How a Side Business Forces You To Balance Your Life

Some of my most popular posts so far date all the way back to August, when I wrote a five article series on securing your finances with a side business. It was an amazing coincidence that just when I was planning to start my second series looking at the same topic from a different angle, both Naomi from IttyBiz and Skellie from Anywired linked to one of the posts in the original series: The Seven Deadly Sins of a Side Business Entrepreneur.

The new series starts today.

Last time I wrote about side businesses (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), I focused on the monetary side of things: how building a side business makes you less relying to your employer and how you can maximize the amount of money you can make through your side business.

This time will be different.

Instead of money I will concentrate in the more spiritual side of balancing your life and making your life more meaningful through a side business. That’s why in the coming up posts you can quite easily replace the work “business” with “project” if you don’t feel comfortable talking in business terms. But for the rest of us, it’s business that what we will be talking about.

During the next two weeks my plan is to post a total of seven posts (including this one) about starting, running and balancing a meaningful side business. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of them (or want to get notified when the whole thing is over and I’m getting to some other topic), subscribe to my RSS feed or sign up to get the latest posts delivered straight to your e-mail inbox.

Some background information before we start:

  1. I’m a dad with a nine-month old kid.
  2. I’m a blogger.
  3. I work 5 days a week as a programmer for a games company.
  4. And I’m an entrepreneur building a side business in freelance writing for blogs, magazines and businesses.

And I have the same 24 hours a day everyone else (both the super human who does all of this plus some more and the regular Joe who just goes to work and watches a movie from TV every night).

That’s why I haven’t slept that much lately. But sleeping is not the topic today, let’s talk about balance instead.

A side business will force you to prioritize your life, work, and business.

When the amount of time you have at hand is limited, you have to use it wisely.

Your side business requires time.

Your family requires time.

And your day job requires time.

They all compete for the same 24 hours, so you have some math to do. And I don’t say this wishing I had 30 hours, or even three extra hours a day. I think it’s a good thing as it forces you to think about your usage of time.

Day job: 9 to 5, which is 8 hours. Plus overtime.

That’s the first thing where you can cut some time from. If you can’t cut overtime for good, cut at least most of it. Your employer most likely isn’t paying for your extra hours anyway so why not use it for something profitable like a side business?

Side business: This one can take as many hours as you give to it, so I try to work wise and keep the amount of work required to the minimum (more on this in the upcoming articles)  working only one to two hours every morning.

Family: We’re talking about your priorities, so you can do whatever you want. But my advice is to not cut time away from your family if possible. Find ways to work so that you are present to your family, or maybe even do some of your side business work together with your spouse. But after that, make sure you still give your full attention to every small event happening around the house.

What to drop next? How about TV? (TV is fun but you can live without it – I have tried it) Or surfing the Internet? (this is harder, though…)

But that’s really the beauty of it: because of the limited time we all have, you have to get creative. You have to think how to use your time to make it mean the most to you, and not just pass by. And that tenderly pushes you to live rather than just exist.

Balancing the things in your life will never be easy. But it’s an interesting adventure that will teach you more and more about who you really are and what matters most to you. With this newly found insight you are already much better prepared to the new choices that come your way every day.

On Friday we will continue the adventure by setting up goals for your side business venture. But until then, let’s chat about priorities: what are the most important things for you in life? And how does that show in the choices you make every day?

Photo by max_thinks_sees

11 thoughts on “How a Side Business Forces You To Balance Your Life”

  1. I felt as if you were talking directly to me here Jarkko. I’ve decided to create a few extra hours of time each day to work on a new project – and it’s got me thinking a lot about what that project should be.

    I’ve taken Dave Navarro’s words from his 30 Hour Day program to heart when he says that the best way to get the most use out of your time is to be completely passionate about what you’re doing (I’m paraphrasing). If you’re going to commit just a few hours a day to a project, it should be something that you are passionate about – that way, you’re likely to make more progress during those few extra hours than if it’s something you don’t really care about just for the money.

    But that’s just one aspect. A little bit of extra money is nothing compared to the fulfillment of spending time doing something you absolutely love and that could potentially impact others in a positive way.

    Thanks for this great post. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series!


  2. This post was precisely what I needed to read right now. I’m re-organizing my life (consisting mainly of side businesses) and really needed that one word: PRIORITIZE.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series too, and digging up the older series right now!

  3. I’m looking forward to what you have to offer, Jarkko. While my sideline became a full-time, it’s always interesting to see what insight others have to help me regain some balance between working less and making more. I’ll look forward to contributing to the conversations.

  4. I’ve found that being physically fit makes it much much much easier to balance life. Even though I spend an hour a day at the gym, I feel like I get much more done in the remaining time.

  5. Balance is something that I’m trying to achieve right now, and I’m making progress, but every once in a while it just feels like I backslide and have to start over. Thankfully, I usually catch myself before I’m back to my starting point, but losing progress is never fun.

    All that to say I’m looking forward to the rest of this series!

  6. So, does everybody have a side business now? Or am I just noticing it since I’ve been working on mine?

    It’s interesting, TV was the first thing to go as I continue to seek balance in my life. I’ve found I can’t live without exercise or sleep though.

    I look forward to your posts. Thanks for some good insight.

  7. Hey everyone! Thanks for the comments – you’re putting quite some pressure on me (which is just great!)

    I’m looking forward to all your comments! This is a great opportunity for me to learn from your experiences and ideas.

    @Graham: That makes sense. It’s too bad that a side business is effectively competing for the same hours with sports, just like everything else… Any tricks on making the time for it? (Great to hear from you, Graham! How’s your family doing?)

    @Emily: Good question! Actually, I hope there are lots of people who have a side business, and that many of them find their way to this series because that way we’ll be able to really make the most out of the discussions…

  8. Hello Jarko,

    Now that I’m back contracting for a while I notice all those little 5 and 10 mins chunks lying around. For example:

    There are a couple in the morning before I leave for work.

    And 2 more on the train journey (each way).

    Usually 15 mins at lunch (if I bring sandwiches and go somewhere by myself.)

    And then, with the chores done and the house quieter, I may find 30-45 mins of real quality time before bedtime.

    That’s anywhere between 60 and 90 mins per day. Over a 5 day week I can therefore sometimes find another 5 or 7 hour business day for my own projects.

    It’s also possible to fritter this time away with TV, surfing and general passion-less stuff! So, I agree with selfmadechick about the passion side of what you are looking to use the time for.

    That, and extreme outsourcing! Lots to learn there.

    mark mcclure

    Mark McClure’s last blog post: Personal Development Plans Sliced And Diced

  9. Hi – found your post when I came across the 303 greatest posts of 2007 (very well put together). Running a side-business is a lot of work, and you really need to balance that with family life. I’m in a similar situation, but my son is 4-years old and very demanding (he’s an only child). It’s not as simple as plunking down and working – you really need to take into account your families needs as well.

    One thing that I “cut” was TV. I found TV was taking up too much time, and as you “veg” in front of it — you think about little else.

    TV time is now used to help build my site and work on other projects – this has probably allowed me to reclaim 5-8 hours per week!

    Normally the best time is after the kid has fallen asleep and I have an hour or two for myself; I can get more done then than trying to sneak in 15 minutes here and there during peak family hours.



    Mohamed Bhimji’s last blog post: Are You A Highly Effective Online Entrepreneur?

Comments are closed.