM and blocked out time when he would write pieces for The Economist from 1:00 PM-5:00 PM, even though he says he didn’t use up the entire 4 hours. Then at 5:00pm, he would block off 30 minutes for his blog redesign.
At 5:30 PM was a small dinner, and then from 6:30 PM was Brazilian jiu-jitsu training. He had a second large dinner at 9:00 PM followed by an ice bath and shower at 10:00 PM. He would then block off time from 11:00 AM to do whatever was on his mind. When he was writing that post back in March of 2008, it was 2:22 AM, so sometimes he would go over.
It’s a completely different schedule from Scott Adams’ but it seemed to work just fine for him. Sure he went to bed late, but he was waking up at 10:00 AM, so he was likely getting at least 7 hours of sleep. And we all know how important sleep is.
Now Daymond John’s schedule was probably more like the rest of us who are working a day job while trying to find some time to squeeze in our side hustle. He worked at Red Lobster in his 20s for 6 years. According to Business Insider, John said he loved the job because it was perfect for pursuing a side gig. When he left work, he was done, because “no one calls you up and says ‘I need more tartar sauce'”.
Until the next day, he was done. He would wake up at 6:00 AM to make calls and shipments for FUBU. Then he would go to Red Lobster at 10:00AM and work 12 hour shifts. After that, he would stay up until 3:00 AM sewing clothes for FUBU.
Now I obviously don’t recommend getting 3 hours of sleep a night, but apparently a very small percentage of people need only 4 hours of sleep.
It’s not for me and most likely isn’t for you, so I don’t advise it.
John also didn’t go all out at the very beginning, which I think is very important when you’re starting something on the side. It was incremental, to prevent burnout. He started out with 3 hours a week to see if he would stick with it. Then he increased it to 8 hours a week and so on and so forth.
Personally, that’s the kind of plan I’m sticking to more or less. I’m starting out working about an hour and a half to two hours a weekday on my blog, except for Fridays I don’t do anything, so I can spend some time with my girlfriend or friends if we all have plans to go out after work. I don’t want to lose those relationships obviously, so I have to be flexible in my time.
During lunch, I walk over to the Apple Store and get a solid 45 minutes in. It can be for doing research on my next blog post, to any maintenance that needs to be taken care of. That way, I count those 45 minutes into my total in case I’m feeling a little burned out that day. If I don’t feel like I’m at my optimal performance to think clearly enough, I stop. There’s no sense in doing a crappy job, forgetting your thought process and having to fix it later on. It’s way better to recharge your batteries to get focused for the next day.
And last but not least, Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. Last year I read Phil Knight’s memoir, Shoe Dog and was totally fascinated by how Nike started. I had no idea it originated as a company called Blue Ribbon Sports that was just a distributor for a Japanese shoe maker Onitsuka Tiger, now called Asics.
Phil Knight was a really smart dude who went to Stanford Business School, but he was like the rest of us, not having a clue what to do once he got out of school. Like Scott Adams, he came up with an idea while he was at school, which was essentially his full-time job then. His idea was to sell better sneakers to runners. He had written a paper while at Stanford why shoes should be manufactured in Japan because of how cheap the labor was.
Without any business background or general knowledge of how to run a business, he contacted Onitsuka Tiger to convince them to let him become a distributor of their shoes.
In 1963, he literally went to Kobe, Japan where their headquarters was to convince them. When they asked what company he represented, on the spot he said Blue Ribbon Sports. All of this was going on while he was working a full-time job as an accountant and as an assistant professor for years, before Nike.
In 1964, Blue Ribbon Sports began its first year of business. During the nights and weekends, Knight worked on Blue Ribbon Sports. During the day he was working 40 hour weeks as an accountant. With Blue Ribbon Sports, orders were late, invoices were a mess, forcing him to stay up late. It was a struggle for several years.
Eventually, in 1971, Blue Ribbon Sports was officially changed to Nike, Inc.
So at 25 years old, Knight went to Japan for the first time without a clue what he was doing. At 26, the company first began operations. At the age of 33, 7 years later, the company finally became what we all now know as Nike.
From starting out as an accountant and assistant professor, Phil Knight went on to create one of the most recognized brands in the world just by finding a little extra time on the weekends and after work to pursue a passion of his.
Give yourself a tremendous amount of time and patience if you want to pursue a side gig and hopefully transform it into a full-time thing. What you should be is super impatient in the short-term, setting goals and tasks every day. Create metrics for yourself to accomplish each day, week, month so you don’t just have a vague goal of what you want to do.
But on the other hand, be extremely patient in the long-term, because you have all your life. Think about how long you’ve been alive for and all that you’ve experienced. You will most likely live over twice that length. There’s no rush, just get started and be patient.
You can see there’s really no right or wrong way either to work on a side hustle. What works for someone may not work for you or someone else. Personally, I’m not a morning person. So when I tried to workout in the morning, I was fried the rest of the day. And I don’t try to write or research in the morning before work, because I know I would feel rushed to get everything done before I have to get ready at 7:00 AM for work. I wouldn’t even enjoy the process. Experiment, do what works for you.
What type of schedule have you been trying to follow for your side hustle?
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