If you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back. The next thing I will be talking about is how to manage your mind and train it to work for you rather than against you when you really need it the most. One of the key points you will learn in this chapter is knowing how to think about things relating to your project in a different way than how you would normally think about other things during the day. Another key point is knowing how to make the most of your time and working efficiently within time constraints.

Adding More Skills To Your Belt

We all have things that we are good at. Some people may be extremely skilled at one thing while some are more skilled at a lot of things. Both of these scenarios are what makes people unique. The fact that one person can draw extremely well by what seems like natural talent while another person can’t even draw a stick figure is what most people get discouraged by. Chances are the person who can draw very well likely had a very artistic upbringing. They have probably been drawing since they were kids. While most people often wish they possessed talents that others have they seem to forget that it probably took lots of practice and discipline for the highly skilled to get to the level they are. 

And most people don’t like to acknowledge that. It seems like its unfair that one can be so good while another is not. But in reality its the exact opposite. It is absolutely fair. That person probably gave up a lot of time over the years to perfecting their craft. And they did so with the hopes that they would one day get better as time went on. And after years and years of practicing they were rewarded with the ability to create things that few could ever hope to match, given their level of commitment.

But thats the thing, anybody can reach any level of greatness should they choose to put in the time and effort it takes to reach that goal. Thats the beauty of the age we live in. Knowing how to be resourceful and having the will power to actually spend time researching things is something I keep bringing up and will continue to bring up until it gets stuck in your head. By realizing that literally anything you might ever want to learn how to do or get better at is likely somewhere online. Once you become aware of what you are thinking or wondering about, looking online for answers becomes second-nature to you and you will gain from it.

Research Things That Relate To Things That Interest You

For the sake of example, let’s say you’re a designer who has been designing stuff primarily for the web for a long time and you want to branch out your skills. So you decide that maybe you want to start a clothing line or online print shop. A few basic questions you may want to ask yourself before you go any further:

1. How knowledgeable are you at designing stuff for print?

If you’re like I was when I first started Aetheraeon and have never really designed many things for print then it would be a good idea to become familiar with the terminology and file prepping standards one has to adhere by in order to get a print looking as good as it can. Research what CMYK stands for and how it differs from RGB if you don’t know it already. 

At this point, brainstorming should be your biggest focus. Come up with ideas and look up things that have to do with the clothing or print making industry. If you’re making poster prints, look up typical print sizes and how much shipping tubes cost. Or if you’re doing clothing, look up shirt brands, sizes, printable areas on shirts, average cost per shirt. Even consider looking up little embellishes like hem tags and printed hangtags that will make your brand seems more solid and legit. If your clothing company is based around a theme or concept, like Aetheraeon was, then do ALL the research you can and know the subject in and out as if you were majoring in it in school. 

2. Do you know anything about starting a business?

Not many people can say they know much about starting a business from the start frankly because a lot of it is tedious and boring if its not your main passion. It takes a lot of researching to find the proper ways to legitimately establish a business while maintaining your sense of excitement about why you decided to do it in the first place. 

When I started Aetheraeon, I was familiar with the basics because I took 1 year of business and entrepreneurship classes while in high school and knew since then that I eventually wanted to start my own business. I went in knowing enough to lead me to figure things out along the way but there were still many things I didn’t know. 

If you’re someone who knows little to nothing about business, get started by doing some basic research on your business name to see if anyone else is using it or if its a registered trademark or if even the domain name exists. A few tools I like to use are Google for doing basic searches on a name. If any obvious search results come up with what seems like a company doing business in the same industry as you, then it might be a good idea to rethink your name. But if your search turns up no real results then the next step would be to see if its been registered as a trademark.

3. Do you plan on doing this alone or as a team?

This is something you need to decide for yourself based on how you work best and how much responsibility you want to take on and what skills you or someone else possess. I’ve had experience working in both situations and actually prefer working alone.

For the most part, I have been working on my side-projects alone. The reason being is that while they are side-projects, I can’t fully commit to a solid schedule in which I can defer tasks to other people on a consistent basis since I constantly jump back and forth between projects. Aside from that, I find I work best when I have no restraints or people to give tasks to in order for them to keep busy. 

