THE BLOG
01/27/2016 03:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How I Built A Side Business While Studying Dentistry (And Scoring GPA 3.92)

Studying, working and having no time to enjoy your life...

Maintaining a high GPA nowadays is painful.

Building a business to support yourself, and your family is even harder. You've got competitors and other people who have already thought of your big idea, and they have a budget that's a thousand times bigger than yours.

You have to spend a lot of time and effort to compete with them and earn a good living. Even if that means that you put a hold on enjoying your life, enjoying time with your family and friends.

I've been there.

I was such a study-oholic that I didn't even have time to go out with my friends on weekends.

At the same time, I was hustling to build a freelance business online after I sold my websites to get some revenue to support myself.

I see people like Hiten Shah manage two of the top SaaS companies online with his partner Neil Patel who writes more than five posts each week for his two blogs.

Some of these are more than 5000 words. And they're about to start their third SaaS company!!!

How do they do it?

All this left me frustrated, hating my life.

And I was just 18...

Everything changed in a single year

Three years ago I was overwhelmed by my schedule, but a lot has changed in my life since then.

  1. I've entered dentistry college and I had a GPA of 3.92 in my first year.
  2. I built a freelance business earning mid five figures a month.
  3. I enjoy my life with my friends. Yes, I still have time for that.
It may seem impossible to achieve all three, so maybe you're wondering how I've been able to do all that.

Well, it all starts with this...

Change your routine and habits

It sounds simple, right?

But that's the truth about how to achieve what you want in life.

You need to change your daily routine to be more productive and do what you want in the least amount of time possible.

But what exactly should you do?

Here are 4 habits that changed my daily routine and helped me to accomplish more in less time.

The first one is...

Waking up two hours early

If you only implement one tip from this post, then make it this one.

After I saw how every successful entrepreneur, like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss, talked about morning routines, and after hearing Pat Flynn's podcast with Hal Elrod about how going to bed early has changed their lives, I thought I should try that out.

If it works for people who are busier than me, doing better than me, and who have already accomplished what I want to accomplish, then it should work for me, too.

So it tried it for a month, and here are the results.

Not only do I wake up happier and get to enjoy some quiet time to myself, I also feel energized and ready to rock and roll, so to speak, at school.

I've been doing this for two years now, and I don't regret it.

But how did I benefit from this extra time? What was my morning routine?

Actually, this is the part that I've been experimenting with this past year. I started a lot of new habits and quit a lot of bad habits.

I also had to adapt my routine from time to time to fit my new schedules, new places I lived in, new people I lived with, and so on.

But the structure has been the same after reading Hal's The Miracle Morning Book. Here is what I do:

  • Silence: Do things like meditation, prayer, reflection, deep breathing, gratitude, and so on.
  • Affirmations: This thing made a huge difference in my life. I didn't do it before reading the book. But I highly recommend it.
  • Visualization: A five-minute session at the beginning of your day imagining where you want to be and how your life will be when you achieve your goal can direct you and give you great motivation to reach your goal.
  • Exercise: In the past few weeks, I've been doing the 7-minute workout by John Lee Dumas. It's only 7 minutes, but, boy, John has arranged the workout such that you really exercise your entire body without the need for dumbbells or other gym equipment.
  • Reading: After starting to read self-improvement books like TMM, and business books like Virtual Freedom and Platform, I was able to get things done faster with and make a bigger impact.
  • Scribing: Or in other words, writing a journal. It gives me positive energy. I've been using freedom journals for the past 2 months, and it has changed my life. You can find out more about it on Kickstarter.

Hal loves to call these the life S.A.V.E.R.S... and they really were life savers for me, helping me to regain my life.

Here is one more thing I do beside the SAVERS.

Take a quick cold bath

After I wake up, I take a quick shower, which always ends with cold water.

The reason why I end with cold water is that it causes vasoconstriction in the blood vessels, which increases blood pressure in my body and makes me more energized (sorry for the medical terminology, but it's scientifically proven that cold water makes you more energized, and hot water makes you relaxed).

You can read more here, How This Showering Trick Can Make You More Energized for the Workday.

If you feel like things are starting to get overwhelming, don't worry, I have a checklist for you at the end of this post, which will help you through all of this.

Making a to-do list before you go to sleep

In spite of how obvious and simple this tip seems to be, I resisted implementing it till recently.

Your memory is not always that perfect at remembering details.

Yes, you may remember the big tasks you need to do, but many times you'll find yourself forgetting many important small things you needed to do.

It happened to me more than one time: forgetting important quizzes, assignments, and tasks.

Remembering important tasks doesn't take a lot of time.

So before I sleep every day, I write down all the important tasks for the next day. I even add small details like what I'm going to eat the next day, and so on.

I've tried a lot of wonderful tools, but the only one I stuck with is Wonderlist. It's an amazing tool that is simple yet has all everything I need.

You need to have a to-do list; even if you do it the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper, it's still effective.

Taking energizing naps

This was a powerful tool that I've added to my routine.

Taking lectures and labs from 8 to 3 is guaranteed to make your brain feel fatigued, especially if you have lectures like physiology for three continuous hours.

After I came home from college, my creativity was drained, and I didn't have the willpower to write posts, and when I forced myself to do it, the quality was always very low.

But then, thanks to Timo from productivity superdad, I started to take naps for only thirty minutes after I came home from college and ate lunch.

This quick thirty-minute nap is enough to energize me to continue the rest of the day with my creativity to write a long, detailed post or two.

It also helps me to be in a good mood when I go out with my friends later on.

It's hard to believe, I know. I had my doubts about this technique at first, but since I started trying it, it's been a huge time saver for me.

Using the Pomodoro Technique

This technique helps you to focus, so you save time and increase the quality of your work.

Those are both things you want, right? So it's like hitting two birds with one stone.

If you don't know this technique, it's basically working in a focused session and then taking a break, working another session, taking a break, and so on.

I've heard a lot of discussions about what the best session length is, and it seems that many agree that a twenty-five-minute working session and a five-minute rest is the sweet spot.

For me, I could do that for smaller projects, but when I need more time to focus on doing one thing, like longer posts and so on, I go with a fifty-minute working session and ten minutes of rest.

The power of urgency is what makes this technique very effective. It makes you focus on getting work done.

So how do you apply it?

You can set a timer on your lap, or on your mobile phone for the time limit that you want, or just check the time when you begin and keep an eye on the clock (that's what I do).

Chris Winfield has reported that he has saved twenty-three hours a week by using this technique. You can read more about it here, How to Work 40 Hours in 16.7 (The Simple Technique That Gave Me My Life Back).

Feeling overwhelmed? Don't worry

While these four tips are simple, I don't encourage you to apply all of them at once.

You can start by adding a morning routine. It can be as simple as waking up just one hour earlier, taking a cold shower or bath, exercising, and preparing a good breakfast. This could dramatically change your day.

The most important thing is to take action.

Nothing is going to change in your life if you don't change your routine.

And to make it easier for you, I've created a checklist specifically for the Huffington Post readers with specific step-by-step actions to apply what I've shared in this post.

I feel confident that this checklist can save you, at least, ten hours of your time after just one week of applying it.

You can grab it here.

Ahmed Safwan was able to build a freelancing business, and still has time to study Dentistry (and get high GPA), and have time to enjoy with friends. Click here to grab your checklist to have more time.