Life is stressful. There's always something to do, always someone who needs your time and attention, and often, very little room for the things that you want to do. If you're reading this, then getting a product built is likely something that's high on your list.

Building a product takes time, though. And depending on your skillset, it may take a lot of time. This is usually where most people fall off the wagon. There isn't a clear path to finding time to work on your idea in an already overwhelming schedule, so you throw your hands up and say "ah, never mind!"

In this post, I want to offer up some suggestions on how you can make more time available. What you'll find below are some methods that have helped me and I've seen help others that I mentor to make time to work on the things they care most about.

Start by lowering your expectations

One of the more helpful things I've come to realize in relation to my own work and when mentoring others is that you have to lower your expectations. Most people want to be in a position where they can build a product becomes their primary focus and source of revenue. This is possible, but getting to that point takes time.

Where a lot of friction can occur is in expecting this to happen quickly. Quickly, here, would be in just a few months, or even a couple of years. You have to remember that "building a product" involves a lot of different things:

  • Writing the actual code for the product.
  • Making sure that code works and delivers the value you promise to customers.
  • Creating marketing materials like a website.
  • Writing and promoting content to draw potential customers in.
  • Maintaining the product once it's live, fixing bugs, and adding and improving features.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The point is that all of these things will take time. If you can adjust your expectations to meet that reality up front, "finding the time" becomes a lot less overwhelming and worrisome.

Audit your current schedule

Once your expectations are in order, the next place to look for time is in your current schedule. When we get into the groove of daily life, we often blind ourselves to habits that take up valuable time we could be using for other, potentially more important things. Things like: watching TV, playing on your phone, or participating in a lot of activities.

To some degree these things are necessary, but it's worth developing some self-awareness around whether or not they're really necessary. While I'm not advocating that you become a slave to your work and run yourself dry, I am suggesting that you be honest. Is your time better spent playing that video game all day Saturday or making progress on your idea for a few hours?

Stop right now and write out your current schedule, estimating how many hours each thing takes up. Look at the list closely and ask "is there anything on here I'd be willing to trade to get some time to work on my product?" It should go without saying, but: your family is not one of those things.

Have a dedicated work night or morning

Related to auditing your schedule is making the time to work on your product. The reality of building something significant like a product and wanting it to become your "main thing" is that it requires sacrifice up front. You can't just have your cake and eat it, too. You have to deal with a little bit of pain in the short-term and adapt your lifestyle to that pain if you want to succeed.

A relatively easy way to accomplish this is to have a dedicated work morning/night each week. This is a block of time—maybe an hour, maybe two hours—that you mark as "off limits" in your calendar (barring emergencies) every single week. For example, I make Sunday mornings my content time. I'm writing this post on Sunday morning because that's when I prepare content.

This is non-negotiable. Once you've picked out your time, communicate to others that this is what you're doing and if they need your time or attention, they'll need to get it at a different time. It's okay to be a bit stern about this, too. You may have to make some people uncomfortable in the short-term, but it helps to explain why to them.

Request fewer hours at work

Another option—and something that I did in the past when working for others—is to request fewer hours or days at work. Back in 2014 when I was working on The Meteor Chef, I was still earning a living through freelance and contract work. At the time, I was on a full-time contract that required my presence Monday through Friday.

Because I wanted to make TMC as successful as possible but knew my time was limited, I realized that some sacrifice was necessary (in this case, leaving a bit of money on the table short-term). After a bit of thinking and planning, I realized that I could adjust my budget and cut out a day of work leaving my Friday's free to do as I pleased.

While I was nervous, I realized: it doesn't hurt to ask. The same applies to you. Do something thinking up front and consider how you can sweeten the deal for your employer. Leaving money on the table, working extra hours on other days, or doing some sort of "interval" (take off a day every other week) might be an option. Give it a shot!

Invite your kids to join you

In addition to work, another big requirement of your time is of course your family and kids and time with them is absolutely non-negotiable. If you're trying to get a product built with a family, it's safe to say you can get pretty exhausted and quickly.

Assuming your kids are a bit older and self-sufficient (we'll say, Kindergarten age or older), it may be worth inviting them into join you while you work. Some of the folks I've mentored at Clever Beagle have had kids and we've invited them in to at least say "hello" and tell us what they're up to, or sit in on our session.

This has multiple benefits: one, you get to spend time with your kids, two, they get to see you working hard toward a goal, and three, it's an opportunity to teach them! While they may not understand everything you're up to, it doesn't hurt to have them sit with you and explain what you're doing, why, and challenge them to help you solve some problems, too!

Another option is to just have them in the room with you. Give them their own project to work on (for example, coloring, building some legos, or something else creative) and you can have your "creative night" together.

Accept that some level of sacrifice is necessary

No matter what path you choose, you have to understand that some level of sacrifice is necessary. You simply cannot expect to just be given time (or money, for that matter) to do as you please without any consequences. You can, however, be more deliberate about how you spend your time.

If you really want to bring your idea to life, you just have to make the time to do it. If that's not possible, then it may be best to look elsewhere.