My “Secret Habit” for Building My Online Business – Even When I Work 9-5!

When you’re building your online business on the side, you know that every minute counts. In addition to your day job, you can have a family and other commitments which need your focus, too.

In this very situation, you may feel that building an online business is virtually impossible.

However, I’d like to bring an alternative view to this discussion.

For instance, consider what I did, even when I was working full-time, my wife and I had a baby, and I was training actively for marathons and triathlons:

  • Writing content for my blog
  • Writing guest posts
  • Recording podcast interviews with interesting people in my industry
  • Created exclusive content for my e-mail list
  • Wrote e-books and reports

Yes, I did all this even though I had so much other stuff going on in my life. Sometimes I even wonder how all this was even possible in the first place!

Today, I’m here to tell you my “secret” and what single strategy gave me the majority of hours to accomplish all this.

Please be aware that the time I gained this way was perhaps 60-70% of all of the time I had for blogging. The rest of the available hours were more or less achieved during the weekends, during my vacations, or through other random (read: quiet) moments in my life.

If you are ready to implement this one strategy into your daily life, you’ll start making big progress when building your online business.

 Setting the foundation

wakeupearlySo are you ready for my “secret”? Well, it’s nothing more than waking up early. When I say waking up early, I mean waking up around 5-6 am every morning – including weekends.

Now, before you say that you are not a morning person or that you just can’t wake up early in the morning, I have some news for you: I wasn’t a morning person either!

Before I created the habit of waking up early, I was a late riser. In fact, I remember that many times during my vacations (and sometimes during the weekends), I went to bed around 5-6 am and slept well past midday.

At some point, my lifestyle changed from being a coach potato to an active person and this aspect of my lifestyle was changed as well.

Before you start changing your habits, there is a very important question to be asked first and it is…

 Are you ready to sacrifice something?

The problem with building an online business is that it requires plenty of work, especially in the beginning. Given the fact that you are building your business part-time, this can yield difficulties in finding enough time for your emerging business.

One way to “scrape” more time is to find empty spots in your daily schedule that are just “hanging in there”, but which are not actively considered time for your business.

Very often these spots are either in the evening (if you have a family, this could be when everyone else is in bed) or before you go to work.

notvtodayEspecially when early morning is concerned, you face an issue with sacrifice: Are you ready to give away your evening time from watching television, so that you can wake up early in the morning? Are you willing to get out of bed before everyone else and get down to business right away?

Building an online business requires some sacrifices when your priorities are concerned, but once you accept those and realize that this may only be temporary, becoming an early riser is much easier.

Before I give you the action steps on how to become an early riser, I have divided them into two parts. Waking up early requires some prep work, even before you go to bed. This way you can take maximum advantage of your morning hours the next day.

 The night before:

1. Get everything ready. The last thing you want to happen is, when you wake up, you don’t know what clothes to put on or that a crucial part of your work is missing (for instance, a book which you use for research).

These things may seem so obvious, but yet it’s important to make sure that everything you need is easily available in the morning. Otherwise, you waste your time doing these things that should have been done before you went to bed.

2. Plan your tasks. The next thing is to know the tasks you want to do in the morning. If you skip this part, you’ll be wasting your time even more. In fact, it can ruin your early riser advantage completely if you don’t do this step.

Create a list with the tasks you want to work on the next morning. When you have this kind of “roadmap” in front of you, you are not focusing on something that doesn’t add any value to your emerging online business. You should also make sure that you can easily access any necessary reference materials related to your tasks.

For instance, there could be a piece of information in your e-mail inbox that you’ll need the next morning. In this case, I link to this e-mail message from my task management software so that I can access it easily.

3. Outline your tasks. After figuring out the tasks you want to do, go one step further and outline the tasks you’ll be doing the next morning.

For instance, if I’m about to write blog posts or other content, I make sure that I outline the posts in advance. This way I can jump into writing mode as quickly as possible without pondering what to write about.

4. Get some sleep. Finally, when you have done the prep work for the morning, it’s time to go to sleep.

The amount of sleep varies depending of the person, but in my case the optimum amount of sleep is around seven hours. This means that I have adjusted the time I go to bed accordingly, making sure that I’m in bed around 11pm at the latest.

The morning:

5. Define and reach your wake-up target time. Please note that your way of defining early wake-ups could be different than mine. Also, the way you reach your target wake-up time can be different, too.

In the first case, you could define early wake-ups to be 4.30am in the morning while someone else considers them to at 6.30 am. This is why I’m not telling you the exact time to wake-up – it’s really up to you.

All I’m saying is that since I’m a full-time blogger now, it gives me the flexibility to wake-up later, whereas when I was blogging and working full-time, my early wake-ups were around 5:00am – 5:30am.

The second point is achieving your target wake-up time. Once again, the way I achieved this may not be suitable to you, so I offer two ways to do it.

First, you could decide to wake up early at a given time the next morning and just do it! This is what I did and it worked out well for me.

What I did was define my early wake-up time to be 5am, and then that’s when I woke up. Eventually I began to wake up at that time naturally.

Sure, I felt weird of doing that, but I had a strong motivation behind me (I wanted to improve my health by exercising), so the decision and the actual implementation was easy.

The other way is to wake-up earlier and earlier every week, until you reach your target.

