If you’ve spent any amount of time reading this blog, you may be under the impression that side hustles are all about easy money with no downsides. Although I wish that were the truth, the reality is that there is no free lunch. Everything has its price, including lucrative side jobs.
In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to share some of the repercussions of biting off more than you can chew. Just because you can monetize every waking moment doesn’t mean that you should. There have been several times as an attending where I have learned this lesson the hard way. Here are some of the downsides of taking side hustling to the extreme.
You’re Always Tired
Days off aren’t just blank spots on the calendar. They are there for rest and recovery. Being a doctor is a demanding job. Some of us see dead people on a regular basis. We make dozens of high risk decisions every day. Some of you do complicated procedures that take laser focus.
No matter how tough or resilient you think you are, you will eventually get fatigued if you don’t give yourself a break. When you replace rest and leisure with side hustles, you are draining your battery at double speed. Eventually those high risk decisions take a little more time to process. Procedures start to go a little slower. You’re not able to multitask quite as well. Think you’re immune? Trust me. You aren’t.
You Lack Surge Capacity
Docs who specialize in disaster management love to talk about surge capacity – the ability of a health system to absorb an unexpected increase in demand during a mass casualty event or epidemic.
When your schedule is already running at max capacity, the littlest thing can throw a monkey wrench in your plans. Even something as simple as a flat tire or a sick child can be tough to manage when you’ve committed every waking moment to some money-making activity.
You Ignore Your Health
When your schedule is packed to the brim and you’re chronically sleep deprived, the first thing to go out the window is your health. When I was broke and my time wasn’t particularly valuable I used to go to the gym, mountain bike and jog. Now as a wealthy father of 3 my free time is totally consumed by working and parenting. You know what I gained along with all these kids and cash? 25 pounds of fat.
Your Spouse Loses Patience
You can keep telling yourself that you’re working overtime to support your family, but do you know what your spouse wants more than the extra cash? You. They want your time and your attention. Men (myself included) are particularly oblivious to the subtle hints their spouses drop about the extra work hours. Usually by the time you become aware of the fact that your spouse resents the amount of time you spend at work, they’ve already been resenting it for quite some time.
You Lose Empathy
We often interact with people on one of the worst days of their lives. We tell people horrific news and often get to see the worst humanity can inflict on each other. It takes empathy and patience to deal with these situations.
I always find that I spend a few extra minutes with each patient after I’ve had a stretch of days off. I take that time to sit down, answer extra questions or grab that warm blanket. Those little things make a big difference to patients, but when you’re burnt to a crisp they always seem to take too much effort.
Trying to Find Balance
So how am I going to change my ways? What will I do differently in 2019 to strike a better work/life balance?
Actually use vacation time – I usually only use about half of my 6 weeks of vacation. Taking a week of vacation costs me $8,000 right off the bat. I need to stop viewing vacation time as a money pit. Starting in 2019 my goal is to use 100% of my allotted vacation time (and resist the urge to fill the void with side jobs). Even if I just spend those weeks lounging around the house with my kids, it will be a time to recharge my batteries.
Learn to say no – Once you know where to look for side hustles, you start seeing new ones everywhere you go. Even my existing side jobs contact me on a weekly basis asking me if I want to pick up more hours. As much as I like people contacting me offering to pay me thousands of dollars for easy work, I need to do a better job of saying no. My goal for 2019 is to not pick up any new jobs unless I’m replacing a current one for something that is more beneficial for my sanity/health/family life.
Prioritize family time – The past 3 years have been parenting survival mode. In a span of 16 months we went from having 1 child to 3! I want to make more time for my kids and enjoy their youth while I can. My daughter is almost 9 and I don’t know where the time went. I want to dedicate more time to my kids both as a group but also doing special things individually with each child. You only get one chance to get parenting right.
Prioritize my health – My financial success has come at the cost of my physical fitness. My goal for 2019 is to exercise at least once a week and lose at least 10 pounds. I would love to set a goal of exercising 3 times a week, but until all my kids are in full-time school I just don’t see that happening. Baby steps.
Keep ahead with my writing – This blog has become a fantastic creative outlet and a great way to process my thoughts on medicine and money. With my hectic schedule I am usually cranking these posts out less than 24 hours before they’re posted. I’d like to stay a few weeks ahead so this continues to feel like a fun hobby rather than a homework assignment.
Medical side hustles can certainly accelerate your path to financial independence. The good news is there are almost limitless ways to make extra money with your medical training. The bad news is if you’re not careful you will become a victim of your own success. Only you can decide if the rewards are worth the risks.