But on the flip side there is also a sense of unity when you decide to build a team as opposed to only working alone. For one, you know you don’t have to do everything yourself. If you bring on the right people that possess skills you are less skilled at gives you one less this to worry about. Also by working with a team, you build leadership and communication skills by guiding others and explaining to them the tasks that have to get done and making sure they realize they’re accountable if it gets done or not.

Deciding which scenario works best for you depends on the project you’re working on. If it’s a big project like a company or a non-profit, then it makes sense if you build a team. But if it’s a small side-project where you can only dedicate a small amount of time each day, then it’s best to work at it alone. However, this small project you’re working on could become a big project later on. If you’re trying to build a team but the only option that seems rational at this point is to work alone, then by all means do it for the time being. If you’re afraid that doing it alone means having to learn new skills, understand that it will be better for you in the long run. 

This goes back to my earlier point about learning to be resourceful. The fact that a project you’re working on has multiple components to it that you know nothing about, it makes sense to understand these points now so that later on when you start building a team of people who know more about these things than you, you’ll be in a better position to pick the right people who know exactly what they are talking about.

4. What is the reason why you are starting this up?

Is the reason you are starting this project or idea because you have something new to offer people or consumers? Is your idea catering to a specific niche? Do you just want to make a quick buck?

These are all viable questions you need to be asking yourself before you go any further or else you will just be wasting your time. Thinking about these things in advance will help solidify your objective and help you set goals for your project in the long run.

5. Who is your target audience?

Another question you need to ask yourself is who are you selling your idea to? Who is the main audience you will be marketing your idea to? How do you know they will be interested in your idea, and if they aren’t, how will you convince them otherwise?

By figuring out who your intended audience will be and what they like will put you in a better position early on to cater your product or idea to them and grab their attention from the start. Do the required research and don’t be afraid to get second opinions from friends or colleagues. 

Ask Yourself Questions

Hopefully at this point you have a good solid plan and have figured out where your mind and attention needs to be. Starting any sort of project or business is a major undertaking but should ultimately be considered fun and exciting before anything else. If the very thought of working on or even progressing with your project gets you all excited, then you are on the right track.  

The main takeaway from the questions above should be that you should do all the preparation you can while your idea is still fresh and at the fore-front of your awareness. Most times when you get excited about a project, you tend to want to focus only on the core idea itself. But if an idea becomes something you believe could actually take-off if you put in the effort, you need to ask yourself all the right questions in order to be start strong and have enough to go on for a good while.

Explore Every Avenue

If you’re anything like me, I’m constantly coming up with new ideas and as a result, I willingly teach myself how to do new things in order to be able to fully realize some projects that require learning skills I don’t yet know. Which is why when it comes to learning new things, I immerse myself for a period of time in the content and subject at hand in order to expose myself to new ways of thinking. Even if it’s not for a project, I enjoy the process of learning new things even if they have no immediate use or practicality.

When a project calls for it, I try to explore every possible angle and if it interests me enough, I go ahead and learn all I can from any available methods. 

The very idea of being a self-starter and realizing that anybody can learn anything at any time if they put in the required time and effort should be something that should encourage you. Learning something new can be pretty easy and effortless with the right mentality. But becoming a master at it is what takes time and patience, which is often seen as something in today’s society and culture as difficult  or impossible to achieve or even impractical. And this is something which leads to my next point.

Sacrifice Good Things To Achieve Great Things

In order to progress in life and achieve the things you always day-dream about, you have to think differently than how you’ve been conditioned to thinking your whole life. If you have certain goals in mind and are constantly struggling to find the time and energy in the day to bring them to life, then you have to be willing to cut certain things out in order to make the time.

For instance, lets say you work a full-time job that is 9am – 5pm and you wake up at 8am, get ready then you head to the office everyday a little before or after 9. Then you work until 5pm, go home, eat dinner and relax in front of the TV or browse the internet until really late at night until you fall asleep. Then you wake up and do the same thing all over again the next day.

Right off the bat, you should see there are many chances in this example to cut back on certain things in order to make time to work on stuff.

