4 strategies to balance your full-time job and side hustle without burning out


Working a full-time job and taking on a side hustle can be overwhelming. Yet nearly half, or 45%, of working Americans, report having a side hustle in addition to their full-time job, according to a June 2019 Bankrate Survey of 2,550 adults. Of those, approximately 30% say they've taken on the extra work to help pay for day-to-day living expenses.

Trying to balance both can lead to burnout, but it doesn't have to. It's possible to maintain a job and a gig while staying healthy and well, experts say.

And it's important to try, since burnout — a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged stress — isn't good for business. It can lead to anxiety, loss of appetite, or not feeling like yourself, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner and chief executive officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Here are four strategies for balancing your full-time job with your side gig to help you avoid burnout.

1. Limit the time you spend on your side hustle

Your responsibilities may feel never-ending if you're filling your time outside of work with, well, more and different work. That can be especially true if you're pursuing a hustle you love or if your gig is a step on the path to taking your passion full time.

Side hustle consultant Leah Gervais, whose company Urban 20 Something offers e-courses on sustaining and scaling a business, told Grow earlier this year that it can help to contain your side hustle to a set number of hours each day or week. That way, you can find that you're less stressed out and better able to manage your time.

Pacing yourself is important, adds Cheng. The hours scheduled for your side hustle can be minimal, like limiting dog walks to twice a week, or spending a couple hours on an art project. That way, if things pick up at your full-time job, you won't feel overworked. Plus, you want to make sure you're also budgeting time for errands, cleaning, or watching an episode of your favorite show.

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Pacing yourself means knowing when to say no, says Cheng. "Don't sacrifice your free time to take on more work," she says. "You can also say to someone, 'I appreciate the trust and confidence in my work. As much as I would love to do ABC, I don't think I'm able to do what you require or need.'"

When it comes to your side hustle, you're the boss. That means even if it's hard to turn down work, you can realize when it might be the right thing to do. It may not be realistic to put away your phone and unplug for an entire weekend, but you can take Sunday off every now and then, Cheng suggests.

2. Outsource basic tasks

If you find that you're overworked or you want more time for your side hustle, there is no shame in outsourcing tasks unrelated to your earning opportunities, especially if you find them stressful. That might mean ordering takeout or hiring a cleaning service. Just be mindful that it can cost extra to outsource: For example, it typically costs $130 for a service to clean an entire home.

Still, you may find the expense is worth it. "If you have a full-time job" in addition to a side hustle, "give yourself permission to take time off," Cheng says. In a series of articles in the Harvard Business Review, researchers found that spending as little as $40 on something that saves time (in their example, an hour of home cleaning through TaskRabbit) will make you happier than spending that money on stuff — especially if you use that purchased time to do something you enjoy.

3. Don't compare yourself to others

Cheng suggests not comparing yourself to others who seem to be in similar situations. If you see someone online who works a full-time job, has children, and runs a business, for example, don't try to measure your success against theirs. It can make you feel bad about yourself, and that isn't helpful.

"Just because you see someone else doing something on social media, don't get the impression that they have it all together. You don't know what they are experiencing behind closed doors," she says. "Everyone is different."

Keep the focus on what you want to achieve and how you're faring when compared against your own goals.

4. Make the most of your downtime

Between your full-time job and your side hustle, you may not have long blocks of time to relax. You can, however, make the most of even short periods of downtime. Fillet suggests finding moments throughout the day to listen to podcasts, read a book, and take a walk, all of which can help prevent burnout.

Depending on your schedule, you might be able to unwind during your commute or on your lunch break. And to keep yourself on track, you may need to block off downtime in your calendar, like you would with a meeting.

"You have to schedule a time for relaxation — that's the key. How else are you going to prevent yourself from burning out and all the things that go with it?" says Fillet. Whether that's scheduling "me time," treating yourself to self-care, or taking intermediate naps, she says "make sure you reward yourself and remind yourself why you are working."

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