How to Balance a Full-Time Job With a Side Hustle - Shondaland.com

Summary

When you’re already grinding at a full-time job, the idea of coming home to continue working on a side hustle can feel daunting. However, after-hours passion projects are practically status quo these days, with roughly 40 percent of Americans juggling full-time gigs with other work, according to a recent report by workflow company Zapier. More than 2 in 5 Americans spend less than 10 hours a week working on their side hustle and make, on average, $12,689 per year from it.

“We’re becoming more comfortable with the slashes in our titles and are fully embracing the idea that careers are no longer linear,” says holistic career and mindset coach Amina AlTai . “Embodying the totality of our gifts, for many of us, requires a side gig.”

When you’re already grinding at a full-time job, the idea of coming home to continue working on a side hustle can feel daunting. However, after-hours passion projects are practically status quo these days, with roughly 40 percent of Americans juggling full-time gigs with other work, according to a recent report by workflow company Zapier. More than 2 in 5 Americans spend less than 10 hours a week working on their side hustle and make, on average, $12,689 per year from it.

“We’re becoming more comfortable with the slashes in our titles and are fully embracing the idea that careers are no longer linear,” says holistic career and mindset coach Amina AlTai . “Embodying the totality of our gifts, for many of us, requires a side gig.”

Choosing to work outside your day job usually happens because you’re feeling undernourished in one form or another. You might do it to keep your bank account in the black, try a new role on for size before going all in, or accomplish what you feel is your true life’s purpose.

Because a day job inevitably eats up a lot of time and energy, divvying up what’s left of your bandwidth can be a tricky business, but clearly defining the mission of your side hustle is an excellent place to start. “Otherwise, we can get stuck in a cycle,” AlTai says, “of efforting for effort’s sake.”

What do you want your side gig to look and feel like? How does it connect to your broader sense of purpose? How does it check the boxes of what you need to feel good in your life? AlTai recommends ditching the word “hustle” from your repertoire. “I think it connotes using excess force, and I personally believe, when it comes to our work, we need to be in alignment, not forcing our way to the top,” she explains.

As for the nitty-gritty of how to consistently show up for your passion projects sans burning out, here’s how experts recommend getting the job done.

Do your job first

The most important thing you can do to free up time for your side work is stay on top of your full-time job so there’s no added stress or pressure in that area of your life.

“When we don’t complete tasks for our regular job, the internal pressure can add up and interfere with our side hustle,” says New Jersey-based clinical psychologist Anna Kress . “Over time, the stress can result in an inability to focus, anxiety, irritability, lethargy, and loss of motivation for the side hustle.”

Start a journal

Bullet journaling is an organizational system that allows you to track your past, organize your present, and design your future using only a notebook and pen. What sets it apart from other daily planners and to-do list apps is how the system embraces the messiness of life. Setting goals and reaching them is never a rigid or linear process, and treating our schedules as such is often counterproductive and anxiety-inducing.

The bullet journal method is completely customizable to your lifestyle, circumstances, and how you prefer to organize and process information. It offers a bird’s eye view of your day-to-day life and unearths the patterns that are getting in the way of your goals. It also has built-in mechanisms that force you to stay mindful of your goals and make reaching them a consistent part of your reality.

Track your time and energy levels

To know how you’re going to fit your side project into your schedule, you first need to know how you’re spending your time and energy. “Track your time for a week or two so you can see where your time is actually going, and track your energy levels so you know what you can reasonably expect from yourself,” says time management and productivity consultant Alexis Haselberger .

Are there aspects of your day that could be streamlined, delegated, or cut out entirely to make room for your secondary work? Once you’ve analyzed your energy levels, do your best to match your tasks to the time of day when you have the right kind of energy, says Haselberger. Do you experience the dreaded 2 p.m. slump? That’s when you should do filing, emailing, researching, or other tasks that don’t require your full brainpower. Are you always more creative at night? That’s when you’ll write your blog posts or pages.

Plot out your side hustle based on your available time and energy. Getty Images

Schedule based on energy

After penciling in your work schedule and health habits, decide how many hours you can realistically dedicate to your side project each week, using your energy tracker as a guide. “We all work a little differently,” AlTai says. “Some might feel good doing a little bit each night, and others thrive having a dedicated day or two.”

Either way, blocking out the time is paramount, as we’re conditioned to show up for what’s on our calendar. “If we separate the planning from the doing, we’re able to execute without our in-the-moment wants affecting our judgment,” says Haselberger. “We’re able to future-proof our own judgment by planning in advance when we’ll work and what we’ll do during that time.”

Manage procrastination

We tend to procrastinate when tasks and projects feel amorphous — think: building a website — because we’re not giving our brain a specific task. Instead, define the smallest next steps you can take on any task or project to move yourself toward your end goal, such as registering a domain name or writing an about page.

“We are, in effect, tricking our brain into action by clearly defining the next step,” Haselberger says. If you find yourself procrastinating, then it might mean that your to-dos aren’t specific or actionable enough, so go ahead and break them down even further. “You want to idiot-proof your task list,” she adds, “from yourself.”

Focus on specific tasks to ensure they’re completed. Getty Images

Combine tasks

“We can avoid the high cost of context switching by batch processing our tasks,” Haselberger says. “When we batch like tasks together, our brain stays in the same zone longer, and we don’t lose precious time jumping from one thing to the next.”

