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3 ways to stop being busy and start your online business

It’s time to start your business, and to do that, you need to stop being busy. Here’s how to conquer your schedule and launch without breaking a sweat.

September 24, 2019 by Taylor Barbieri

You’ve watched yet another video about an entrepreneur who managed to start a successful side-hustle while juggling a full-time job, family, and other commitments -- but you’re convinced you can’t.

There are plenty of excuses that keep would-be entrepreneurs like yourself from starting up, from having a weak business idea to plain not knowing how to start a business.

The most common one we hear comes down to time. People are just too busy to start their dreams.

But as they say, time is relative -- and how much you have (or don’t) doesn’t have to be the litmus test for starting your online business.

Should you make space in your schedule to accommodate your business? Absolutely. Does it require rearranging your entire life overnight? No, it doesn’t.

And today, we’ll prove it. Let’s get started with three methods to stop being busy so you can start being in business.

How to stop being busy

To stop being busy, aspiring entrepreneurs should learn:

  1. How to prioritize
  2. How to manage their time
  3. How to delegate tasks

In order to make the most use of your time and know what to delegate, your first need to understand what’s a priority and what can be put on the backburner.

Strategy #1: Learn how to prioritize

Not everything needs your attention right this minute -- and this is coming from someone who is (in)famous for overpacking her schedule.

As a business owner, you should learn how to prioritize tasks, so you maximize each minute for productivity and minimize low-return efforts.

McKinzie Bean, for instance, chose to stop using social media as a branding tool because her heart “wasn’t in it”, and she wasn’t seeing the return she was hoping for.

Within six months after taking social media off of her plate, her business grew explosively.

Like McKinzie, you need to prioritize the tasks you excel at so you can focus on using those to grow your company.  

To prioritize your tasks, consider using an Eisenhower matrix that breaks tasks down into urgent and non-urgent and important and not important sections.

You could also use this matrix from Harvard Business Review to help you determine which tasks to prioritize, tolerate, elevate, or delegate.

According to Harvard Business Review, tasks in the prioritize box are items that bring value to your business and which you are excited to work on.

Tasks in the “tolerate” box are important tasks which drain your energy, whereas the “elevate” box is for items which have a smaller return for your business but which you enjoy doing.

Lastly, the “delegate” box is for low-value and often mundane tasks that would be best completed by someone else.

For extra help sequencing your tasks, breaking projects into smaller chunks, or even managing your to-do list, you could use a tool like Trello.

It’s a common tool for it. Both our team and the CTO of GoLocalApps, Ross Rojek, use Trello to organize upcoming projects. Ross specifically uses Trello to organize his to-do list by how long each project will take.

But as you’re prioritizing tasks and revamping your to-do list, be wary of the planning fallacy.

Basically, the planning fallacy says that humans will believe that a task will go as planned and take up as much time as we allow for it even if similar projects have taken longer or ran late.

And, as you can probably guess, the planning fallacy throws a monkey wrench in people’s schedule.

How often? About 46.2% of the time, according to one study published by MIT. Only 43.6% of participants were able to finish their projects on-time.

The study also found that although students remembered times in the past when they didn’t complete an assignment as anticipated, few reported relying on past experience to estimate how long the task would take.

One of the reasons why humans may continually fall prey to the planning fallacy is that we often don’t “unpack” tasks, or break them into smaller components.

One study found that, when subjects were prompted to unpack tasks before estimating how long they would take, they provided longer, less biased estimates.

Further, it also suggested that the more complex the task -- like selling online courses -- the more unpacking it beforehand benefited planners.

That said, as you’re prioritizing and planning, make sure not to spend too much of your time picking what should be a top priority.

According to research, people who try to pick the best possible option (known as “maximizers”) are usually less satisfied with their choices than satisficers, or people who want to pick a good enough option.

So while you’ll want to pick the “right” tasks to focus on, agonizing over which are the best to focus on may waste time and give you unnecessary stress.

Now, with an understanding of how to prioritize better, let’s see how some people in the real world prioritize.

Michael Grothaus, novelist and journalist, breaks his to-do list into three sections -- “digital quickies”, “work”, and “the real world”. He also completes his mundane tasks in the first hour after waking up.

Likewise, Liz Huber, mindset and productivity coach, scheduled time for her side-hustle while working a full-time job by sticking to the same routine most weeks, such as her “Marketing Mondays” or “Research Wednesdays”.

Basically:

Whether you want to prioritize your tasks by urgency or highest return on investment, it’s important that you devise some sort prioritization system, so you can focus on tasks that will help you grow your business the most.

Even with prioritization, though, it’s easy to get lost in important tasks if you never set firm deadlines or manage your time. That’s where the second strategy for today comes into play.

Strategy #2: Use time management techniques

Want to know something absolutely mind-blowing?

Knowledge workers spend an average of 2 hours and 48 minutes per day on productive tasks -- that’s less than 15 hours per week, or just about two days of a typical 40-hour workweek.

Despite this, there are still countless examples of business owners who found extra time in their schedules. To join their ranks, you need to manage your time.

Easier said than done, I know, but hear me out: you have options. Whether you’re looking to procrastinate less or work more productively from home, there are plenty of time management techniques to choose from.

One of the most popular methods is the Pomodoro Technique.

With this technique, you work in 25-minute time blocks and take a 5-minute break after every 25-minute chunk.

After four 25-minute blocks, you then take a longer 20- to 30-minute break.

Even though it may seem counterproductive to take so many short breaks, research has shown otherwise.

One study found that participants who took two short breaks in a 50-minute task did not see any decrease in their performance, whereas those who worked straight through the 50-minute task saw a performance decline.

If the Pomodoro Technique feels limiting, you could try timeboxing instead.

