In my dreams, I wake up when it’s still dark. I grab a cup of coffee and a fresh bagel and start changing the world. Then, as the sun rises, I put down my keyboard and gently wake up the rest of my family. We spend hours having fun together, but also get some work done. Not too much – just enough to keep the business rolling.
I dream that I can create something important that will have a lasting impact on other people’s lives. And I dream that my work and life will be in a perfect balance.
I dream a lot.
Did I mention that I also dream that one day I will have an article published in Wired?
I know I shouldn’t say all of these things aloud. But dreaming is fun.
Too bad that dreaming alone won’t get you anywhere.
You need dreams, goals and action plans
It all starts with the dreams. Without dreams you can’t have goals. And without goals, nothing can happen.
So, let’s start by collecting your very own list of dreams.
Take a piece of paper and a pen, stop censoring your thoughts and write down every little things that you would like to do in your life. The things don’t have to make sense to anyone else than you, they can be corny like mine, or they can be just emotions and vague memories of some feelings you had when you were a kid.
If you can get 100 items on your list like Shane, that’s awesome! But if you can’t, that’s OK too. On my list, I’m currently tracking 67 dreams.
And if you get stuck, here are a few questions to help you keep coming up with ideas:
- Where do you want to be five years from now? Paris? London? Dakar? Vantaa?
- What kind of work do you want to do? Who do you want to be with? Who do you want to be?
- What do you want to experience before you die? One of the items on my list says: “I want to take a ride in a hot air balloon.”
- Is there something in your past that would have done differently equipped with the understanding and knowledge you have today?
- What are the things that inspire you the most?
- What kind of things do you recommend to your friends when they ask for life advice? Is there a common trend that in fact speaks more about you than it does about your friends?
- What gets you in the state of flow and makes you forget all about time and place for hours?
- Who do you want to help?
- Who do you admire? Why?
- What do you want to own?
- What do you want to give?
By no means do your answers have to be definitive or final. All that matters is that you get some answers that feel real to you so that you get going. The next time you do this experiment, you will probably add some new items and drop some that don’t feel important anymore. That happens because when you work to reach your dreams, you learn more about yourself and find out more details on what it is that you are trying to describe with your dreams.
When you have done your list, if you are brave enough, I’d love to hear your answers in the comments. But if you don’t feel like sharing them, keep the list to yourself, put it in a safe place (I keep my list in my pocket) and then we can move on.
Turn your dreams into goals
What makes a side business different than your regular job or business venture is that you run it in your spare time. When you get to work on it, you have already spent about eight hours working on your day job and you feel like you need to get some rest.
That’s why I started this blog post by asking you about your dreams.
I believe that if you give up TV, sleep less than before and add new deadlines and projects to your life, you need to make sure that the reason for doing this really is worth it. To me, the only way to do that is by planning my side business goals along the guidelines set by my dreams.
If your side business is just about money, you will burn out pretty soon.
But when it is something you feel passionately about, you are already much more likely to survive it.
- Do something you love. I am going to talk more about picking the right side business idea, but there is one thing above anything else that I want to point out: Make sure you don’t pick a business based just on its profitability but rather on how fun it will be. A side business is a great opportunity to do something different that what you do in your day job!
- Set goals that support your dreams. Good goals get you going, but even more importantly, they remind you of why you are working hard and doing all the things you do. When I’m about to get discouraged, I remember my monthly goals and how I’ve set them as a path so that they ultimately lead to less work, although right now it might feel like work is just increasing.
- Set goals that work as prizes. One of my dreams is to own a Mac. So, I have made that into one of my next goals: to buy one with the money earned from my side business. That gives me a clear image of what I’m working towards.
- Set some big goals. Think of how you want your business to grow in the long term: how long do you plan to keep it as a side thing? Maybe at some point you want to divide your time between your main job and your side thing differently (50/50, for example) ? Or maybe you want to keep it as a side thing but make it function without requiring so much effort from you?
- Set some small goals. The way I handle goals is that in addition to the big goals, I plan monthly goals and weekly goals. The monthly goals can be something like “Write two magazine articles” or “Pitch a new article for April”. I also try to assign some monetary value to them. This way they are measurable, but still rather abstract so that I can get them done in many different ways. In my weekly goals I then get more specific, setting goals like “On Monday, write a post for my own blog”, or “By Sunday, finish a post for NORTHxEAST”.
- Set goals you want to achieve. And finally, don’t set goals just because they sound like something you should do. I’ve said this many times already, but I’ll repeat once more: This is a project that runs on your spare time. A project that competes with TV, long walks on the beach and all that relaxing stuff you are used to doing. So, set only goals that you really want to do.
This was part two in my series of articles on balancing your side business. Share your dreams and goals as well as experiences and tips on deciding which goals you want to achieve in the comments! In the next article we will continue by talking about which side business ideas help you best in maintaining a good work-life balance.
Until then, have a great weekend!