How to Find Time for Your Side Hustle: 3 Fundamental Productivity Hacks and How to Unlock an Extra 2 Hours a Day

You’re busy.

I get it.

There’s never enough time in the day to get it all done.

Yet you’re reading this … so that tells me you have a least some free time to dedicate to improving your productivity and starting or growing a side hustle.

This post will share my 3 favorite productivity “hacks” I’ve learned over the years, but before we dive into those, we need to get a couple things straight when it comes to time.

Related: If you like these, I think you’ll like The Progress Journal, my personal productivity tracking tool.

Two Non-Negotiable Truths About Time

Rule #1: We all get the same 24 hours in a day.

The first non-negotiable truth about time is that we’re all dealt the same 24 hours in a day. Time is a uniquely egalitarian asset. Rich, poor, black, white, male, female, we all have the same 24 hours.

Have you ever thought about where all those hours go? Have you accounted for them?

Simply tracking how you spend your hours is a powerful productivity hack in itself.

Rule #2: “I don’t have time” is code for “I prioritized something else.”

The second thing you’ll need to come to terms with as a side hustler is to remove the phrase “I don’t have enough time” from your vocabulary — and replace it with what you really mean: “I prioritized something else.”

I’m not casting judgement because I’m guilty of saying “I don’t have time” myself, but each time I catch myself doing it, I try and smack myself with a dose of honesty: “I prioritized something else.”

It actually feels better to phrase it that way, even if the near-term outcome is the same, because it puts you back in the driver seat. Instead of being a passive victim to your busy schedule, the subtle language shift gives you renewed ownership over your hours.

And here’s the thing: what you prioritize is entirely up to you.

We find time for the things that are most important to us.

Food, family, friends, football, Facebook, freelancing — we vote with our attention every hour of the day.

There aren’t any right or wrong votes, but the goal of this post is to get you thinking about your true priorities and where the time you need for them is going to come from.

Fundamental Productivity Hack #1: Track Your Time

This dead-simple productivity exercise serves as your baseline. After all, if you don’t know where your time is currently going, it’s really hard to improve.

I normally just do this in Excel but if you’re more app-happy, give Toggl or Everhour a try. For an automated way to track my computer time, I use RescueTime.

This is important for a few reasons. First, it will make you more productive while you’re doing it simply by tricking your brain you’re “on the clock.”

Next, it will give you a detailed record of where your hours are going so you can analyze the results and look for opportunities to:

  • Eliminate
  • Automate
  • Delegate

Looking at each task through the lens of the elimination / automation / delegation framework is a powerful way to identify those tasks:

  • You don’t really need to do.
  • There’s a smarter way to do.
  • Someone else could do.

I recommend doing the time-tracking experiment for at least 2 weeks to get a good body of data and begin to recognize patterns in your prioritization.

I think you’ll find you have more time for your side hustle than you thought!

Fundamental Productivity Hack #2: Write Your Top Priorities Every Night

When I spoke to John Lee Dumas about mastering productivity, discipline, and focus, one topic that came up was the concept of “winning tomorrow today.”

Each night, I have the practice of itemizing out my top 3 priorities for the next day. It helps so when I start work, I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.

This is one of the core habits I’ve baked into The Progress Journal, my personal productivity tracking tool.

Fundamental Productivity Hack #3: Do ONE Proactive Task Before Anything Else

This year, I’ve finally managed to break the decade-long bad habit of diving into my inbox first thing in the morning. Instead, I force myself to do one proactive task first — usually related to the highest priority item I listed the night before.

Often, I’m able to completely finish that most-important task before ever checking my email, and it feels great.

This sets me up with a ton of positive momentum for the day, and even if there are a ton of fires to put out I can chalk up a win in knocking out my highest priority task.

I keep a visual reminder of this habit on my wall with my micro habit tracker, which helps because I’m the kind of person who gets a nice feeling of satisfaction from checking that little box and not breaking the chain.

It’s far too easy to start your day by firing up your email or social media on your computer or phone, but that immediately puts you in a reactive mindset. Remember, you vote with your attention so it makes sense to “vote” for your highest priority task before jumping into reactive mode and falling victim to everyone else’s agenda.

If you’re struggling to find time to work on your side hustle, take a close look at these 9 time-thieving activities. I’m confident with a few small tweaks you could save up to 14 hours a week.

What would an extra 14 hours a week mean for your business?

Your creativity?

Your happiness?

