7 Habits You Must Quit In Order To Build an Online Business on the Side

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Are you wondering how much of a sacrifice is required to build an online business if you currently have a day job and family?

This post lays out 7 habits I enjoyed but happily chose to give up in order to get serious about growing my online business.

Plus I let you in on the 1 tip that made giving up these habits not feel like a sacrifice.

Each habit took up a portion of my time and energy that was not used to grow my business. By cutting out these activities and applying more diligent focus in the last 2 years I have seen my business grow consistently from $1-2k/month to over $10k/month.

My typical online business work schedule has me working 2-3hrs each weeknight (7:30pm-10:30pm) and 6hrs per day on weekends when my son is sleeping. My total hrs worked on my business is typically around 25hrs/week (some weeks can be a lot higher).

 7 Habits of Not Yet Succesful Online Entrepreneurs…

  1. TV – This one is the single biggest time sink for most people and probably was for me as well. The average American watches a disturbing 34hrs per week of TV (almost 5hrs per day 7 days a week!). I was below that but was still wasting too many hrs each week watching TV/movies. For the last year I have cut my hrs down to about 1 show per season (just can’t give up Game of Thrones!).
    • Before = 9hrs/week
    • Now = 1-2hrs/week
  2. Reading the News/Industry Blogs – If you read the news everyday it feels like a lot is happening in the world. However, if you randomly check in on the news once per month you realize very little changes. This was an easy item to cut and although I feel like I am not as well informed about important issues the trade-off is worth it. Also my Google Reader, now Feedly, used to be packed with great blogs I felt I needed to keep tabs on but have since decided to only read posts that are directly applicable to me at the time.
    • Before = 3hrs/week
    • Now = 0.5hrs/week
  3. Facebook/Social Networks – Ok fine, I still go on Facebook but I definitely go on it less and avoid getting into lengthy messenger chats on Facebook/Skype/Google+.
    • Before = 4 hrs/week
    • Now = 1hr/week
  4. Computer/Video Games – If you have seen the number of graphs I include in my income reports and my reference to the Game of Thrones above it probably isn’t a shocker I am a bit of a geek and do enjoy my computer games. After TV giving up computer games was probably the most beneficial item I gave up. When I am working and hit a tough spot it was/is tempting to stop and play “just a quick 1/2hr” then 3 hrs later no work is done. However, pushing through that tough spot and getting the hard work done is the most important time for me. So, although it wasn’t the biggest time sink it was the activity that I gave up that had the biggest per hr benefit to my business. If you are serious about growing your online business I would encourage you to think about what alternative activity do you turn to when working on your business becomes no-fun. If you can identify what that activity is and then cut it out your alternatives will not be as attractive when you hit a tough spot and you will be more likely to power through and get the hard/important work done.
    • Before = 6 hrs/week
    • Now = 0.5hrs/week (damn you Clash of Clans still being on my phone)
  5. Exercise/Sports – I used to enjoy doing activities several nights a week (tennis, biking, soccer, baseball). However, over the last few years I have definitely trimmed these hrs. Every other activity I gave up I am confident it was a wise choice but this one may not be. I still need to find the right balance to get some extra recreation/exercise hrs into my weeks.
    • Before = 10hrs/week
    • Now = 2hrs/week
  6. Reading Books – I probably like to think I did this more than I actually did but working on my business has given me a good excuse to completely give this up. Reading a good biography was always enjoyable when I did it regularly but as I increased the % of my free time I worked on my business cutting out reading of books made sense. I still listen to Podcasts and a diverse set of non-fiction Audiobooks when driving.
    • Before = 2hrs/week
    • Now = 0hrs/week
  7. Home Improvement Projects – I am mediocre at home improvement projects (fence/deck were good but I had to call in for help to finish a full bathroom reno I started). I had plans of getting better at it and doing a few more projects around the house but I have since decided that the satisfaction I get out of doing the projects myself and cost savings is not worth the time I could spend building my business. The total amount of time spent averaged out over a year wasn’t too bad but the problem with these projects is they would be completely time consuming when I was in them and I wouldn’t grow my business at all for a couple weeks.
    • Before = 2hrs/week (~100hrs/year of projects)
    • After = 0hrs/week (obviously the usual house maintenance is still required)
deck-almost-complete

Deck Project Almost Complete

Bathroom-Reno-Joist-Move

Bathroom Project – Moving Joists and Plumbing was a Little Too Much!

