How to Find the Energy for More Than Just Your Day Job

Image courtesy of Amelia PS/Flickr

So you’ve got something you’re really passionate about. Perhaps it’s a hobby which you think you could turn into a business. Or a community project, or a novel you’re writing, or a diet or exercise routine which you’re really taking seriously this time.

The problem is, you’ve got a day job. It takes up most of your time and energy each day.

So how can you find the energy to get anything else done?

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy. I wrote fiction, then a blog, alongside a day job, and I started out freelancing while still working full-time. It was tough, and it wasn’t a situation I’d have wanted to sustain in the long term – but it was necessary while it lasted.

Although I ditched the day job a couple of years ago, I still need to balance my time and energy; I’m studying a part time masters alongside freelancing.

Here’s what works for me:

Try Different Times of Day

I used to do all my writing in the evenings, after a full day at work. Unsurprisingly, I found it hard to concentrate – some days I didn’t get any writing done at all, then felt very frustrated that I’d “wasted” the precious few hours which I did have.

Eventually, I tried writing before work. It meant getting up at the unholy hour of 5.45am, but it did mean that I wrote much more easily and felt like I’d accomplished something meaningful before even going out to work.

I still do my best work in the mornings (though not usually that early), so I try to keep those hours for my writing.

Obviously, you’re going to be restricted by your day job hours – but can you try working on your small business first thing in the morning? Or exercising at lunch time? Or writing your novel before dinner instead of after dinner when you’re tired and lethargic?

Get Enough Rest

When you’ve got more to do than hours in the day, it’s very tempting to start taking time away from sleep. I think this is almost always counter-productive. By all means, make sure that you’re actually spending your time in bed sleeping rather than just lying there (the nine tips from Kyeli here are great) – but don’t skimp on sleep. It’ll make it harder for you to focus the next day.

Getting enough rest isn’t just about sleep. If you’re working five days a week at your day job and trying to cram in more at the weekend, you’re eventually going to crash and burn. Try to take a full day off each weekend – even if that means making slower progress on your personal projects than you’d like. Or try making one weekend in four a “free” weekend when you can just rest and enjoy yourself.

Minimize Chores

If you’re spending eight hours a day in work – and extra time commuting back and forth – then you really want the rest of your time to count. If it’s getting eaten up by chores, can you find ways to reduce those? That could mean:

  • Lowering your standards. (I’ll agree it’s nice to have a sparkling clean kitchen and a perfectly tidy house, but it’s not necessary.)
  • Hiring help. For many people, that means getting a cleaner – but you can think creatively and even hire someone to prepare your meals (it may not cost anything like as much as you think). You could pay a local teenager to mow the lawn, or to watch your kids while you get on with work.
  • Looking for alternative, more efficient, ways to get things done. For instance, you might cook huge batches of food every weekend and freeze them in individual portions for weekday meals.

A good way to figure out where your time is actually going is to keep a time log for at least a couple of weeks. Are any particular tasks taking up huge amounts of time?

Changing Your Day Job

This isn’t necessarily a possibility for everyone, so I’ve kept it till the end of the post. But if you’re really struggling to find the time and energy for you, can you change some aspect of your day job?

That might mean dropping down to four days a week instead of five. It could mean moving to a different department and a less stressful role – especially if you often end up working unpaid overtime. You might even change careers entirely.

With more and more employers realizing the benefits (to them!) of flexitime and remote working, you could have the option of shifting your work hours slightly – perhaps starting work later in the day so that you can use your early morning to do something meaningful. You might also be able to work from home some of the time, which would let you avoid wasted hours commuting back and forth.

How do you find the energy for the rest of your life, beyond your day job? And if you don’t have a day job, how do you balance the different areas of what you do?