Building your business on the side is not easy. You come home after a long day of work, you spend the little time you have with your family and friends, and you try to jam in a productive session, working on your side business before going to bed.
Your weekends allow you to get much more done in much larger chunks. They’re usually where you’re most capable of growing your business or having the most impact on your business when you’re working a day job.
However, are you making the most of your weekends? How often do you find yourself distracted or making excuses when you’re not getting enough done? How should you structure your weekends? What does a weekend, optimized for productivity and growing a business, look like?
I’m going to answer these questions and share what has worked for me, and continues to work for me. Additionally, I’m going to share my action plan, exactly how I structure my weekends, and what I do every weekend that has helped me grow my side business and maintain a great work/work balance.
Switch Up Your Frame
The first thing you need to consider is how do you think of your weekends.
What you do during the week should set you up to get more done on the weekend. Don’t use your weekends to support the stuff you do during the week, instead, whenever you come home from your day job and begin working on your business, make sure it supports what you plan to do over your weekend.
For example, if you’re planning to tackle your website’s design over the weekend then choose templates, design logos, draw layout ideas and write copy throughout the week. That way, when the weekend rolls around, you can focus on the most important task - getting the website up.
Making Your Weekdays Support Your Weekend
Whenever you think up a task or project, but can’t make time for it during the week, David Allen, author of Getting Things Done suggests you add it to a “next actions” list instead of a “to-do” list. Throwing items into a to-do list is non-actionable. If you set an ordered list, of the next things you need to do for your business, it will require and encourage you to make quick decisions.
Think up a great, actionable idea for your business? Put it in your “next actions” list. Come up with a new marketing idea that will take several hours to implement? Put it in your “next actions list.”
At the end of the week, organize these ideas, tasks, and projects into timeslots throughout your weekends, then pull each task from your next actions list and move it into your calendar for the weekend. (More on this in the next section)
Now let’s get into what a typical weekend looks like for me, and how you should consider structuring yours to get more done.
How to Structure Your Weekend
While you won’t have as much time on Fridays to get as much done as you can on Saturday or Sunday, it’s a good time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished throughout the week and what you plan to do over your weekend
It’s good to sit down for five minutes, before planning out your weekend, to reinforce what has (or hasn’t) been working for you.
Not taking the time to see where you went right and wrong can stunt your growth as an entrepreneur. Your business only grows when you do. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What were my top wins this past week?
- What didn’t I get done?
- Where did I waste time this past week?
- What was the best part of my week?
You can answer these questions out loud or write them down in a journal or private document (like Google Docs or Evernote).
Plan of Attack
Now it’s time to schedule your weekend. Set blocks of time for each task and get your priorities in check.
Your weekend should be flexible. Things happen and you can’t always stick to your schedule. However, don’t use that as an excuse to procrastinate. Stay flexible for when “life” happens, but don’t stay flexible just because Game of Thrones or your favorite TV show might be on.
Before planning out your weekend, ask yourself a few questions to get a better perspective on what needs to get done:
- What must I get done no matter what this weekend?
- Are there any potential distractions or commitments this weekend that I will need to account for?
Now it’s time to plan your weekend for success.
First, if you don’t know what you should be doing, use the Pareto Principle. Look at the 20% of things you’ve been doing for your business that have yielded 80% of your results.
Next, use a tool like Trello or even Google Calendar to set your schedule for the next two days. Pull the tasks you put off from your “next actions” list and start to schedule them into your weekend. If the task can be done in five minutes or less, do it immediately (yes, while you’re still scheduling your tasks) instead of putting it off for the weekend.
In the next section, I’ll talk about what your Saturday and Sunday might look like to help you figure out how to make the most of your weekend.
Generally, you’ll want to tackle the most difficult or time-consuming tasks first. If you don’t think you’ll be able to complete all your tasks for the day, do the most important things first. The most important task is up to your discretion, but generally, if it has a looming deadline or will make the most immediate impact on your business, it’s the most important task.
Let’s carry over that excitement and momentum from Friday’s reflection and planning, and begin to tackle the most important tasks on Saturday.
