Do the (Side) Hustle: Education Innovation After Hours

During my years as an educator I have had several ideas for solutions to problems in schools. These ideas have lived within me and have progressed in varying degrees. None of these ever came into being. Fear of failure, lack of time and money, an overcrowded schedule got in the way of these ideas. My ideas were pushed to the background while my day job always had a front row seat.

In 2015 I attended 4.0 School’s Essentials program and took one of my ideas to New York City. Over that weekend I worked with an amazing group of innovative educators to develop the idea. I went from pitching my idea on the streets of New York to sharing it with folks at home in Alabama. When I returned home I had trouble maintaining momentum for the project. It got lost between the blocks on my Google Calendar.

Sticky notes & coffee: Essentials!

I learned about the Tiny Fellowship right around the time I had a new idea for a student co-working space. Perfect! I met my cohort in New Orleans in May. I got great feedback and support for the idea, and was on fire to work on it at home in Birmingham.

Me and a few other Tiny Fellows hanging out at 4.0 Schools during camp.
I returned home with energy and hustle. We were entering the summer months which are slower and more flexible. I lined up interviews and meetings and visits and calls. I worked out financials and floor plans. And then August happened; I was slammed with the demands of the 2016–17 school year.

In October the program I coordinate was in compliance monitoring for state policies. This meant collecting sign-in sheets, surveys, folders, signatures, assurances, etc. from 40+ schools. While I still had some out-of-work time to pursue my passion projects, my brain didn’t switch as easily from creative work to paperwork. My time and energy was an even more limited resource.

There’s hustle, and there’s side hustle. Hustle is when you can devote the majority of your time and energy to a project. The side hustle means juggling the energy needed for your day job with your side projects. It makes your evenings and weekends that much more valuable for accomplishing your goals.

In my struggle to make the side hustle work I have come up with some solutions. These will help to free up your out-of-work time. These are not just education-specific, anyone with a side hustle can employ these strategies.

Freedom Plan

My schedule was jam-packed with extra projects, programs, and volunteer commitments. I did a personal audit of these commitments. I listed all commitments and determined when I could relinquish those responsibilities. This helped to gradually free up the nights and weekends for the side hustle.

Tiny Steps

As my schedule went from zero to 60 in my day job, I remind myself to continue taking tiny steps with my idea. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done talks about the concept of next action. In a big project, decide on your next action and focus on that. It could be as simple as sending an email or making a call.

Keep Work at Work

Experience with balancing graduate school and work has helped me learn this glorious trick. Keep work at work. Time management during the work day is the key to freeing up out-of-work tie. If you can contain your day job into the hours of the week, you will have much more time for the side hustle.

Plenty of educators have a side hustle. I’ve met teacher/bakers, teacher/yoga instructors, and teacher/entrepreneurs. The education profession is tough on its own. These side projects can help us stay connected to our most creative selves. If you are a teacher who has a creative interest or passion-pursue it on the side. You never know where it may lead.

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