 

The math of the hrs saved to the number of hrs I work on my business doesn’t exactly work out and the reason for that is because not all the hrs that were trimmed went into my business. A lot of the hrs have gone into spending time with my son whenever he is awake and I am in the house.

 

A few things I haven’t and won’t cut…

  • Family Time with my wife and baby boy – I don’t work when he is awake, except under some rare occasions.
  • A few key sports I am not willing to go without – Skiing and Biking are too important to me and I will not be giving them up for a more successful business.
  • Working extra hrs at my day job to make sure I deliver- I enjoy my challenging day job and want to be sure to always deliver so I definitely have to put in more then the standard 40hrs/week to make that happen.
  • Sleep – It is tempting to sacrifice sleep to get more work done but it is always a short-term fix that in the end has me working less productive hrs the next days until I am caught up. Some times it feels necessary to work extra hrs to meet a deadline but my goal is to avoid time management mistakes that result in me working extra hrs robbing my sleep.

 

Why It Doesn’t Feel Like a Sacrifice

Building a business that provides value to people and generates both passive and active income all from my computer part time is a lot of FUN! The idea of building a website with nothing more than a $10 domain and a $5/month hosting package plus A LOT of hard work that can grow to make up $3,000/month (or more) is still mind blowing. Coming up with an idea, putting a plan together and managing a team that turns the idea into reality all from my computer at night is simply an amazing opportunity that I am thankful technology has afforded me and you.

But the number one reason why all the hard work doesn’t feel like a sacrifice is because the idea that as I reach the goals I have set out, the life (in terms of freedom/security) I can provide for my family is incredibly motivating.

 

What Have you Given Up to Build Your Online Business? What Motivates You to Give Those Things Up?

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Comments

  1. Sadly, I’ve also had to give up on most of my TV (still watch Arrow on Hulu, hah!). Like you I’ve gotten extremely picky with the blogs on my feed as well. I’ve even cut out amazing blogs like Smart Passive Income just because the content doesn’t really match my current online business goals (niche site building).
    But hey, there’s only so many hours in a day to do this on the side. Gotta make time somewhere!

    • Hey Jason, I hear you with the sites…although some are enjoyable to read we just have to be honest if the benefit of them is moving our business forward or just enjoyment.

      • Hey Jason / John, I would be interested to see which blogs are in fact in your feed. Maybe that’s content for another post?

  2. Hey Jon, you nailed it!

    Your top 3 habits are the same as mine. We dropped cable almost 2 years ago and it has been awesome. We still watch some shows online a couple times a week. But we don’t have to watch commercials anymore.

    I haven’t cut out the exercise and I might workout more now just to get away from the computer screens…but sometimes I combine watching TV and working out. They have cable at the gym too so that’s nice. :)

    I used to brew beer a lot back in the day…So I would spend about 5 hours every week on beer brewing. I would correspondingly spend more time drinking too. I’ve cut back tremendously on brewing and spend about 5 hours every 2 months now.

    It’s all about priorities.

    • Hey Doug…don’t cut out the beer! Well at least you didn’t entirely cut out the beer so that is good.

      Going no TV seems to be the biggest/easiest win for most people.

      Finding the right balance with exercise is key and sounds like you have it so that is great.

  3. I used to play a TON of video games, sometimes 20-30 hrs a week but have since cut down a lot. Sometimes I have to tell myself to enjoy my weekends.

    I think lately it’s finding that my girlfriend mostly would like to watch TV when we are hanging out. In 8 months I’ve watched all of the Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Following, Storage Wars, Once Upon A Time, Shameless and some movies here and there.

    I find the best thing for me to do is to keep the mindset that I must keep going with my online projects. I then have specific days I spent with my girlfriend and others I can go up on the computer and either play a game for a bit alone or spend hours working on an online project. Now that I’ve stuck with it I’m actually making some profit online and it’s starting to pay off.

    • Haha, I hear you on the TV/socialize with the girlfriend. The solution to that problem is what Doug from above did and have her start helping you build out your sites with blog commenting etc…or you can get her to run the numbers like my wife. just kidding… congrats on your success so far and I am sure there will be more to come!

