The 2nd Shift Entrepreneur

July 1, 2012

The smell of fresh coffee fills the room. Today is the day I make BIG progress. I bring my monstrously large coffee mug to the brink of capacity. I close the door to my office, select the perfect productivity playlist and I start hacking away. It’s just me and my thoughts. I’m in the zone.

“Hey honey, are you busy?” The sound of my wife’s voice pierces my concentration. “Yes dear, I am.” I shout in return with just the right mix of love and urgency. My thoughts are fleeting as I try to wrestle them from my subconscious and into my fingertips.

“Well when you get a moment can we talk about meal planning?”

Now this story may sound like an indictment of my wife, but in actuality it’s an indictment of my office. Its doors are a mere 60 feet from my living room. And despite the freshly brewed pot of joe, it’s 8:30 pm, not 8:30 am. This is the life of the 2nd shift entrepreneur.

I would have loved to be given this incredible idea and passion for my business at the age of 22. But it didn’t happen for me until the age of 32. Now I have a wife, a child and financial obligations that don’t allow for a drastic cut in pay while I take a stab at my business. I believe in my venture, but I have to balance passion and practicality.  At some point, I will have to take a leap from the familiar and plunge into the sea of uncertainty. But until such time, I’m a 2nd shift entrepreneur and I have to make the best out of the time I have. If you’re like me, then the below tips might be useful to you. I’d love to hear some of your own in the comments section.

1. Get out of your house  -

As much as I love my home office, it’s very difficult for people to understand that despite your physical presence, you are in fact inaccessible. It doesn’t take long before “a quick question” completely derails your train of thought. The person asking for your time isn’t a co-worker or an intern, it’s your partner. Nothing derails productivity like hurt feelings or an argument. So eliminate it altogether by finding a local coffee shop or even a coworking location like 1871 or TechNexus. The boundaries it establishes will make you much more productive.

2. Create a regular work schedule -

It’s hard to get into the groove after an 8 hour shift in cubicle land and then family obligations afterwards. It’s very easy to take a night off here, an early quitting time there. Your best bet is to create a regular schedule for yourself. Commit to that schedule so that you (and your family) can plan the rest of what little free time you have around this certainty. These hours aren’t “if I have time”. It’s your job. Would you take time off from your day job to have brunch with the Robinson’s?

3. Stop taking vacations -

If your job is good enough that you need it right now, then chances are  that you get vacation and or sick time. Instead of going to the Dells for a week, string that vacation time out. On the weekends you’ve set aside for your venture, try to take that Friday off as well. Follow your exact same routine that you would on a normal Friday, but instead of going to that innovation strangler you call a job, spend it working on your venture in your working location of choice. If you get 2 weeks of vacation, that’s a 3-day weekend per month you can spend on your venture.

4. Find other 2nd shift entrepreneurs -

Sometimes it’s refreshing to hear about someone going through the same problems that you are. Finding other 2nd shift entrepreneurs gives you the chance to feed off of one another for inspiration, motivation and the reminder that other people are doing it too! If you can find a regular group of 2nd shift entrepreneurs, it might even be helpful to have work sessions, where everyone gets together and works on their respective projects. You’d be amazed at how helpful just being around like-minded people can be.

5. Organize your work -

It sounds silly, but you would be surprised what kind of productivity boost you can have by developing a laser focus on what you plan to accomplish. I personally use the SCRUM development methodology to keep myself on track. While obviously all of the tools may not be useful, having your tasks and goals documented can make life a lot easier. Whatever you use, make sure that you use measurable, discrete tasks for your activities. Tasks like “Implement Auction system” are too broad. Break that into smaller chunks, for example. “Allow user to add an item, allow user to upload image, allow user to change auction time” etc. It’s easier to manage and it builds a sense of progress for you. Nothing feels better than checking an item off the list.

These are just some tips that help make being a 2nd shift entrepreneur more manageable. It’s hard work, but don’t let the difficulty discourage you. Set realistic expectations on progress and goals. Prepare your family for your lack of availability Coffee shops are a great place to work, but there are other options as well. 1871 has a very nice package that was practically made for the 2nd shift entrepreneur. Tech Nexus also has a few options, not to mention a host of turnkey office options. Chicago is a great city with amazing resources just waiting to assist you.

Now get back to work!

Jeff Smith

2nd Shift Entrepreneur

Property Panda