Why Am I Exhausted After Work? (It’s not the Side Hustle)

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You ever ask yourself, “Why am I exhausted after work?”

I do, sometimes. Today is one of those days.

Honestly, I’m tired.

Probably like you, I spent 8 hours working at my day job. That doesn’t include my bus commute which, in total, takes about 75 minutes.

I left at 7 AM, got into the office at 7:45, and I just got home. It’s 5 pm and I’m spent. That’s about 10 hours of my life I traded for money. And that’s just today.

I’m a programmer. At its best, I find coding an exercise in creative problem-solving. At its worst, it’s an exercise in patience. I often find it mentally exhausting.

It also happens to be my highest-value in-demand skill.

When my girlfriend comes home from her job, we’ll catch up for a bit and share details about our day. We’ll go for a walk around a nearby park. We’ll share dinner. Then she’ll read or paint or listen to a podcast for a while. And I’ll do more work.

I have a few things I want to do. Some personal writing. Some reading. And I want to set some goals for this weekend. I know all of that will take me at least an hour.

After all of that, it’ll be 8:30 or 9 PM and I’ll only have another hour before I need to climb into bed to get enough sleep to have the energy to face tomorrow in a good mood.

Between you and me, I find this cycle draining. I imagine your workday is a bit draining too.

When are we supposed to have the time — not to mention the energy — required to focus and build new skills or start a side hustle?

It’s no wonder that so many of us decide to just watch Netflix mindlessly during our nights and weekends.

All through my teens and 20s, I mentally checked out when school or work was done. Even into my early 30s, I played video games a lot. Literally thousands of hours that I consider pretty much wasted.

But that all stopped in 2019. Not immediately. It took a few months for some of my time-wasting habits to slowly taper off. But it happened without me really having to try.

What happened to snap me out of my life-long time-wasting habits?

I got fired. And I got focused.

Getting Fired and Getting Focused

In January 2019,  I was let go from my first full-time software job. Despite working hard and putting in a lot of hours, I found myself in the unfortunate position of being out of a job. Which, for me at the time, meant being out of a paycheck.

When I got let go, I didn’t have any other sources of income. I was 100% reliant on my day job.

I knew immediately that I wanted to create another income source. But, first, I needed another full-time job.

During my unemployment, I committed to learning in-demand skills to help me get and keep my next software job. I spent at least 6 hours each day working on personal coding projects and taking courses on Udemy and other coding platforms to increase my proficiency.

I applied to over 100 positions. I interviewed at a handful of companies and I got a handful of rejections. Every time I failed an interview, I used the questions that had stumped me as my course work for the next 2 weeks.

After 5 months, I was offered the job that I currently have. It’s a great job with great people, great benefits, and extremely reasonable expectations.

There’s only one problem.

It’s a job. And jobs take up the majority of our waking lives.

Remember when I said I didn’t have any sources of income besides my day job?

Well, I still don’t. But I’m working on that.

Related: The Best Way to Make Extra Money

Side Hustles: Make Money While You’re Making Money

Before I started work this morning, I had a phone call with a potential client for a side hustle I’m starting up. I’ll provide more details about this particular hustle in the future, but I will say the work isn’t in the same field as my day job. I consider this a good thing for a couple of reasons.

First, working on projects outside the scope of my primary job ensures there’s no conflict of interest with my employer who, after all, is currently paying me 100% of my income.

Secondly, I find programming very exhausting. I’m much more energized by creative pursuits. That’s part of the reason I’m writing this post. Writing calms me down and gives me an outlet for creativity.

Though I’m just starting to offer my services to clients, I have some experience through work I’ve done on a few personal projects. A great side-effect of personal projects is that they help you build skills that you can market.

Looking for work while I have a job is a new experience for me, but my goal is to have one extra source of income by the end of 2020. More specifically, I want to be earning an extra $1,000 each month from my side hustle by July and an extra $2,000 monthly by December 31, 2020.

Reasonable? I think so. And I’m working to make it a reality.

The reason I’m working nights and weekends on side gigs is that I know that anything could happen at any time with my day job. The next time I find myself out of work — for any reason — I want to have my primary expenses covered by a side hustle.

Finances and Side Hustle Goals

In the 24 months between July 2017 and July 2019, I saved about $24,000. In 2020, my goal is to save $25,000.

In that post, I share a detailed list of my expenses. When I say I want a side hustle to cover my primary expenses I mean my mortgage, home utilities (including internet), food, insurance, and student loans.