1. Getting Ready

How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

Studies indicate that:

  • 56% of individuals spend between 11 and 30 minutes getting ready.
  • 38% of women take longer than 30 minutes.
  • 21% of men take longer than 30 minutes.
  • 2% spend less than 5 minutes. Wow!
  • 3% spend over an hour. Really? What are you 3% DOING?

A friend of ours used to get up at 6am but not get into work until 8, and they only had a 10 minute commute. It boggled my mind to think of the cumulative hours spent on hair and makeup over the course of a year.

Sure, self-confidence and looking your best is worth something, but there’s got be an 80/20 rule to be applied here somewhere!

getting ready

Time Saving Tips:

In high school, I played a game where I would set my alarm clock a minute later each week. It was a gradual way to try and train myself to be more efficient. Try it!

You may have read about how Barack Obama had someone pick out his clothes for him the night before, which eliminates one meaningless decision from his day. Or how Steve Jobs wore the same outfit each day, or how Mark Zuckerberg now follows a similar “uniform” strategy with his clothes.

How can you shave time off your morning routine?

  • Kill the snooze alarm?
  • A shorter shower? Or a cold one?
  • Take it easy on the makeup? (I promise you don’t need it.)
  • A low-maintenance haircut? (There’s a bald joke in there somewhere) 🙂

Could you shave 5-10 minutes off your routine to earn yourself an extra 25-50 minutes a week?

Homework: Calculate how much time passes between when the alarm first goes off and you’re out the door (or otherwise doing something productive).

You can use this free tracking template to help identify your biggest time thievery opportunities:

Download the Free Time Tracking Template + My 10 Favorite Productivity Tools

Punch in your name and email below to see where your hours are really going, plus my favorite time-saving tools.

You’ll also receive my best side hustle tips and weekly-ish newsletter. Opt-out anytime.

Time Saving Target: 30 minutes a week!

2. Commuting

In the US, the average commute is 25.5 minutes each way. Nearly an hour a day just in transportation!

I’m grateful to be able to work from home but for many side hustlers, a daily to commute to work is a fact of life.

Time Saving Tips:

Could you negotiate working from home, even for just a one-day-a-week trial basis?

Aside from the time-savings and environmental benefits, be sure to pitch your boss on the data that suggests home-based workers are actually more productive and happier than office-based workers.

I would also make sure to present your idea as an experiment or trial, rather than a permanent shift. That reduces the risk and the stakes for everyone involved.

We are seeing an undeniable shift toward flexible work arrangements. In fact, the UK has introduced a law to mandate flexible work rights for employees.

Drive GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

If your work demands your physical presence, make sure to maximize how you use your commute time. Some of my favorite drive-time activities include listening to audiobooks or podcasts, doing breathing exercises, or even working on my core muscles.

OK, that last one is a little weird … but here’s how it works. Basically I tighten my stomach muscles for a minute or two at a time. It’s definitely not a replacement for a real workout, but helps engage muscles during an otherwise idle time.

On the flip side, you could try biking to work to combine your exercise with your commute. Two birds, one stone.

If you’re on public transportation or carpooling, you can use the time to read or do some learning via audiobooks or podcasts.

Homework: Calculate your driveway-to-desk commute time.

Time Saving Target: 1 hour a week!

3. Cooking

The average meal preparation time in America is 33 minutes, or nearly 4 hours a week just for dinners.

I need to begin this section by saying that my wife is a wonderful and creative chef, and that she does the vast majority of cooking in our household. I help out when I can, and am always on dishes duty.

If it were up to me, we would not have the most imaginative dinners. I’ve been known to make food choices based on what has the most calories for the money.

Back in the day, you could get Totinos pizzas for $1, and those bad boys pack about 800 calories. In my mind, that was maximum efficiency — thankfully my nutrition has improved a little since then!

meal prep time

Time Saving Tips:

So how can you save time on cooking?

Subscribe to a meal-planning service. One constant source of anxiety is the “what’s for dinner?” question, and these services can take the guesswork out of your shopping list and menu selection.

There are also quite a few meal delivery kit services popping up, and most have special offers for new customers. For example, you can get:

If you consider your desired hourly rate and that 33 minutes of meal prep time, you might find that it’s a winning proposition.

Batch process. One strategy that tends to work well in our house is making a LOT of food on one day (usually by Bryn on Sunday), and then enjoying leftovers the next several days.

Because my general goal in eating is to fuel my body as efficiently as possible, I LOVE leftovers. Pre-made deliciousness, no prep, easy cleanup. Side hustlers can learn to love leftovers too!

