Nick Loper is the founder of Side Hustle Nation, an online community for small business entrepreneurs, and also the host of The Side Hustle Show podcast.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
For the last 7 years, I’ve been hosting The Side Hustle Show podcast and writing at Side Hustle Nation. It’s all about creative ways to make extra money and start a business in your spare time.
Before that, it was a side hustle of my own that let me quit the corporate world. That was a comparison shopping site for footwear I ran from 2006-2014.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I normally work 8-5, Monday through Thursday, and have Fridays off with my boys (ages 2 and 4). Of course their preschool is closed due to the pandemic so carving out work time recently has been more challenging.
But under normal circumstances, I try and practice a “theme day” system. Mine looks like this:
Mondays – finalizing podcast episodes, writing and editing blog posts
Tuesdays – blocked off for meetings and recordings, both for The Side Hustle Show and guesting on other podcasts
Wednesdays – working on my own side hustle projects in the morning, administrative work and “catch up” time in the afternoon
Thursdays – Side Hustle Nation marketing and growth projects, like books, courses, or SEO experiments.
I’ve been running with this system for the last few years, and it’s been a game-changer. The most important shift was limiting the available times for meetings, which freed up longer blocks of “deep work” time the rest of the week.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, I’ve been working from home full-time for almost 12 years. The only difference right now is I’ve got the whole family home too!
Because we have a relatively small 2-bedroom place, my workspace keeps shrinking as the family has grown. I record the podcast from a standing desk in my kids’ bedroom closet!
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I think this is a challenge for any entrepreneur who truly loves their work. There’s always more to do, and more I want to do!
Having clear cut-offs for work time has been helpful, and having the kids is really the root cause of that. I try and cut off work at 5 and don’t really think about it again until they’re asleep.
With school on pause right now, my wife and I are trying to trade off kid duty and work time so we can be 100% focused on whichever time it is. Because I’m not going to get anything meaningful done with a couple toddlers around, and if I try, it’s just a recipe for frustration on everyone’s part.
So I just strive to get as much important stuff as I can in the time allows, and part of my shut-down routine each night is to list out my priorities for the next day.
5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?
Here are five I consider really core to making meaningful progress:
- Figuring out and tracking the KPIs, or key performance indicators, in your business. In my case, I tend to track website traffic, email list growth, and podcast downloads. Of course I keep a close eye on revenue and profit as well, but those tend to follow the other metrics.
- Working in short-term sprints. I haven’t done year-long goals in a while, and I’ve found I’m more effective focusing on short-term projects, usually 4-8 weeks. That way, the goal is close enough to be “real” and I can break down the specific actions needed to complete it.
- Itemizing out my top 3 priorities for tomorrow the night before. That way, I know exactly what to work on, and in what order, when work starts. I don’t always succeed at this, but I try to tackle at least the first of these proactively before checking email or social media. That sets the tone for the day — begin by proactively moving your own agenda forward, instead of reacting to someone else’s.
- Tracking micro-habits. During each 4-8 week sprint, I have a 3-4 “too-small-to-fail” micro habits I also track. These are often health or relationship-focused, but the act of tracking them puts them at the forefront of my mind. Examples include flossing, meditating, food tracking, and intermittent fasting.
- Practicing gratitude. Science says this is a proven way to get happier, and I find it’s a great way to reflect on all the stuff that made you smile during the day. There’s always drama to deal with and fires to put out, but this habit helps me not take for granted all the good stuff that happens along the way too.
(These are the 5 habits I’ve baked into my Progress Journal.)
6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
Here are a couple that come to mind.
James Schramko’s Work Less Make More is a quick read that will inspire you to focus on the few things that really matter in your business.
My favorite parts were his discussion of EHR; your Effective Hourly Rate and his definition of a business as “an offer that converts.”
What focusing on EHR has looked like for me:
- Saying no to more meetings and intro calls — and not feeling guilty about it.
- Saying no to some local market research opportunities. Based on my EHR, it wasn’t a good trade.
- Sending more repetitive tasks to my virtual assistant.
- Testing out hiring some ghostwriters for Side Hustle Nation.
- Hiring a house cleaning service.
The other is probably more well-known, but when my college roommate recommended Rich Dad, Poor Dad, it solidified a lot of ideas that were already swirling in my head. Among them:
You’re financially free when income from assets you control exceeds your monthly expenses. Buy or build assets, instead of accumulating “stuff.”
That gave the “game” of money a goal — to escape the rat race. And it made sense to tackle it from both sides; spending intentionally on the one hand, and increasing income on the other.
7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
For years, this felt counter-productive, but getting a workout in first thing in the morning. I know Richard Branson has called exercise his most important productivity hack, and I’ve found I feel so much better throughout the day if I complete my workout.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’m curious how people who seemingly have so many projects going on run their days and their weeks. That could be people like Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk, or even Sir Richard himself.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Perhaps the biggest “hack” of all is building work that doesn’t feel like work. That’s not to say that every day is rainbows and unicorns, but I feel really grateful to do work I enjoy and share it with the world. Even if you’re not in that position yet, one subtle mindset shift to try is re-wording the work in your mind from stuff you “have to do” to stuff you “get to do.”
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