The 16 Things I Learned Working 20 Hours a Week Building a Business in 2015 (while still having a regular job)

Successfully Building a Business

I did it!!!!

That picture you see is me celebrating achieving my New Year's resolution for 2015. At the start of the year, I set myself the goal of working on average 20 hours a week building my business, EVERY WEEK, for the whole year (while still working a regular job). 

I've got to be honest, it was tough. It required a huge amount of discipline and a surprising amount of planning too. In the process, I learned a lot, both about myself, and what it takes to achieve your goals and New Year's resolutions.

I will share these discoveries with you now. My hope is that it will give you the motivation to set and stick to your own New Year's resolutions, the information on what to expect and the proof that it's worthwhile.

And the lessons I've learned from this one year journey can be applied to any area. While my experiment focused on the benefits to building a business, these lessons will apply just as readily to someone looking lose weight, implement a regular exercise routine, enforce regular meditation or do anything on a consistent basis, throughout the year, while having multiple pressures on their time.

So basically, what I'm saying is, if you have a goal to achieve in 2016 then you need to read this! 

Before we Start

Before we dive into the list, let me clarify a few things. 

Firstly, when I say 'building a business', I'm referring to all work on my Screw the System project. This means blogging, updating my book, creating videos (here's one related to this post), updating social media, attending and giving talks and coaching (not my hypnotherapy though). 

Secondly, my 'regular job' is not regular (more on the relevance of this as we delve into the list). My main source of income is through tennis coaching and then hypnotherapy. I make a small amount of money (book sales) through the Screw the System project but it is certainly not enough to live on. (However, through the solid foundation I've built during 2015, I look to 2016 as the year I'll earn half my income through StS). 

Thirdly, I did not work 20 hours a week on building my business every week. It was an average. During the spring and summer it was more like 15 hours a week, while during the Autumn and Winter it got up to 25 hours and occasionally more.

To record my hours, I ticked a page in my diary (see pic) to keep up to date with my progress. On completing a block of 2 hours 45 minutes, I would tick that day off as complete. 

Why did I choose 2 hours 45 minutes?

Add that up over 7 days and it comes to approximately 20 hours for the week. It was a figure inspired by reading an article on Jon Morrow's site Boost Blog Traffic. He states that in order to create a successful blog (with a huge amount of traffic), you have to be prepared to put in 20 to 40 hours work a week for 4 to 6 years. 

So, now you've got the background info, let's get into the list. 

1. THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN UTTERLY IMPOSSIBLE IF I'D WORKED A REGULAR JOB! 

I have the upmost respect for anybody building a business, or creating a dream, whilst working a regular 9 to 5 job. I couldn't do it! 
We all know that a 9 to 5 is rarely a 9 to 5. When you include travel, and the strong likelihood you'll be required to work overtime, you'll probably be occupied from the hours of seven thirty in the morning to roughly seven thirty or eight at night. That gives you one quality hour a night to build your business (if you're extremely motivated and don't have any other interests) and means you'll have to work 15 hours over the weekend.
As I said earlier, over a sustained period of time, there's no way I could have done this (and I like to consider myself a highly motivated person).

2. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING IN CHARGE OF YOUR TIME

The only way I could dedicate 20 hours a week to building my business, while working others jobs, was to be in complete control of my time. On average, throughout the year, my combined 'regular job' of tennis coaching and hypnotherapy probably occupied a little over 30 hours a week. However, I got to set my hours. Typically, I'd have every week day morning between the hours of 9 and 1 free to work on building my business. 
This was probably the number one reason for me achieving my goal. Do not underestimate the importance of working less time and earning less money if it allows you to focus on something you consider to be your higher purpose!

3. THIS WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE IF I'D TAKEN A VACATION! 

For the whole of 2015, I never went abroad. I had about four weekends away either visiting my Grandma or going somewhere with my girlfriend. The rest of the time I was at home.
This may horrify some of you who work 'regular jobs' and use the thought of their next vacation as motivation to get through what can otherwise be a monotonous year. However, to paraphrase Seth Godin, when you're living and creating 'a life you don't need to escape from', you don't really miss vacations.

4. I NEVER FELT 'BURNT OUT' 

Baring my few weekends away, I had no time off during 2015. I worked pretty consistently for 50 hours a week, EVERY week of the year. However, I never felt 'burnt out'.
How could this be?
The simple answer is that all of my work inspires me. You see I don't believe it's hard work that makes you tired. It's demotivating work that drains you. Working hard on something that inspires you makes you stronger.

