It’s the era of the side hustle, and most side hustlers are working on growing their businesses and keeping up with their day job. According to the most recent research, nearly ten percent of American workers have active side hustles. That’s almost sixteen million people! So you might wonder how they balance their full-time jobs with their passion projects. It’s a question I get asked frequently, and I’ve got some answers, tips, and hacks to make it a little easier to grow your side hustle, add a source of income, keep up with your job responsibilities, and avoid burnout.
Engaging your free time
Setting your priorities and getting very clear on your side hustle goals is a critically important place to start. It may be that you’re simply looking to make an extra few hundred dollars a month to save up for a nice vacation, contribute to your children’s college funds, or save for retirement. Perhaps you’re looking for financial security. Or, it may be that you’re hoping to eventually transition to make your side gig your full-time job.
Having an idea of where you are looking to take your side hustle is important. Also, ask yourself these same questions concerning your nine-to-five. Are you looking for promotions and new opportunities, or are you happy where you are and simply looking to maintain the status quo? Crafting your vision upfront will help you make reasoned decisions about allocating your time and energy between your primary job, your side hustle, and the other parts of your life.
Pay attention to your job if you want to keep it and do it well. When you’re on work time, be on work time. Starting and growing a side hustle can be exciting and energizing, which is great. But avoid the temptation to spend time on your side hustle while you’re on the clock. I can’t emphasize this enough as a former employment lawyer and an HR consultant. Working on your side hustle while your employer pays you can be grounds for discipline and termination. So, to play it safe, you’ll need to find pockets of time outside the office (virtual or otherwise) to focus on growing your side hustle.
When we’re juggling many things, like a day job and a potential side hustle, scheduling in advance is a really supportive tool. You want to decide in advance what is getting done literally and when. Prepare a task list. Add even your daily life simple tasks to the task list. With respect to your side hustle, decide the dedicated time you want to commit to it a week. Many of my clients set aside approximately five hours a week for their side hustles. There is no right or wrong number here, but there is a lot of power in simply deciding and setting aside the time. Then, you’ll want to decide precisely what to do during those time blocks. This will include both time you spend “in the business” – by which I mean doing the thing for which you are paid, such as teaching, coaching, training, consulting, etc. – and time you spend “on the business” – such as creative projects, creating content, networking, marketing, tracking your numbers, etc.
Now, of course, life doesn’t always go according to plan for real people. Sometimes you must adjust and be flexible, as full-time career and home life demands may crop up unexpectedly. However, don’t use that as an excuse to avoid planning in advance and sticking to your side hustle schedule as best you can. Protecting your side hustle schedule as much as possible is important. Remember that small actions are taken consistently over time to yield results. In other words, it’s ok if you don’t have two extra hours to devote to your side hustle ideas. But even small increments of time can make a big impact. You can even set monthly or annual goals for your side hustle. Twenty minutes here, ten minutes there – these things add up. And, you can most likely protect some extra time on weekends and/or evenings to work on your side hustle.
Protecting your mental and physical well-being is important as you work to grow your side business. This means taking deliberate spare time to rest. This also means not overworking to the point of burnout. I typically refer to side hustles as side gigs (and the name of my podcast and coaching program is, in fact, Side Gig School), as I believe that we can successfully grow side businesses without hustle. That’s not to say hard work isn’t required; obviously, it is. But we can learn to differentiate between hustle and hard work.
Here’s what I think of these terms. Hard work means dedicating time and mental energy to the task of growing your business. It does not mean 24/7/365 kind of hours. Rather, it involves dedicated bursts of time where you are focused and present. This looks like your phone’s “do not disturb” setting is turned on. You want your physical setting to be conducive to focus. Set aside distractions, at least for a specified period of time. Be mentally engaged and work on one thing at a time (i.e., single-tasking).
Hustle, on the other hand, implies a totally different state of mind. When you are in hustle mode, you feel physically revved up, like your nervous system is in stress mode. You are mentally scattered and trying to do or think about many things at once (i.e., multitasking). Your brain is full of thoughts such as “there’s too much to do,” “there’s not enough time,” and “I can’t get it all done.” These thoughts increase your stress response, ironically resulting in lower-quality work.
Hustle is a mindset where we feel the energy of pushing frenetically. But on the other hand, hard work involves a mindset where we care deeply about whatever we’re working on and feel engaged and present.
How can we differentiate for ourselves whether we are hustling or simply working hard? Being aware of the distinction is a significant first step. So is listening to our intuition and instincts, checking in with ourselves, avoiding wasting time, and assessing our energy levels. In addition, we can track our time so that we don’t look up and realize we inadvertently pushed too hard.
After all, we cannot dedicate our entire time to work. Another factor we must consider when creating a perfect balance between our full-time work, successful side hustles, and lives is intentional rest. By this, I mean dedicating ample time to engage in self-care activities and your social life. This may mean weekend naps (one of my favorite ways to recharge), hitting a yoga class, or even planning a girls’ night out. Ask yourself what kinds of activities make you feel restored and refreshed. Plan for those, and schedule them.
In summary, if you want to add extra income while balancing your nine-to-five as well as the rest of your life, take care to do these things:
- Get clear on your intentions and achievable goals.
- Schedule your schedule so you are very clear on when you’re working on your day job responsibilities, working on your side hustle, and engaging in non-work related pursuits (including rest). Use your time management skills.
- Take advantage of small blocks of time, and don’t get caught up in all-or-nothing thinking.
- Prioritize your mental and physical well-being.
- Assess your progress regularly so you can adjust as needed.
Finally, practice patience. Building a successful business doesn’t happen overnight. However, taking small actions consistently over time is what yields results. So find a sustainable pace that fits into the overall picture of your professional and personal life, and stick with it. This is how you’ll advance your goals while preventing burnout.