  4. Whoa i miss all what you have highlighted here but will start take note of it..

  5. Great article, Jon. I’m just starting out, but reducing my TV/video game time as well as reading books and magazines (do that during lunch break now) has definitely freed up valuable time after my wife goes to bed (~10pm). I usually work on my sites from 10pm to 1/2am, depending on how I feel that night. Sometimes I dedicate some “me time” to the sites on weekends, if possible.
    Love listening to podcasts in the car as well and everytime I’m on Facebook now, it’s to maintain my FB presence for my sites. Hardly ever look at my personal newsfeed anymore.

    Really looking forward how this will all play out, but it’s been a lot of fun (and work) so far. I feel like I’ve actually did something useful, while in the past watching TV until I fell asleep in front of the TV didn’t get me anywhere.

    Dan

    • Good stuff Dan, sounds like you have made all the tough choices pretty quickly and I am sure you will be well on your way.

  6. Jon – this post compliments the one I wrote last week perfectly. I just recently re-evaluated my work-life balance and i love that you mention that you don’t work when your little one is awake. I too try to do this and even budgeted my “work time” after the kiddos go to sleep. I also made an effort to prioritize time with my wife so as to preserve our marriage. No side income/business is worth not having time with your family.

    my post for reference in case anyone wants to check it out. Jon you can edit this out if you feel its self-promotional: http://nickleroy.com/work-life-balance

    • Hey Nick, thanks for sharing your schedule. Looks like you have a pretty good plan for finding balance its just tough to execute!

  7. Most of the things were exactly mine. Now, I just get motivated on seeing my project grow online. I always thought watching TV is a big waste of time. Family time, exercise and sleeping is a must do in other to stay sane. :)

  8. Sleep is the number one thing I’ve cut back on – and I don’t miss it at all. The number one reason being that early morning, before the family awakes, is the only time I can get to myself and get anything done. As soon as my kids awake, chaos takes over and nothing gets accomplished online. Even on Saturdays you’ll find me up at 5am and working on my computer. On the rare day that I might accidentally sleep in, I get annoyed with myself for wasting time sleeping when I could have been up doing something to build my business.

    Side note: I don’t set an alarm on Sundays and I rarely do any of my online stuff on Sundays. I think it is important to have that “day of rest,” every single week – even though this internet marketing stuff doesn’t feel like work at all and feels more like fun. I still take a break and devote Sundays completely to spending time with family.

    • Hey Matt, 5am is not a good time of day for me! Whenever I have tried working early AM I am just slow to think. It is a challenge with one child let alone the multiple kids you have! Good for you for carving out some time without taking away from your family!

  9. James Blews says:

    Hey Jon!

    Great post. I truly believe in some of the items you listed being those things you need to slow up on, if not stop completely, to be successful. #2 and #3 are what many, many people view as ‘working hard’ to find more information. Those items of active procrastination (I love that term), make a lot of people feel like they are doing more. Add in going from checking email X times a day to only one or two in there. The reading part you covered I was against, until I starting going the audiobook and podcast route.

    Matthew Allen’s comment about sleep is another really good way to build more success. I used to feel my best hours were at night. Coding until 2AM, and then waking back up at 7AM made sense at the time. But that drained feeling took away from everything including my sanity lol.

    In the end I think your time comes down to creating positive habits (every Wednesday night is no electronics family night, every friday is my date night, every sunday is for rest and scheduling the next week’s items, computer shut off by 8PM, awake by 5AM, etc).

    Either way, you are knocking it out….so no more moving joists and plumbing:p

    • Hi James, I agree with you that #2(especially) and #3 can be tricky because you will think you have been working but you won’t have done anything of value.

      I like the way you set up certain nights to be computer free time.

      The joists and plumbing will be left to the professionals (although I will miss causing destruction with a Sawzall)

  10. Great advice here John. I think family time is the number 1 thing that should not be compromised, otherwise why would anyone seek to make a successful career online.

    I think we all need a balance with exercise. It helps to keep us healthy, focused and refreshed. If you stay totally devoted to sitting in front of a computer without breaks then your body and mind can suffer.

    • Exactly Guy,if we aren’t careful we can convince ourselves we are doing it for our family and then soon realize they don’t know who we are.

  11. Great article Jon, I’ve been cutting out TV recently and swapping radio in the car for audio-books, and only reading the most critical thing for my next move. I used to read so widely around each subject to the point of procrastination but not so much any more.