5. I LOVE AND NEED MY SLEEP

I achieved this goal while regularly sleeping 8 hours a night (occasionally less, rarely more). I don't believe that cutting down on sleep, or taking supplements so that you can work longer, is a route to greater productivity. Being fully alert and happy is the route to greater productivity, and over a sustained period of time, this can only be achieved by sleeping well.

6. I LOVE AND NEED MY EXERCISE 

As is the case with number 5, this was something I wasn't prepared to sacrifice. You can read about my exercise routine and why I feel it should never be sacrificed to the demands of a job here. I'm certain that my strict adherence to it was vital in recharging my mind and keeping me full of energy. 

7. IT GOT EASIER AS THE YEAR WENT ON

This is something everybody who disciplines themselves to do something that, on occasions, they'd rather not do, experiences. There were times when I wanted to veg out and watch TV or browse the internet, but the more I forced myself to work, the more I enjoyed it.
It becomes a habit and this bodes well for anyone wanting to alter their eating habits, exercise more or cut out an addiction. Keep going because it gets easier. 

8. IT WAS EASIER BECAUSE I KEPT TRACK OF MY PROGRESS

You've seen the picture of my diary above. This was a big big reason I completed my goal. I felt a huge wave of motivation every time I ticked a day off. It made me hungry for the next one.

9. PUTTING IN THE HOURS PAYS OFF

As a result of achieving this goal, I gained more subscribers in 2015 than I did in the previous two and a half years combined. 
Previous to this year, the hours I put in were sporadic. I'd put in the odd 20 hours a week when I was working on something time sensitive, but then might only put in 5 hours a week when I was busy tennis coaching during the summer. Making sure there was never a time when I was putting in less than 15 hours a week this year was vital to maintaining my momentum. And as any sports person knows, momentum brings results.

10. PUTTING IN THE HOURS DOESN'T PAY OFF

Hard work alone doesn't bring results. Although the jump in my subscriber rate was pleasing, my book sales didn't match this growth and overall, I didn't achieve the impact I'd hoped that amount of work would.
What's the conclusion?
Smart work is essential. I wasted too much time messing around with social media when it could have been more effectively used writing guest posts for other sites.

11. SET YOURSELF MINI GOALS WITHIN THE TIME YOU WORK

This links to the concept of working smart. If you want to make the most out of a 2 hour time slot, then set yourself a task to achieve within that time frame. For example, I now insist on writing 300 publishable words per hour for any of my blog posts or books. It stops me daydreaming and made December of 2015 my most productive month by far.

12. PLANNING IS CRUCIAL TO ACHIEVING ANY GOAL

This was the biggest surprise to me. Working hard wasn't the difficult part. Looking at my calendar and figuring out what 'paid work' I'd have to cancel, to fit in my hours, was. It was a constant juggling act. I didn't want to piss off any of my tennis or hypnotherapy clients yet I knew that if I didn't carefully manage my time, and say NO to extra work and social events, then I'd never achieve my goal

13. DISCIPLINE BEATS INSPIRATION EVERY TIME

I've tried the whole, 'work when the inspiration hits you' approach. Problem is, the inspiration doesn't strike enough. It's far better to have a set schedule for you business building work. If you're feeling inspired, great; if not, well then at least you still get some work done. 

14. RELATIONSHIPS WILL SUFFER UNLESS YOU'RE VERY VIGILANT

I'm close to my parents, have one girlfriend and three close friends. I don't have time for anything more. I even worry that I don't give enough time to these relationships - my girlfriend would certainly say so!
But what's success for? So that you can reach the top of the mountain and enjoy being there by yourself?
This is why, no matter what, you have to maintain your relationships and humanity. Sacrificing a friend in need for your own work is not an option. However, realise that you might come close to doing this on many occasions. Just be vigilant! 

15. THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS THAN MONEY 

I could have earned an extra $20,000 this year if I focused solely on tennis coaching and hypnotherapy. Some of you may find it insane that I consider myself richer for having put that time to use building my business.
I believe time will prove this to be a worthy financial investment but it isn't all about the money. The feedback I've received from some of you concerning the impact of my book and work has given me a sense of satisfaction I struggle to put into words. You don't get to walk this higher path when financial concerns are the driving force behind your decisions. 

16. ACHIEVING THIS GOAL WAS AN INCREDIBLE BOOST TO MY SELF-ESTEEM

Sitting here, writing this blog post in early 2016, I feel incredibly strong. Part of that comes from knowing I'm a person who can set himself a goal and achieve it. I feel good about myself and I want you to feel good about yourself too. 
So find a goal for 2016 that has a deep personal meaning to you, and will benefit your life in some way, and set out on a mission to achieve it. Do not sway in your commitment, and do not compromise the goal for anything, and I guarantee that this time next year you will have been hugely enriched by the experience. 

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