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What is the best way to start managing time to make room for working on projects?

I work full time from 10-7pm and find it difficult to manage my time to make a daily allowance to work towards whatever projects I want. What are some good strategies to help me make a new habit of getting up early, or spending my evenings in coffee shops?

I'm looking for ideas like making self pacts, or tools that gamify time management.

7 Replies

Michael Barnathan
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Michael Barnathan Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder of The Mountaintop Program, Google Alum
Cutting into your sleep is probably a losing game, so focus on the evenings if you're getting up as early as you feel physically comfortable doing. I find it easier to work when I know I don't have an upcoming interruption anyway.

I've found it very easy to couple a habit to eating. Buy dinner while you're in the coffee shop. You might get sick of the food after a while, but it will help you in that critical early stage of forming the habit.

The other thing you can do is get a friend to hang out there with you for the first few days.
Jessica Alter
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Jessica Alter Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur & Advisor
This is a topic near and dear to my heart, but I honestly believe everyone should have side projects unless you're full-time founder of a startup. I honestly think there are two key things:
1. Being really excited about what you're doing - so you jsut want to work on it. if you don't want to at the beginning that's a pretty big sign
2. Work with others - this is great because you can set goals and feel more more accountable - it's like telling yourself you'll go to the gym vs. telling someone you're meeting them there. But even more importantly, that's the best way to figure out what you want in a cofounder - what things are deal breakers, who you can work with, etc. it's not the same as working with someone on a project or company that is not your own.
3. Set goals - at a minimum write them down in your calendar and have them be a reminder. You'll be able to feel good when you hit them.

At the end of the day, while you don't have to be totally sleepless, it will cut into your ooo time and you have to be cool with that.

Tom Maiaroto
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Tom Maiaroto Entrepreneur • Advisor
Full Stack Consultant
Personally, I cut into sleep. Honestly I see no way around it. Other than weekends. I work til about 1am (maybe later some nights) and get up at about 6am. My baby taught me how to cope without much sleep =)

I'm not saying it's healthy. I'm sure it's not. My wife (a doctor) tells me it's not. I understand some people need more sleep than others. But this is what works for me.

I think if it's temporary it's ok. In my case, it's been many years though.
Marcelo Ribeiro
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Marcelo Ribeiro Entrepreneur
Founder at RubyThree / Hiraa!
I had to go through this experience more than once now and I believe I found the key. It is about sleeping better, at better times. Not cutting into sleep in a way you're going to bed 1am. However, if you have the chance to be at bed at 10pm, and up and running the next morning 5am that's key.

It is incredible the amount of things you can do between 5am and 8am - you just wouldn't believe how much you've done before the day even started.

So this is it really: go to bed 10pm, be ready 5am, and around 8-9am get back to your regular job/life.
Michael Barnathan
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Michael Barnathan Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder of The Mountaintop Program, Google Alum
Different strokes, I suppose. I personally find that I experience negative returns on cutting into sleep (less productivity during the day which more than offsets the extra hours). And I can't form a coherent thought at 5 AM, much less seal 5 business deals and write 1kLOC :). At 2 AM, on the other hand...
Benjamin Olding
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Benjamin Olding Advisor
Co-founder, Board Member at Jana
Well, I don't want to scare you, but maybe think about restructuring your job? I know this wasn't exactly what you asked.

I'm a big believer in maintaining a cash flow positive life: your business has to be cash flow positive & there's no reason this shouldn't extend to your life too - practicing the mindset helps.

So, I'd always counsel against the "quit & go for it" theory - I think it's undisciplined. However, do you really need every dollar that job is generating? Could you restructure your work (this job, another job, etc) to trade off time for dollars?

I do not like the cut into sleep advice. I mean the guys who posted it sound bad-ass to me & it's impressive that's how committed they are. However, creativity & sleep are well linked: I bet you can send 10 more emails if you stay up another hour, but I'm skeptical you can come up with 1 more quality idea.

In the end, work takes time - you should be prepared to pay for the time you need. Your employer pays for it - you have to be willing to too. Don't buy too much (I.e. quit your job) & go cash flow negative, but you can't tell me you can't buy 5 hours a week back. If you can't work less, how about a personal assistant? Money is fungible - you can buy time if you need it. Keep your sleep.

If you've got debt & have no ability to buy some time back, do not work on projects: pay the debt down & get back to a position where you can afford to work at least a little bit for yourself.
Deborah Tutnauer, MEd, MSW
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Business & Entrepreneurs Solutions. I help people increase their income and happiness. Authentic Foundation & Framework.
There are a wealth of studies that now show cutting into sleep is the biggest error you could make. (Check out new HBO documentary - Sleepless in America).

The underlying question I hear you asking is not about creating more hours in your day, but instead creating more efficient and effective use of the time you have available for your projects.

There is both an art and a science to maximizing time. Many in this thread have touched on the ideas of goal setting and prioritizing - both of which are crucial! There are also brain studies which teach us how to maximize focus - thus getting more done in less time. These include chunking your activities. Disabling distractions. Working with a timer. Having an accountability coach who helps you organize on both a macro and micro scale. Taking time to ascertain the deeper value of your activities in terms of your goals and dreams and structuring your decision based on this exploration.

Hope this helps James. Let me know if I can help you further. This is one of the areas in which I specialize.

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