When you’re working long hours, it’s tempting to come home from the office, curl up in front of your TV, and succumb to a marathon of your favorite reality show. Work is draining even if you love your job, and it can be hard to want to make something productive out of your evenings. While I’m all for watching a few episodes of “Chelsea Lately” as I veg out for a little bit, I also know that when you’re working on a “side hustle” (aka side project, whether it’s freelance writing, web design, etc.) your evenings are a crucial time.
In addition to my full-time job, I do freelance writing and blogging. I do a lot of this work on the weekends, but I also have to do some writing nearly every night. Sometimes the last thing I want to do after a long day is to open up my computer and work on a blog, but I’ve learned a few tricks for staying creative when you’re busy:
- Give yourself time off: I used to try to start my freelance writing work as soon as I signed off from my full-time job for the day. Big mistake. My brain was fried and my writing suffered. Now I’ll finish work, watch a little TV, eat dinner, and then get down to my blogging business. By then, my mind has had time to recharge and I’m able to write more productively. When I try to go right from working all day to blogging, I find that I end up spending more time on Facebook than I do creating new content.
- But not too much time: If you wait until 10 pm to start your work, either you’re not going to get as much done as you’d like, or you’re going to be up all night. You may even end up skipping work that night altogether. Give yourself a little time to recover, but don’t get too involved in another project or your side hustle will get pushed to the back burner.
- Create a designated space: This is especially important if you work from home, but it applies to anyone who is taking on a side project. When you’re trying to get into a creative zone, you need to build a space that’s reserved strictly for this work. It’s a lot more difficult to get the creative juices flowing when you’re on the couch where you normally watch TV. Try to work in bed and you’ll probably end up taking a quick snooze instead of working. When you want to get serious about productivity, set up a space that’s reserved for your project. When you enter this area, your body kicks into work mode, and you’re able to get more done. Even if it’s just a desk in your room, a creative space is essential. Head there every time you want to work; your brain will start to get the message that when you’re there, you’re getting things done.
- Don’t beat yourself up about a break: If you’re working full-time and trying to do a side project every single night, eventually you’re going to burn out. Take a day or two each week where you put the other efforts aside and just relax. Go see a movie, hang out with friends, go on a date with your boyfriend/girlfriend, do anything other than work. This helps you to stay refreshed and creative.
- Hang out with motivated people: When you’re around other people who are also working hard, you feel more inspired to keep going. On the other hand, when you’re around people who try to convince you to ditch your side project in favor of happy hour every night, your productivity can suffer as a result. Find friends and a significant other who support your goals and encourage you to pursue your passion.
- Find support: While it’s important to have the support of your friends and family, it’s also beneficial to talk to others in your industry who can relate to what you’re experiencing. I love talking with other bloggers, and have gotten to know some great people through writing. Whether you talk with people virtually or through industry-based networking events, getting to chat with people with similar goals and ideas can provide a burst of inspiration when you need it the most.
- Read success stories: Sometimes when I’m feeling burnt out, I’ll read about the life of a great writer whom I admire. Reading about their struggles and successes inspires me. I’ll also read their novels or articles; it helps me to feel inspired to create a great product of my own. When you need an extra kick in the pants, check out work from industry leaders in the field you’re trying to break into.
Do you struggle to stay creative as you balance a full-time job? What helps you to stay focused?
Shameless plug: My friend Sarah, from On a Good Note Designs, was kind enough to interview me for her “Monday Morning Meeting” feature on her blog. Thanks, Sarah! Click here to check it out.