Wake Up Early

We all know sleeping is a very good thing, but a good place to start would be waking up earlier in the morning. If you wake up with just enough time for you to get ready and drive to work, you are missing out on a whole lot of time you could use to your advantage. Even if you aren’t naturally a morning-person, you could ease yourself into it and train yourself to wake up early over time. 

If you are really driven and serious about making more time available to you in order to work on your project, then waking up early should be easy. You shouldn’t need to rationalize to yourself that it wouldn’t be a good idea to have more time in the morning, so ideally you should be able to do it pretty effortlessly if you still have that excitement on your mind. If you do need some sort of reason to rationalize it to yourself, then make waking up early another small-scale goal you can easily achieve that will help you get closer to your ultimate goal. 

One way I would suggest is to set a goal time for you to ultimately want to wake up at. Then every week, over the course of however long it takes, set your alarm clock for 15 minutes earlier until you reach the time goal you set for yourself. Ideally you would also  want your bedtime to adjust accordingly so that you get the required rest you need. In the end, its all a balance you need to find on your own of when you can afford to go to bed at night and when you want to wake up in the morning.

I personally wake up at 4:30am every weekday and at 6:30am on weekends. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult to get to that point. And at points, it still is difficult getting up some days. But the reality of it all is that I know what my goals are and I know what is required of me in order to reach those goals. It took a full year to get entirely accustomed to waking up at 5am every weekday. I did it as a necessity in order to do the kind of work I was used to doing before I started working a full-time job.

And even then, it wasn’t until after 4 years of waking up early that I felt like I needed even more time in the morning so then I started waking up at 4:30am in order to do all the work I wanted to do. I now even have enough time to do some exercise in the mornings before I start my day so that is a huge plus.

Most of my accomplishments to date have come as a result of waking up early and working on things and following through on tasks and goals I set for myself. 

Be Productive At Night

If for some reason you are absolutely against the idea of waking up really early in the morning, then the other alternate might be to get stuff done at the end of the day. While I know most people won’t even want to do this sorely for the fact that they come home tired after a long day working and just want to relax and unwind. Which is totally understandable. I do that a lot too. I’m nowhere nearly as productive at night as I am early in the morning. But I sometimes push through and try to get the most out of my day and if that means putting in a few hours of personal work at night instead of watching TV, then I’m willing to do that.

But for those of you who are willing to work at night, I would say it’s probably the easiest route to ease into. Simply because you’re already awake and alert and if you just limit the amount of possible distractions, then it’s really possible to get some quality work done. One of the things I would try to stay away from while doing work at night is working while in bed. 

Reason being is because your body usually equates sleep with laying in bed. And you run the risk of two things happening simultaneously. First is you might fall asleep and your focus might fade away the longer you stay in bed, causing you to not be very productive. The second thing that might happen is since you are actively working while in bed and not sleeping, your body might get used to that and as a result you will have a harder time trying to fall asleep when you are actually trying to fall asleep.

One way I remove any possibility of having any sort of distraction keep me from getting work done at night is to simply go to a coffee shop for a few hours right after work. Since I’m not home and I’m in a public place where I’m there only for the reason of doing some work, I’m actually forced to get some work done, otherwise it’ll be a huge waste of time if I’m just sitting there doing nothing productive. I use this as a way to trick my mind into working in my favor because wasting time is something I don’t like to do.

Having Control Over Your Mind And Your Time

But really its all up to you and what you prefer. For the sake of how the mind naturally works, I think waking up early is the better route, not necessarily the easiest but its definitely worth the effort. I prefer doing work early in the morning because my mind is open and free from any distractions. So that immediately equates to having a more productive start to the day. Also as an added benefit, the earlier you wake up, the chances that other people who might be up at that time are very low. So if you prefer quiet and solitude, there won’t be anybody around to bother you, simply because they are still sleeping.

Also, if you have a morning commute that is dreadful and you constantly find yourself sitting in traffic for extended periods only to end up arriving to work late, then consider leaving your house early everyday and doing some work at a coffee shop near your workplace until its time for you to go to the office. I have been doing this since I started waking up early about 4 years ago and still do to this day. By doing this, you remove the unnecessary stress that comes with most mornings such as waking up late, rushing to get ready, being stuck in traffic and ultimately being late to work.

