It’s 9pm on a Tuesday.
The kids are in bed, lunches are made and you’re finally done for the evening.
For most people, this is when feet get propped up on the ottoman and the boob-tube gets fired up. After all, it’s been a long day, you’re tired and you deserve a little rest and relaxation. Right?
There’s nothing wrong with chilling for a bit. I mean, everyone you know does the same thing. It’s just the American way of life. Isn’t it?
For most people, yes. But not you. You’re different. You have a little voice inside telling you there’s more to life. That you’re meant to do bigger things. That you’re destined to become a better version of yourself.
And you know what? That little voice is right…
Because we all have the ability to do great things. To take on new challenges, earn a bigger income and live a life that truly makes us happy.
And you can. It’s just a matter of starting and taking the baby steps you need to get there.
Most people won’t bother to make the effort though. They’re content to just drift along. To maintain the status quo. But you’re not like most people.
Because you know that living life, rather than just existing, means pushing your boundaries, stepping out of your comfort zone and continually growing.
And the only way to get there…is by gravitating toward the margins.
The dictionary defines “margins” in several ways. One entry mentions “the edge of a printed page” while another talks about “a place where something stops.” However, I think the third definition is the most powerful.
An extra amount of something that can be used if needed.
In our case, we’re talking about our time. Because how we use this resource, specifically our free time, goes a long way towards determining what can accomplish – and in the process – who we can become.
We all know that taking on anything new requires a time commitment. If you’re young and single, or not in a relatively demanding job, then it’s no big deal. There’s always evenings and weekends.
But the majority of us don’t fall into that category. Because we’re working eight hours a day, five days a week and have family commitments outside of our careers.
That means finding spare time to work on our passions and hobbies can be tough. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. And as a result, most people settle. They get comfortable. They accept that where they are is where they’re meant to be.
And the gifts that are trapped inside them are never set free.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. We all have time available that we can use to work on our passion projects. But you need a plan. A strategy to make use of all those little spare nuggets of time that crop up throughout the day.
I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy. Most good things in life never are. But each day you can move a little closer to where you want to be. Provided you’re disciplined and stay focused. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
MAKE THE TIME
I know what it’s like to be busy. With a full time job, young kids at home and a house to take care of there’s never a shortage of things to do. But I’m also committed to bettering myself and utilizing the talent that God gave me. And one of those gifts is writing. That means I’m up working on my craft after the kids go to bed, and sometimes again before they wake up.
It’s not that I don’t value sleep (cause I really do), it’s just that my current situation dictates this is how it needs to be. But I know this won’t always be the case. Because the work I’m putting in now is leading to a better future tomorrow. Former NFL receiver Jerry Rice may have said it best:
“Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”
When you’re up at 10pm, exhausted and all you want to do is go to bed, you have to push that feeling aside. Because you’ve just entered the margin of your life. The only place where the actions that will propel you forward actually exist.
These are some of the toughest moments you’ll face when working towards a goal, but they are also some of the most powerful. Because little by little you’re making progress. And all those small steps are adding up to a massive effort. You’re seeing your dream come to pass.
You may have to give up some of your favorite shows or activities at night. So what? What good are they doing you anyway? Once you’ve watched them, that time is gone and you have nothing to show for it.
Maybe you’ll lose an hour or two of sleep. That’s okay – you’ll live. Ask any parent out there and they’ll tell you the same. Just keep in mind that you’re working towards something bigger. Something better.
And when you get there, it’s worth all the struggle. Because you’re doing what you love and accomplishing what you envisioned. You’re priming yourself for your next victory.
You’re living. Not just existing.
KEEP IT RESONABLE
I’ve heard a lot of “experts” say you need to work 24/7 to get a side hustle or passion off the ground. That sleep can wait. That you need to dedicate every waking moment of your life towards reaching your goal.
Well, that may fly for some people, but is it worth the sacrifice in the end? Do you really want to miss that time with your family and friends (that you’ll never be able to get back)? Does it make sense to delay your happiness now in the hopes of growing it in the future?
Not to me. I don’t want to miss the fun that’s inherent to the journey of life.
I’m all about hustling and getting things done. But you’ve got to be smart about it. That means working when it’s time to work, and resting when it’s time to rest. Think of your life like a rubber band – it’s okay to stretch it now and then, but if you pull too hard it’s gonna break.
Don’t stay up so late or get up so early that you’re completely worthless the next day. You’ll be no good to your family, unproductive at work and shooting yourself in the foot with your side efforts.
It’s simple really. Just keep everything in check. Remember that whatever time you dedicate to one area in your life takes away from another.
Personally, I’ve found that I can get by with a little less sleep. Or get up a few minutes earlier, but I can’t go crazy with it. Not with a family that’s depending on me for support and income.
