I want to pursue a side project. What’s one way I can accomplish my personal goals while keeping my company in tip-top shape?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Ease Into It
Practice your leave before you start pursuing your project by preparing your staff to function without your presence. Show up at the office unannounced so your team stays on top of their game. Most importantly, never completely disappear.
2. Appoint a Key Figure From Within
Establish a key figure in the company who can stand in for you while you take the necessary time needed for your second venture. Not only will it relieve a lot of the workload off of you, but it will give that person the boost within the company that they were probably seeking.
3. Sacrifice Personal Time
This is actually something I am going through right now. I had a great side project opportunity approach me, and I knew going in that I couldn’t pull time away from my business. It’s required me to sacrifice a chunk of time on the weekends and also in the evenings. When it comes down to it, if you want to pursue a side project bad enough, you have to give up some of your personal time.
4. Find a Great Partner
After receiving a per diem while filming an episode of Shark Tank, I was inspired to launch PerDiems.org, a 501(c)3 that reallocates per diems from people who don’t need them to pay for food to Americans struggling with food insecurity. Since I don’t have the capacity to be the CEO of another company, I enlisted an amazing co-founder to execute the vision while I serve as a board member.
5. Schedule It
The key to managing your attention is to give attention to your calendar. Schedule in the days and times you’ll work on your project and adhere to the schedule fiercely. This will ensure you don’t allow what I call “attention creep,” which is when your attention strays and gets pulled into something you thought would be much less of a commitment.
6. Sacrifice Half a Weekend Day
Realize that anything worth doing will require some sacrifice. As a business leader, you’ve likely already maxed out your weekdays, so be prepared to devote part of your weekend to your side project. I reserve the first half of every Saturday for my passion projects. This is often the most distraction-free time of the week, and you’ll be surprised how much you can get done.
7. Outsource Side Project Tasks to a Personal Assistant
I recently used a personal assistant to handle side project tasks. Not only did she do a great job, but she reduced my working time in half for the project. Finding someone to outsource tasks to — whether it’s a personal assistant or a freelancer — is a great way to keep your side project moving forward without devoting too much of your time.
8. Train and Delegate
Is anyone else ready to step up and take the reins while you’re trying new things? If not, you may want to start training someone for your own sake. You should have someone you can trust in place in case you have an emergency, and you can also start taking on side projects and vacations more easily.
9. Set Boundaries
People always have side projects, whether it’s painting the house, helping a charity, etc. When taking on something like this, it is important to set very specific hours. For example, no interruptions pertaining to any side project during office hours is a good start. Set boundaries.
10. Dedicate Morning Time
Carve out 30-60 minutes of dedicated time in the morning for your passion project. Booking time in your calendar and ensuring it is “sacred time” for your passion project is the only way it’s going to get done. It has to be a priority or other things will certainly eat up your time. Everybody says they’re busy, but we each have the same 24 hours per day. How will you use yours?
11. Go to a Hackathon
Take a weekend to dedicate to your side project and work on it at a hackathon. The advantage of the hackathon is the mindset and people. You work faster, find talented people and can get the project out faster that way.
12. Find the Intersection of Where Your Side Project and Business Can Meet
If it’s possible, try to incorporate your side projects into your business. For example, I’ve integrated a philanthropic initiative into my business that speaks to my company’s strengths. It’s an initiative where my love of philanthropy and digital technologies overlap. That’s the goal: to find the intersection of your skills and your interests.