Work. Side-hustle. School. Morning routine. Kids. Commute. Exercise. Meditation. Meal prep. Rest. Evaluation.
If you’re like me, you fill your days with as much “I’m supposed to do this” stuff as possible.
I’m supposed to exercise.
I’m supposed to have good ideas for my business.
I’m supposed to be diligent about executing those ideas.
I’m supposed to eat healthy.
I’m supposed to be present.
I’m supposed to make enough time for my family.
Oh yea, I’m supposed sleep well too.
It feels like A LOT, like too much, if I’m honest.
So, it was amazing to see this topic brought up on the Fizzle forums by Xenia Ferraro who asked: How do you balance your life? She adds:
“how in the world do you do it?? I always thought I was awesome at time management but I'm finding that I may be taking on too much? Spreading myself too thin? I would hate to give anything up for the time being, but am nervous I may have to.”
This question is a big one. I want it all. I want the cake, I want to eat it, I want to share it with my friends, and I want it all cleaned up for me afterwards.
But most of my life isn’t with an abundance of cake and cleanup partners. If I’m honest, most of my experience is kind of swiftly switching from one task to the next, one idea to the next, one role to the next, without much time to ruminate and strategize in between.
Do you know what I mean by that? Jumping from task to task to task without consciously thinking about why I’m doing Task 1, or what the purpose of Task 2 is, etc.
Which means, when I sit down to try and think about what the next strategy for my business or life is, I’ve mostly got a surplus of confusion.
I’ve been jumping around from thing to thing so much that I’m confused about which direction I should focus on.
I’ll wager this is a common experience for us indie entrepreneurs — those of us using the tools of the internet to bootstrap businesses to support ourselves.
We are lone rangers in an endless landscape of potential… potential tasks, potential success, potential strategies, potential potential.
This is, in some ways, what we asked for — we want freedom and independence, we want to make our own rules, we want life on our own terms.
But do we have to feel the anxiety and confusion? Is that necessary to succeed, or are these energies harming us?
Here’s an episode of our business podcast where we discuss this very issue. It’s in depth, honest, and if you listen to it you’re definitely going to take away something big for your entrepreneurial balance.
Here’s a few of the responses to Xenia’s forum thread. I share them here because it’s so helpful to hear how other indie entrepreneurs are thinking about this.
And at the bottom I’ll put a few key take-aways.
(Note: being in a community of entrepreneurs like Fizzle can change your life if you’re trying to build something you care about all by yourself. Fizzle is the best community like this out there… and it’s affordable too. Check out member benefits here. If you’re already a Fizzler you can find this thread here.)
First, I had to learn to play the long game. Without hours a day to dedicate to building a business I learned to celebrate the small wins. Over time they add up. If you get five small tasks complete per week, you'll have accomplished a lot in a year.
Second, in order to be productive with small amounts of time it helps to break down your to-do list items into the smallest possible actions you can take. Thinking about a blog post, your list might look like this:
- pick an idea
- outline what you want to communicate & how it should be organized
- write out each section (this can be broken down into a task for each section)
- edit the content for coherence & readability
- edit for SEO
- market on your social media channels
With a list like this you can easily pick off one or two tasks when you do find a spare twenty minutes. Also, you get to check things off much more regularly, which helps you feel like you're actually moving.
2 excellent resources for more personal productivity:
I am another one of those working parents trying to start a business in my limited free time. […] I just wrote a post about embracing slow. It's just how it has to be for now in the reality of my life. I'm almost at my year anniversary from when I first hatched the notion to do this, and although I am still miles away from making money, I'm miles further down the road than I was last year. So you do what you can, and yes, it adds up.
For me, I have also had to learn and really pay attention to when my mind is in the best frame for working on the business. When I'm tired and frazzled, no amount of forcing myself will yield a good result. So when I need to rest, I rest. I know that when I can hit something fresh, I come at it with enthusiasm and a positive outlook. When I approach it when I'm tired, the negative self-talk comes out in copious amounts.
Steve St. Martin:
At the beginning I was full of excitement and would squeeze what I could in when I could. Even though I had forward movement it was slow so I made the decision to tighten up my budget and start subbing out the work.
It was easier for me to put in more time to earn extra money doing what I already know and put that money into paying people to do the work that was dragging me down. Just like in construction I just manage the people I pay in my business.
This method got my site built, product created and kept my sanity.
More info on outsourcing:
My advice is do something that you love and that energizes you. My first blog is only now starting to pay me for 1 day a month worth of work (after 3 years!). But the learning journey of the blog lead me to launch a freelance career (which is my Minimum Viable Income (MVI), some of it is related to my old career and some is related to my first blog), and I also am starting another teacher archetype blog/business (this one has more chance of getting to MVI so I can eventually leave the freelancing for focus on full-time course creation).
If you do something that energizes you and you can't wait to work on it, it will bring you energy for the rest of your life. But you have to be realistic about what you can achieve in so little time and be willing to accept slower progress.
Does your business excite and energize you? Not just the idea of being an indie entrepreneur, but the actual topic and work of your business? That is what need to excite and energize you for the long haul.
More on finding what energizes you:
This is a really interesting thread to read and some brilliant answers. I'm a single parent with shared care trying to juggle a lot of stuff and have found it really difficult to manage time.
What I am finding useful is to spend 10 mins reviewing each day in a journal. If a day felt really productive, this helps me to find out why, and more important, remember it for next time. The same goes for if I had a day that felt really unproductive.
Over time it's been a great exercise in self-awareness and time management has improved hugely. It also helped me to learn what I actually could achieve in a day, as opposed to what I thought I could achieve. Not for everyone probably, but for me it's been really beneficial.
More info on productivity journaling:
I started my biz while working a full time job. At the time I had two little kids at home. The first thing for me was to pick a product that was a creative outlet for me. It was something that I was passionate about. Since it was a creative outlet I really wanted to spend time on it. […]
I would spend between 1.5 and 2 hours working on my business each morning before the rest of my family woke up. I started by spending 30 mins in the morning and slowly increasing it to 2 hours. It was hard for me to get up early, but eventually it helped me sleep better and I would fall asleep as soon as I put my head on the pillow and wake up between 4:00-4:30.
I also practiced productive meditation and Deep Work. (if you don't know what this is read Cal Newports book Deep Work). Since I was completely focused for 1.5-2 hours a day with no interruptions (i.e. meetings, co-workers, etc) I actually got the equivalent of 3-4 hours of work done.
More about focus and deep work:
My goodness I love all these different perspectives! Here’s some takeaways for you:
Now, let’s keep the conversation going — how do YOU balance life when you’re working on your business?
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