Whether you think it’s a symptom of a broken economy, a fun way to keep up a hobby or simply a good way of making extra pocket money, the age of the “side hustle” is well and truly upon us. While pursuing a hobby or extra income stream in your spare time can be a lot of fun, it demands serious discipline when it comes to managing your schedule, tasks and mental health. To make sure it’s the right move for you, here’s everything you need to know about managing time when you have a side hustle.
What is a side hustle?
For the uninitiated, a “side hustle” is any money-making activity taken on outside your main day job, whether that’s freelancing your specialism, selling handmade jewelry on Etsy or making music.
It’s become increasingly popular over the past few years, with the number of side hustlers in the UK alone having risen by 32% in the last decade. Globally, e-commerce gigs are reported to be the most popular kind of side project, and there’s even an immensely popular Pinterest Board dedicated to tips and tricks on which ones pay best.
It all sounds rosy in theory, but taking on a side hustle isn’t something you should throw yourself into without any preparation. Research has shown that almost half of side hustlers work over 40 hours in a week, so getting smart with time management is key to avoiding burnout.
Is a side hustle right for you?
The first and most obvious factor to consider when thinking about a side hustle is whether it’s realistic. Ask yourself the following questions when making your decision:
If my side hustle requires a financial investment, do I have the means to do this, and the means to support myself if things go wrong? If not, you may want to have a re-think, or save a little more before starting your venture.
Am I able to make the necessary time investment? Taking on extra responsibilities will always demand some sacrifice, but it’s important to weigh up the potential consequences. Will it negatively affect your family life, for instance? If your day job often demands overtime and/or frequently being on call, this may make side hustling difficult.
Am I being realistic about my outcomes? If you’re taking on a side hustle for financial reasons, it’s important to remember that you may not start making money right away. Building up a network and contacts takes time, and profits may be slow when you’re starting out.
Managing a side hustle
If you’re happy with your answers to the above and want to give side hustling a go, it’s time to start thinking about the following.
Whether you use a digital or physical calendar, your first step should be blocking out the hours that you’ll be doing your day job, followed by any other commitments (social, family or otherwise) that will take up some of your time.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to break down the demands of your side hustle into separate tasks to be completed, whether these are recurring or simply one-off. You’ll not only make everything feel a little more manageable, but afterwards, you’ll also be able to work out where in the week you’ll have time to complete them. Scheduling apps like Timely are great for this purpose, allowing you to create to-do-lists and then drop and drag tasks from it straight into your calendar.
It’s all well and good putting aside an afternoon to work on your side hustle, but sticking to your plan is a whole other ball game. There are several productivity techniques you can apply to combat this, including time blocking, which involves micro-scheduling your days into blocks of time and assigning tasks to be completed within that set period. Alternatively, actually track your time to see how you’re spending your productive hours – it’s especially useful for seeing how long you’ve spent on a given task and where you get distracted.
External factors – like your working environment – as well as your own unconscious behaviours all feed into your productivity. Seriously analyze what’s holding you back to give yourself the best chance; here are the most common things that kill productivity to get you going.
Reflect on your progress
Working out a good, productive balance between your side hustle and main job is always going to require an adjustment period, so don’t be disheartened if you’re finding things a little difficult at first.
You can ease this adjustment by reflecting back on how you’ve used your time. In particular, check what you planned to do against what you actually ended up doing, how long different tasks took you, how much “deep work” you were able to do, and what routines worked best for your own focus. Applying these learnings will make your workflows a whole lot more intelligent and effective.