How to Avoid Burnout While Still Hustling
Tips for staying on top of your A-game, excelling in your life, and avoiding the dreaded burnout.
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash
If you’re like me, you probably end your days thinking about how there’s not enough time in the day to do everything you want to do. I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. I work 40+ hours a week as a Security Engineer, am attending an online Master’s Degree program, furthering my technical skills in my free time, and now doing something else I enjoy, writing.
With 40–45 hours of my week already taken up by my day job, how am I supposed to do everything else I want to do as well? While also making sure I have time to cook, clean, and do all the other things that comes with being an adult?
There’s no secret to accomplishing it all. The fact of the matter is that time is what we make of it. Some days fly by, and others drag on for what seems like an eternity, but that’s all in our heads. The one’s that fly by are normally some of our best days, but an amazing day for you, is a bad day for someone else and it’s safe to say that day didn’t fly by for them.
I’m sure we all know that bad days sometimes seem to never end, but at the end of the day, there are always 24 hours that have passed. What matters is what you did in those 24 hours.
Lately, I’ve been juggling a lot, and much of it is my own doing. I decided to start writing, I decided to start teaching myself new cybersecurity skills. No one is forcing me to fill up my schedule, but that’s just who I am, and I’m sure many of you are all in the same boat. So how do I do it?
Start the Day With An Accomplishment
Well for one, I have a routine. I start and end each day the same way. I wake up, get ready for my day, and make my bed. These are things that make me feel like I have my shit together (excuse my language), and it allows me to start off on a good note. Bed made, face washed, and teeth brushed. It’s going to be a good day!
What do you do every morning that makes you feel good? It doesn’t need to be anything special, it can be changing out of your pajamas, splashing your face with water, or just making your bed. A little something to kickstart your day and make you feel energized or like you’ve accomplished something.
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee
After getting ready for my day, the next, and most important thing…coffee!! I go downstairs, turn my Keurig on and hear that lovely sound of the machine gearing up, getting ready to brew a steaming cup of deliciousness. I realize not everyone drinks coffee, so whatever it may be that you drink in the morning, get a nice cup of that, whether it be tea, juice, or even water. Whatever makes you feel energized and ready to take on the day.
While the coffee is brewing I feed my cat and give him fresh water.
This is an important part to emphasize, not because my cat needs to be fed, but because this is what best portrays the efficiency of my morning. Many people stand there and wait for their coffee and maybe check their email, or scroll through Facebook. I use those 2–3 minutes to do something quick that I have to do anyway. Why waste time standing there waiting when I can check one more thing off my list.
Time To Hustle
Coffee made, cat fed, time to get my day started. Depending on the day of the week, my routine differs. During my school semesters, this hour or two before work is spent doing schoolwork. When I’m not in school, some days I decide to sleep in a bit, other days I decide to get up and do something else, like practice new technical skills, or work on my blog content.
For me, it’s important I put in a few hours in the morning. This may not be the case for everyone so find what works for you. I found that after an eight hour work day, spent starting at two 20-inch monitors, I’m mentally drained by 6 PM.
Not to mention I have to cook dinner and clean up afterwards and that usually takes an hour out of my night. By the time I would be ready to sit down and get some of my own work done, it could be 7 or 7:30. This is why I choose to get my few hours of productivity in before I start my workday.
So think about your weekday. Maybe you work earlier hours, like 6 AM-3 PM. In that case, it may make sense for you to save a lot of your personal to-do items for 4 PM.
Whatever it is you want to do with this extra time, make it work with your schedule and be reasonable with yourself in terms of the timing. Consider how much effort you feel you can put in on top of your regular job and make sure you aren’t trying to do more than you can.
As mentioned, I spend under two hours each morning doing my own thing. You don’t have to spend three or four to accomplish something. Even one hour, five days a week amounts to a solid five hours by Friday. Five hours spread out over the week instead of being lazy for four days and having to cram in a bunch of work in one day.
A common misconception is that you have to put in a solid block of time to accomplish anything, but people fail to realize how much an hour a day can really do for you.
