We very often hear from WP Courseware users who have a great idea for a viable paid course, but who struggle finding time to actually create content. As any entrepreneur knows, taking your idea from a small seed in your mind to a full-time business often means making it a priority through sacrifices. That might mean working until 3:00am after a day job or on weekends when everyone else is out having fun.
So, let's start with two questions...
1. Do you have trouble finding time to invest into building your courses?
2. Do you lack focus when you do find time to work on them?
One thing I’ve found is that it can be very difficult to find the time to focus on building courses because many of us have a tendency to not be fully intentional with our time. Our lives are filled with events, appointments, distractions, and so many more things that require our attention and ultimately demand our time.
So how do online entrepreneurs do it?
You see rockstar entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk (and countless others) enjoying the fruits of success. What you don't see is the tens of thousands of hours of hustle it took them to reach that level of success.
But how are we supposed to do that? Many of us have day jobs and plenty of other responsibilities which can keep the dream of starting a business and working for yourself, well, just a dream.
I often think back to my own early days of entrepreneurship. Nate and I had decided to start a business together and we began creating our own online courses. At that time, I had a day job and I was literally squeezing every minute I could into creating content for our first online course.
Somehow, even with a full-time job to show up to, Nate and I were able to produce over 200 hours of video training, dozens of PDF action guides, several pre-recorded podcast sessions to promote our course once we launched, and an 80-page ebook to use as a lead magnet within Facebook ads.
Sure, we worked hard to get it all done. But anyone can work hard. What we had to focus on was working smart and using the time we did have on tasks that we felt would eventually have the biggest impact.
But what does it mean to work smart and become time intentional?
Have you heard the analogy which compares life to an empty jar? It's likely you have. It's a foundational principle behind the best-selling book series The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Dr. Steven Covey.
It goes something like this...
If we take some sand and begin to fill our "jar of life" with it, the sand fills the jar quite nicely at first. All of those small grains are nice and compact and you can fit lots of them in the jar.
But the sand represents the minutia of life...any of the thousands of small things we can choose to spend our time on which have no bearing on whether or not we achieve the goals we think will make us feel happy and satisfied. Some examples might be watching TV, hobbies, social media, going shopping, checking email, etc. Considering how many of these grains of sand we have, we can easily fill our jar about 75% of the way up with them and, again, they all fit nicely.
Now let's say we have some big rocks in our life that we want to put in our jar as well. The big rocks might be things like spending time with your spouse or partner, being engaged with your children, or perhaps even working on that business idea you have that you think might set you free from your job.
But as you can see in this image, if we try to put those "big rocks" in after the sand they don't fit and quickly spill out of our jar of life. If you focus on the sand, you'll never get to include all of the big rocks.
The point of the lesson is that we have the tendency to mis-use or mis-prioritize our time. The best way to fill up your jar of life is by placing the stones in first and then adding sand to fill the gaps. The same goes for building a business around your online courses. If you have time to spend on it, but you sit down at your computer and begin checking email you're never going to finish your course.
Let's look at it another way...
You have 24 hours per day. Or 1,440 minutes. Or even 86,400 seconds. Every one of those seconds literally gets assigned to something. Let me repeat that...every one of your 86,400 seconds is being assigned to something today...even if you aren't intentionally assigning them to specific tasks or goals.
The good news is that you have the power to assign those seconds to specific activities, giving you control of your time. It's not a magic formula. You just have to understand how to engineer the things in your life before you can hack time.
- The first step in achieving any goal is to clearly define it, understand every step necessary to achieve it, and then commit to those steps. Not half commit. Nor partially commit. Full-100%-whatever-it-takes-I-will-never-give-up commit. Don't just stick your toe in the water when you want to achieve something. Climb up to the top of the highest diving board and jump in! We need to commit to our goals to understand how we should re-prioritize our time.
- You can't always just hustle your way to success. Sure, hard work is important. But some entrepreneurs teach that you need to hustle 24/7/365 to become successful. Try telling that to Tim Ferriss, bestselling author of The 4-Hour Work Week, who has achieved massive success by building businesses that run without him. I can tell you from experience that if you want to start an online business, there will be plenty of blood, sweat, tears, and days when you'll learn to function on two hours of sleep. But how much you work doesn't matter nearly as much as knowing what to work on.
- Lastly, and most importantly, you must be intentional with your time. When you set aside time for a task, you will let nothing interfere with that block of time. If you don't get time intentional, then you allow others to control your time.
I know this is some deep stuff, especially since we're just talking about making time to build a course. But something much bigger might be at stake here...
Two years ago one of our WP Courseware customers made time on nights and weekends while working a full-time job to to take her idea for a course from a simple seed to several hours of very well-crafted video training. She launched that video course with WP Courseware and 18 months later had done over $1 million in sales, traveling the world full-time while working on her business from a laptop.
That could be you!
13 strategies I've used in my own busy life to become more time intentional...
If you're struggling to find time to work on your own business ideas, I want to share a few guidelines and strategies that have helped me during my entrepreneurial journey. I'm sure there are many other time hacks that I've not listed, but my hope is that you'll find at least one item on this list that will help you become more intentional with your time.
- Just say "no" - Saying no can be difficult, especially for those of us who are people pleasers. However, if you don’t learn to say no when it’s necessary, you'll never make any progress toward your goals. Face it...you can’t possibly please everyone. And you need to be working on things that will add value to your life. From time to time, learn to say no to the things that aren't as important as your own big rocks.
- Don’t finish everything - I was always taught to finish everything I start. It’s been a great piece of advice, however, this strategy doesn’t fit into every context. If you're starting a business and suddenly realize that one of the projects you've been working on isn't quite as important as another project you need to handle, walk away. Don't be afraid to drop things and leave them until another time. Starting and running a business is a dynamic process and you'll need to learn to accept it.
