The Moonlighter's Survival Guide: 10 Tips to Successfully Manage Multiple Jobs

Whether by choice or necessity, many of us today are maintaining multiple income streams. Entrepreneurs and independent contractors, and small business owners in particular seem more prone to this multi-job arrangement.

But the question is: how can we juggle all of our duties without dropping the ball?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 7 million Americans, or about 5 percent of the total US workforce, are currently working two or more jobs. Within this group it seems women, the perennial multi-taskers, are more likely to juggle multiple engagements than their male counterparts: more than half of this super-committed workforce, 3.6 million to be exact, are women (and this survey does not include running a home as a job, so really the number is higher).

Now several studies suggest what seems to be common sense over here: that this additional work load increases stress levels, burnout, and work-life unbalance (for example, consider this study conducted on the New Zealand Labor market and this one on single parents, holding multiple jobs).

If we consider the current economic indicators, then the number of those working multiple jobs will likely remain and perhaps even increase as people struggle to make ends meet, the job market continues its lackluster "rebound," and recent technologies allow people to be productive almost anywhere, anytime.

As a long-time member of the Multi-Employed/Multi-Tasked, being able to stay on top of all my responsibilities while remembering that I'm working to live (and not the other way around) is an effort that has required constant attention and care. Here are ten strategies that have been the most helpful to me; hopefully they may be of some help to you as well.

10 Steps to Successfully Manage Multiple Jobs

1. Choose your jobs carefully. Though you may have an urge to take whatever employment comes your way, try to stick with those jobs that are either related to what you are already doing, require little effort on your part, or involve something you enjoy.

2. Determine your priorities. Before you take on a second job, sit down and make a list of your needs, then prioritize them. For example, you need to be spending a certain amount of time per week in your primary job (if you have one); you have to be earning a certain amount of dollars per month, you need a certain amount of time per week to spend with friends and family.

3. Set goals. Based on the needs you prioritized above, now set goals, strategies, and a time-frame within which to fulfill them. So, for example, if your priority is to be making a certain amount of money per month, then you should map out the steps you are going to make to reach that income level as well as how long you think the process will take. The point to all of this is to help keep you focused on the big picture.

4. Keep information separate. Even in situations where someone is working in two related and/or overlapping roles, keep documentation, contact information, and other important data separate, clearly labeled, and easily accessible. This refers to your physical files as well as your electronic ones.

5. The mighty to-do list. This is one of the best time management tools you can use. Whether you like to sit down like me and physically write it out, or if you prefer an electronic version, creating a to-do list is a good way to help you stay focused. I personally have daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists full of action steps and goals. An additional piece of advice: create your daily to-do list the at the end of the previous day. It should be the first thing you look at in the morning.

6. Evaluate your efforts. Establish predictable times to reflect on how you are doing and feeling and consider any measures that you have set up to determine your Return on Investment (ROI). This will help to ensure that you are only doing those things that are adding value to yourself or your business. Included in this technique is knowing when it's time to walk away from a situation or an activity that is either not paying off or is highly unenjoyable.

7. Give yourself space. In situations where you have some control over your schedule, make sure to leave yourself some free time that can be used to either tie up loose ends, catch up in areas where you've fallen behind, or just take a much-needed breather.

8. PS... Remember to live. To help avoid burnout, make sure that there is time set aside for yourself, your social life, and your family. The goal is to create a healthy work-life balance, but one that is right for you and your particular situation. It goes without saying that a single young person will have different needs to someone older with a family; and it goes without saying, that anyway people are just different. If you feel that something is off or out of whack with your schedule, then do whatever you can to change it. But, if you're enjoying what you do and the time and energy demands are producing no conflict, then just skip this tip.

9. Delegate responsibilities. Know when and how to enlist the help of others to get the job done. Depending on your circumstances, this can include: outsourcing a particular task or job, hiring a new employee, or getting the assistance of co-workers.

10. Fill your toolbox. Do what you can to acquire the best and most suitable tools to get the job(s) done:

  • There are countless software applications and services available these days that can help you to better manage your time, data, and other resources. But to get the best results, be clear about your needs, and try to narrow in on a small handful of them.
  • You may also want to try to gain more expertise in particular area (via seminars, webinars, certification, or coursework) to improve your authority and efficiency.
  • Work on creating strategic alliances with other people and businesses
  • Make sure you have the right equipment and supplies at your disposal

That's my list...

But, I also want to hear from you... How do you successfully (or unsuccessfully) manage your multiple income streams and job responsibilities?