Adding Accelerant: Can A Side Hustle Cause Faster Burnout?
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- Exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. –Merriam Webster Dictionary.
There have been numerous times the topic of burnout, specifically physician burnout, has been featured on this site, including:
- The Burnout Continuum.
- Protecting My Sanity: Combating Burnout One Bite At A Time.
- The X-ray Beam: The Happy MD & Physician Burnout Part I and Part II.
- Grand Rounds: Burning Down The House (of Medicine).
The reason why I am inclined to have the topic of physician burnout on my website pop up so many times is because I personally have felt what it is like to go through periods of it.
I know how it can effect an individual’s demeanor and have carryover into one’s personal life.
Therefore any attempt at trying to recover from, reduce, or, even better, altogether avoid, burnout should be championed.
However it is important to take precautions so that the steps to reduce burnout do not backfire on you and only make burnout that much worse.
“The remedy is worse than the disease.” -Francis Bacon.
Side Hustles & Burnout.
For some physicians, a potential escape from burnout in a career of medicine was to develop side hustles.
The rationale behind this was that a side hustle will allow you to develop a 2nd (or more) income stream.
The additional income stream from a side hustle could then help diversify your income, so you are not overly dependent on one source, as well as bring extra capital into the household so you can achieve financial independence faster.
This concept is absolutely wonderful in theory and on paper, but what are the true ramifications when you put it into practice?
There can certainly be some unwanted side effects that occur when you try to heap on even more to an already teetering workload pile.
Fixed mental bandwidth.
Although the human brain is quite amazing and capable of remarkable feats, it still has its limits.
We are all working with a fixed mental bandwidth.
Sure some of us pride ourselves as multitaskers, but even the best of those can only do so much before performance suffers.
As physicians our mental bandwidth can sometimes be pushed to the limits.
It is not easy trying to process all the information from a patient’s history, physical, laboratory results and imaging findings and come up with an adequate plan of treatment.
And that is just for one patient.
Repeat that process 20 times or more a day and it takes its toll.
It is analogous to completing a New York Times Crossword puzzle in a limited time frame, expect to get every word correct, and upon successful completion told you have another 19 just like it before you get to go home.
By the end of the day your brain is taxed and crying for help.
Is this really the time that you want to pile on additional endeavors such as a side hustle?
“But Xrayvsn! I won’t work on my side hustle during my work week, I will save it for my weekends! Problem solved, right?”
Oh, if it only were so simple.
I am a firm believer that there has to be some downtime for your brain and batteries to recharge and that is where the weekend comes in.
And trust me I know what it is like to not even have each weekend off because of call/coverage duties (which thankfully I have eliminated in my current practice).
To therefore reduce this precious downtime even further by subjecting yourself to the rigors of a side hustle may cause you to burnout even faster.
It is the proverbial, “burning the candles at both ends” that just may exacerbate the very thing you were trying to prevent in the first place, burnout.
The inspiration for this post.
I actually did not want to write this post on many levels.
But I figure if I could share my biggest failures already, this would be a relative cakewalk.
The ending of 2019 was a bit hard on me, a sort of perfect storm of events that chipped away at my psyche.
One of the biggest hits was the fact that this Christmas break was the one my daughter had to be away because of custody arrangements, which I wrote about in the post, “When A White Christmas Turns To Grey.”
As most of you may know, I try to remain anonymous, mainly because I do not want my daughter to stumble upon this website and read the posts about the divorce.
I thought I could at least make use of the 2 weeks she would be away for the holidays and stockpile some content for future posts.
Great initial plan but it never really got acted on.
What am I doing?
I think it was around this time that I was experiencing mood swings regarding blogging as well.
As the holidays fast approached, a lot of self-doubt started to creep up on me.
Although I had been blogging since April 2018 (which although seems relatively recent, is often considered mid-career in terms of blogging years, especially when you realize that most blogs don’t survive the first 100 days), I still wasn’t sure what I was adding to the blogosphere.
There are those far more financially savvy than me with incredible financial advice even within the boutique niche of physician finance bloggers (see all members of the White Coat Investor network for examples).
I have spilled out pretty much all the information I have gleaned through a horrendous divorce so that others may navigate through it better than I:
So I felt that there was not much more to add to this space.
What is the underlying motivation for me to blog and has it changed since I first started?
I think a lot of people would think that making money would be the driving force for any side hustle, which blogging can be a part of.
Although this site has been monetized, it is not something I am dependent upon to make my early retirement plans work.
In fact the financial windfall I received in 2019 from selling my ground floor investment of my medical building only demonstrated that there are far better ways to earn money for all but a select few bloggers.
No, for me I honestly do not think money was the driving force in creating and maintaining this website.
[Don’t get me wrong, making money off one’s hard work is rewarding and I would be a fool not to try and capitalize on anything that takes this much effort to put out, no matter how passionate I am about the subject.]
But if I had to pinpoint the one thing that got me interested in blogging, and what continues to be the driving force of why I put in the hours that I do, it is the social interaction aspect of it.
Maybe it was me being more emotionally hypersensitive during the holidays because of my daughter leaving, but I perceived there was a decline in this vital component for me.
When I first started blogging there was quite a bit of social interaction whenever a post came out, mainly through comments from readers.
But it just seemed like the interactions, like the temperature, dropped in the past few months.
One of the ranking systems used for bloggers, your Alexa score, also inexplicably started trending downwards, possibly because of some algorithm change.
Perhaps when I first burst out on the scene I was like the hot new club in town, but now that “new club/new car smell” is gone.
As I said it was a perfect storm.
I cannot lie and say that this did not make me question my resolve to continue blogging.
On more than one occasion I thought maybe I should just end it when a post was released to the sound of crickets.
I soon realized that I was getting burnt out by my side hustle.
In the two weeks I had off, I barely finished 1 post.
In the past, given that amount of protected time, I would have churned out perhaps 4 or 5 posts and still could not wait to start and write the next one.
It was not for a lack of topics, as I still have pages and pages of post titles in my smartphone to act on.
I was just not motivated to write.
This too shall pass.
It is amazing, but even a perfect storm eventually passes leaving calm.
It was almost as if I got a sign, but a few things happened in quick succession that jolted me out of my blogging/side hustle funk.
The first was the beginning of the new year and with it my New Year’s Eve Post, “Tabula Rasa: Time To Start Anew.”
That was the one post I wrote during my daughter’s absence.
And lo and behold, some comments started trickling in.
With all the kind words and wishes for a happy New Year, I snapped out of my “feeling isolated” phase.
I also got a very nice email from a reader through my contact page who sent me wishes and support because she knew I was struggling in my daughter’s absence when she read the Christmas post.
What was even more surprising was I received a second follow up email from her near the end of Christmas break saying it won’t be long till she comes back (it just so happened that my daughter was crossing the Atlantic coming back home when she sent it).
And, of course, as that last sentence alluded to, my daughter once again was in my house.
So where does that leave me?
To be honest, I’m not sure.
I love to write and share my thoughts with people.
It still amazes me how many people have viewed this website and took their time to comment on it or send me direct messages.
There are some personal things that are coming up at the end of the month that might present a challenge to me but nowhere near to the extent this last holiday season did.
It would be great to be able to maintain a 3x/week posting schedule with original material indefinitely (so far there have been over 260 original posts with not a single rerun) but honestly raising the bar that high and holding myself to it may cause me to burnout quicker.
I will leave it up in the air of what exactly will happen but as for now the spark of wanting to write some more content is lit again.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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