If you want to start a business and you are still employed, clear your plate

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Plate_1 It is hard enough to maintain work/life balance if you are a full-time employee in a corporate job.  But if in addition to these responsibilities you are also plotting to start your own business on the side, you may find yourself overwhelmed with priorities.  Starting a new business involves a lot of work, and you will need extra time when you are in the research and planning stage.  So here are some areas to "trim fat" out of your schedule and free up time to plan your new venture:

  • Meetings, committees and task forces.  We all know that meetings take up at least 50% of your time in a corporate job.  Some are critical for getting your job done, but others are really just ways to fill up your calendar. If you were trying to lose weight, the first thing experts suggest is to write down everything you eat and see where the extra calories are creeping in.  Do the same thing with your work schedule.  Look at each of your appointments and ask yourself "Is this meeting, committee or task force critical to get my job done effectively?"  If not, find a politically astute way to back out of it.  "I would love to keep attending this meeting, but I am just swamped with _________(fill in the blank) project right now that is critical to my (boss) (customer) (VP).
  • Outside volunteer projects.  I am 100% supportive of community volunteering.  I spent 10 years of my life volunteering at least 30 hours a week, and I learned a ton from it.  But right now, you need to use all of your extra time to plan your business.   So gracefully back out of as much volunteer work as you can.  If you sit on the Board of a non-profit organization, see if you can get an alternate to rotate in for a few months.  Get off church committees, Girl Scout fun nights, all-day car wash fundraisers or the crossing guard.  Don’t worry, your fast-track application to sainthood will not be revoked, and you can make up your good will towards men (and women) once your business is successful.
  • TV zone-out time.  When I am really stressed out, I can get sucked into a bad pattern of zoning out in front of the TV to unwind and relax.  One hour can turn into 3 or 4 if I am not careful (especially if I am watching one of those home improvement shows – for some strange reason, they are highly addictive).  As entertaining and relaxing as it can be, watching too much TV can zap your creative juices and make you more tired than if you would have listened to music, meditated quietly or taken a nice long walk outside.  Cut back to just a few of your favorite programs a week.
  • Kids activities.  I don’t know if it is the same outside of the U.S., but we schedule our kids like little executives.  Parents frantically shuttle them between soccer, karate and trombone lessons, play dates and extracurricular test preparation.  The poor little tykes must carry electronic organizers and cellphones just to keep track of all the details of their over-scheduled lives.  At the end of the day, this may be doing your kids more harm than good.  Relaxed, unscheduled time at home that does not involve uniforms or driving is a good thing.  I am not suggesting cutting out all of your kids activities, just scale back a bit so that they are less harried and you have some time to rest or plan your business.  I remember spending hours as a kid making a paper boat and sailing it in a puddle in our driveway.  It was exciting and stimulating and is one of my fondest childhood memories.
  • Administrative and labor-intensive life activities.  You can spend hours and hours of weekend time cleaning your house, tending to your yard or handling the administrative details of your life.  It will be worth the investment to hire these activities out for a month or two so that you can focus on planning your business.  By doing so, you are usually helping out another small business owner who will be glad to gain a new client.  You can also enlist the help of a virtual assistant  – here is a resource for you to find one.  Make sure that you use this paid freed-up time for the highest-leverage activities.

You may find that a freer schedule will also clear your mind and allow you to think creatively about your new venture.  Who knows – after your new business is up and running you may just choose to keep your less-harried schedule.  It definitely makes you happier!

4 Responses to “If you want to start a business and you are still employed, clear your plate”

  1. Intrepid says:

    I would go the extreme for “TV zone-out time”, and advice not watching TV at all. I’ve not watched TV in years and don’t miss it at all. The freedom you feel is amazing, especially when you come back home or the hotel, and you suddenly have the energy and the time to do things, instead of getting zombied in front of the TV 🙂

  2. Another great post. And, something that’s really taken me some time to get my arms around. I left my corporate gig about a year ago, and instantly got involved with being Director of Marketing for ASTD-LA, with going to association meetings, and with creating a volunteer organization and upping my participation at Santa Monica Zen Center.

    All great stuff excepting the fact that my focus needed to be on business development.

    I’ve been pulling back on some items lately, and will be removing some from my plate over the next few months. It’s already made a huge difference.

    I look forward to eventually being able to put some pack on, but it’s going to be a while before that happens.

    It takes a while to figure out this stuff out!

  3. argos says:

    great post. Although I am not a proponent of time management per se, opting for the more fruitful “energy management” approach, it still boils down to finding/making time and energy to accomplish the many tasks associated with starting/running a business.

    I find myself continually alienating myself from television, friends who are not driven in this phase of their lives, and other leisure activites which I love. Yet, I make progress torwards my goals and, in the end, no one really suffers.

    The one thing I cannot give up is daily exercise. I really feel like I am going backwards when the physical maintanence issue is compromised. Everyday is a delicate balancing act.

  4. Eric says:

    Great advice! Even if you are not starting your own business, many of your suggestions are relevant.

    “but we schedule our kids like little executives”

    Having four kids, I understand this. We allow each child to have one activity. Life is too short to start them in a childhood rat race.

    Enjoyed your post.