    • Feeding my brain quality podcasts and audiobooks is a great way to get a little entertainment and at the same time become a little sharper each day. Best of luck building out your business.

  12. A very informative post Jon,
    Its been long i comment here Jon and I’m happy I’m back again:).
    This is the type of post we all need to be reading from time to time in order to know what need to be done and need to stop doing.

    Certainly, for you to be able to achieve anything in life, you must also be willing to let go some things, you must be ready to lay down some sacrifices.

    The things you mentioned here are really the same things that always prevent most of us from being productive and i must tell you that I’m also doing most of them.

    For now, I’ve managed to minimize the time i spends on watching T.V but, the one that is still taking my time which I’m trying to stop is the time i spends on Facebook.

    I might open my browser to work and before i know it, i will decided to check my facebook updates and once i launch Facebook, i will start chatting and before i know it, i will get tired and start feeling sleepy.

    Indeed, i have to quit this act man because, its becoming a pain on my ass :).

    Thanks for sharing Jon.

  13. Jacob Faulkner says:

    Hey, great post. I’ve been falling into some bad habits lately, and this was just the motivation I need to get me back on track. I too have kids, and I feel bad sometimes week I have to work when I’m home. (not that they make it easy)” daddy, daddy ” *knocking on my door. Anyways, thanks for sharing.

  14. You know, i’ve actually dropped every one of those down to 0, except for the exercise one. Exercise helps me be more productive. Also I still watch UFC events… and the occasional youtube video. Just can’t afford the extra time for those things right now. I don’t really miss them though…

  15. Jon,
    I think the post could serve as a good reality check for anyone who things making money online is easy. It certainly can be done, but you have to be willing to make sacrifices. I was in a similar position as you before I left my full-time job, although I didn’t have any kids then. I’m with you on the exercising issue. Even though I left my full-time job I still work far more hours in a week on my own business than I did as an employee and exercise has been one of the casualties. I don’t think that is a good thing, so hopefully I can change that.

  16. Good post Jon. Something I was considering to write as well. I heard exercise is the most important thing you can do for your productivity, so maybe you should keep doing that. As for me, its “house of cards” on netflix thats been really taking away my time. Just cant resist after kids go to bed at night.

  17. Hey Jon,
    I gotta say I’m surprised about your suggestion to cut out exercise. I think foregoing being healthier to build up a business is understandable in short bursts (weeks, PERHAPS months), but I’d rather be healthy than most anything else.

    I’d also throw on the list alcohol. I’ve found that even in small quantities it can interrupt sleep and affect mental acuity. When I go a week or two without a drink, I can tell how much more productive I am than when I’m drinking regularly (I almost only drink wine so I’m not talking massive shots or a 12 pack of beer even).

    One thing I just started doing last week for the first time is to have all my meals delivered to the house. It’s saving me hours and hours a week between shopping, cooking and debating what to eat/cook. Surprisingly, it’s not even that expensive. There are offers for 15 meals a week for $75-$100 dollars per person. Regular prices are $150-$175 here where I live. I’m estimating saving maybe 10 hours a week that way.

  18. What computer games were you playing? And are you talking about road biking or mtb biking?

  19. Hi Jon, I agree with most of the tips that you have given here, I agree TV is a major time killer. I just watch the news clips on Xbox Media Center using the news plugins to get updates on the world. You can avoid most of the above but having family time is important for your personal growth as well. There just so much information out there on the net that I just narrowly target which blogs I follow on the net today, yours is one of them. Keep up the great work!

  20. awesomesness never charges

  21. Jon,

    I like the tips and focus. Unfortunately, the time away from working out has made me less productive.

    If I do not get my fat ass to the gym at least 4-5 times a week, I start to drag and gain weight.

    Tv probably is the biggest time drain for me and Netflix can suck me in.

    At a minimum, if I can’t be motivated to work—–) I’ll try to watch some internet marketing videos on Youtube.

    The key for me is doing something daily regardless of how small.

  22. Reading Books ??? Not reading at all ?:)) is obvious. You need to read books man, you cannot work 24/7 ! Is crazzy :)
    Also, when it comes to sport, you need to do a little bit of sport to keep your brain active :)

    Also, good post, but there are some things I not agree with !

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Sebastian, I read blog posts on my phone and listen to audiobooks but don’t read much. Like I mentioned in the post when my boy isn’t sleeping I am spending time with him and my wife.

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