Timeboxing is a technique in which you set a limited period of time to work on a task, such as in this sample schedule with timeboxed tasks.

Speaker Scott Mautz said that while it can be stressful to finish a task within a set period of time, it forces you to focus on one task and creates a kind of “productive stress”.

Timeboxing’s benefits extend beyond helping you to focus on a task, however.  According to entrepreneur Marc Zao-Sanders, timeboxing can help you to:

  • Get tasks done on time so deadlines can be met
  • Help you collaborate with others since you know what your schedule can allow
  • Give you a thorough record of your activity
  • Make you feel more in control

Even if you don’t use timeboxing to manage your time, you should still consider single-tasking instead of multi-tasking and letting distractions interrupt you.

Not that you’ll, realistically, be able to eliminate distractions altogether. Humans are hardwired for distractibility.

In a study of real-time reports about people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, participants’ minds wandered in 46.9% of those samples.

So while you may think you can just power through the occasional email checkup, chances are it’s actually hindering your productivity, even if it seems like you’re working with more pep in your step.

After all, people who are interrupted while working do tend to work faster. Unfortunately, this quicker pace can lead to more stress, increased frustration, and more time pressure and effort.

So what does this mean for you?

Limit or eliminate distractions to the best of your abilities. Otherwise, it may make you more prone to making errors in your work and can make you feel more stressed and frustrated.

You may also want to keep track of workflow -- including when you distract yourself -- so you can get a visual representation of what distracts you and how often.

Around 25% of people use a time-tracking app to track their time, whereas another 25% use a spreadsheet or paper and pencil.

While you should use whatever method works for you, some time management tools worth checking out include:

Of course, even the most efficient time manager won’t find time to complete every task. What’s a creator to do when their to-do list is too long?

Simple: delegate.

Strategy #3: Learn what and when to delegate

You can’t do everything.

While it’s tempting to do everything yourself to save money, keep your nose perpetually to the grindstone will wear you out -- emotionally and financially.

A study of call center workers found that the more hours an employee worked, the more their productivity decreased.

So considering that 29% of small business owners workers work more than 50 hours per week and 86% work weekends, it’s important to draw the line early on so you don’t burnout or see your business flop.

For example, Miles Beckler and his wife hired virtual assistants so they could work on tasks that made the most use of their time and skillsets.

Similarly, Jen McFarland found that automating parts of her work gave her time to work on the pleasurable aspects of her business.

Aside from deciding which business tasks you can outsource, you can also use online business tools to free up precious time so you won’t end up as one of 81% of entrepreneurs who have to work nights.

However, you may not want to remove all of the mundane tasks from your to-do list.

Boring activities can lead to increased productivity, according to one report, so there may be more benefit to something as simple as clearing out your inbox than you’d think.

Going back to our time management tips, one way to make time is to work less -- about four days a week, to be exact.

In an eight-week experiment, a company of 200 had employees work a four-day week without a decrease in pay or other employment conditions.

After the experiment, productivity had increased by 20%, and employees were happier.

So, working less may actually help you work better -- and happier, at that.

That’s a definite win-win.

OK. Now that we’ve covered three data-backed ways to stop being busy and finding time to work on your side-business, let’s see how you can put these principles into practice.

How to start your online business

To start your business with limited time, write out the tasks you need to complete, and use an Eisenhower matrix to prioritize them and Trello to create a project workflow.

Next, use time management techniques to break each task into more manageable chunks and better defend your time against multitasking, distractions, and procrastination.

To that end, automate as much as your work as possible -- email marketing tools and these top landing page builders can help -- in addition to delegating to contractors or employees.

And, of course, use a creator-friendly platform like Podia to sell your digital products. Assuming you want to do things the easy way, anyhow.

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With tasks planned and delegated, you can begin creating, pricing, promoting, and launching your digital product. Here are some guides to get you started:

And that, in a nutshell, is how you can stop being busy and launch your online business.

But even though we’ve broken down the process step-by-step, you’re probably wondering how long it will take for you to develop your business, let alone grow it into a thriving business.

It depends on how much time you can invest, what type of business you want to grow, and myriad other factors.

For example, one study found that side-hustlers spent an average of 19 months working on and growing their businesses before quitting their full-time jobs.

The same study found that side-hustlers spent an average of 20 hours per week on their businesses in addition to working a full-time job.

So though it may be tempting to quit your full-time job so you can devote more time to your business and scale faster, that may not be a wise idea.

Research found that business owners who started a new business while working full-time were 33% less likely to fail than those who didn’t keep their day jobs.

It can take some creative wrangling and sacrifice over those 19 months (or however long it takes), but it is definitely possible to find time to run your business while working full-time or having comparable commitments.

It won’t always be an easy road, and it might not be the fastest, either, but few roads worth treading ever are.

Don’t be busy -- be in business

It’s easy to be “busy” when there are so many things fighting for our attention 24/7.

If you’re serious about becoming an entrepreneur, you’ll need to learn how to fight distractions so you can transition from being busy to being a business owner.

Three ways you can take back and make the most of your time are:

  • Reprioritizing your to-do list, so you work on the most impactful tasks first
  • Using time-management techniques to organize and make the most use of your time
  • Delegating tasks that don’t utilize your strengths or make good use of your time

Once you start running your business, you can put these methods into practice by:

  • Prioritizing the tasks you need to complete to start and run your business
  • Using time-management methods to accomplish these tasks in a reasonable amount of time so you can launch your business sooner than later
  • Delegating and automating tasks with all-in-one tools like Podia so you can focus on building your business with your existing strengths

Haven’t started with Podia yet? You can start today, for free, with zero obligation.

Otherwise, here’s to business and not busyness.