In an ideal world, we’d all be making money doing what we love. For most people, the combination of passion and a full-time income remains an elusive one. This is where the side hustle comes in. It involves working on your own business or creative project in your spare time, alongside a regular job, perhaps in the hope of making a full transition to self-employment in the future.
The good news about having a side hustle: You get to maintain financial security while pursuing your passion. The not-so-good news: It takes a lot of time and energy to successfully balance a job and side hustle while maintaining any semblance of a social life.
If you’re looking to start a side hustle, be prepared to work hard. There’s no secret formula for success — you simply have to be willing to put the work in. But a few useful tricks and tips will help you find more time and energy, and make the process as smooth as possible.
Set Strict Time Limits
Time management is essential when it comes to maintaining work-life balance. With two major work-related commitments, it is all the more crucial if you want to get things done without getting burnt-out. The best technique for maximizing productivity is to allocate a definite time limit to each task. Work, or any activity for that matter, tends to expand to fill the time we have available. Our brains are wired to equate scarcity with value. The less time we have, the more valuable it seems, and so we work harder to put it to good use.
Conversely, with no time limit or end point in sight our mind feels less pressured and is more prone to distraction. Focusing on one thing at a time for a set period will do wonders for your productivity, helping to limit procrastination and energy-sapping multitasking.
At the end of a long, tiring day it can be tempting to tell yourself that you no longer have enough time to work on your side hustle. But it’s not always necessary to have long stretches of time to get important work done. In fact, this sort of thinking can backfire. Finding big blocks of time where you can work solidly without interruption may be a rare occurrence, meaning you get around to working much less often.
Instead, get into the habit of carving out small chunks of time to work on your side hustle throughout the day. There is often a lot of dead time during the day — time spent riding public transport or waiting for appointments. Think about the sorts of small, portable tasks you could do during these short windows of time. Perhaps answer an email, outline a blog post, re-touch some photos or brainstorm new ideas?
Carry around a pen and notebook or an accessible device you can whip out when you next have 10 minutes to spare. The beauty of this so-called “micro-productivity” is that these minor efforts will quickly start to add up, relatively unnoticed, and can be harnessed to achieve big goals.
Use To-Do Lists to Fuel Motivation
To-do lists can be powerful tools for organizing your work and keeping momentum high. But they can also be a major source of stress and overwhelm, so it pays to learn a few tips about using them effectively. First, don’t use one list for all your tasks. Instead, keep a “master” list of everything you have to do, and alongside this a “daily” list which you will aim to complete and throw away by the end of the day.
Second, don’t over-estimate how much you’ll be able to accomplish in a single day. We have a tendency to over-estimate what we can do in the short-term, while significantly under-estimating what can be achieved over the long-term. It’s never a good feeling to transfer the previous day’s tasks onto a fresh to-do list. So just focus on doing a few things, and doing them really well.
Another useful tip is to tackle the most daunting or unpleasant tasks on your to-do list first thing. This not only ensures that it will get done, it also gives you a great sense of achievement early on, encouraging you to keep up the good work throughout the rest of the day.
Prioritize What Matters
When time is at a premium, it’s more important than ever to work on the things that really matter. Making sure to set clear goals, monitor progress and reassess your priorities on a regular basis are all great habits to get into. Think about the one thing you could do to make a real difference today or in the time you have available, and focus on doing just that to the best of your ability.
Don’t get sucked into doing the sorts of tasks that may make you look or feel busy, but which in reality add little or no value overall. Avoiding “busy work” is all about recognizing the difference between efficiency and effectivity. It’s really easy to be efficient (complete a task well) without being effective (making a positive contribution to your long-term goals). So before you forge ahead, remember to ask yourself if the task is really worth doing.
Create a “Stop Doing” List
You can save time by eliminating unnecessary elements in other areas of your life. Chris Guillebeau suggests following the principle of “radical exclusion” through creating a “stop doing” list. Make a list of all the things in your life that you could drop without too much trouble. This might mean cutting down on TV-watching, emails, social media or time spent aimlessly surfing the web. These sorts of activities tend to be big time-sucks.
While many people believe that time spent on the couch in front of the TV provides a good amount of rest, passive pursuits tend to sap our energy, making us feel tired and apathetic. Even if you don’t feel like working on your side hustle at a given time, it’s better to engage in active pursuits — like playing sports, practicing an instrument, or making something with your hands — so that you feel full of life when you do get back to work.
Reach out to Others
Don’t think that you have to go it alone. Enlist the support of your friends and family. Explain that you’ve had to make some sacrifices to make time for your side hustle, and perhaps try to negotiate ways you could relieve some of your responsibilities. This may mean asking your partner to take on more cooking duties, or cutting back on social visits.
Try not to feel too guilty about this. All of us are in need of a little extra help sometimes! It may be a good idea to discuss and share your work with those around you, so they can feel more connected and invested in what you’re doing. Share your long-term goals and try to explain the benefits and importance of your work. Having people’s support will help spur you on.
Finally, you may want to consider outsourcing work to a virtual assistant. You could pass on administrative or repetitive tasks you’d rather not do, or you could hire someone who is skilled in areas that you aren’t. This will save valuable amounts of time and free you up to focus on the most crucial parts of your business or a project that only you can do.
There’s no denying that finding time for a side hustle can be challenging. It’s a delicate balancing act, and it demands a lot of hard work and compromise. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you find more time and energy to maximize your output. As you make progress, your motivation will expand as well — sparking a virtuous circle of high productivity and enthusiasm that could well transform your side hustle into a full-time gig!
*This post can also be viewed on Punched Clocks.