“Airplane Mode” Saturdays
So, because you hopefully have scheduled the most important or difficult task first, that’s where you’ll be spending most of your Saturday. It’s also likely to be your most time-consuming task, which is why it’s also important to get it out of the way as quickly as possible.
The key to getting more done on the weekends is focus. Sounds simple, right?
On paper, sure, but in reality, there are a lot of distractions and excuses to keep you distracted.
My Saturdays are usually the most productive day of my weekends. I like to put myself into “Airplane Mode”. Much like how your phone’s Airplane Mode which disables all of your phone’s connectivity to the internet, I do the same thing by cutting myself off from distractions.
Though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get much done without the internet there are tools you can use to help keep you from wandering off and browsing Facebook, while staying connected to the internet.
These are the Chrome extensions I use to put myself in “Airplane Mode” every Saturday.
- StayFocused - Block out the sites that steal your time so that you can work on what matters.
- RescueTime - Track all your time on the internet to later review where you waste the most time. (Check reviews)
- News Feed Eradicator - Sometimes, I can’t block Facebook using a tool like StayFocused because I use Facebook to manage my ads and pages. However, with News Feed Eradicator, my news feed goes from distraction filled mess to motivational or inspirational quote.
- Momentum - This extension replaces your new tab screen with an inspirational photo and a reminder of your most important task for the day.
- Simple Pomodoro - If you’re not familiar with The Pomodoro Technique, it helps you work in small intervals of 25 minutes of getting stuff done and a short 5 or 10 minute break. Instead of plowing through without taking a break, Simple Pomodoro is a timer that will alert you when it’s time to take a break and when it’s time to get back to work.
I don’t like to lose the momentum I created on Friday and Saturday, however, even I understand that there are errands and things that need to be done on the weekend. That’s what Sunday’s for.
If I have time on Sunday, I will finish any other tasks, but if I can’t, I will add them back to my “next actions” list or simply schedule them for next weekend.
Schedule Content for the Week
Spend some time automating whatever you can for the following week. For example, every Sunday evening, I use Buffer to schedule all my social media posts until the following Sunday.
You can do this as well. Spend your Sunday evenings briefly scheduling out social media posts, planning out blog content, or scheduling emails to be sent to your email list.
Plan Your Week Ahead
I use Trello (you can use any scheduling tool you feel comfortable with) to plan out the week ahead. This way, I know exactly what I should (and need) to be working on when I get home from work. I’m not wasting time on deciding what to do or trying to figure out what to do next. I just come home and take action.
If you don’t already, I strongly suggest writing down and tracking weekly goals for yourself and your business. Some example goals you can set are:
- I will easily launch my new ecommerce website by Saturday this week
- I will easily go to the gym at least 3 times this week
- I will easily get 10 sales to my store by Saturday this week
- I will easily double my store’s weekly traffic, from 100 visitors to 200 visitors, by Saturday this week
Writing your goals down helps keep you accountable and brings you clarity. How do you really know what you want to accomplish in life and in your business if you’re not tracking it?
Prime Yourself for the Week Ahead
Stop dreading Mondays every Sunday night. Set the tone for an amazing week. Look forward to getting up early, tackling your morning routine and getting home after your 9-to-5 to work on your side business. Make your Sunday nights amazing!
Watch a few motivational videos on YouTube or an inspiring Ted Talk, or learn something new before going to bed. You don’t have to over-stimulate yourself, just put yourself in the right mindset before going to bed.
Rinse and Repeat
Now it’s just a matter of repeating this process and becoming really good at adapting it. You won’t be perfect and won’t always have the most productive weekends - I know I don’t.
However, making an effort to work at it every weekend and putting in that work, even when it’s only for a few hours, can make all the difference. All of those efforts begin to add up over time and before you know it, you can have a full-time ecommerce empire on your hands.
What do you think? How do you, as a sidepreneur, manage to build your ecommerce empire on the side while working a 9-to-5? How will you make this upcoming weekend much more productive?