If you make enough time for you to calmly do all the things you need to do in the morning without feeling stressed, your overall mental health will grow because of it. And with those potential stress points out of the way, you now have a better outlook and clearer mind to get a great start on the day by working on your project or idea. And if you head to a coffee shop near your office, once its almost time to get to work, the drive to the office from the coffee shop should be effortless and your mentality for starting your workday will be miles ahead of everyone else’s.

If you keep at it for awhile, it really starts to become a habit. And it’s a very good habit to have. The way you think about mornings will change and you will end up NEEDING time in the morning in order to feel right for the rest of the day. It almost becomes a game or competition of sorts in your mind where you fight off the urges to stay in bed but you know that for every minute you don’t get up, it means you’ll have less time to work on your stuff. 

You’ll end up looking forward to those times every night. And that’s exactly the mentality you need to have in order to get stuff done. An overwhelming sense of excitement and accomplishment for the projects that mean the most to you. The more effort you put into making time for you to work on your stuff, the more it starts to become a habit and necessity.

Adapting To Time Constraints

Once you decide to implement these time-granting techniques into your life, you will start to see how important it really is to plan things out in advance. When you get accustomed to making the time to work on your projects either during the day or at night, you will ultimately end up wanting more time. Its just the nature of how your mind works. 

When you start to feel and see the benefits reflect in your work after putting in the required amount of effort on your part, it will start to feel rewarding and you will try to find ways to increase the amount of time you can spend working on your stuff. This can be a good thing if you do it right and find more time in ways you can afford. But it can also be a bad thing if you take time away from other things that are equally as important, if not, more important.

The good side to this is that you have finally realized the true benefits you can get out of being more efficient with your time. By taking the time to consider cutting out distracting situations in which you might think to yourself that you could be using that time for something more productive would be a good mentality to have. 

Alternatively, the bad side to this is that you run the risk of potentially harming relationships with friends or family by taking too much time for yourself and your projects. Take it all on a case-by-case basis and consider the potential ramifications. Sure, working on your projects and maintaining a good efficient state-of-mind should be at the fore-front of your mind, but sometimes its okay to step away for a while to keep relationships strong. 

It’s a balance you would need to figure out on your own. It’s awesome though if you have friends and family who are supportive of what you’re doing and understand that sometimes you need time to work. But for every time you don’t decide to hang out with them, you should consider hanging out with them the next time in order to keep everything balanced.

Optimizing Your Down Time

There are some times where you personally need time for yourself to unwind and relax. And you should absolutely do that whenever needed. The goal here is to have you ultimately do what you love to do by working hard and pushing through the hard times. But when you find yourself physically, emotionally, or mentally drained, you should definitely take some time off to regain your sense of focus. If you work yourself to the point of exhaustion and boredom, then you run the risk of your mind associating those feelings with your project. By stepping away for awhile at the first signs of those feelings, you are doing yourself a bigger favor than you may think at the time. 

Sure, it could be as a result of you preparing for reaching a major milestone. And with all major milestones often times comes major stress. So potentially you may not have the immediate luxury of stepping away. But the main point is to find enjoyment and look at the bigger picture. Keep your main goal and end result in mind and that should hopefully give you enough to go on until you can take the time to step away for a bit.

Once you finally have the ability to relax, you should try to make the most of it by not worrying about your project at all. Even if you are just taking a day off, it can help you in massive ways if you have been working on your project everyday during the week. 

Be Extraordinary

Often times you will hear most self-made successful people tell you to work hard everyday and never take breaks and to only work on yourself in order to achieve your goals. And yes, I do agree with what they say 100%. The main goal for yourself should be to do non-stop work and push through even the hardest of times. You should not work with the expectations of taking regular breaks like everyone else. If you did then you’d just be another person with a side-project that just brags about waking up really early. You need to take it a step further and work like no one else is willing to work in order to get the results you know you are capable of. 

In order to be extraordinary and accomplish extraordinary things, you need to act extraordinary and never let yourself fall into the mentality that says you are comfortable with where you are if you know you can do better.