Don’t Overdo the Hustle

Hamster on wheel

To be perfectly honest, i’m not crazy about the term “Side Hustle.” “Side business,” sure. But “Side hustle?” Not so much.

The problem is that the word ‘hustle’ is most often associated with “Hustle Culture,” and that’s not a good thing. Hustle culture can exist both in a one-person business and in a gigantic corporation, but whatever the size of the company, hustle culture is toxic. The reason for the toxicity is the overriding belief from hustle culture that the more hours you put into the business, the better your performance. Because of this philosophy, there are many other negatives that add to a business’ toxic character.

One of these results is that you become trapped in your hustle like a hamster on its wheel, expending plenty of energy but going nowhere.

The ‘Hamster Hustle’

Hamster on wheel

Don’t be ashamed if anything has caught you up in this “Hamster Hustle.” Almost everyone in business experiences it, at one time or another. One of the most important steps is learning how to break out of it.

By the way, this effect can even happen to professional athletes. A great example of what happens comes from a well-respected basketball coach, John Wooden. Here’s one of the things he said about spotting talent:

I’ve had some candidates over the years who were quick as could be – all over the court like water bugs. Seeing someone like that, you might think, “He’s the straw that stirs the drink.”

However, if you studied him, you’d see that nothing was being stirred; nothing was getting done. He would force things, overrun, shoot too quickly, back and forth, here and there. Busy, busy, busy. Lots of activity, but accomplishing nothing.

I value enthusiasm and prize initiative. Both, however, must be directed to a productive end: Accomplish something! DON’T MISTAKE ACTIVITY FOR ACHIEVEMENT. [ Emphasis mine]

So the next time you find yourself putting in 14 hour days and still unable to keep up, take a moment to look at one of your competitors who’s making more money than you. Do you really believe that his or her business is doing better because the employees are putting in more hours than you? I guarantee that’s not the reason. Time is not the problem. Time management is.

Are hard work and attitude important? Yes, extremely.

However, both are meaningless if you’re not delivering results that your business needs.

Remedy for the Hustle

So how do you get out of the hamster hustle, or avoid getting back into it? Every successful person has his or her own way, but this one’s my favorite, because it costs you nothing, and you can put it to use immediately :

  1. Make sure your business has a reasonable number of SMART goals.
    For those of you who are unfamiliar with the SMART criteria, the acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound.
    Your business should always have at least 2 smart goals in progress at any time, and probably no more than 5 goals per person.
    An example of a SMART goal might be;
    Acquire 45,000 new online customers this financial year at an average cost per acquisition (CPA) of $30 with an average profitability of $5.
    This particular goal may require more skill and resources than you have (making it unAchievable for you), but for someone who can achieve it, the goal meets all five criteria,
  2. Break each goal into a complete set of short-term tasks.
    If you think of your goal as a fancy main course, you can think of your tasks like steps in the recipe. You don’t want too many, and you don’t want to skip any step.
  3. Fill the next 2 weeks of your electronic calendar with at least five tasks total for your goals.
    You will need an electronic calendar that allows you to add free-form notes for the day, and the same type of note in various time blocks. Plenty of free calendars out there can do this.
    Also, keep in mind that not every task has to be started and finished within a single day: it’s fine to spread them out over multiple days, provided that they can all be finished by the goal’s deadline.
  4. Right before you begin work, look at the current date in your calendar so that you can plan the critical tasks for the day ahead.
    Using the example in step 3, one of the required tasks is likely to be: “Write a sales email to be used in the campaign launch.”
  5. Plan your breaks!
    Just because you’re passionate enough to work on something all day does not mean that you should. You’re still a human being, not a robot, and that means you need to take breaks during a long day. Schedule them and set your phone alarm if you have to!
    If you expect to put in an 8-hour day, two breaks besides lunch is a reasonable routine. Use these breaks to fully decompress from work: Go on social media, play games on your phone, read news alerts: anything you enjoy.
  6. Keep filling in your calendar in 2-week increments.
    You’ll hit your goals in no time!