Consider a meal co-op. A group of friends here in California recently banded together to form a dinner co-op. Each of the four families is responsible for one meal a week, so they end up cooking once but getting 4 dinners.

If you’ve seen the documentary Happy on Netflix, you may remember the co-op in Denmark where families have their own apartments but come together as a community for functions like meals that are more efficiently done in a group.

Each family only had to cook once a month and was fed the rest of the time by the other members. How does that sound?

Homework: Calculate your meal prep time this week, including how long it takes to think of what to cook.

Time Saving Target: 1 hour a week!

4. Exercising

Exercise is an important activity in your week; we are meant to be bodies in motion and sitting in front of a computer all day is extremely hazardous to our long-term health.

To combat this, I built a makeshift treadmill desk from parts on Craigslist and generally walk 2-3 miles a day.

However, “traditional” exercise can be time-consuming.

(The CDC recommends 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week.)

A few years ago, I caught on with the running trend and did a couple half-marathons. And while running is excellent exercise, it may be among the most inefficient workouts around.

Running 4-5 miles as a training run? Or worse, driving to the gym, and then running 4-5 miles on the treadmill? You’re looking at 40-60 minutes, easy.

Time Saving Tips:

You can burn more calories in a fraction of the time, and work more muscles, with a different style of workout.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a more effective method of losing weight because it taps into carbohydrate stores and increases metabolic rate. I think this makes intuitive sense when you compare the physiques of sprinters with long distance runners. Obviously this is an extreme example, but which one looks more powerful?

sprinters vs distance runners

Lately I’ve been doing what I call homemade crossfit exercises, which generally consist of kettlebell swings and lifts, pushups and hillclimbers, lunges and some pilates-style core work. There’s no drive time, the whole thing lasts only 12-15 minutes, and I feel the rest of the day.

Alternatively, publishes workouts daily, Pat over at will give you a routine dose of minimalist fitness advice, or you could even order up a video series like Beachbody’s T25.

Homework: Calculate how many hours a week you spend on exercise. Is there an opportunity to get your workouts in more efficiently?

Time Saving Target: 1 hour a week!

5. TV

According to some sources, the average American watches 5 hours of TV a day, or 35 hours a week — almost a full workweek!

How is that even possible? I KNOW side hustlers don’t watch that much!

And there’s nothing wrong with a little TV time to relax and share a laugh with your family. Our favorite show? Modern Family, with an honorable mention to John Oliver on YouTube 🙂

But I consciously try not to get sucked into NEW shows, because I have a “completionist” element in me; if I start a new show, I’m probably going to want to see every episode to know the story, and I don’t want to commit myself to another 30-60 minutes a week of TV time.

For that reason, I haven’t seen a single episode of House of Cards, Lost, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, ScandalThe Walking Dead or dozens of other examples.

…but don’t get me started on 24 🙂

Time Saving Tips:

I think the question you have to ask yourself is: “Is this worth it?”

If it’s not a resounding, “Hell yes!” I think you can safely wean yourself off it and be no worse off.

turn off your tv

I promise the world will go on. Instead, find yourself a hobby that makes money.

I mean, who wants to spend their precious TV time being only mildly entertained? Not me.

Think 80/20 again, and identify the 20% of shows that bring you the most joy and cut off the rest.

The other thing we make sure to do, not really out of any premeditated strategy but more out of habit, is to only watch shows on-demand or via Netflix instead of at their actual air time.

By watching them online, you can watch them at YOUR convenience, instead of at the convenience of the network, and you’ll generally see fewer ads.

Homework: Find out how many hours of TV do you watch every week? And yes, football counts 🙂

Time Saving Target: 4 hours a week!

6. Facebook and Social Media

Facebook now counts 1.86 billion users, with the average American spending 50 minutes a day on the site. Almost 6 hours a week!

What did we do with all that time before Facebook came along?

Note: This section focuses on Facebook, but you could easily replace it Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Whichever is your social media “drug” of choice.

In fact, social media addiction is a real thing. Come to think of it, I’m pretty addicted myself!

I love social media as much as the next guy, and probably even more than most since I do business online, but one thing I’m trying to get better about is being conscious about my social media time.

Time Saving Tips:

I’ll use checking Facebook as a “reward” for working uninterrupted for a certain period of time. I’ll try and only check a couple times a day.

If having the temptation in your pocket all day long is becoming a distraction, it might help to delete the app from your phone.

