Time is our most valuable commodity, especially for the average reader of this blog who is preoccupied with their jobs and struggles to find time to work on their side business. Time is scarce and we need to manage it as efficiently and effectively as possible.
With several conflicting priorities in life, we must identify what are manageable priorities vs. what are not. I will not get into managing personal and family time because each one of our situations is uniquely different and to a high varying degree.
What I can speak to somewhat intelligently however is managing your workload at your job, so you don’t have to put in any more time than you have to. Before going further, if your goal is to climb the corporate ladder, then the previous comment doesn’t apply to you. You have already made a decision and committed yourself to a path, thus you will do what it takes (and often times that involves tons of hours, long nights, weekends working and lost holidays and time off).
Similarly, if you are working an hourly job, the decision has already been made for you, unless of course you have the option of working over time. If so, it is for you to decide whether you want to spend additional hours working for dollars, or invest those hours in building a long term business.
That leaves us with one more scenario, one in which you hold a stable salaried job and supplement it with a side business. You may not necessarily want to move up the corporate ladder in this situation and are comfortable where you already are. Unfortunately, because of the current economic times and job landscape, it is becoming more difficult to keep that kind of a stable job without producing more. Every employer is trying to squeeze out as much as they can from every position in the company. Chances are, you too have been putting in some extra hours, or at least you are or will be expected to.
Every little bit you spend above and beyond expectations is a bit you take away from your side business. These little bits add up quite significantly over time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating short changing your employer. In fact, you should be giving your 110% when on the clock. You are getting paid for it, and your job is currently your bread and butter. But since expectations are the measurement criteria, I am advocating managing up to those expectations, and there is a way to do that.
If you have reached this far into this discussion, you either work a decent salaried job in client service or in industry. Client services is painful to the point of legalized slavery in my opinion, whereas industry is a bit more bearable from a work-life balance perspective. That said, both are part of the greater “Corporate America”.
What I am about to discuss is not always true, but typically the rule of thumb. Because client services is a fast paced world in which individuals are rewarded on performance and “can do”, the weak often leave or are weeded out rather early in the game. Industry is slower, steadier and often times a place where those who leave client services end up and join the lazier life. In industry, individuals are often rewarded based on tenure as well as performance. Some will tell you that it is all about seniority.
Understanding the profiles of the individuals who make up each culture is important when managing expectations upward. In client services, individuals manage to their billable hours (or busy work). Managers often “slave drive” their staff to accomplish tight deadlines. In industry, you might have some Managers that do this, but for the most part most of them are easier going.
The reason why Managers are able to successfully slave drive their staff is because 1) they can 2) it benefits them and 3) they often times don’t know or realize when it is too much to handle for their staff since they have been used to this type of treatment all their careers.
The fundamental problem here lies within the staff. Most people that work in corporate America keep their heads down below the radar and work away. There can be several reasons for this such as personality types, comfort levels, work style, confidence and even language barriers and cultural differences. Keeping your head down and staying under the radar is good in some situations, but you must have the presence of mind and awareness to realize when it is time to get up and get in the mix.
You may not realize it but there are many opportunities for you to speak up without appearing rebellious. Think about it, how many times has your Manager asked you “how is it going?” in passing? You have your annual reviews (maybe even multiple times a year)as well as water cooler gatherings in the break room. These are perfect opportunities for a healthy dialogue with your Manager.
If you plan on discussing a better work/life balance during any of these occasions, use some tact and do not jump right in. Start the discussion with a topic that interests them. For example, when you are asked how you are doing, respond positively and indicate you are feeling good about your current project or task on hand. You can always segway into “hey Tim, do you have a couple minutes?” briefly into the exchange.
At the end of the day, Managers too are human. They cannot read your mind, not can you converse with them through mental telepathy. They don’t know what you don’t tell them, so the onus is on you to tell them how you feel. You can always resort to the traditional methods of Email or inviting them for lunch depending on your relationship with them.
Always remember however to start positive and discuss general matters before getting into your specific dilemma. What you want to convey in your professional exchange is the intensity of your workload. They key here is to buy more time for yourself. Be clear on what is expected from you and propose the adequate time you need to accomplish the tasks.
Use all your cards. If you know your Manager is an emotional personality, tell them your workload is affecting your relationships and life outside work. That was just an example, but the point is 1) identify how you can relate to them and 2) provide examples that relate directly.
I once worked with a guy who was the master at this. The guy was using all kinds of justifications, emotional, social, spiritual, you name it. He was easily buying 5-10 hours of cushion on a 40 hour task. That is up to a 25% buffer. That’s huge. Savvy negotiators who manage to do that can easily find more time to work on their side businesses.
Like I said earlier however, I am not advocating you short change your employer, but don’t let them pile bricks on you either. Sure, there are pressing situations sometimes, but those should come and go in waives. As a good employee, you will be expected to pull your weight during these times. If the waives become consistent however, you know that it is time to speak up and push back diplomatically.
Some people do not have this option because their skill-sets are not marketable enough for them to get hired elsewhere. They know they can’t quit. The average reader of this blog however is not that person. If fire drills become the norm at work, there is something much worse going on than slave driving.
I recommend you immediately pause your side gig and find a better balance elsewhere before resuming it. Otherwise, you may want to practice the conversation with your Manager the night before to be more fluid and confident during your dialogue.
The bottom line is that you have to maintain a healthy balance in your life. This not only involves keeping yourself healthy, eating well and spending time with family, but also successfully managing your job and side business.
I know that what I am suggesting is not always possible. Trust me, I have been there. But knowing that it is possible by simply taking some action may work for you. The intention of this post is to point out the fact that most Managers will try to squeeze as much out of their staff as they can, similarly to how they were squeezed when they were climbing the ladder.
Truth is though that many do not know how long it takes you to do certain things. So instead of burning yourself out to deliver on their demands, take a step back and discuss their expectations of you with them to negotiate and better manage your work load.
People often vent and complain in private, to their spouses, friends, dogs and the wall, but rarely do they push back to their Managers. Pushing back in this context simply means conveying your feelings in a polite and acceptable manner. Don’t be like most of the folks you see around you. Actively manage up deadlines and overall workload as much as you can. Prioritize and deliver solid results to earn credibility. This will help you continue to effectively negotiate with your Managers.
I will repeat again that what I am suggesting is not a rule and does not always work 100% of the time. Not everything I have discussed applies to all situations all the time either. Don’t get too bogged down with what always applies vs. what does not. Rather focus on the message that I am attempting to deliver here.
No matter what environment you are in, if you are working for someone, the key lesson is that if you are struggling to find time outside your job to work on your business because you are being worked too much, you must speak up and manage expectations upward. If you don’t, you will be taken for a ride like millions of other hard working individuals out there. Hey, someone needs to do the work!
What are some of the ways you have been able to create time for your side gigs? What would you do if you were to start it up on the side?