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Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Managing Multiple Jobs At Once

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Managing Multiple Jobs At Once

    Some of us take on second jobs to make ends meet. Some do it for a chance to do the work they actually enjoy. And some of us create our own second jobs to build a business or create our own projects. No matter what the reason, though, juggling more than one job is guaranteed to be a crash course in time management. If you’re not careful, the word ‘crash’ could become more than figurative.

    How to do it, then? How do you juggle more than one job?

    We all know that we’ll have to figure out a time management system when we take on a second job. Equally obvious is the fact that what works for one person (and their jobs) probably won’t work for anyone else. It’s up to you to find a system and stick with it. There are a few tricks, though, that can help.

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    Keep firm dividers between your different jobs. Even if you are the boss on your second job — you’re working for yourself — you have an obligation to keep that work separate from your day job. Focus on what’s in front of you. There’s actually a benefit to punching a clock when you work for more than one supervisor. When you’re on the clock for Company A, you know exactly which projects you should be working on. If Company A is paying for this time, you should be theirs, heart and soul, at least until you clock out. We all know that isn’t

    Good records can also help. I’m not just talking about the calendars and task lists most of us rely on, either. Making sure that you have any contact information available no matter whether you’re at Job A, Job B or home can take some extra effort, but it’s worth it. The same goes for your notes and other paperwork.

    What to do when your jobs interfere with each other?

    There will come a day when an emergency comes up at Job A when you’re supposed to be taking care of something for Job B. It’s a fact of life. Unless you have very understanding supervisors or clients, you’re going to have to choose between your jobs. In the moment, it’s very hard to make that decision. I’ve decided between jobs based on which I enjoyed more, which paid better and which was more likely to fire me.

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    You can’t necessarily make decisions ahead of time, either. The best you can do is make sure you know which of your commitments is the priority when you’re thinking calmly and rationally. Beyond that, I’d suggest thinking about contingency plans. Personally, my contingency plan is very simple. I can pick up and move any of my projects to anywhere that has internet access. I’ve also been known to stay up late to get one of my own projects done — a certain project may not be a priority, but I try to get it done on time, no matter what else is going on.

    I know plenty of people who bring their work to their primary job. It seems to be a favorite tactic of folks starting up a freelancing career or small business. I don’t think that’s the best way to manage a packed schedule. If you don’t have your primary employer’s permission, the arrangement is shady at best. That said, these situations do happen. If you’re in one of them, the best advice is to just keep things quiet. Give precedence to the employer who is paying you for this specific chunk of time.

    How much do you tell the boss?

    Some companies don’t want you to work anywhere else. They want you to put in your eight hours, go home, sleep well and come back rested. Others consider employees who go looking for other projects as assets — such employees have a jump start on networking and have a wider variety of experiences.

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    Unfortunately, most supervisors do not come with a label describing which variety they are. Because it can be very hard to figure out your boss’ stance, the general rule seems to be that you keep quiet on your extracurricular activities. I wouldn’t talk about Job A at Job B, although, if my boss was to bring up the matter, I’d be entirely truthful.

    There are only certain circumstances in which your employer has any legal right to ask you to stop working at your second job. If you have a non compete agreement and your side job — whether you’re freelancing, working for the competition or providing consulting services — your employer can say something. If you’re on call for both jobs at once, your employer can say something. But in most other cases, your employer has no grounds to object.

    How do you find balance?

    Having more than one job doesn’t mean that you can’t have a life. In fact, it means that you need to make more of an effort to enjoy your free time and relax. While obligations like housework are important, you don’t have to let them take priority over de-stressing. Do what you can in the time you allot for such commitments and then go relax. Don’t worry. That stack of dirty dishes doesn’t have a hot date.

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    It’s not ridiculous to rethink how you handle your outside priorities if you’re working multiple jobs. Many of us are resistant to the idea that we shouldn’t do everything from laundry to home repair on our own. But sometimes the best choice is paying to have one less thing to worry about, if only so we can get back to work. It’s not a crime to have someone take care of some of your tasks.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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