Ask LH: How Can I Balance Multiple Jobs Without Losing My Mind?

Ask LH: How Can I Balance Multiple Jobs Without Losing My Mind?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m fresh out of university and already working multiple part-time jobs. Altogether, I’m pulling down about 60-70 hours a week. How can I keep from getting burned out ruining my chances at a steady job down the road? Thanks, Overworked and Off Balance

Photos by Picture Perfect Pose, knittymarie, Horst Gutmann, 401(K) 2013, thinkpublic, and Tinou Bao.

Dear Overworked,
Working multiple jobs is becoming more and more common. A second job can be beneficial to your bank account, but as we’ve pointed out recently, it takes a careful balance to avoid burning yourself out. There are a few things you should do to keep your sanity and make that extra job worthwhile.

Set Boundaries And Stick To Them

Wherever possible, decide your availability for one job and adapt the other around that schedule. Work one during a normal 9-5 shift and fill in the gaps with the other, or only do one on weekdays and save the other for weekends. If you’re more of a freelancer, make sure each of your managers know your boundaries and stick to them. If you can, you should also set aside at least one day a week where you work neither job. This is especially important as it gives your week a centre and provides time for you to take care of things you need to at home.

Prioritise Housekeeping Tasks

a chore wheel

Rest, Relax And Socialise When You Can

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power nap skills

Make time for recreational activities too. When you’re overwhelmed with work, you can begin to feel guilty for doing things that aren’t productive. You need to relax, though. Set aside time to do things you enjoy. See a movie, play a game, go out with friends or family. Remember, if the only time you get a break is when you get sick, you need to slow down.

Spend Some (But Not All) Of Your Extra Money

Getting a second job gives you a much-needed financial boost. This means you can save more, but it also means you can spend more. Obviously you shouldn’t blow your entire pay cheque on frivolous purchases, but working yourself to death without any change to your standard of living can feel futile.

What you spend it on is entirely up to your own needs. Use it to pay down debt, go out to eat once in a while, or get something for your house that makes life easier. The point is to reduce stress and make life more enjoyable. Not every benefit will be immediate — for example, contributing to your retirement fund is a far-off goal, but one you’ll appreciate later — but if you don’t see any rewards from working so hard, you run the risk of making all your hard work seem futile.

Pursue Work That Builds Your Career


If you want to be a game developer, get a second job at a video game store instead of waiting tables. Want to run a business? Take that assistant manager position. Don’t let the fact that you’re not in your dream job yet distract you from gaining any kind of relevant experience you can. Working at an electronics store may be a far cry from working at Google, but it’s a lot closer than an usher at a movie theatre is.

Accept Some Chaos (But Don’t Marry It)

Recognise that a lack of stability is a natural part of both your life and your career cycle and make friends with it. Just don’t commit to that lifestyle. Arguably, a rare few people are capable of living life on an hour-to-hour basis, but most of us need a sense of stability eventually. Working 50 or 60 hours a week is not an insurmountable challenge, but ideally it will be done for a purpose. If you’ve been working several years at multiple jobs and you’re still only scraping by, it may be time to start looking for a better paying position or negotiating a raise.

Managing two (or more) jobs can be done. It’s not ideal, but it’s not impossible, either. It will take some self-discipline and probably even some support from your friends and loved ones, but if you’re stuck in a financial rut, it can be the kick start you need.


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