The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Michael Kummer.
Although being an entrepreneur and having a side hustle is “in-style” nowadays, they are rarely as glamorous as portrayed on social media and television. If you searched #entrepreneur or #sidehustle on Instagram, you would see nothing but beaches, piles of money, and expensive cars. Unfortunately, this is not reality for 99.8% of entrepreneurs and people with a side hustle.
Guest blog by Ryan Helms
Ryan is a full-time supply chain manager and part-time entrepreneur. His goal is to help 1,000 people who are already working jobs to develop the skills to build a side hustle that opens them up to another income stream and more freedom in life. Check out Ryan’s Kickstarter campaign “The Side Hustle Journal: Turning 9 to 5’ers to Entrepreneurs.”
What it means to be an entrepreneur
Often, being an entrepreneur means you spend an exorbitant amount of time locked in a room all alone, sitting behind a computer screen. This can be amplified for those of us with side hustles. We spend our day grinding away at our day job then head home and transition into side hustle mode, which like those full-time entrepreneurs, means we have tucked away in the corner of the house, researching, conceptualizing, implementing, and executing our ideas. It can be a lonely journey, and other facets of your life can suffer if you are not conscious and deliberate in nurturing these areas of life.
The Four Burner Theory
Before I had ever got started on any of my side hustles, I read a blog by James Clear titled “The Four Burner Theory.” For me, this article was a game changer in how I thought about balancing life. In summary, The Four Burner Theory says that you have four main areas of life: Family, Friends, Health, and Work and each of these areas can be visualized as a burner on a stove, and the flames represent 100% of your time, effort, and attention. So if each burner has 25% allocated to it, then you will just marginally satisfy the need of each of them, and you will never be great at any of them. To be great at something, you must reallocate the fuel to the flame (your energy) from one burner to another. Many entrepreneurs and side hustlers will neglect family, friends, and health and go all-in on building their business. This may work for some people, but the more practical option would be never to turn those other burners completely off. You can allocate less time to them but don’t cut them all the way off because it can be pretty damn hard to get them going again. If you ignore your friends for six months, the next time you call them it may go straight to voicemail. If you live off take-out food and forget how to spell the word gym, then you may wake up one day 50 pounds overweight and in the doctor’s office. If your kids don’t get to spend any time with dad, then you may find yourself trading weekends with their mom to see them.
How to apply The Four Burner Theory
Applying The Four Burner Theory is a great high-level concept to navigate life and understand the consequences of focusing on certain areas, but you need a way to navigate the day today. There are a few key principles that everyone should incorporate into their daily life to ensure you are making the most of your time. They also enable you to nurture each “burner” as much as possible even though one will get a majority of the affection.
1. Develop a morning and evening routine
Start with the morning routine. It is crucial that you plan out your mornings the night before. I am a big fan of writing these down on paper so that I can see the things I need to accomplish staring back at me. The items that you list for your morning routine depend on your lifestyle, but I think that everyone’s morning routine should incorporate mind, body, and soul. For me, this means that I read or do a session on Duolingo to learn a language (mind), I exercise with weight or do yoga (body), and I meditate for 5-20 minutes (soul). My routine sometimes varies from day-to-day but not often. I also try and include basic things like drinking 20 ounces of water when I wake up and packing my lunch.
Next, we will touch on your evening routine. I try and keep this as consistent as possible because, for me, it serves only one purpose – to signal to my brain that it is time for bed. Since I wake up quite early (around 4 am), I get in bed around 9:30 each night. Before crawling into bed, I do a few things which I will outline here. I grade how my day was in the three areas mentioned above: mind, body, and soul. On a scale of 1-3, I note how my day was in each of these categories. Then I spend a few minutes writing down my morning routine for the next day, so when I wake up, I can immediately start moving in the proper direction. Then I cut off anything with a screen. Ideally, this would be 30 minutes or so before closing my eyes, but that doesn’t always happen.
Build your morning and evening routine around this outline, and you will undoubtedly see the quality of your day increase. As a by-product, your family friends, work, and health will all be elevated.
2. Outwardly express what you are grateful for
For me, this was a tough one and not something I did at all a few years ago. Each morning I spend a minute and write down one thing that I am grateful for on that day. Showing gratitude is great and often an internalized process. What I am challenging you to do is to express this gratitude externally periodically. Instead of just writing it down for yourself, outwardly express that gratitude. Send an email to a friend thanking them for something they recently helped you with or just let them know you appreciate their friendship. Text a family member and show them some love. There are many things you can do, and you don’t need to overthink it, just do it when it feels natural. This helps nurture your friends and family burner.
3. Chase small, micro goals each day
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t need to stay up until 2 am every night working on your side hustle, you just need to make small, consistent steps toward your goal. Each day you should have three micro-goals that you want to accomplish outside of your day job. These are tasks that you can easily complete and that are aligned with your overall goal. Not only will you consistently move the needle on your goal but you will reap the psychological benefit of small wins every day. You will always be accomplishing something that gets you closer to your goal. If you set huge goals and do not do anything to break them down into manageable chunks, you are setting yourself up for failure. Without consistent victories, even if they are small, you are likely to get discouraged and burned out.
Building these three approaches into my daily life has helped me to consistently accomplish my goals while not completely neglecting the other aspects of my life. To help keep everything structured and organized in my life while achieving my side hustle ambitions, I created a tool called The Side Hustle Journal. I captured the three concepts covered above in a daily section of the journal which guides you from the moment you wake up in the morning until you turn off the lights at night.
In addition to helping you master your day to day life, The Side Hustle Journal also helps with determining your goals, cultivating ideas, and establishing milestones.
If you’ve had an idea before but never took action because you considered yourself too busy with life, then implement the three items I outlined above and if you need additional structure for setting your goals and hacking your daily schedule, pick up a copy of The Side Hustle Journal on Kickstarter today.