That’s about $2,500 a month. I figure if I’m making $2,000 each month from a side hustle while working full-time that if I suddenly have 40+ hours freed up each week I can find more clients to make up the difference.

If I use my time wisely now and build up a side business if I happen to lose my job it wouldn’t be nearly as devastating as it was last year. It could even give me a nice excuse to try scaling my side hustle into my primary business. But that currently isn’t my goal. Why?

My main job has lots of benefits that a side hustle doesn’t. Benefits like an employer-matched 401k, health insurance, and free food like bagels, nuts, and Cheez-its, and drinks like cold brew coffee and beer on tap. (Working in software has its perks.)

I figure based on the amount of free food I eat at work, it’s like my salary is about $2,500 higher than it actually is. I eat breakfast and lunch for free. I’ve only gone out to lunch about 10 times in 6 months.

As I wrote in Saving Money: Groceries, I’m pretty against eating at restaurants. I personally feel it isn’t worth my time and money. I just feel like I’m over-spending for the “convenience” of not having to plan or wash my dishes. But that’s another post.

All of that’s to say: I get a lot out of my day job. Social benefits. Financial benefits. Snack benefits.

But I don’t I find my work particularly satisfying. My team is great. The work we do is important to our clients. I’m often challenged, and — very occasionally — I get to feel super clever. But as long as I have a day job, I’ll always be trading my time and energy for dollars.

Get Rich in Your 20s. Or Not.

In 2015, Mr. Money Mustache published an article called If You’re Not Getting Rich in your 20s, You’re Doing it Wrong.

In my opinion, the main message of the article is in this paragraph:

…here’s the thing about your 20s. They are the time to work. The very, very best time in your life to work your ass off and create an exponential snowball of money, skills, and friendships. Your brain will never be more sponge-like and inexhaustible. You will never feel more motivated and less cynical than you do now. And you will never have another decade of pre-childraising freedom in your life. – Mr. Money Mustache

I kick myself.

In my 20s, I did a good job of building friendships. And I saved a decent amount of money in a Roth IRA. But I did very poorly when it came to working hard and building marketable skills.

I only have one major critique of Mr. Money Mustache’s article: I didn’t discover it until 2017 when I was 31.

Why Am I Exhausted After Work?

I played around in my teens and 20s, and I’m paying for it now. This is why I’m working nights and weekends. This is why I’m exhausted after my workday.

Am I bitter? Honestly, no. I’m mostly just confused about how I wasted so much time. How was I so short-sighted? Why did no one tell me about the importance of building in-demand skills and starting side-hustles to make extra money? Maybe they did and I just didn’t hear them.

I don’t mean for this to be a complaint. My life is pretty fantastic. I just don’t want to trade hours for dollars until I’m 65. I think I can do better than I’ve done.

Until my early 30s when I stumbled across Mr. Money Mustache and other financial independence writers, I thought I’d just have a job until I was old enough to retire. I hadn’t heard about the financial-independence/retire-early (FIRE) movement.

The purpose of this blog is to get people to rethink what’s possible in life. The same way other writers did for me.

Consider the power of your time and the compounding effect of small, consistent efforts.

Consider the power of spending less, saving more, and building skills so you can earn more and increase your savings rate over time.

Consider how you spend your time. Are you doing activities that have any chance of a positive return on your time invested? Or are you settling for passive entertainment?

Consider how much extra cash you could by bring in with a side hustle in addition to your day job. And think about what kind of raise you might be able to negotiate if you devote even an hour each day to build skills that would make you stand out in your day job.

I want to encourage you to minimize wasted spending and wasted time and to maximize your efforts to build a life that truly satisfies you.

We’re living in the Information Age. It’s easier than ever to learn new skills and connect with people with similar interests. We have almost endless opportunities for personal improvement and professional development.

I don’t want to spend my life working because I have to. I don’t want to ask, “Why am I exhausted after work?”

I want to work because I can. Because I get to. Because I choose to, and because it motivates and energizes me. I want to get all the benefits of early retirement and financial freedom. And I’m okay with working hard to achieve it.

That’s why I’m writing. Because I want to encourage you (and me, too) to push through that idea that so many of us default to: “9-to-5 until you’re 65”.

I want to motivate you to build your skills and offer increasingly more value to yourself and others.

Time is passing. Today is already over. Next year will be here before we know it.

Whether you’re getting rich in your 20s or, like me, starting a bit later, you can commit to working harder, learning more, earning more, and living a more satisfying life.

What can you do to start today?

Related: Save Money Using Public Transportation


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