The idea of a side hustle sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s a low-risk way to test out a business idea, plus it can challenge you creatively and help bring in extra cash.
However, it’s not always easy. Working two jobs at once means that it becomes much more difficult to find enough time in the day to do everything. This can drain motivation and it can become a challenge to stay productive.
So, what’s the best way to build a successful side hustle, without compromising your mental health? We’ve put together a short guide filled with expert advice on how to stay healthy and productive.
Determine your main goals
When you’re busy every day working both your day job and your side hustle, it can be easy to forget why you’re doing what you do.
Setting clear goals is important in helping you prioritise and stay motivated. When the stress gets overwhelming, it can be easy to throw in the towel and give up, so these goals will also help you keep the big picture in mind.
As productivity expert and Go Do founder Karen Eyre-White explains, getting into a rhythm of regular goal setting will help to keep you accountable.
“It’s so challenging being a solo founder, because you don’t have the baked-in accountability that comes from working in a partnership or team. When I work with clients, I recommend planning in 12-week blocks. It’s a period of time which is both long enough to achieve something and immediate enough to get you motivated.
“Book a planning day into your diary once every three months and stick to it. Review your progress against your last three month’s goals and plan your next three months,” she said.
If you find yourself hitting that three-month deadline without much progress, Karen advises setting up an accountability group with other founders. It can be as simple as a WhatsApp group where you share your goals and update the group as you achieve them.
How to prioritise your tasks
In order to stay productive, it’s important to prioritise your tasks.
1. Make a list of all your tasks
Once you’ve set goals, break these down into monthly, weekly and daily activities. If you find yourself avoiding certain tasks, try breaking them down even further.
Starting a business is a big learning curve and there will always be new tasks that feel daunting – a lot of new founders struggle with finance or sales, for example.
Make sure your tasks are manageable. It’s better to commit to making five phone calls in a day and do it, rather than setting a goal of 20 and putting them off.
Learning to make steady, incremental progress was something that Borough 22 founder Ryan Panchoo experienced when first setting up his business.
“For me, it was learning not to do everything on that one day that I have off. Let’s just do little bits that will help you out down the line,” he said.
2. Assess the value of your tasks
Go through your list and figure out the importance of your tasks. What tasks are urgent and need to be done today? What tasks could wait until tomorrow, or next week?
Think about their value too. What from your list will help your business the most? What jobs are both time sensitive and valuable, and which ones are just one or the other?
Once you’ve figured this out, you can decide whether it’s worth postponing certain tasks. Reducing your list of jobs in this way will help you bring more value to your business by focusing your efforts on what’s most important. It can also make you feel far less overwhelmed with a massive to-do list.
3. Strategically plan the order you complete your tasks
The order in which you complete your tasks can often help with how productive you are. Maybe start with a few quick tasks to alleviate some stress and get a sense of accomplishment, before moving on to the more difficult tasks.
Getting harder tasks out of the way will mean these won’t be looming over you throughout your work session, and you can finish with your easier tasks so you feel less stressed at the end.
Plan and use your time well
We’re all guilty of it, but don’t spend countless hours procrastinating where you’re neither productive nor relaxing.
Running a side hustle means you’re often squeezing work into evenings or weekends. If you want to see concrete progress, it’s vital to plan your working hours well when you’ve got limited time.
Try using apps such as Trello and todoist for time management and planning. Keep notifications turned off on your phone to avoid distractions too – apps like Forest are a useful way to remind you not to pick up your phone when working.
Group work into batches
Go Do’s Karen recommends working in batches so you’re not constantly chopping and changing what you’re doing.
“If you need to do social media posts regularly, write all of the social media posts together in one go. Then, use a scheduler to post them for you. That way, you get into the zone of what you’re doing,” she said.
Karen also advises assigning each session a clear goal, so you know you’re contributing to the bigger goals of your business.
“If you’re spending three hours writing social media posts (because you’ve batched them), be clear how many you want to write and why social media is important for the success of your business. This helps to keep you motivated.”
Allocate yourself some time out
It’s important to make sure you set boundaries around free time too. Watch TV, read a book, spend time with family and friends – remember that there is a life beyond your work and don’t get too swept up in the excitement of your side hustle.
“You have to ask: is the business working for me or am I working for the business? Is it doing what I want it to do? That work life balance is essential,” Ryan said.
“You’ve got to look after yourself and have some separation from the business. If you don’t take time out for yourself, you build up stress and anxiety. And that takes its toll, even if you can’t see it. If you keel over, who’s going to run your business?”
Recognise the symptoms of burnout
Symptoms of burnout include feeling detached, depressed and unproductive. As Karen explains, burnout happens when we try to do too much and it outstrips our capacity to cope.
“I believe a productivity-focused mindset means accepting that you can’t do everything, and making good choices about what to do and what not to do, based on what’s most important and will get you closest to what you want to achieve,” she said.
“When we do the right things, we make progress towards our goals faster. That gives us a sense of purpose and motivation which can help us to keep going even when things are hard.”