How To Avoid Side Hustle Burnout

By Emma Edwards
22nd Jul 2021

a man sits in the middle of a flower bush

Having a side hustle is all the rage. Seriously, everyone’s doing it. From candle making to freelancing to your grandma flogging her tea cosies at the local fete—working on your own thing on the side is giving more and more millennials and gen Zs the freedom to earn extra money and build something of their own. But there’s just one little downside. We’re all burnt the F out. So, we’ve dug deep into what burnout is and how you can avoid it while still reaping all the benefits of a side hustle.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout has become a household term—unsurprising really since we’re living in a global pandemic – but what does it actually mean? Burnout is a state of physical and/or emotional exhaustion as a result of intense stress. While commonly associated with work or business and attributed to too many late nights at your computer or going too hard while trying to get a business off the ground, burnout can actually stem from a number of things, from emotional heartbreak to grief.

How To Avoid Burnout In Your Side Hustle

A side hustle in and of itself suggests that it sits on the, er, side, of a main hustle, so it’s no wonder side hustlers are prone to burnout. Sometimes we work so hard during the day that coming home to work on a side project ends up draining our energy tank over time—but it doesn’t need to consume you. Here’s how to reduce your risk of burning out while working on that side gig.

Allocate Time To Different Aspects Of Your Side Hustle

Running a side business often means wearing many hats, and this juggling of information all the time can be a contributor to eventual burnout. Try compartmentalising your side biz so that all your admin time is in one block, all your creative time is in one block, all your client work time is in one block—and so on. It’ll help your focus and prevent your brain from having to flip between different responsibilities at once.

Using a calendar app like Google Calendar or iCal to allocate different tasks to different days and times can also prevent you from overcommitting yourself. When something new gets added to your plate, consult your calendar first and work out when you actually have the time free to complete it before you commit to delivering at a certain time.

Reduce Your Mental Load

When you’re juggling a side hustle and a main hustle, your brain is used to retaining a lot of information at once. Try using organisational tools like Trello or Notion to store lists and reminders in one place, rather than keeping everything in that frazzled little head of yours. Not only does it reduce the risk of forgetting something important, it can give you a chance to ‘brain dump’ all those little things that keep you from unwinding.

Separate Downtime From Side Hustle Time

A big danger of side hustling is that you end up using all your free time to work on your side hustle. And sure, sometimes extra hours are necessary, but keep a watch on how this is impacting your downtime and personal life. Spotting the signs of overdoing it early on can prevent burnout from creeping up on you down the line.

Don’t Be Afraid To Take Breaks And Manage Expectations

One of the most overlooked aspects of a side hustle or side business is that the responsibility never really stops. There are rarely opportunities for complete distance from your side hustle, and so we can find ourselves pushing on and pushing on with no break for months and even years at a time. By regularly scheduling “time off” or periods of time with a lighter load, or even just weeks when you pop an out-of-office on and take it a bit slower, you get into the habit of stepping back from your side hustle and getting a chance to recharge. In doing so, you’re less likely to end up burnt out and be more able to go the distance with your side hustle long term.

Understand The Stages Of Burnout

There are said to be five stages of burnout. It all starts with the honeymoon phase, when your busy schedule is fueling you, your satisfaction levels are peaking, and you feel like you can take on the world. Then comes the onset of stress phase, where you start to feel things mounting up, and some days begin to feel more of a challenge than others. The next stage to follow is chronic stress, where we remain in a baseline state of stress most or all of the time. The fourth stage is official burnout, where those affected struggle to cope with daily life, have intrusive thoughts and experience an overwhelming sense of apathy for just about everything. The final stage—yes, there’s more—is habitual burnout. This phase comes when the symptoms and patterns of burnout become so ingrained in your daily life that it becomes harder and harder to actually come back from. Symptoms and experiences at this stage are akin to depression, and chronic emotional and physical fatigue.

Understanding these different stages can help you identify when you might be experiencing the symptoms of burnout, and prompt you to take some time out, or consult a medical professional. Remember, life is really stinkin’ hard sometimes, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Need some mindfulness activities to help you switch off from a hard day hustling? These are our fave alternatives to meditation.

Emma is a finance blogger at The Broke Generation and a reformed spendaholic. She shares hot tips on saving, property, tax, career and investing for millennials who want to break the spending cycle and get financially confident.

Image Credit: Seth Doyle/Unsplash 

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