One of the keys to avoiding burn out is making sure there is balance in your schedule. Being realistic with yourself is the hardest, but the most important part of planning your weeks. It’s easy to overestimate how much time you can dedicate to a particular task or hobby, so feel free to experiment and find your magic number.
It may be one hour, it may be three, or it may only be 30 minutes, what’s important is that it works for you. This is critical to avoiding burnout; if you try to put in too much time you end up setting yourself up for failure because you either:
- feel defeated for not meeting your goals
- feel exhausted because you’re running yourself into the ground
So be sure to be honest with yourself about how much time you can really dedicate to whatever it is you want to do, and set your days up to be successful.
Listen To Your Body
It’s critical to listen to your body. If you’re feeling drained, let yourself feel that. Pushing too hard is what leads to burn out and think of all the productivity you lose when you get burnt out. While you need to discipline yourself in order to stick to your schedule, you need to know your limits.
How much discipline is too much? That’s a question only you can answer. If you’re feeling really run down, own that, give yourself a day off and pick things back up tomorrow. It’s okay to take time to rest. Learn to let yourself relax every once in awhile. The alternative is pushing yourself so hard you end up losing an entire day instead of just a few hours.
I for one get aggravated with myself when I get burnt out. A few weeks ago, after a week straight of sleeping around six hours, I had the laziest Sunday ever. I had to force myself to get out to the grocery store and as soon as I got home I collapsed on the couch and took a nap. If you know me, you know I hardly ever nap, but I was exhausted. When I woke up, it was 4:30, the sun had set, and I felt like I lost the day.
Which leads me to my next point…
Get 7–8 Hours of Sleep
Sleep is so important, I can’t stress this enough! Sleep gives your body and mind time to recharge so you can feel refreshed the next day. Lack of sleep can lead to having trouble focusing, have negative impacts on your mood, and cause your productivity to take a nose-dive.
When I don’t sleep well, I’m irritable, unable to focus on anything for even five minutes, and both of those things lead to me having super unproductive days, which just makes me more frustrated. It’s like a viscous cycle and you should avoid it at all costs.
Coincidentally enough, I find it hard to follow my own advice. I love getting “me time” in everyday. Whether it’s blogging, watching tv, or just a few minutes to myself spent scrolling through social media, it’s important to me that I get this time of mindless activity.
So on days where I put too much time into work or school, I find myself running somewhat behind on the schedule I set for myself. For example, I might end up working until 7 to get some things done, and then before I know it I’m collapsing onto the couch at 9 pm after cooking, cleaning, taking the trash out, etc.
On these days what I should do is go upstairs, wash up, and get in bed. Most of the time though, these are the nights I end up watching TV until 11 PM. And so begins that viscous cycle I was talking about. Staying up late and then waking up early doesn’t work well, especially if it happens for two, three, four days in a row. After a few days of that, you’ll start to feel drained from that lack of sleep.
Which is why sometimes you need to sacrifice some things to get much needed rest. I struggle with this a lot and am learning to be okay with not getting my “me” time in, mainly because I see what happens when my desire to watch TV leads me to burning out.
Like many things in life, people tend not to listen to advice, but instead take the long way of figuring things out for themselves. A good example is teaching kids about stoves. I’m sure you’ve all heard the story about how kids learn not to touch a hot stove. Not from being told it’s hot, but from experiencing the feeling of getting burned when they try to touch it.
Similarly, I can tell you sleep is important!! But until you experience that burn out from lack of sleep, and then notice how energized you feel when you do sleep well for a few days, you might not bother to take my, or anyone’s, advice.
We human’s like to think we have it all figured out, so why do we need anyone to tell us what we should do?!
My hope is this article can help you figure things out a little quicker than you would’ve without it.
If you take anything away from this story (which I really hope you do), take these three tips with you:
- Sleep is important!! Don’t deprive yourself of it. 7–8 hours a night is key.
- Start your days off with a win, doesn’t matter how small it is.
- Listen to your body and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
I hope in sharing my own experiences and daily routine, I can help you find what works for you and maybe give you the motivation to break any bad habits that are preventing you from excelling in your own life and side hustles.