– Day job.
– Writing a daily blog.
– Working on a novel.
– Reading books and evolving the commons.
– Movement (BJJ, weight training, cycling).
– A puppy.
– Meatspace and cyperspace relationship maintenance and improvement.
– Essay outlining and drafting.
– Miscellaneous duties of societal inhabitation.
– Freelance editorial work.
As I type this list out, it seems like a pretty ridiculous amount of things to try and do concurrently. For example, writing a novel is a sufficiently large commitment on its own, especially alongside a full-time day job. Movement and nutrition can take twenty to thirty hours a week if you’re serious about it. As can learning a complex skill or sport. But I’m trying to do it all. I’m aware that it’s kinda dumb and I’ve tried doing the obvious thing—cutting back on commitments. Didn’t and doesn’t work. I can’t function. Turns out “focus” is synonymous with “constrained” in my mind. I’m not complaining though.
However. Consider the last entry on that list. “Freelance editorial work”. That seems like a pretty straightforward thing, right? Wrong. See, as I was dissecting the demands on my time, attention and energy recently, I realised that “freelance editorial work”—and any other effort to build a business or income-generating side-project—is actually composed of three different complex and demanding components.
Component one: get the work. This is, as you can imagine, everything concerning marketing and sales. It’s pitching, approaching, negotiating, offering, tailoring, begging, talking, listening, tinkering, defining, positioning. All that.
Component two: do the work. Obvious. Deliver on the promises you made. If it’s a service business, it means providing the service in a way that meets or exceeds (in a positive manner) the agreed upon constraints. If it’s a product, it means delivering the promised product in the promised way at the promised time.
Component three: iterate the work. This is sitting back and taking a view of the overall process. It is looking at lead generation, lead acquisition, product or service scope and delivery, customer satisfaction and customer retention and asking, “How can I do this better?” Over and over again.
Now I see why side-projects and building a business are referred to as “hustles” and why only a small proportion of people pull them off successfully for a long-time, or manage to make them full-time things. Because the person undertaking them has three jobs to do, not one. Understandably, when I realised this I had to pause, speak nice words to the razor-winged butterflies in my stomach and begin anew with my evaluation of WTF I’m trying to do.