The number of Americans working two jobs — or more — is higher than it has ever been.
Recent data from the Census Bureau reveals that an estimated 7.8% of U.S. workers work more than one job, up from 6.8% in 1996.
The necessity of holding a full-time job plus one or two part-time jobs has become such a prominent part of our culture and economy, that several candidates in the most recent presidential election included it in their platform.
It continues to be a frequent talking point among economists and activists alike. Politics aside, public opinion and basic math prove that the more jobs you have, the more stress comes into your life. It is important (and very doable!) to practice self care to avoid burnout.
Tales from the Second Job Front
Zach Brandner, a recent college graduate in Washington, D.C., works in guest services at a museum during the day and his second job is as a server at a restaurant in the evenings.
“Of course in a dream world, I would be able to make ends meet with just one job,” he says. “But that’s not the case right now, so I’m just rolling with it.”
Brandner says he’s learned the hard way that juggling two jobs can’t push out self-care.
Statistically, women are more likely than men to work multiple part-time jobs. Summer Tuverson of Santa Monica, California, is in a similar situation as Brandner. She works at a doggie day care center and nannying.
“There are a decent amount of similarities between taking care of dogs and children,” she says. “Especially the cleaning up poop part.”
9 Tips on Working Multiple Jobs
With the help of Zach, Summer, and some experts, here are nine tips for maintaining self-care while working more than a single job.
1. Make Friends at All Your Jobs
Avoid the temptation to punch in, do your job, punch out and repeat.
Brandner: “I was pretty surprised to learn that there are actually a few hidden perks to having more than one place of work. The major one is having more than one new circle of friends. Obviously you’re not going to be best friends with everyone, but making an effort to develop and maintain friendships is a good idea. If you feel you have a support system, or at least someone you can laugh with, your shifts seem shorter and more enjoyable.”
2. Location is Everything
When you look for a full-time job, one of the first things you keep in mind is proximity to your home. Of course, if you have a work from home job, you are always close to your work space.
Depending on your schedule and if you are working outside the home, your second job should be physically near your first job. (Two work from home jobs? You’ve got this covered.)
If you bust your gas budget because you’re driving all around town, your second income becomes pointless. If you are in a city where you use public transit, make a point to check if the job you have in mind is on your same bus or train route.
3. Let Your Employers Know About One Another
Brandner: “When I first got my second job I felt awkward telling both my managers that I was also working somewhere else. I felt like they would feel like I wasn’t able to give them both 100%. For a while it almost felt like I was cheating on both of them. When I eventually did let them know, they both actually admired my hustle, and ended up being much more receptive and understanding when I had to make slight schedule changes.”
4. When You’re Sick, Do NOT Power Through It
While this tip applies to people with one job, it is especially important for people who deal with twice the same amount of interaction.
If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it is that we need to stay the hell away from other people when we are sick. In the long run, it will not be worth ignoring your symptoms in exchange for that day’s wages, when you are risking exacerbating your own health as well as others’.
If you are working two jobs, you are putting in twice the amount of energy, which will wear you down even more. Be honest with your employers, and they will probably be grateful. Remember, it is illegal for someone to fire you for calling in sick.
5. Normalize Power Napping
Tuverson: “I copied this from the kids I look after. If they get home from school at 1:15 and we need to leave the house for swim lessons at 2:10, it is crucial that they get some rest or lest they be grumpy and lethargic for their poor teacher.
“Sometimes I have similar amounts of time before I need to get going for my next job. I used to think that this only allowed me to scroll through my phone and watch half of a ‘Law and Order’ episode. When I still couldn’t stop yawning, I Googled some tips and started power napping between shifts. It’s been a game changer.”
Tuverson says the key is napping between 10 and 20 minutes. She swears by a little caffeine before the nap which will kick in after you wake up, providing you stick to the short nap.
6. Plan and Prep Your Meals
If you are in your car several times throughout the day, rushing to make it to your next job and then also rushing to finally get home, there is the inevitable temptation to pull over for fast food.
While this is okay once in a while, the initial comfort and convenience of not having to cook will soon backfire, making you (and your wallet) feel worse. Set aside time to prep and prepare meals (and snacks for those 15 minute breaks!) that are easy, cheap, and delicious.
7. Remember the Reason for Working a Second Job
Tuverson: “Even with two jobs, it’s not exactly like I’m living in the lap of luxury. But, I am now able to afford a mini-vacation that I would not have been able to otherwise. When I’m on the bus for the third time that day and I have spit up on my blouse (and I’ve forgotten if it’s from a human or animal), I open my wallet and see some pictures I’ve printed out of things I’ll experience on my trip.”
She says that her coworkers look at photos of apartments, cars, even engagement rings to keep their eyes on the prize. The aspirational photos are a good pick-me-up, she says, that reminds them why they are working a second job.
8. Commit to Something That Brings You Joy
Even when you have one job, it may seem like all you have the energy to do after work is eat and go to sleep. On a good day, you could summon the chutzpah to grab a drink or some dinner, but even this can seem like a stretch sometimes.
Still, it is important to have other consistent things in your schedule besides just working.
For example, you could join a book group dedicated to your favorite genre. Read on your lunch breaks and on your transit commute, then spend an hour a month chatting with new friends about your thoughts.
Not only does this increase your social circle and offer an escape, but it also exercises your brain. The Penny Hoarder actually has our own book club, and you can find dozens of others online or in person through your Meetup.com, Goodreads, or your local independent bookstores and libraries.
9. Don’t Get Discouraged
It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get in the groove of working two jobs with differing protocols, expectations and managerial styles.
Any half-decent supervisor will cut you some slack when you start. If you find that you are still having trouble adjusting to a new routine after a couple months or so, let Human Resources know and they can give you some more specific tips.
Olivia Smith is a writer based in Washington, D.C., who has experience in public and political advocacy work. She is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.