I know, drastic times call for drastic measures 🙂

I haven’t deleted the app from my phone, but I have installed the News Feed Eradicator Chrome plugin on my laptop. It does pretty much what you’d expect based on the name; it hides your news feed every time you login, but you can still see your messages, notifications, and all group interactions when you open a group.

I was hesitant to install it for fear of missing out, but I know it saves me time and if I really need my good ol’ news feed fix I can still get it on my phone.

To see how much time you’re spending on social media, you might consider using a tool like, which has both free and premium options available.

StayFocusd is a free Chrome browser extension that restricts the amount of time you spend on time-wasting sites.

One trick I’ve used to limit my time on Facebook is to do an occasional “friend audit,” which isn’t as heartless as it sounds. What I’ll do is go through my news feed and if I notice stories from friends I don’t have a real relationship with, I’ll “unfollow” them.

unfollow on facebook
No, I didn’t really unfollow Bryn!

Most of the time, it’s people I haven’t heard from or spoken to in years. No longer seeing updates on their daily life isn’t going to negatively impact my personal happiness, but it may positively impact my productivity.

Homework: Keep track of how much time you spend on Facebook and other social media this week.

If you’re legitimately using the networks for work-related tasks, that doesn’t count. I’m looking for the mindless-entertainment social media use.

Time Saving Target: 1 hour a week!

7. Email

We receive an average number of 81 emails a day, and spend 13 hours a week in our inboxes.

Again, how did we spend that time before email was invented? With Morse code and carrier pigeons?

I have a love-hate relationship with email. For the last decade, I knew I wasn’t supposed to start my day in my inbox and I knew I wasn’t supposed to keep my Gmail tab open all day, but I still did, at least most days.

But this year I’ve added a couple “hacks” to my email management that are working out really well so far.

The first is the one I mentioned above: the micro habit of doing at least ONE proactive task before email.

The second is a cool online tool called Sanebox. When they reached out to sponsor The Side Hustle Show, I decided to give it a try myself.

What it does is intelligently filter the messages it thinks are important from all the rest. After a week or two of “training” (basically dragging messages from the unimportant “SaneLater” folder back to the inbox and vice versa), the sorting algorithm is scary smart.

It’s saved me from thousands of messages so far and cut down my email time by a couple hours a month.

Time Saving Tips:

Later in the day, I’ve experimented with similar “pomodoro” systems, where I’ll try and focus on half an hour of real work, and then check email as a reward. This actually works pretty well, and a lot of the time I find myself going beyond my pre-set “check time” when I get into a groove.

The problem with leaving your inbox open all the time is the constant distraction when new emails come in. It derails your current train of thought, which always requires a certain “reboot” time to regain your original momentum.

Batch processing is more efficient. For each message, think of the 4 D’s from Getting Things Done:

  1. Deal with it.
  2. Delete it.
  3. Defer it.
  4. Delegate it.

I have several email addresses, but they all funnel into one central Gmail account. If your domain hosting has cPanel, here’s how to get it done:

Some people were adamantly opposed to Gmail’s “tabbed” filing system when it was first introduced, but I decided to give it a shot and I like it now. I find it helps batch process similar messages, and I also use the Gmail app on my phone instead of the built-in iPhone mail app.

When I’m not traveling, I actually try and avoid checking email on my phone since I’m usually not in a position to do any of the 4 D’s other than Delete or send back only the most basic replies.

Every now and then I’ll do an “inbox audit,” which is pretty similar to my friend audit under social media above. For every single incoming message, I’ll ask myself if this is something that is adding value to my day. If it’s not, I’ll unsubscribe.

If messages from that sender might sometime add value or I might want to reference later, I’ll create a filter. For instance, all my Groupon and TravelZoo messages go into a “Daily Deals” folder. That way, if I ever need to reference one of their messages I still have access to it, but don’t have to deal with their bombardment of emails on a daily basis.

Another thing that’s cut back my email volume is turning off many email notifications from social media like Facebook and Twitter. Since I will be checking those platforms anyway on my own time, I don’t need the “double notice” in my inbox.

And finally, I use a free tool called to occasionally audit my subscriptions and bulk unsubscribe from senders I’m no longer interested in.

Everything except Side Hustle Nation of course 🙂

They also have a feature where they’ll “roll up” the subscriptions you DO want to keep into one daily digest email, so you get one line-item in your inbox you can quickly scan, instead of several messages pinging you at different times throughout the day.

