Like many people in this new “gig economy,” I have several part time jobs. I work for a company that provides hearing coverage for attorneys who are unable to attend their hearings—Primarily, this job involves mediating settlements in debt collection cases on behalf of credit card companies. I also work part time at a law firm that mostly practices family law and business law. In addition to practicing law, I teach yoga and I write articles for a local political website. My jobs have helped convince me of the necessity of minimalism; In fact, if everyone was a minimalist, I would probably be out of work!
Negotiating with defendants who are being sued to collect their debt, I hear their stories every day. Nobody took out the loan or made the charges on their card assuming that they wouldn’t be able to pay it. These are good people who lost their job/got sick/lost a loved one and fell behind on their bills. Far too many Americans are a paycheck or two away from total financial ruin and I see it every day. Being intentional with our money and spending it only on what is important allows us to provide ourselves with some breathing room—an emergency fund in case of the unimaginable.
My other job involves primarily divorces—I see every day how “stuff” can get in the way of relationships. Not only is money the #1 cause for divorce, but I see how people who once loved one another will have nasty fights over material things. Sometimes, the parents lose sight of what’s important and the children suffer in these divorces, as parents use the children as pawns to get back at one another.
As a yoga instructor, I see students who are in desperate need of healing. The stress of life has left them disconnected from their body—unable to connect to their body or their breath, they experience anxiety and depression. This mental restlessness manifests as physical restlessness and they turn to yoga for help. Our modern lives have overwhelmed them.
One of the benefits of this combination of jobs is that my schedule can be fairly flexible. I can simply decline offers for hearing coverage work if necessary, and I write articles about local politics from my home office, no matter the time of day. It was not particularly difficult to get approval from all four bosses for 2 weeks off for my upcoming vacation. This is clearly not the case for most people, as Americans take fewer vacation days than workers in most other developed countries. While some workers are given 2 weeks paid vacation, very few use it all and even fewer take it all consecutively. One of my bosses did note that 2 weeks “is a long time” but we would “work around it,” subtly “vacation shaming” me despite the fact that I haven’t asked for a day off since I started working for them in July last year.
While the flexibility these jobs allow can be nice, it can also be stressful; not having any set hours means that all hours are my work hours. My respective bosses do not know my schedule with my other jobs, and so they simply contact me when they need something. It can be hectic, juggling my schedule with all of these various responsibilities. It is my responsibility to set boundaries and not to take on more than I can do. Even I don’t know my schedule most of the time—hearings can be assigned as little as a day or two in advance, the solo firm I work with sometimes will move my schedule around last minute.
This means I have to advocate for myself and set boundaries, since most of my jobs do not have set hours or a set location. I have to learn to say no when I need to. It is hard to say no when you can put a direct dollar figure on it. I know exactly how much I would have been paid for those hearings I had to decline when I took the morning off to go to the doctor.
I have to resist the temptation to be instantly available 24/7. Often, this will be taken advantage of and taken for granted. For example, one morning, I received a text message at 4:30 in the morning from the coordinator of the place I teach yoga about setting the next month’s fitness class schedule. (Luckily, my phone is set to do not disturb when I am asleep and did not wake me up.) As a fitness buff, no doubt she simply sent that text when she woke up early in the morning to work out. Mere hours later, I got a call from a second boss around 7:15am regarding a hearing coverage emergency for that morning (my phone was still on silent, so I called back 15-20 minutes later, when I saw the missed call.)
When I got out of the shower around 7:30am and saw the missed call, voicemail and text, it would be easy to get overwhelmed by all of this. What helps me not to be overwhelmed is to 1) prioritize and 2) deal with things one at a time. I called my boss back about the coverage emergency and, after apologizing for calling so early and thanking me for calling them back, they informed me they had already found someone else to deal with the emergency before I had called back. I had breakfast, headed to the courthouse and texted the other boss back later that day as I was waiting around the courthouse for my hearings. Everything is not an emergency and everything does not need an immediate response. Even for those with only one job, everyone has multiple tasks that need to get done. Take a deep breath, prioritize, and concentrate on one thing at a time. Most importantly, never be afraid to set boundaries and take care of yourself. If you don’t, who will?