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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

5 Habits That'll Free Up Room in Your Schedule to Work on Your Side Gig

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“I’d love to, but I don’t have time!”

This is the biggest excuse I hear when it comes to people explaining to me why they could never ever have a side gig, even if they have a great idea. But here’s the truth (that I know you know): We all have 24 hours in a day—it’s up to you how you prioritize your time outside the office.

I know this is easier said than done because I did it. While working full-time as a sales director for a Fortune 500 company New York, I also launched a life coaching business. And while I could lecture you about the fact you’re probably watching too much TV or spending valuable brainstorming hours at long dinners with you friends, I thought it’d be more helpful to jump to the fun part and tell you how I personally found more time every single week to work on what mattered most to me.

1. Use Wait Time Well

I used my time standing on the subway or in line at the grocery to catch up on small personal to-do lists items like reading, paying my bills, shooting my sisters a text to say hi, or responding to some less-urgent emails. Odds are you probably have more idle time each day than you realize–especially on days when you have an appointment with a hairstylist, doctor, or vet. It adds up!

Using this otherwise idle time to accomplish small tasks could potentially free up a few hours every single week to work on your hustle. Create a shortcut for yourself by having a running list on your phone of the various tasks you can complete fast.

2. Make “No” Your New Best Friend

“No” is one of my favorite words. When you say no to what doesn’t serve you, you say yes to something else. In this case, you’re saying yes to making time to work on your passion project.

Remember this: It is OK to politely decline invitations that do not really appeal to you. (And Muse Editor-at-Large Adrian Granzella Larssen has templates on how to do that here.) Let’s say you’re a social butterfly: Well, if you just turn down just one activity each week—be it networking or just happy hour with friends—that’s another few hours you just made for yourself.

3. Split Your Errands Up Over the Week

OK, this one’s a bit controversial and I understand it doesn’t work for everyone. But, I know that very few people are busy every single minute of the workday—and there can be a lot of unused minutes within the day. Rather than spending 20 minutes mindlessly browsing the internet, use it to complete other errands that you’d normally be stuck doing on the weekends: schedule that doctor’s appointment, make a quick trip to drop off your dry cleaning, call and get your prescriptions refilled, and so on.

Like using your wait time wisely, I’m sure you could come up with a list (and you should!) of lots of small activities that cram your weekends despite not being all that time consuming. Now, you’ve just gone from running errands on a Sunday afternoon to having a couple free hours to do whatever you’d like.

4. Outsource

If you have enough money coming in each month to cover your necessary expenses, consider outsourcing. From cleaning your apartment, to fixing your computer, to basic bookkeeping, to picking up your groceries—it can be worth spending the cash if it saves you time to have an expert do something much more easily. Now, of course this isn’t financially feasible for everyone, but giving up a few dinners out each month or passing up a new outfit might be worth checking one of these items off your list.

5. Get to Know Your Peak Hours

Ever heard of golden hours? It’s about figuring out when your mental capacity is at its peak and doing your most important work at that time. I work best in the morning and whenever possible I schedule mornings as my time to write.

When I still had my full-time job and was just writing on the side, I would get up early and pitch five ideas to my editors before 7:30 AM. I would then write a blog post (or at least half a blog post) before heading into the office. Then, at the end of the day when I was beat, I would deal with the dirty dishes in the sink and the email newsletters that piled up throughout the day.

By identifying these hours for myself, I not only was able to get better work done on my side hustle in less time—but I also found myself spending fewer hours in the actual office because I learned to work when I was most efficient.

And there you go, (at least) a few more free hours every single week that you can use to go after what you’re really passionate about.

Steven Covey, author of the bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, says it best: “Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.” So if you’re currently putting off your brilliant side gig because you have no time, take a look at your calendar and ask yourself what priorities you can be scheduling better.