Summary of Email Strategies:

  • Do proactive work first
  • Don’t keep your inbox open all day
  • Try Sanebox
  • Try
  • Practice 1-touch processing
  • Try bringing all your email into one central account

Homework: Use a tool like or RescueTime to determine how much time you spend in your inbox in an average day.

Is there an opportunity to save some time by cutting back which messages reach your inbox or by batch processing? How many times do you check your email per day? What if you cut that in half?

Time Saving Target: 2 hours a week!

8. Running Errands

The random errand-running is one area I feel I’ve improved a lot in the last couple years. One of the reasons for that is Amazon Prime.

Instead of making a special trip to Target or Office Depot or the pet food store, it’s all available online at a very competitive price and delivered to our doorstep for free.

running errands

Time Saving Tips:

There are several “errands” that used to eat into my day. A common one for you (hopefully!) is visiting the bank; now you can deposit checks remotely with your smartphone. And since bank hours are so inconvenient, that was a huge one for me.

Another opportunity to save time (and frustration) is with the post office. If you can measure and weigh your package, they’ll actually come and pick it up when you request it online.

If you do run errands, the obvious trick is to batch several destinations into one trip to save time and gas – for example hitting the bank, gym, and grocery store all in one trip.

With each trip, you have to determine if it’s worth it in terms of both the monetary cost (gas, maintenance, insurance) AND opportunity cost (what else could you be doing?).

Could you organize a carpool co-op for dropping kids off at school or shuttling them around to various activities?

You might also try a grocery delivery service like Peapod ($15 off your first order), Instacart, or Shipt. (Services not available in all areas yet.)

Related: Some side hustlers are actually making money with Instacart. Check out our full Instacart Shopper Review.

Bonus: For customer service related issues, use to quickly bypass automated phone systems.

Homework: Determine how much time you spend driving around running errands this week. Could any of those trips be eliminated through better meal planning, online shopping, or other done-for-you services?

Time Saving Target: 1 hour a week!

9. Sleep

The average American older than 15 gets an average of 8.75 hours of sleep per day, a number I found surprisingly high. (Another poll found the average much lower, at just 6.8 hours.)

One thing is for certain when it comes to sleep, and that is that it’s definitely NOT a waste of time. Sleep is essential to restore your energy each night so you wake up rested and ready to tackle the day.

In fact, driving while sleepy is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

napping counts
The Side Hustle Shih Tzu gets WAY more than 8.75 hours a day.

But let me pose the question: could you get by with less?

Especially if you’re on the higher end of that 8.75 hour average, I imagine there might be an opportunity.

Time Saving Tips:

In extreme examples, some people report getting by on just 2 hours of sleep every 24 hours using a regimented polyphasic technique. (I first heard about this in The 4-Hour Body.)

What if you could go from 8 hours a night to 7, without losing any energy or productivity? What would an extra 7 waking hours a week be worth to you?

If you want to learn more about how to make the most of your sleep time, Scott Britton (who shared how to earn passive income on Udemy on The Side Hustle Show) has offered readers a 50% discount on his Sleep Hacking course.

Others, including Bryan Harris and Jessica Lawlor, simply recommend getting up earlier. After all, if you’re wrestling with the will to work on your side hustle in the evening, maybe it makes sense to try flipping the script and putting in your time first thing in the morning.

Homework: Determine the number of hours from “lights out” to “out of bed” this week. You can use the $0.99 SleepCycle app to monitor your sleep, and it will even try to wake you up during a light sleep cycle.

Time Saving Target: 3.5 hours a week!

Your Turn

Of these 9 Time Thieves, where are your biggest opportunities?

Even if you can’t carve out an extra 14 hours a week for your side hustle or other activities, I’m confident you’ll start being more conscious of your time.

What could you sell in those 14 hours?

Who could you serve?

What kind of assets could you build?

What could you create?

What could you learn?

Remember, we only have one crack at this life and I want you to spend your time on stuff that gives you the most excitement, happiness, and freedom.

You have the same 24 hours as everyone else; you just may need to have an honest look at your priorities.

Be sure to grab the free time tracking template and report back in the comments your results!

Download the Free Time Tracking Template + My 10 Favorite Productivity Tools

Punch in your name and email below to see where your hours are really going, plus my favorite time-saving tools.

You’ll also receive my best side hustle tips and weekly-ish newsletter. Opt-out anytime.

(top image source)
(Curling hair img source)
(Vegetables cooking img source)
(Runner physique img source)
(Abandoned TV img source)
(Cobblestone sidewalk img source)

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