How to Make Time for Your Side Hustle
The other day I found myself telling someone what I do in my free time. Most of my free time is spent working on my side hustles of reselling second-hand clothing and blogging. Once I shared this information and the work that goes into each, I heard, “how do you find the time for your side hustles?”
The truth is that I'm probably one of the slowest moving people there is. In graduate school, I was always the last or second to last person in the room during exams. When I cook a new recipe, I give myself double that amount of time recommended because I’ll be much slower at making it. I also don’t schedule too many outside activities in one day because I know I’ll be too tired and won’t get to them all.
But the fact that I work full-time, take care of my home, thrift and resell, and blog means I have to get a lot done. That’s why I’m always looking for productivity hacks. Over the years, I’ve tried several and found some to be helpful. I'm still not the fastest person in the world, not even close to it. On the speed scale from sloth to cheetah, I'm probably just ahead of the turtle.
I’m sure you’re a busy person too, with responsibilities to your work, your family, and yourself. So it’s not a surprise that you may not have time for a side hustle, even if you want one. Side hustles often require a serious commitment of time and energy. So how do you make time for them?
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Find your motivation
Why do you want a side hustle? It may be that you want a temporary side hustle to earn a few hundred dollars for holiday gifts. Or that you want ongoing extra income to save for a down payment on a house and then mortgage payments. Whatever it is, let that goal be your motivation to keep you going.
Do a time audit of yourself
The next step is to audit yourself to determine how you spend your time each day. There are several time-tracking apps available for free, or you can use a simple paper and pen tracking sheet. It can be cumbersome to track, but doing it even for a few days will give you a better understanding of where your time is going. You might be surprised at how much time you spend on social media, cleaning the house, or cooking meals. You may also find gaps in your schedule that you can fill with time for your side hustle.
I’ve heard lots of advice regarding work on your side hustle during your work lunch break. If you’re in a busy or intense job, you may already work through your lunch hour or really need that time to relax mentally. That’s okay. Not every moment of the day needs to productive time.
One thing to take note of is how you spend the rest of your downtime. It’s hard to have your mind “on” during every waking minute of the day. If you want to side hustle though, that downtime might have to be productive time as well. You don’t need to cut out social media time or Netflix time completely. What can you also do during that time?
Write descriptions of items you’re selling while listening to a podcast.
Answer emails and send out invoices while watching TV.
Brainstorm your next steps while walking the dog.
Outline blog posts during your work commute.
Any relaxing time that you have without working on anything should be really relaxing so that you recharge your batteries. It’s productive in that sense.
Prioritize your activities
Once you’ve audited your time, you can prioritize your activities in order to decide what to keep and what to give up. Most people who side hustle give up something to have that time available. It might be something easy like leisure relaxation time or something more significant like quality time with the family. It might even be that your family needs you most right now and you prioritize your time with them instead of your side hustle.
In my case, I give up social time and sleep. I would love to go out every night after work whether to spend time with friends or exercise. Just this week, I had the option to go to an after-work event every day from Monday to Friday. I cut out some of the activities though because I needed the time for my side hustles.
Then there are the everyday tasks of your side hustle that need to be prioritized too. If you resell second-hand clothing, you’re sourcing clothes, washing them, measuring them, taking photos, answering customers’ questions, and packaging and shipping items. If you blog, you’re brainstorming ideas for articles, writing and editing them, creating graphics, marketing your blog, emailing subscribers, and so forth. The work doesn’t stop so it needs to be prioritized for which to do first.
Do what gives you the most return for your time
This sounds obvious, right? You'd be surprised how much time I and others have spent working on things that didn’t bring the results we wanted to see or take us a step closer to our goals. I learned this from another blogger and it's changed my focus on what to prioritize.
When it comes to your side hustle, decide what gives you the most return for your time and focus on doing more of that. I sell second-hand clothes on Poshmark. Poshmark users know it can be a huge time-commitment with sharing your listings to other users and to virtual parties. You can be on the app 24/7 doing something to promote your items.
