How to Avoid Side Hustle Burnout while Working Full Time / by Jennifer Chan

 

This guest post comes from one of my favourite personal bloggers -- Ava is a 31 year old Consultant who blogs over at millennialmoneychallenge.com about paying down her debt, and earning, investing and saving more. She and her husband are determined to pay off 156k of debt in 18 months, reach financial independence by 40, and officially retire by 45. You can also find her on Twitter at @Ava_Millennial.

Why we work full time and have multiple side hustles

About 2 months ago, my husband and I agreed that we’d do whatever it took to wipe out our 156k of student loans in less than 18 months.

I hate calling it ‘our’ debt, because the vast majority of that debt was mine. While my husband still had 45k in loans, I still owed a whopping 111k from my undergrad and grad school degrees combined!

So far, we’ve paid off almost half of the 156k. In just 2 months, I’ve paid back $43,424 on my debt, and combined with what my husband paid on his, we’ve paid off $76,924.

My husband’s loans will be completely paid off by the end of the year, and mine will get to just under 50k. Woohoo!

To accelerate our debt payoff schedule, we’ve both taken on several side hustles on top of our full time jobs.

Here’s what we currently do to bring in income:

  • We both work full time jobs in professional services consulting environments. My job is high-stress and travel intensive, while my husband enjoys a much more laid back work environment, with no travel.
  • The more billable time that I book with clients at work, the more cash and stock bonuses I get, so I’ve taken on a ton of overtime in my day job. I often book a 70 hour billable week, often more. (Note: I’m only working this much while I pay down debt).
  • I started consulting for several hours a day on the side, outside of my day job.
  • We’ve also started renting out 1-2 extra rooms in our house 1x per week on Airbnb.
  • My husband started driving for Uber and Lyft, delivering for Doordash and UberEats, signing up for random jobs on Taskrabbit, and even started dog walking.
  • On top of this all, I’m debating starting another part-time consulting job soon. Clearly, I lovee all the stress and extra work ;o)

The Downside:

While I’m thrilled that we’re on track to wipe out 106k of our debt by the end of the year, the reality is that we don’t have a lot of free time left in the day to spend with friends or family.

So many things that we both love doing are being pushed to the back burner, and we don’t have much time to unwind, even on the weekends.

We both love volunteering, working out, going on day trips and hikes in our area, and spending as much time with friends and family as possible. I also try to post 2x a week on my blog, if I can. 

All of this is extremely hard to do when we’re SO busy.

Although we’re only 2 months into working serious overtime to tackle our debt quickly, at the pace we’re going, we both could burn out easily unless we’re more careful.  

The Plan:

Here’s how we’re trying to minimize the risk of burning out from working too much, as we pay down our debt aggressively.

1)     We’re learning to prioritize better:

While working a lot is important to our debt payoff goals, we also have to balance seeing family and friends, taking care of our health, doing other activities we love…and just relaxing.

We no longer say ‘yes’ to doing anything out of obligation  or habit without considering where it falls in our list of priorities.

Tasks that align with our debt payoff goal still get prioritized extremely high right now, but spending time with family and friends is also critically important to us. After that, in order of priority, we focus on taking care of our health, volunteering, and doing other activities we love.

Pushed to the very bottom of the list are the things we’re asked to do that don’t align with any of our priorities, or that we don’t enjoy.

2)     We say no to time consuming, low ROI activities:

Part of prioritizing ruthlessly, means having to say no to time consuming activities which don’t bring us any closer to reaching our goal. 

I’ve become very picky with what work assignments I now take on. I push back hard on any project my boss assigns that consume a lot of time, but don’t provide maximum return in billable hours logged with the client. Sorry not sorry, boss!

I also turn down lower paying side-consulting jobs that eat up a lot of time, but don’t provide the ROI (return on investment) which I need. This takes a bit of patience, persistence, and stubbornness, but I’ve found that I’ll usually still have plenty of work to do in the long run, even if I “waste” time holding out longer for the higher rate.

Right now, we also have to say no to a lot of requests to attend weekend activities, events, and trips. All of these take up a lot of time and money, which can be better used paying off debt. There will be plenty of time for fun trips and activities, once our student loan debt is gone!

Saying no frees up our time to do the things that will bring us to our end goal faster, while preventing burnout from excessive commitments.

3)     We pick side hustles that either play to our strengths or which we love doing:

When you pick a side hustle that aligns with your strengths, the job won’t feel as much like work.

If you’re lucky enough to find something that you actually enjoy doing, you’ll probably be able to sustain working the extra hours longer than someone who doesn’t.  

In my case, I don’t particularly LOVE consulting, but I am good at it. I don’t have to work too hard to consult on the side, because it aligns with my strengths and experience.

My husband, on the other hand, is a great consultant but has no interest in doing this outside of his full time job. He’d rather do a lower paying job on the side (i.e. driving for Uber), because it provides a welcome break from his daily grind, and he finds the work relaxing.

Neither of us will probably burn out easily with our respective side hustles because the work either feels easy or we actually enjoy it.

4)     We manage our time carefully:

I’ve found that the best way to manage my time when I feel time-constrained is to a) be extremely organized, b) schedule almost everything I do, and c) set reasonable deadlines.

To get organized, I keep a list of everything I have to do. My list is prioritized into daily tasks, and I focus on completing the most important, time-sensitive tasks first.

I also schedule out everything that I have to do, in my work calendar. In addition to my full time jobs and side hustles, I also schedule in time to see friends and family, to work out, prepare healthy meals (i.e. watch the husband cook and pretend to help), volunteer, etc.

I also set deadlines for all of my work tasks and projects – but the key is to be reasonable.

When I try to overextend myself and set deadlines that are unreasonable or too aggressive, I know I’m just setting myself up for failure and burnout.

5)     We plan to outsource time consuming, low ROI tasks, which we can’t avoid:

I’m trying to get better about outsourcing more tasks, so I can focus on the highest ROI activities.

This might mean hiring a cleaner, paying a bit more to get groceries delivered, or outsourcing any tasks that are time consuming, but which we hate doing.

For example, we usually do a deep clean of our house once a month, and then lightly clean through the week. Before and after we have an Airbnb guest stay with us, we also clean again.

In total, I feel like we spend a ridiculous amount of time cleaning.

We’ve now decided that we’re just going to hire someone to clean, instead of trying to do it ourselves.

In my case, I can earn 4-5x as much consulting compared to the hourly cost of hiring a cleaning company. My time is better spent consulting.

Plus, my husband sucks at cleaning, so no one wins if he tries to do it on his own ;o)

6)     We try to take a full day off each week:

I’m someone that can easily fall into a routine of working 7 days a week, with minimal rest (thanks Type A personality!).

My husband, meanwhile, is the exact opposite from me. He’s the most laid back person I’ve ever met, and he needs a lot of down time, or he burns out quickly.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being with him, it’s the importance of taking a full day off from work each week. I feel 100x better when I give myself the down time and space to just relax each week.

On weeks I can’t manage taking a full day off, I try scheduling in 1-2 hours daily and more over the weekend to just unwind and relax. 

Do you work a full time job and have a side hustle? If so, what do think is the most important advice for someone trying to balance both?

Ava is a 31 year old Consultant who blogs over at millennialmoneychallenge.com about paying down her debt, and earning, investing and saving more. She and her husband are determined to pay off 156k of debt in 18 months, reach financial independence by 40, and officially retire by 45. You can also find her on Twitter at @Ava_Millennial.

Sidenote: I also had the opportunity to guest post on Ava's blog. If you want to check it out, click here to read it.