Is there a downside to your side hustle?
No, you probably don’t see a negative impact on your bank account, nor on the plans you have for your next vacation.
Where you’re likely feeling a pinch, however, is with your available time and in your relationships. If you’re struggling to find a way to be more efficient, increase your productivity, or hack your way to a 26-hour day, join the club. Like me, you’ve fallen into the subversive trap of the gig economy.
In 2019, 35 percent of the American workforce was a part of the gig economy — up from five years prior. That means 57 million Americans were self-employed in a part-time or full-time capacity getting paid for their time, skills, possessions, or expertise. To give you some perspective, that’s more people than the entire populations of Canada, Liberia, Greece, and Puerto Rico combined!
Now don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of the gig economy — I podcast, write, and travel to speak and consult in addition to working a full-time job. In fact, thanks to the gig economy, there’s never been a better moment in history to make extra money, since it’s now easier than ever to get paid for your time, skills, possessions, or expertise. This is the allure of the gig economy.
Unfortunately, it’s a trap. The gig economy promises that you’ll have more of “it” if you just work a little more, make a little more, and grow that side hustle. And when you finally get more of “it,” life will be better because you’ll have full control of your schedule. The problem is that you need to spend more of “it” in order to get more of “it.” It’s an endless cycle from which there’s no escape.
For you, what is the “it”? Is it more money to spend on your relationships? Or maybe it’s more time with your loved ones? Whatever “it” is, there’s only one way to get more of it according to the gig economy — it’s by spending more of it.
Just consider the free time or downtime that you used to have after work to invite friends over for dinner, to talk with your neighbors, or hang out with your loved ones. Haven’t you replaced some or all of it with hustling, grinding, and working on the side, so that you’ll have more money to spend time with them… at some point in the future?
Do you see the false logic in that? You’re giving up free time to work, so that you’ll have more money for free time in the future. How does this make sense? To exchange present moments of real connection for future moments of hopeful connection? What if that future moment never comes? Or what if the lack of time spent with them now leads to them not even wanting to spend time with you in the future? And that’s if they’re even still around.
On the surface, while your side hustle appears to be the path toward financing better experiences and quality time spent with your loved ones, it actually is taking you away from them. And sadly, quality time without quantity time can often feel like forced or manufactured time.
If you’re not careful, your side hustle has the potential to disconnect and isolate you from your loved ones. And unfortunately, the unintended consequence is self-obsession.
Eventually, your current needs, your future needs, and your contingent “what-if” needs will be all that you can think of. Even when you’re helping others, it will always be in view of what you can get out of it, or for that time when they can pay you back. And instead of recognizing and being grateful for the role that others have played in your life, you will reframe and reinterpret reality through the lens of me, myself, and I.
So instead of trying to save up to create epic and perfect hopeful moments in the future with your loved ones, what if we chose imperfect present moments with them today? And realized that actual quantity time is sometimes better than absent quality time?