I can’t afford to be this guy.
Don’t sacrifice your health either. Make sure you squeeze in some time for exercise and of course a little fun. Whether it’s hitting the gym, taking a morning walk or just playing with your kids outside on a nice day. These types of activities are just as important to fostering creativity as anything else.
KNOW WHAT’S NEXT
Funny thing about getting up earlier or staying up late to work on your side hustle. It won’t do you any good if don’t have a plan in place for how to use that time. Always know what your next move is going to be. Analyze which action(s) you can take to best leverage your chances for success. Otherwise, your efforts will just be wasted. You’ll travel down the rabbit holes of Facebook, e-Mail and everything else online without getting anything done.
And if you don’t feel like you’re making progress, you’ll lose motivation – and give up.
Have a plan in place of what you want to accomplish long before you wander into the margins of the day. Understand what your priorities are for reaching your next milestone, and most importantly, stick to them.
Keep in mind that there’s really only two main differences between successful people and those that are not. High-achievers have the ability to maintain laser-like focus on their goals, and the determination to keep taking action until they reach them.
I’m not saying you can’t goof off a little now and then. I’ve spent more of my free time researching fantasy football stats than I’d ever care to admit (or thought was humanly possible). But not before getting my work in first. You can – and should – treat yourself to these kinds of moments throughout the day.
Just don’t let the rewards become the only part of the work that gets done.
MAKE IT EASY
Let’s face it. Most of us are lazy.
If something is even remotely a hassle, we’ll go out of our way to avoid it. Especially when it comes to working on our side hustles. Didn’t bring your personal computer to the office today? Guess nothing’s getting done on your lunch break. Left the file you needed on your thumb drive at home? Oh well, you can just work on it later.
The excuses flow like water.
One simple, yet powerful way I found to avoid situations like these is to always save your project files in the cloud. It doesn’t matter if it’s Google Drive, Dropbox or any of the other services out there. As long as you can access your stuff from anywhere.
It’s not the sexiest advice, but keep in mind that even small changes to your workflow can make a huge difference in what you’re able to get done.
Waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office? Whip out your iPad and start working on that next blog post. Taking the evening train home from work? Finish outlining the first chapter of your book. Even taking the dog for a walk is fair game (use the voice recorder on your phone and transcribe the file afterwards).
The point here is to remove as many obstacles as possible that could be used as excuses. Once you do, you’ll be amazed at how much more productive you become.
GET SOME SKIN IN THE GAME
I’ve noticed a funny thing – I can put in a lot more effort when I know there’s money on the line. If a client is paying me to do a job, I’ll find a way to complete it on time (no matter what).
But when it comes to my own personal agenda, it’s much easier to slack off. Maybe I’m tired, or frustrated, or annoyed. Sometimes, I just can’t get my butt in gear. I’m sure there’s some kind of psychological explanation for this, but my gut tells me it’s a much simpler answer – there’s no skin in the game.
There’s no punishment for not getting the work done. No pain. No reward. Nothing.
Human beings are selfish. We like to be rewarded for taking action. This motivation comes easy in our daily lives. We go to work – we get paid. We make our food – we get to eat. The hard part comes when we can’t see what the reward is. When we don’t know how we will benefit.
In other words, What’s In It For Me (WIIFM).
One way to overcome this feeling is by creating some kind of punishment/reward system for doing (or not doing) the required work. Maybe you can give money to a political cause or a candidate that you hate if miss a deadline. Or perhaps you withhold a reward for yourself until you complete the project. Get creative.
It really doesn’t matter what the incentive is, as long as you’re holding your feet to the fire. Because when we don’t feel any pain, we’re not inspired to take action. And no action means no results.
Figure out what applies to you, and find a way to increase your motivation.
Many people say they’ll start on their side hustle when the time is right. When their schedule gets easier, when they have some extra money, or life becomes a little less hectic.
Sounds good, but it’s not realistic.
The truth is: You’re never going to be truly “ready” to do anything.
Until you make the choice to commit to your passions, there will always be something that gets in the way. There’s always going to be a reason why you “just can’t” or an excuse telling you to wait.
But don’t let that stop you.
Action begets action. That means you just need to start moving (even with baby steps) and the path will appear before you. A friend of mine once told me a great analogy for this.
“It’s like the propeller on an airplane. The first few rotations always require the most effort to get going. After that, momentum kicks in and it becomes easier with each revolution.”
Now it’s up to you.
Are you ready to fill in the margins and take flight? Or are you going to let excuses leave you grounded on the runway?
What’s holding you back? How can you work within the margins to reach your goals? I’ve love to hear your story. Leave a comment below and let’s get the conversation started.