Whether writing is your side hustle to a day job or you have a few side hustles to help supplement your writing income, many of us are working more than one job at a time these days.
And that means that more of us are on the edge of burnout.
Burnout is a tricky thing—it involves both mental and physical exhaustion, pushing yourself to the point where you’re physically falling apart and mentally drained. You start to ache and lose your passion for things you once loved…maybe even writing.
When you’re pushing yourself too hard and burning the candle at both ends—or maybe even in the middle—it’s all too easy to snap.
But the reality is, a lot of us like to push our boundaries, to see just what we’re capable of…and to earn a little extra income while we’re doing it.
So how do we find the right balance between productive pushing and spinning out of control?
Being self-aware and savvy has a lot to do with it.
Let’s look at 9 ways to stay sane even when you’re always hustlin’.
1. Play to Your Strengths
The easiest way to deal with burnout is to not get burned out in the first place!
That’s not always possible, but you can stack the deck in your favor.
When you’re choosing your side hustle, pick something that you love and that doesn’t feel like work. If you can’t stand children, it doesn’t matter how lucrative that part-time nanny job is—you’re going to burn out fast.
Love to code? Pick up a side hustle fixing websites for fellow authors or making iPhone games.
Are you an avid runner? Love pets? Make your side hustle dog walking and you can get in exercise and puppy time all in one—it’ll rarely feel like work!
If you have to force yourself to do something all the time—not just once in a while, on a bad day—you probably shouldn’t be doing that thing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your day job, your side hustle, or some other commitment…your heart isn’t in it.
Life is too short to do things we hate. Find a way to let go of that commitment and replace it with something that plays to your strengths and that feels refreshing, not soul-sucking.
2. Do Something Different
Variety is the spice of life.
Keep yourself engaged and interested in all you’re doing by making the different parts of your life, well…different!
If you’re a professional copywriter and write novels on the side, your side hustle probably shouldn’t be word-related, like freelance writing or copyediting. You’ll start to glaze over from spending 16 hours a day staring at a word processor.
Instead, consider doing freelance photography or pet-sitting as your side gig—something totally different from your day job or your writing.
Not only will you be using different parts of your brain, you’ll be getting new inspiration and ideas for your other creative work, boosting everything you’re doing to new levels.
3. Accept the Ebb and Flow
There will always be ups and downs in everything we do; nothing is perfect forever.
Learning to accept the ebb and flow of life—and of our own energy—can help you cope better in the down times by remembering that there will be up times, too.
Forgive yourself if you’re feeling ground down.
Acknowledge how you’re feeling and figure out what’s led to this point. Did you pull too many all-nighters trying to meet a deadline? Have to miss a family event because you needed to write one more blog post? Showed up late to dinner because you were handling something for a side job?
By figuring out what led to the stress you’re currently feeling, you can start coming up with ways to prevent it from happening in the future.
And by understanding your own energy levels and how they rise and fall, you can optimize your use of time to reduce your overall level of burnout.
If you know that you can’t concentrate in the middle of the day, don’t schedule complicated work then. Instead, catch up on emails or work on a side hustle that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower, like shipping stuff for your eBay store or doing some Mechanical Turk tasks.
You’ll still be earning, but you won’t be forcing yourself to focus in a way that adds to your burnout.
When you perk up later in the afternoon, you can go back to the big-ticket work, like plotting your next chapter.
4. Give Yourself Some Space
When you’re working a full-time job and mastering a side hustle, it can feel like you’re going full steam all the time.
That’s probably because you are.
But that doesn’t help you stay productive, and it certainly doesn’t help you avoid burnout.
Rather than plowing straight from one task into the next—and especially rather than going straight from your day job to your side hustle—take a little breather in between.
Humans aren’t actually capable of multitasking, and it takes us a little time to switch between different types of task. So going from your day job into writing mode isn’t instantaneous. And going from your writing to, say, your side hustle as a yoga instructor also takes some mental effort.
Don’t expect yourself to snap instantly between these different parts of your brain and your life.
Build in some downtime in between each gig to let yourself breathe, center, and reset yourself for the next role you’re tackling.
Instead of diving headlong into writing as soon as you leave work at night, try taking a break for a walk around the block or to cook dinner. By doing something completely unrelated to either your day job or your side work, you’ll be able to come at your next task less stressed and more ready to kick some butt.
5. Don’t Keep Up with the Joneses
One fast way to Burnout Town is to compare yourself to other people.
But Sally has a full-time corporate job, has written six books, teaches three courses, does yoga every day, and runs an Etsy shop selling custom jewelry, you say?
Good for Sally.
That works for her—or at least, it appears to from the outside. For all you know, she’s a frazzled mess.
Only you can know the workload you’re capable of—and that workload can change from day to day and week to week.
Instead of comparing your number of social media followers, your dollars earned from writing, or, even worse, your level of busyness to someone else, figure out your definition of success.
Then benchmark yourself against that, not someone else’s goals or accomplishments.
It seems like everyone these days has a side hustle, so you feel like you need one or two as well. But do you really?
If a side hustle will help you meet your goals, then go for it!
But if you’re doing this just because you feel like a slacker for not writing a book, running a shop, teaching a class, or building a business on the side, take a step back.