That’s probably not a good use of your time though. Instead of welcoming new users or commenting on other people’s clothing, you might be better off sourcing new items to sell or trying out a new sales platform. These last two tasks will likely bring you more sales and more money than socializing on the app.
To this end, there’s a saying that something is better done than perfect. If you have a limited amount of time for your side hustle, you may have to be okay with having something done even if it’s not to top standards. That doesn’t mean giving your customer a sub-par product. It might mean:
Doing your best with taking photos of clothes to resell, even if you can’t get the lighting right.
Pre-printing thank you notes to slip into outgoing packages rather than handwriting each one.
Reviewing your article 1-2 times instead of 5 times before posting it.
The exact things that give you the most return for your time will depend on your exact side hustle. If you’re not sure, try out a few tasks and see what is most profitable. Then continue doing that.
A time-consuming side hustle might require you to delegate the activities that you can. I used to spend time going to the grocery store or Target just to pick up a jug of laundry soap. I would buy other things while there, but I would have one or two main reasons for shopping. I would also spend an entire afternoon browsing different stores in order to find a jacket or pair of pants that I needed.
Nowadays, I rarely set foot in a store except to thrift shop for my side hustle. I stock up heavily on household goods during my one trip to Target every few months. I order a number of things online through sites like Amazon and have them sent to me. This has saved me hours and hours of time to work on my side hustles instead.
Other ways to delegate or save time:
Have your partner or spouse take over cooking or childcare an additional hour in the evening or one more night a week.
Have your children help with household chores. They may be able to clean their own rooms and fold and put away their own clothes, even if it’s not perfect.
Order clothes online and return them using a pick-up service if they don’t fit.
Have your groceries and household goods delivered to you.
You might get pushback when you try to delegate something. Let your family know why they’re taking on some tasks and responsibilities. In the end, they will likely benefit from the profits of your side hustle too.
Find a productivity system that works for you
The last thing to focus on is finding a productivity system that works for you. I love systems and routines because they lessen a person’s mental workload. The right system has me moving from one task to the next without debating and guessing what I’m doing. It helps me get as much done as I can in the given time that I have.
I’ve heard people share all sorts of systems and schedules that work for them. These are a few that I’ve found helpful.
1) Time Blocking
Time blocking is a relatively simple technique. You take the time that you have available and fill it with the tasks that need to be done. For example, you may have 2 hours available for your side hustle every evening. I might block my time to spend an hour each evening making my craft to sell and then another hour marketing my product.
One key thing here is to give yourself enough time to complete each task. If creating a craft takes me 10 hours but I only allot 5 for it, then I’ll be frustrated and behind when I don’t have it done on time. Being a fairly slow-paced person, it’s important that I give myself even more time than necessary to do the work I have to do. Then if I get it done sooner, I’m pleasantly surprised and have the time to do other things.
You can grab a simple Excel printable time tracking sheet below.
2) Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is based on the idea that you use a timer to manage your productivity. The original was a kitchen tomato timer, hence the name (Pomodoro meaning tomato in Italian). In this technique, you set the timer and work for 25 minutes straight. Then you take a 5-minute break. After doing this four times, you can take a longer break of 15-30 minutes and then start the whole thing over again.
This technique is great for people who need a deadline or timer to hold themselves accountable to do work. It’s also good for training intense focus for a limited amount of time before allowing yourself a reward or break. There have been times when I haven’t felt like writing, but the moment I set the timer, I raced the clock to get stuff done.
There are many more productivity systems out there including batching your tasks together and bringing your productivity into overdrive with the 12 week year. My favorites are the two mentioned in detail above, but the key to making your side hustle work is to find the right one for you.
If you’re reading this and thinking that you want to start a side hustle but don’t have the time or speed, take heart because there are things you can do to make it work. I’m a naturally slow-moving person so I know that it can be difficult to juggle the demands of a side hustle or two in addition to the other life responsibilities. Once you find the right side hustle and the best productivity system for you (there may be trial and error), you’ll soon find yourself moving forward. And no matter how slow moving you are, you’re one step further ahead than you were before.
What are some of your favorite side hustles? How do you find time to do them?
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