This might translate into scheduling social media posts on Mondays, writing content on Tuesdays, building out products on Wednesdays, marketing and customer service on Thursdays, and administrative tasks on Fridays. If you’re working on a long-term project, like a novel or a screenplay, Mondays could be for outlining, Tuesdays for research, then the rest of the week for writing the very chapters or acts you just mapped out while the intel is still fresh in your mind.

“The specific allocation of days and tasks doesn’t matter,” explains Jill Stanton, entrepreneur coach and co-founder of Wealthy Course Creator . “It’s the practice of maintaining a consistent schedule so you have time to streamline your focus and grow your side hustle without feeling overwhelmed.”

Listen to your instincts

“Not everyone thrives on consistency,” AlTai says. “Some of us, when we lean into patterns, can lose passion and energy, so I recommend designing your routine based on your energy flow but giving yourself full permission to change your plans.”

When you schedule a side project based on how your energy levels typically fluctuate, for example, there will still be days when your body pulls a fast one and you don’t have the energy — or brainpower — for your original plans.

That doesn’t mean the time spent on your side project has to go to waste, though. “I recommend using low-energy moments for your admin tasks or things you can do on autopilot that don’t consume a lot of mindshare or energy,” AlTai says. You might not accomplish exactly what you wanted, but you’ll still have done something to inch your way forward.

Similarly, you might have mundane tasks scheduled, but an energy surge compels you to work on bigger-ticket items. Go with it, and high-five yourself when you’re done.

Understand you will make mistakes as you progress on your side project. Silvia Bianchini Getty Images

Learn as you go

It’s very common to get stuck in learning mode when starting a business or working on a long-term project. “Sometimes this is motivated by curiosity, and other times it can be a hidden form of procrastination,” Kress says. “When we’re procrastinating in this way, we avoid implementing what we’ve already learned because we fear it will be uncomfortable or difficult.”

When you’re first starting your side project, you don’t need to know the answers to every single step of the journey. You only need to know what you need to know for the step you’re on right now and can plan for step 18 when you’re legitimately ready to take it.

Not only does this keep feeling overwhelmed to a minimum, but it’ll also save you time in the long run. If you plan too far ahead, Kress says, “By the time you get to implementing all of the information you’re learning, it might be outdated, or you might decide to hire someone else to do it.”

Level up your downtime

When you feel like you’re already crunched for time and then add a side project to the mix, it’s easy to let your health habits slide amidst the panic of trying to get everything done. But that’s why people working on multiple projects need to make their health the utmost priority, Stanton says. This is especially true in the beginning stages when you’re building out your business or mapping out your long-term project and have yet to find your rhythm.

The fix? Find ways to work on your side project and your health at the same time. This might include planning the next steps for your secondary work during your commute so you don’t skimp on sleep later, meditating to get into the zone before working, listening to educational audiobooks while exercising, or enjoying meals with like-minded colleagues for that one-two punch of physical and emotional satiation.

If the inconsistency of your work schedule and regular workload means it’s best to hustle on your days off, try clumping errands, housework, and meal prep together on workdays so you have uninterrupted stretches of time for your project and R&R once you’re off the clock.

Trim your extracurriculars

Everything you say yes to is a no to something else, and resisting the urge to say yes to everything is a huge aspect of getting your side project off the ground. “I use the ‘hell yes’ test,” Haselberger says. “If you have an opportunity or event to which you’re invited, or if someone asks for your help, take a minute before you say yes. Ask yourself, ‘Is this a hell yes for me?’” If it is, check your calendar to see if you can fit it in. If not, say no and mosey on with your day.

Create milestones and celebrate them as your side hustle grows. Getty Images

Measure your progress

Many people with side projects forget to set goals and milestones. These checkpoints give you the opportunity to stop, breathe, and celebrate your achievements. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Adding periodic pit stops to your calendar is an important part of monitoring your progress and making sure you’re on track to meeting your goal. This is also the time to decide if you need to make adjustments to your full-time job in order to make more room for your side project and define what those adjustments might look like.

“What I notice with high achievers that take on side gigs is they often move the goal post and keep chasing the next big thing,” AlTai says. “We need checkpoints along the way where we evaluate, celebrate what’s working, and adjust or release what isn’t.”

Choose health over hustle

Because we can sometimes use self-care as an avoidance tactic when the going gets tough, it can be difficult to tell the difference between postponing your side project duties because a timeout is legitimately needed versus taking one to escape a challenge you’re facing.

“Recognize signs of exhaustion that might indicate it’s time to slow down and rest,” Kress says. Besides heavy fatigue, symptoms can include an inability to focus, sluggishness, mood swings, anxiety spirals, fierce sugar cravings, insomnia, and an uptick in illnesses.

However, when you notice that your rest or downtime is getting excessive and your life is starting to crumble around you, it might be time to focus on motivation rather than rest. “Lovingly call yourself out when you need to,” AlTai advises. “When we’re procrastinating or feeling tired, it’s often because we have a mindset block or limiting belief — a belief that keeps us stuck.”

If you were to give your fear or frustration a voice, what would it say? Take note of any beliefs that are keeping you small or stuck, debunk each belief by citing examples to the contrary that prove these theories aren’t universally true, then reframe them into bright-and-shiny motivational beliefs.

Each time you feel stuck, bust out the new beliefs you want to establish as your truth, and keep doing so until they feel second nature. “Turning your reframed beliefs into daily mantras that unleash your blocks,” AlTai says, “can set you up for powerful work.”

Krissy Brady is a health and wellness writer who has contributed to Cosmopolitan, Shape, Parade, EatingWell, The Huffington Post, and Health. Follow her on Twitter @ club_meh .

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