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8 Tips to Maintain Work-Life Balance with a Side Hustle

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The side hustle gets romanticized on Instagram, particularly when it’s the pursuit of a passion project. Beautiful photographs of before-work coffee dates and laptops propped up on vacation make it seem so effortless, easy, and dare I say, fun. But between day job workdays that slowly creep into the evening, skewing the nightly side hustle to-do list, and weekend plans that are turned down in favor of writing a blog post or organizing tax documents, side hustle life isn’t always easy. 

Behind those inspiring images of a successful side hustle, there’s often a small business owner or entrepreneur going above and beyond to put in boundaries to prioritize the needs of both a demanding career and a rewarding side hustle. They’re laying the groundwork for maintaining a healthy balance between work, side hustle, and having a life. From saying “no” to simply shutting off the computer, these are eight ways they make it work and successfully manage their time with a side hustle.

Use your ‘why’ to guide your yes and no.

Chesley McCarty is a photographer and designer with a full-time career as a retail and real estate strategist at a design and consulting firm. With creative pursuits both by day and night, it’s critical that she intentionally allocates her time and energy. She does this by keeping her ‘why’ front and center to decide which projects are the right fit for her time in the current moment. She says, “In a culture that makes us feel we can be everyone, to everything, at all times, if we only just do a little more, remember that it is okay to say no to yourself in order to maintain focus on the pieces of your business that are the most important for long-term growth.”

Maggie Spicer is a tech lawyer by day who blogs about clean beauty and is in the process of finalizing her soon-to-be-launched clean skincare line. Similarly, she minimizes distractions that don’t fit her long-term vision for her brand in order to focus on her ‘why.’ She explains, “I don’t do sponsored content anymore and I haven’t tried to monetize my blog. This clears space to exclusively work on projects that directly support my brand and mission. It has even led to revenue-generating projects that are about my brand, rather than someone else’s.”

And that idea that seems too good to say ‘no’ to? It doesn’t have to be done today. McCarty adds, “You can always take on a new idea or angle in a future season when you have more bandwidth.”

Utilize lists to stay organized.

With a demanding career and innovative side hustle, Spicer relies on lists, organization systems, and writing out every task. She jots down the big goals — and the small ones. Describing her process, she says, “The key is identifying how long each task will take. When work is busy, I may only get to a few ‘5-minute’ side hustle tasks that week. But it still allows me to keep the ball rolling and have the satisfying moment of checking something off my to-do list!”

This could be as simple as writing down tasks in your planner with a quick “15 min” or “1 hour” beside them, or you could use Google Calendar to color code and organize by task, event, and timeline. 

Boundaries aren’t just a buzzword. They’re crucial for wellness across all facets of life, particularly work-life balance when you have a side hustle. No one should work 15-hour days every day, no matter how passionate they are about their projects. Every work week, block out at least one evening where you are going to close your laptop after the last day job email is sent. And every weekend, try to block out one day where you won’t sit down at your desk.

Take it one step at a time.

If you log off from your full-time workday to find a long list of side hustle to-dos staring you down, don’t get overwhelmed. Instead, remove the items that don’t need to be done immediately and, for the rest, take it one step at a time. Respond to Instagram DMs, then write the blog post, then scan your receipts for taxes. One step at a time. 

“When life gets crazy, I take a ‘one thing’ approach. Even if it’s the end of the day and I’m totally exhausted from work, I try to do one thing for my brand. It’s amazing how quickly they add up!,” says Spicer.

Weigh the cost and benefit.

A new project could bring with it exciting opportunities: more money, more name recognition, or even checking off long term goals. But, when you have a full-time job in addition to your side hustle, there’s always a sacrifice, and you have to weigh the cost and benefit of each new endeavor. McCarty says, “When you have a full-time career and everything else is icing on the cake, it’s important to remember that it is, in fact, just icing.” 

That outlook helps her pay close attention to how she’s prioritizing her side hustle with her physical and mental health. She keeps a watch on whether she’s pushing daily habits, like exercising or cooking, to spend more hours online. If the pendulum swings in the direction of her computer, then it’s time to reset.

Set clear, achievable goals.

You can battle the feeling of always needing to hustle harder, go further, and earn more by setting clear, achievable goals that you can reach and complete. Keep in mind, though, that the achievable part is critical. You should be able to achieve these goals while maintaining a quality of life that feels right for you.

“This year, I’m working towards monthly goals, and once I reach that target, I protect the rest of my time. If I don’t meet the goal for a certain month, I don’t try to make up for it in the months to come,” explains McCarty.

Recognize when it’s time to outsource.

Even a side hustle can benefit from outside help, particularly if it means outsourcing to gain a few precious free hours. If you find yourself spending too much time on back end admin work, like invoicing or scheduling social media, it could be worth the cost to hire a virtual assistant. It’s not worth missing out on your life to slog through the things you don’t want to do — plus, you’re employing another small business owner. 

It’s rarely worth pulling an all-nighter for the sake of your side hustle, so, when all else fails, just close the computer and go to bed.



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