The 7 Habits of Highly Productive Side Hustlers

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gtdThis is a guest post from Timo Kiander, aka the Productive Superdad.

Timo Kiander teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. 

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Very recently I got laid off from my day job.

Although many people have expressed their apologies for what happened, I couldn’t have been happier! Finally, I have all the time to devote to my online business.

However, your situation is perhaps different. You might have a day job, a family, and other commitments and you are struggling with finding the time to build your side hustle.

I can truly understand what you feel since I was in your situation for many years, until I got the unexpected opportunity to focus on my business full time (thanks to my ex-employer :)!).

I was working full time and I have a family (a wife and a son who is under two-years old), which made finding the time for a side hustle very challenging. In addition, I’m a triathlete and a marathoner, some pretty time-consuming hobbies.

But thanks to these 7 habits I successfully applied in my daily life, doing all this while having a day job was possible. And even if I now have much more time on my hands, I still find these habits are a solid foundation for my productivity.

1. Prepare in Advance

In order to maximize your available time, preparation work is mandatory and there is no way around it.

In my everyday life, I separate the work and the preparation. In other words, when I work, I just do the work and nothing else. Or, if I have to do the preparation related to my work when I’m supposed to be working, I know that something has already gone wrong.

For instance, if I decide to write a blog post, I don’t start planning it when I should be actually writing it. In fact, I make sure I have the topic and the outline ready the night before, so that I can get into writing mode as soon as my working time block starts.

Try to dedicate the work time just for work and do the preparation outside your productive hours.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

–Ben Franklin

2. Wake Up Early

Many people say that they can’t become early risers because they are not just that type of person. I understand that we all operate differently and our personal productivity is definitely formed from unique elements.

But people travel across the world and can eventually adjust to different time zones, so why would waking early be so different?

early riser

(photo credit)

If you have a limited amount of time available on a daily basis, the morning time (in general) is the quietest and the most frictionless time to do your work.

For instance, when I woke up early (and I still wake up at 5.30 am every morning, even if I don’t go to work anymore), I got to focus on my tasks – without distractions.

In addition, when you do the most important work in the morning, you find less excuses for not doing the work.

I have heard countless stories of people who come home from work and are just too tired to do anything except collapse on a couch (heck, I was one of those people years ago, but that’s another story …). Or if that’s not the case, there is always something else that you could do other than work on your side hustle.

If you feel that becoming an early riser is something you could try out, start by waking up 5-10 minutes earlier every morning. Try that for a week and then wake up yet another 5-10 minutes earlier. Baby steps, baby.

Eventually you will reach your wake up target and you have become an early riser.

3. Take Advantage of Travel Time

When you travel (and especially when you do business travelling without your family), make sure that you have all the necessary equipment with you so that you can work.

I travelled to our capital Helsinki (I live in Finland) quite a few times during my career in the company I used to work for and I realized that the travelling time is one of the most productive times there is.

I wrote blog posts, e-books, educated myself with personal development books and other training, and in general did a lot of stuff related to my side hustle.

To make it all possible, I ensured that I had all the necessary material ready on my laptop before the trip began, or that I had my Amazon Kindle with me (so that I could carry my book library wherever I went).

With that equipment, I was taking advantage of my nearly 3-hour train trips back and forth, from home to our capital and back.

commute productivity

(photo credit)

4. Slow Down

When it comes to building an online business and especially blogging, I have realized that less is more. What I mean by that is I don’t overload myself by publishing content on my blog all the time.

I used to publish one full-length blog post and one video on a weekly basis, but after hiring my current coach, he suggested that I should slow down. That’s what I did and now I publish one post on a bi-weekly basis.

This arrangement worked really well when I was a part-time blogger, and it still does. Thanks to the change in scheduling, I have now more time to work on important projects, do research, and just focus on the things that matter the most on my blog.

In other types of side hustles, the same may be true. Slowing down and adopting a “less is more” attitude can help focus your attention on the activities that are really the most important and move the business forward.

5. Know Your Game Plan

The number 1 tip on this post was to prepare, and knowing your game plan is definitely one of the things you should be doing when it comes to preparation.

In practice this means that you have your task list up-to-date with the tasks you want to do the next day. In my case, the prep work for the task lists happens the night before.

When you know what you should be doing, you are not wasting precious minutes on wondering what to do and what not.

My personal preference when it comes to task list software is Nozbe, but you can of course use the tool you like. (Remember the Milk and Wunderlist are a couple other popular ones.)

6. Handle the Unexpected

No matter how well your days are organized and planned out, you should always be prepared for interruptions.

For instance, it happened quite a few times that I wasn’t able to get enough work done even if I woke up early.

That’s because the length of my quiet time during the morning depends on when my son wakes up. Even still, he can wake up in the middle of my working session and that pretty much means I have to stop working.

It doesn’t feel good when you are prepared to spend time on building your online business and you have to stop working prematurely. Then again, that’s really part of what being a parent is about, especially if you have small children.

Just adapt to the situation and remember that other people with small children are struggling with these issues as well.

baby laptop

(photo credit)

Your everyday life can bring nice surprises as well. For instance, when I once came back home from work, my family was sleeping. It didn’t take me long to understand that I could do some work related to my online business, so I entered the workroom and gained one extra hour of productive work.

To maximize these (positive) unexpected time blocks, make sure you always remember what your next action is. Try to internalize your task list for the next day, so that you instantly know what it is that you should be doing.

That way you get more done and you are not pondering when you should be working.

7. Pick Your Core Tasks

There is never any shortage of to-dos that have to be done when it comes to your side hustle. You could be spending time on social media, building backlinks to your web properties, writing blog posts, talking with clients, negotiating with contractors, writing guest posts, SEO-ing your blog… and on and on.

However, trying to do everything is just madness, and you should focus on just a few activities that bring the most results.

In my case, I’m focusing on the following (in addition to writing the blog posts):

  • Writing guest posts
  • Interviews (podcasting)
  • Building my e-mail list
  • Working on a big project (this is still a hush-hush one, so I can’t tell you more, sorry!)

These tasks keep me busy and they give me the biggest rewards. When I have chosen my core tasks, I can pretty much ignore the rest of the work and I can feel very productive and empowered.

I suggest that you pick your core areas to focus on and put all your effort into them. They will bring you the biggest rewards in the long term.

Conclusion

These are the habits that I used when I was building my business on the side. However, I still use these same strategies — even though I now have more time available.

Study these lessons again and try to incorporate at least some of the habits into your daily life. That way you get more done and it helps you to motivate yourself to keep on going — even if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands.

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(photo credit)

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