- Say "no" without saying "no" - One way to say no without actually having to say no is to block out time on your calendar. When I was working at my day job while starting a business, I would block out one hour for my lunch every day on our team's shared calendar so that I knew I would have one hour of interrupted time ahead of me. I needed that hour each day to work toward my goals. Instead of leaving the office just to go eat lunch, I would spend that hour buckling down at the local coffee shop. If you work in an environment where there aren't shared calendars for others to see your schedule, just start gradually introducing co-workers to your new routine of spending your lunch hour on your own.
[NOTE] - Use this one at your own risk. It might not be wise to turn down your boss's lunch invitation day after day!
- Stop trying to multitask - It wasn’t that long ago that "multitasking" was one of the single biggest skills to tout on your resume. It wasn't until recently that I learned that there really is no such thing as multitasking. When people throw this word around what they really mean is that they're fine with working on one task for a little bit of time and then changing gears to a completely separate task and mindset. Regardless, multitasking in any capacity goes completely agains the practice of trying to become intentional with your time. Trying to do too many things at once will only bring down the quality of your efforts at anything. Focus on one thing and do that one thing to the best of your ability.
- Turn off the the tech - This is a tough one! Start learning how to enable the "do not disturb" or "DND" setting on your phone and handheld devices. And here are a few other things you should turn off:
- TV: You've heard the statistics on how many hours a day the average American watches TV. But do you really want to be "average"?
- Email: If you're like me, you want to answer every email immediately as it arrives into your inbox. Or you sit down at your desk and the first thing you do is open email. I guarantee you that 90% of the time there are no ticking time bombs in there that can't wait until you spend some time on your big rocks first.
- Social Media: This is probably one of the biggest "time wasters" we've seen in decades. Checking in on Aunt Susan's kitchen remodel does nothing to help you achieve your goals.
- Find your spot - It’s very important to have a place where your brain immediately understands that you mean business. Some people have a home office or a dedicated room. They step in, close the door, and they know it's time to focus until they step out. But as I mentioned, there have been times when my "spot" was a certain table at a particular coffee shop.
- Enroll in Commute University - I used to have a one-hour commute to and from the daily grind, so I quickly learned to find ways to make that time valuable to myself, my goals, and eventually, my business. As Warren Buffet famously stated, "the more you learn the more you earn". There are so many podcasts and audiobooks out there that you can often even find them in your own chosen business niche. A couple of my favorite podcasts that had a big impact on were The SmartPassive Income Podcast by Pat Flynn and This is your life by Michael Hyatt. In fact, much of this post is attributed to things I've learned from Michael Hyatt!
- Use your calendar - If you schedule it, it will likely happen. Spend just a little bit of time planning your day, or perhaps your week. This helps you see where your time is allocated and will allow you to add/remove, adjust, or flex your time to build your course.
- Clone yourself - This was a hard one for me because I’ve always been the type of person that likes to do everything. After all, nobody does a better job than me...right? WRONG! Many entrepreneurs fail when it comes to delegation. You can actually create more time if you simply focus on the things that you add value to and allow others to handle the things that can be done by someone else. When you master delegation and outsourcing, you'll then start leveraging your time. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money on outsourcing. Whether you hire someone on UpWork or simply buy a Fiverr job, you will be multiplying your efforts.
- Get good sleep - This one was difficult for me because I’ve always had the tendency to work at something until I absolutely crash. It's that 24/7 hustle mentality again. But am I really any good at anything when my brain isn't functioning? When I'm rested I have the ability to focus and I can be more productive. There are seasons in life where you stay up late to push out a project, but it’s not healthy and moreover you can’t sustain a schedule like that for long before your health starts to head south. I’ve learned to go to bed early (or earlier at least) and I even got to the point where I will take short naps during the day to help recharge me a bit. You can read about how Michael Hyatt takes naps everyday.
- Exercise - This was eye-opening for me. When I went full time into entrepreneurship, I decided to make some other changes in my life as well and I signed up for a gym membership. Once I started exercising daily, I noticed that I felt more energy and stamina throughout the day. Not only that, but I would use the time at the gym to listen to podcasts to learn new skills and get ideas. Don’t wait! Start getting more energy now by doing something, anything! Even if it’s just walking around the block. The late Steve Jobs used to take lots of walks to help him think and problem solve. My good friend and business partner Nate jumps on his bicycle and takes rides periodically during the day to help clear the mind and think.
- Eat healthy - Have you ever gone to a Chinese buffet for lunch and then upon arriving back at the office you find that you're ready to slip into a deep coma? This sort of thing has a much larger effect on productivity than people think. I've tried all kinds of diets, but I always fall off the wagon. Diets teach you how to lose a few pounds, but they don't teach you to change your lifestyle to make yourself better. Eat often and eat clean. I’ve noticed that by doing this I’ve gained more energy and focus with my work.
[NOTE] - There is a blog by Yuri Elkiam that I am hooked on right now...lots of great information on health, well-being, and fitness. I'd recommend checking it out.
- Step away - I know this sounds counter productive, but it’s not. Sometimes stepping away helps your mind to regroup. It allows your mind to reflect on what you have accomplished and sometimes this allows you to solve a problem or generate more ideas. This also prevents burnout and frustration. As mentioned before, take a walk around the block and simply clear your head. On many occasions I've done this only to return to my desk to solve a problem I was stuck on. Thankfully, I work from home and my wife reminds me to do this throughout the day, but if you need some help just do a Google search for "pomodoro timers".
You may not use every single one of these tips, however, for me these have been extremely helpful.
Do you have any time hacks or productivity secrets you'd like to share? Feel free to share them in the comments below.