Skip to content

Hey, Colleague: How many side hustles is too many?

Without your health, you have nothing, no matter how much money you make.
side gig
A bike messenger checks his route in the city.

Send questions about careers, productivity and work-life balance to [email protected]. Please include your name and location, or request to remain anonymous.

Hey, Colleague:

Help! I’m hustling myself towards a breakdown.

During the pandemic, my full-time job cut back my hours to part-time. I decided to take on two side gigs to keep my bank account happy. At the time, I didn’t think the hustling would take off as it has, but now I’m breaking out colour-coordinated calendars to keep everything sorted as both gigs take off and my work continues to increase hours back pre-pandemic times steadily.

The trouble is, I earn an equal amount from all of them, and I enjoy parts of all three (like the creativity and agile working hours for the side gigs, but the benefits from the traditional job). How do I choose which one to drop? Is there a way to manage all three?


I hear you! I recently went through similar angst myself.

I highly encourage you to figure out your priorities because you really want to avoid getting onto the road of burnout.

I am in my early 30s now, but I hustled my way through my 20s. It was intense.

I balanced a full-time career that I loved while running an almost-full-time consulting company on the side. On top of that, I kept a full social life, travelled, and was a high-functional athlete (century bike rides before work, Crossfit, Grouse Grinds before work, hot yoga after work). I admit that I couldn’t sit still, so I thrived when I had things to do. I took pride in staying organized and maintaining balance, so I never lacked energy or burnt out.

But during the pandemic — alongside a car accident that happened six months prior, starting a couple of online businesses, and other personal issues — my entire body shut down from stress. I was living in chronic pain because my digestive system shut down, and I was losing sight in my right eye.

My way of dealing with adversity was to “do more,” so I kept myself busy, worked even more, and had to navigate a broken allopathic medical system during the pandemic on top of that. I should have scheduled more downtime and been kinder to myself.

I am doing much better now, but I learned many valuable lessons during this ongoing journey:

  • Our bodies are resilient, and it may take years or decades for chronic stress (aka inflammation) to manifest itself physically. For example, new studies suggest changes in your brain happen years or even decades before women are diagnosed with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer's.
  • Pain and physical trauma from any physical injuries may not show up immediately but may be triggered by times of extreme stress. This is because your cells can hold onto negative memories and emotions. Every system is connected to your body and plays a part in your overall well-being. Even if it seems like you’ve physically recovered, trauma can linger and be more severe than you think. From my experience, your body truly keeps score, and all your experiences are buried deeply in your cells and your DNA. Sometimes my symptoms would come out of nowhere (after thinking I was healed) just by re-entering a place that brought back negative memories. Hence the importance of reducing as much stress as possible in your life to avoid developing chronic conditions later in life.

Being young, you may feel limitless, but if there is one thing I would encourage you to do is assess your current situation while thinking about your future self. Ask yourself these questions to make sure you are not neglecting your basic needs as a human being:

  • Am I sacrificing my health to keep this up?
  • How are my eating habits?
  • Am I getting enough sleep?
  • Do I have a social life? (Human beings are social creatures, and we need a community to thrive).
  • Am I neglecting my relationships?
  • How is my mood? Am I still able to be a kind person? 
  • What is my stress level on a scale of 1-10?

Without your health, you have nothing, no matter how much money you make. Trust me on this.

Kate Pn writes about mastering a healthy work-life balance by focusing on productivity hacking. Write to her at [email protected].