How to Run a Business in Less Than 20 Hours a Week

Starting and running a business is a huge time commitment---which is too bad since time is the one thing we all seem to be short on. Running a business when you don't have much time is hard, but it's not impossible. Take it from me: I'm in the trenches chasing a newly minted two-year-old and juggling a newborn who still can't hold up her own head.

Maybe you feel like you don't have enough time to devote to your business. We've all been there. Even when I had all day to focus on work, I still felt like there was more to do at the end of each day.

You can give your business your all when you're short on time! Now that I have hardly any time to run my business, I'm getting more done than I ever did before having kids.

Think you're too busy to run a business? Think again! I'm showing you how I run my business in less than 20 hours a week with a toddler and newborn at home with me.
Think you're too busy to run a business? Think again! I'm showing you how I run my business in less than 20 hours a week with a toddler and newborn at home with me.

Whether you're working around a school schedule, a demanding day job, or a house full of kids with no babysitter in sight, I believe you can make big strides in your business with less than 20 hours per week.

Don't believe me? Here's how I squeeze in time to run my business with a newborn and toddler and no regular child care.

My daily routine

7:00 - 8:30 a.m.

Make breakfast and get the three of us ready for the day. (Some entrepreneurs are all about waking up before their kids to get a jump on the day. Not this mama. I'll take every scrap of sleep I can get!)

Total work time: None

8:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Tackle at least one household chore (folding the never-ending laundry pile is a popular option), run errands, and hit the Starbucks drive thru.

On a good day, Hadley plays quietly with her toys, Reagan doesn't fight her morning nap, and there's nothing for me to get done around the house. This rare unicorn of a day leaves me with 30 - 45 minutes to check email or schedule social media. But I'm a realist, so I never count on this time.

Total work time: 0 - 45 minutes

11:00 a.m. - noon

Reagan's schedule is still a crapshoot, but she's often awake during this time. We'll get outside if it's a nice day or play in the living room with an interesting podcast in the background if it's not.

Total work time: None

Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Reagan might snooze while Hadley and I have lunch. Sometimes I can fit in a few emails or social media checks during this time, but I try not to unless there's something I truly need to check on.

Total Work time: 0 - 30 minutes

1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Hadley goes down for her nap right when Reagan is waking up. I'll feed Reagan, then set her down for tummy time or wear her in a carrier. I can occasionally get easy work done depending on her mood. If she's fussy or wanting to be held, working isn't an option.

Total work time: 0 - 30 minutes

2:00 - 3:30 p.m.

This is the blessed part of my day when both girls sleep at the same time! This is dedicated to content creation and client work. It's incredible how much I can get done when I don't let myself get distracted!

Total work time: 1.5 hours

The rest of the day goes to making dinner, catching up with my husband after work, doing bedtime routines, and getting in some time to relax at the end of the day. If the kids had an off day or I had a tight deadline to meet, I could work from 8:00 - 10:00 (with interruptions to feed Reagan) . . . but I almost never do. I need that time to unwind, and I don't want to get in the habit of relying on evenings to get my work done.

Total work time: None

Weekends are always different, but there's rarely a weekend that doesn't include some work. Saturday naptimes go toward work about 50% of the time depending on what's on the calendar. Sunday evenings are when I try to schedule out most social media for the coming week.

Total work time: 1 - 3 hours

I spend a grand total of 8 - 19 hours per week on my business.

If I can do it, you can too. Here are some tips for making your business work when time is short.

Tips for Running Your Business in Less Time

1. Stay focused

I joke that my business revenue increases every time I have another kid. Part of this is because my business is naturally growing year after year. The other part is because the busier I am, the more I focus on what's important during my dedicated work time.

It's easy to get caught up in the million-and-one things you're "supposed" to do as an online entrepreneur. But you don't have all day! Choose one thing you can do with the time you have and get it done. (Click here if you need help avoiding distractions!)

2. Set up smart systems

I have systems in place to help me get more done in less time than I could ever do manually. Social media scheduling tools, batching tasks,Gmail's canned responses, and outsourcing tasks to a VA are all ways I make the most of my time.

Systems are tricky because they take time (and sometimes money) to set up correctly, so many busy entrepreneurs put them on the back burner. If that's you, I'd challenge you to set aside a week and use it solely to get some systems up and running. Yes, you'll be sacrificing a week of client work. But having systems in place will let you take on more work with less stress in the long run.

3. Be willing to grow slowly

Building a 6-figure business from scratch is probably not going to happen in 20 hours a week. But that doesn't mean you'll never get there! You just have to be okay with slow growth.

When I first started freelancing in 2012, I was working a standard 40 hours per week and hardly seeing any payoff from it. It's that foundation that's allowed me to work fewer hours and earn a higher income today---but it took years to get here.

Look at your business as a marathon and try not to get discouraged if it seems like you're not growing as quickly as others in your field. Focusing on the competition is a great way to lose your motivation and passion for your business. Eventually, the hours you put in now will pay off in the future.

How are you making your business work with a full schedule? I'd love to hear your strategies!