For instance, you could define that, starting from next week, you wake up 15 minutes earlier. Then on the next week after that, yet another 15 minutes earlier. Eventually you reach your target time and you are now an early riser!

6. Wake up at the same time every morning. One of the mistakes I did in my “previous life” was to have inconsistent wake-up times (around 9-11 am).

It meant that I slept in during the weekends, and when I went to bed early on Sunday evening, I wasn’t able to get any sleep. This in turn mixed up my Mondays and I felt very tired.

Nowadays, I tend to wake up at the same time every morning. Currently I’m waking up around 6:00am and since I do this consistently, my internal clock makes also me tired at the same time every evening. This ensures that I get my seven hours of sleep.

7. Put the high-value tasks first on your list. You know that when blogging (or in whichever way you build your online business) is concerned, there is a lot of work involved. That’s why you have to very picky about the tasks you do.

highprioritytasksFocus on the high-value tasks during the morning hours. That’s how you make the biggest progress when building your online business.

For instance, I have identified my high-value tasks as following:

●       Creating relationships with others (commenting, guest posts, sending direct e-mails)

●       Working on projects that grow my online business (such as writing a book)

●       Building my e-mail list (providing exclusive material for my list, guest posting)

In your case, your high-value tasks could be different. Yet, the principle is the same and if you spend time on these valuable tasks, you will make more progress.

8. No e-mail checking or web surfing. It’s absolutely mandatory that you don’t do anything other than focus on your tasks until you have finished them. This means that you shouldn’t be glancing at your e-mail, your Facebook page, or your stats on a continuous basis.

I understand how addictive it is to check how many comments you have gotten on your latest post or who mentioned you on Twitter, but it doesn’t help you with your high-value tasks or your online business.

Instead, make sure to schedule those things (2-3 times maximum per day) so that you are not wasting your valuable time on them.

9. Clear out any tasks that don’t need to be done. One final way to protect your morning time block is to get rid of tasks that you don’t have to take care of.

What I’m talking about are the tasks that you have to do, but which are not on your priority list for the morning. For instance, I’m letting my virtual assistant handle the blog post installations and some parts of my social media activity.

Also, I try to automate certain tasks that I would otherwise have to do manually, like promoting my latest blog posts on Twitter or other social media platforms.

When you do this, you create more “space” for your morning hours and are not wasting your time on the secondary tasks.


For a part-time online entrepreneur, early morning hours can be a blessing: You get to do work without distraction, and you can feel a sense of accomplishment when you have worked on your important projects (before going to work).

Although sometimes I feel like sleeping in, I then remember that doing that will postpone my dream of having an online business some day. In fact, with my motivation, getting up earlier feels easy and I don’t consider it to be a sacrifice at all.

Give this technique a try and be aware of how well it works for you. Just start waking up earlier and earlier every week and you’ll be an early riser in no time!

Timo Kiander

+Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, helps entrepreneurs improve their online business productivity. With 18 co-authors (like Pat Flynn and Corbett Barr), he wrote a book about how to build an online business and get stuff done - even when working from 9-5 (available as a free download or through Amazon).

9 thoughts on “My “Secret Habit” for Building My Online Business – Even When I Work 9-5!

  • That is life of blogger some time we need to be alone and neglect your family too.I am agreed with most of the point you have made.It was great to be here.

  • Hi timo,
    Great post! Every work should have discipline otherwise work will not be complete.Mostly in blogging internet distract more so proper time management is very important. thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Sameer!

      Blocking distractions – especially when creating content – is a very important thing to take care of.

      It’s all about creating habits that support your content creation instead of being attracted to distractions.


  • Good ideas Timo! Because i too look out for developing my online business in my spare time. I would try with your ideas to start soon and thanks for sharing such a great article.

  • nice sharing TIMO, I still work and have a blog, it seem sometimes I will not able to both at same time. Glad to see you able to manage it very well

    • Hi Juan!

      Well, I’m blogging full-time now, but this is the system I used when I had a day job.


  • Awesome work! Thanks for your effort you put in writing all this.

    Well I’m planning to make my habit to get up early for a month already, but every time the clock is ringing I wake, then lying around few minutes in a bed, then decide to get back to sleep and start it tomorrow xD

    I also had a full time real job before 2 years and then I was getting up every morning in 6am to get to work, but after that I fired my job because the online business earnings growth and exceeded my real job ones. After that I get up around 12pm and going to sleep around 4am (I’m writing this comment and it’s 3:20am now xD).

    Well I don’t know, I used to work this online job at night, like I have better concetration in this time. But it’s somehow strange so I’m planning to change my habbits and start to wake up in normal morning time. I hope your article will motivate me 😀

    Thanks and regards,

    • Hi Daniel!

      Thank you!

      I think that what really matters is that you find the times when you perform the best and do your work then.

      One great insight that I learned from Andy Traub (author of Early to Rise) was that it takes just one minute to turn off the alarm, stand up from your bed and walk away from your bedroom.

      If you keep doing that for some time, you’ll eventually grow a habit out of it.


  • Hi,

    Thanks for sharing these great tips for working at home. I do agree, that when you begin working from home certain sacrifices have to be made. In addition, not get distracted with other things like email, web browsing, or social media. I create a to do list and check everything I complete. This is the best way I keep track of my goals.

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