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
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
If you're even halfway decent at your jobs, chances are your bosses are going to want all of your time. It's up to you to decide how much each one gets. This is probably going to be a difficult position for you, but if you let two different companies with completely independent needs decide your schedule, you're quickly going to end up attempting to please everyone and running yourself ragged.
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
It's unavoidable that working more hours in a week will leave less time to keep your house in order. However, prioritising certain tasks can make it easier to keep up. You need to do dishes and laundry more often than vacuuming or dusting, for example. Know which tasks need your attention the most and focus on those most often instead of overburdening yourself with a full days worth of housework every time you have a day off. If you have family members you can delegate to, there are a number of ways you can delegate upkeep activities (such as a chore wheel).
Rest, Relax And Socialise When You Can
Unfortunately, if you're working more than one job, chances are that your sleep schedule will become irregular. How much sleep you need is very subjective, and it's arguable that multiple shorter sleep sessions is perfectly normal. However, if you're working too much, you can easily lose too much sleep. If you can't get a solid 6-8 hour block of rest, brush up on your power nap skills, or squeeze a couple of hours between jobs.
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
This has more to do with which jobs to choose than how to balance them, but if you need multiple employers to pay the bills, ensure that at least some of the work you do can teach you skills you need. Even if it's not the exact work you'd eventually like to do, being closer to your field is better than not.
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)
In an ideal world, you'll have one job that you do 40 hours a week, then come home to relax, spend time with your family, and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Sometimes, that's just not possible. If you're working two or more jobs, your life is probably going to get hectic. There's almost no way around that. Accepting that fact can give you a certain degree of peace of mind. Just because you have a lot on your plate and doesn't mean you're out of control.
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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