Your definition of success doesn’t have to be everyone else’s. It’s okay to not want to be an entrepreneur. It’s okay to just enjoy writing romance novels on the side and still actually like your day job.
Set your own goals, accept them, and work towards them. Don’t let anyone else dictate what you do with your own life.
It really is okay to side hustle—or not to side hustle. Make the choice that’s right for you.
There are certain things that you need to be responsible for in your life—and others that just about anyone can do.
Spend your time where it counts and get rid of the rest.
Why make yourself miserable trying to juggle a day job, writing, a side hustle, and chores?
It’s remarkably affordable to hire little bits of help where you need them. Instead of struggling with your business spreadsheets for hours—hours that you could spend on marketing for your books or on a freelance gig that brings in a few hundred bucks—hire a part-time virtual bookkeeper off Upwork.
Pay a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn. Ask your partner to do the dishes. Hire someone to clean your house once a month. Get a meal-delivery service or have your groceries dropped off instead of going to the store.
Outsource whatever you can to free up your time and energy to focus on your job and your side hustle.
7. Learn to Say No
When you’re trying to make some extra cash with a side hustle, and especially when you’re trying to establish yourself as a pro in a new field, it’s easy to say “yes” too often.
After all, you need to make money, establish a portfolio, gain followers, and all that good stuff.
But you also need to value your time and energy.
The next time you’re about to accept that $5 logo design job you got offered on Fiverr, stop and think. Will that $5 really pay for all the time and energy you spend to do a good job? Or would you be better off spending the time searching for higher-paying clients that could become regulars?
Maybe you’d be even better off taking the time to work on your book or redesign your blog to improve traffic. You won’t get $5 in your pocket right now, but you’ll increase your audience and exposure, leading to exponentially more income later on.
And saying no isn’t just about knowing what gigs are worth your time and effort.
It’s also about defending your personal time and giving yourself the space you need to be a human, not just a worker.
You don’t have to take every gig you’re offered. You don’t need to do “quick favors” for anyone who knows what your side hustle is, or that you’re a writer, or that you can do some certain thing they need done.
Be choosy. Do the things that bring you joy or that move the needle for you in some significant way, whether that’s financially, emotionally, or in terms of networking or personal pride.
Let go of the rest. Being busy for the sake of being busy—or because you believe that $5 in exchange for three hours of your time is worth it—is a fast road to burnout.
8. Set Reasonable Deadlines
Sure, you could write those three blog posts for your freelance client in two days…but you also have a big presentation coming up at work and you’d really like to finish up your new novel.
If you try to tackle all that in just a couple of days, you’re going to blow a gasket. Or, at the very least, do shoddy work on at least one of the projects.
Instead of trying to cram your personal, professional, and side-hustle activities into a tight timeline, think about what’s really urgent.
Can the blog posts wait until the end of the week? Can you get someone else to help out with the PowerPoint for work? Can you push your book launch back a couple of weeks?
Don’t set yourself up for failure by overestimating what you’re capable of doing in a day, or even a week.
Build time for eating, sleeping, exercising, and spending time with family or friends into your schedule up front. Then plug in the time you’ll spend at your day job. Then build in some writing time. Then you can see what’s left over for a side hustle.
Then…and only then…can you take on a new gig, client, or activity. Push back on deadlines if you need to; often, things aren’t as critical as they appear to be on the surface, or as people claim they are. A day or two won’t make a difference in the long run if it ensures that the quality is the best you can produce.
Preventing burnout and keeping up your high standards? Sounds like a good reason to be smart about deadlines to me!
9. Take a Day Off
Hand-lettering expert and creative entrepreneurship coach Sean McCabe believes in the power of taking time off. He uses the Rule of 7: take one day off out of every seven, and one week off out of every seven.
Now, taking a whole week off every two months might seem totally crazy and undoable, but start small.
Take that one day a week when you don’t do any work. No checking your email. No writing “just one scene.” No spending that time on a side hustle, driving for Uber, or selling stuff on eBay.
Take the day to relax.
Read a book. Walk the dog. Go to the beach. Watch some videos. Take a cooking class.
You are not allowed to actively generate income today. Instead, you’re focusing on refueling yourself.
You can’t go full-tilt forever. As productivity expert Stephen Covey says, you need to sharpen the saw—if you don’t take care of your tools, they’ll fail you, and as a writer, your mind is your most critical tool.
So take one day a week completely off all your work, side hustles, and gigs. Refresh yourself. Come back with a clear mind and a fresh outlook.
If this works out well for you, consider taking that mini-sabbatical once every other month—use that week to learn to play guitar, or take an intensive Photoshop class, or go backpacking. Again, the key is that you’re not using the downtime to work on a side hustle or to write—you’re using it to take care of yourself and boost your energy reserve.
It’s possible to create a full, engaged, productive life and still have time to actually enjoy it! Learn to pay attention to your energy levels and take care of yourself in order to maximize what you can get done and minimize your burnout.
Work smarter, not harder, to balance your side hustle with the rest of your life.
Keep reading for even more productivity tips to help live your best life:
- Planning for Productivity: Accelerate Your Success by Planning Right
- 3-Step Action Plan to Overhaul Your Mindset for Success
- How to Get More Done in Less Time: Create Systems That Work for You