Want to Escape the 9 to 5? Work for Yourself First

If you are like me as of a few months ago, you are running around all day trying to check off items on the to-do list. Every week, I wake up, rush to work, fill my day with meetings, and go home, yet feeling like I have accomplished almost nothing. Rinse and repeat for weeks and months.

Over time, these empty days eat away at my motivation to be my best self. My side projects are left untouched for weeks. I feel like I was completing other people’s to-do lists and working on other people’s agendas instead of making progress on my own goals.

Tired of that lifestyle, I started looking for ways to get more true productivity time in my day. Blogs about personal productivity often raved about rising up early, so that you always have some quiet time for a full breakfast, meditation, and journaling. Fantastic concepts! They usually talk about waking up at 5:30-6:00 to have an hour or two before you rush out the door. Well, how about waking up at 3 AM?

I am a morning person. My energy is at its peak right after I wake up. In my previous life, I’d wake up around 7 and rush right off to work, and I would spend my wonderful morning energy on morning meetings. What a waste! I wanted to have my whole morning free of distractions, but it’s impossible. I have client meetings, speaking commitments, classes to teach — stuff you cannot just reschedule and avoid.

So I created a new morning working shift! By waking up at 3 AM, I have at least 4 hours of free time with my best energy of the day. No emails, no phone calls, no disturbance. I spend that time working on my business, which is my most important goal. At first my body rebelled a little bit, either not wanting to get up or trying to jump to busy work instead of the high value items. But the key is that you convince yourself to do it regardless of the outcome. Just dive in and who cares if the product is only so-so, after just a little bit your body and mind will fall into the groove of the habit. Once the habit locks in and ‘everybody’ is on board, that’s when the real value can be created.

Then you ask, does it mean you work 12 hours a day? Essentially yes. Although the afternoon where my energy is most crappy, I’m usually in some meetings that require very little or no energy (those meetings where your boss is busy scrolling his phone). On days I don’t have any meetings, I usually spend my lunch hour working and clocking out at 4 PM. After all that I still have time to have nice dinner and relax a bit before going to bed at 7-8 PM.

As a result of this practice, I have 4 free high-energy morning hours everyday. I spend it on tasks that require the most energy, such as creating products, writing original content, and maintaining my business. I noticed massive improvements in my productivity on the items I care most about after changing my wake up time, and that’s when my side hustle really started to meaningfully expand.

If you want to escape from 9-5, make sure to work for yourself first. Try adjusting your schedule to give your side hustle the best block of your energy.

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