Give Yourself 20 Percent Time as an Entrepreneur to Try New Things

Updated on January 5th, 2022
time or money

Google is famous for many unique and fun employee benefits. One of its unusual work rules is the former 20 percent time, which allowed employees to spend 20 percent of their time, or about one day a week, working on their own pipedream projects that may lead to a future Google success. Google’s profitable AdSense and incredibly popular Gmail came from employee’s 20 percent time to try new things.

While Googlers had to give up their 20 percent time in 2013, the concept is great for entrepreneurs. Whether you are a freelancer, startup CEO, serial entrepreneur, or just someone who is self-employed looking for new challenges and opportunities, 20 percent time is a great way to get there.

What is 20 percent Time?

If you are not familiar with 20 percent time, here’s how it works. The idea of 20 percent time is simple. Take 20 percent of the time from your workday or workweek and spend it working on something completely unrelated to your core to-do list. Using this time, try new things; you can create new profitable products, services, or income streams to round out your income.

If you are anything like me, you have plenty of new business ideas popping into your head every week. The other night I was lying in bed and had to quickly grab my phone to jot down an idea. But when would I ever have time to start a new business on top of my already busy schedule as a freelance writer, blogger, podcaster, and dad? That is what 20 percent time is all about.

If you had an extra 8 hours each week to work on new businesses and ideas, imagine what you could accomplish! While we can’t live without sleep or make the day 8 hours longer, there is a lot you can do to find that time in your schedule.

How to carve 20 percent time from your busy schedule to try new things

As a busy business owner, you may be thinking, “this sounds great Eric, but there is no way I could ever find 20 percent of my time to use like this.” There is a saying in self-employment that you should be working on the business, not in the business. If you can’t come up with any free time, you may be running your business the wrong way.

Going from being entrenched in the daily operations to a point where you can free up two hours every weekday, doesn’t happen overnight, but here are some ideas to get you started:

80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle, more popularly known as the 80/20 rule, is a concept that 80 percent of our results come from 20 percent of our work. The remaining 80 percent of our work only leads to 20 percent of your results.

I found this to be completely true in my business. Last year when I quit my day job, I worked as both a freelance writer and website developer. I found that I was spending about 80 percent of my time on websites but only making 20 percent of my income there. The remaining 80 percent of my income came from the 20 percent of my time I spent writing. Now I earn more each month in fewer hours… and I enjoy much less stress in my life.

Get more efficient

The next place to look is your business process. What do you do today that can be automated? If it can’t be automated and it is a repetitive task, can it be outsourced to a low cost virtual assistant abroad? Would a small investment in software give you many more hours free? If yes, consider buying in.

Drop tasks

At the end of the day, something you do is probably busywork. If you really look at your business and how you spend your time, odds are you do something that is a waste. If you can cut wasted time, that is more time for profitable tasks.

How I use 20 percent time

I have built 20% time into my schedule in a variety of ways. I don’t track the roughly eight hours each week, nor do I track any of my hours. I use 20 percent as a guideline and an estimate, not a hard rule.

Right now, most of my 20 percent time is going to leveling up my code knowledge. I have several app ideas that are out-of-budget to hire out, but some of them seem simple enough I should be able to figure it out myself. I already know HTML, CSS, and PHP from my WordPress developer days, so I’m expanding by learning Laravel, a PHP application platform.

In the past, I have used 20 percent time for a variety of projects. I have a few blogs that have come and go. I have a Kosher Fish app. I run a flash mob company with my wife. There’s no limit to what I can do, so I try to dive in and use every minute for an awesome purpose.

You can’t afford to sit idly by

My pal Martin Dasko at Studenmoics has a saying he regularly uses on his blog: Don’t Loiter. If you spend time sitting around watching TV, you are entertained but not productive. If you take light days at work, you are wasting productivity. Use every minute intentionally and productively. If you do, you should have an easy time coming up with 20 percent time.

Once you do, the sky’s the limit. Well, if you are working on a space startup that is no longer true. There is no limit to what you can do! Make the time and put in the effort to make it happen.

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a personal finance expert. He received an MBA in Finance from the University of Denver in 2010. Since graduating he has been blogging about financial tips and tricks to help people understand money better. He is a debt master, insurance expert and currently writes for most of the top financial publications on the planet.

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