How to fit my side projects in around my 9 -5 (and not burn out!)

Dear my fellow nine-to-thrivers

Recently I’ve been looking into starting a side project as a way of kicking off my journey to becoming location independent but have really been struggling with fitting the work needed in around my 9 – 5 job and have been feeling pretty overwhelmed.

I leave for work at around 8am and return around 6pm – sometimes later. Then on top of the day job there’s the seemingly endless amount of household chores that need doing just to prevent your place from looking like a 18 year old boys student digs, and not to mention shopping for food, prepping the food, eating the food, catching up with the other half (or at least saying a bit more to each other than ‘hello’ ‘how was your day’ ‘stressful’ ‘yep mine too’) exercising and general ‘personal maintenance’ (showering, putting on a lick of mascara and if you’re really winning on the productivity front, even a leg shave).

Hopefully by executing my top tips on how to fit your side project in around your 9 – 5 you may even have time for a hot soak in the bath and, God, if you’re really acing it, you might even squeeze in 5 minutes for Jolen-ing the ‘tache! #lifegoals.

You’ll be relieved to know that none of these tips involve any ‘goal setting’ or project management tools, and all of which you can put into action straight away!

Make an appointment with yourself for your side project  or hobby 

Figure out what time of the day works best for you and block out one hour every day. Put it in your calendar – like you’re making an appointment with your Doctor! I find that between 8 and 9pm works best for me.

Schedule your scrolling

Urgh the mindless scrolling! We’re all guilty of it.

A few weeks ago, when I decided that I wanted to really commit to starting my side project, I made a mental note to myself to be more mindful about scrolling on Facebook and Instagram, and just that alone has made me really cut down on the amount of time I waste on social media. I’m not a massive Facebook fan so it was fairly easy for me to cut that down (in fact I removed it from my phone), but I really enjoy Instagram so I schedule it! I give myself around 10 guilt-free mins when I get home from work catching up on the latest posts and Insta-stories. That’s not to say I don’t hop on during the day, I definitely do, but I do this a LOT less than I used to.

Exercise in the morning 

I used to hate exercising in the morning, I’d go to bed and the thought of getting up early to go to the gym used to actually give me massive anxiety and as a result i’d have a restless nights sleep! But, the payoff of having more time in the evening to focus on other things that are important to me was enough of an incentive to stick it out. And you know what, I got used to it. In fact, more than that – I began to enjoy it! I typically get up at around 6.15, give myself half an hour to wake up properly, have a coffee, a banana and get changed and then hit up the 7am class at my local CrossFit box. Some mornings I go to the 6.15 class  (as truth be told, getting to work on time after I do the 7am class is nigh on impossible).

Maximise your lunch hour

I don’t know what it is about corporate workplaces, but it seems like there is a competition between employees for who can have the shortest lunch hour. If you take no lunch hour and work through then you must be 200% committed to the job and sure to be top of the list for the next promotion right?!

I’m afraid I refuse to play that game. I know that if I worked through with no break, other than to grab a pathetic dry sandwich from the local Boots, or even better, send a colleague out to get it for you, that by 2pm my productivity levels would have reached the level of a drunk sloth with a weed habit.

Believe me, you can get a LOT done in your lunch hour. I regularly use that time to get away from my desk.  I write personal to-do lists, make calls, do my food shop, listen to a podcast or read a book.

Prep your food

It’s all to easy to grab breakfast or lunch on the go, but more often or not you end up going for something which is lacking in any nutritional value or even downright unhealthy, and not only that but it’s expensive too if you do this every day.

Food prep is not sexy, it’s not exactly fun, but it is so worth it.  It doesn’t need to be complicated either. Forget the Instagram photos of perfect looking lunches and delicious over styled dinners! Wipe them from your brain. We don’t have time for that.  I’ll do a separate post on simple lunch and dinner ideas but here I just want to emphasise how investing a bit of time either on a Sunday evening or straight after work (which is what I prefer) just getting the next day’s breakfast and lunch together ends up saving you time in the long run.  A good tip is to make 2 days worth of lunches in one go. Yes you might be eating the same thing for 2 days in a row, but it still beats that dry Boots tuna mayo sarnie or overpriced salad that you would have ended up having!

I am what I eat – if I eat crap I feel crap, if I eat well I feel great, have loads of energy and feel like even if everything else is not going to plan, if I’m at least eating right that’s one less thing to worry about, and it’s totally within my control.

Have a bedtime routine 

One last thing I want to talk about, before I hit the sack myself, is to make sure that no matter what time you go to bed, you take some time to wind down. Quality sleep is so important for being able to maintain high productivity levels and not end up burning out. Some people get by on 5-6 hours of quality sleep just fine, but I need more like 7-8.

I like to go to bed quite early, normally around 10pm, but I start my bedtime routine about half an hour before I actually get into bed. To be honest, I’m normally in my PJs pretty much as soon as I get home from work (or some kind of elasticated waist!) so that’s one less thing to do before bed! I clean my teeth, turn off my laptop, avoid scrolling (see above), and what works for me is getting cosy in bed and popping a show on my tablet until I start to drift off. Reading is also great for slowing down the brain and getting the body ready for sleep. Perhaps try a little meditation if that’s your thing, or gentle yoga. Zzzzzzz………………


I hope this helps to set you on the road to having enough time to pursue your dreams while working full-time, staying healthy and sane.

Please share anything which works for you in the comments.


3 thoughts on “How to fit my side projects in around my 9 -5 (and not burn out!)

  1. Hi –

    Great ideas. I am a fellow location rebeller, and threaded my way from your Intro to this blog. I really enjoy your writing style – friendly, upbeat, and funny … so the advice feels like it coming from a friend : )

    Oh, on the make your food ahead of time front – I found this great idea of mason jar salads – where you put your salad fixings in layers in a jar. Here is a link to the recipes – http://letslassothemoon.com/2014/12/20/mason-jar-recipes/

    Oh, and I am starting a Mastermind group you can check out on Location Rebel forum thread – Hobbyhacking Mastermind Anyone? If you want to band together with like minds for support and advice : )

    1. Hi Liza
      Thanks so much for taking the time to check out my site and for your lovely feedback! I’m very new to all this still, very much finding my feet.
      Love the idea of salad in a mason jar!
      I will be sure to head over to the Hobbyhacking thread on the LR forum 🙂

      1. You may be new to this, but your blog does look professional and the posts are well thought out. I think the greatest challenge is keeping consistent, especially since more often than not you won’t get any comments : (- so many blogs out there! See you in the LR forum!

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