Are you good at so many things you don’t want to put yourself in a box with just one label?

You might be a blogger-actor-foodie-coach, or an accountant-advisor-karate instructor, or any number of amazing combinations – but does it cause problems when people ask you what you do?

Andrea Joyce experienced a profound sense of relief when she realised there are so many people who feel like this that there is a term for it – a multi-hyphenate!

In this Q&A session in the Drive Facebook Group she answers questions from other Drive members on how she organises her business around the concept.

Organising time

Nisha Vyas-Myall Alongside my dance school, I’m also a YA fiction writer (which actually came first) and a researcher (My specialism is spiritual/religious dance). How do you balance your time between your passions when only one of them has clearly defined deadlines but the others do not?

Andrea C Joyce Trello is my life. I use it to organise my different commitments and timelines. I use google calendar now after realising a paper diary just wasn’t going to cut it. Pomodoro technique and the three wins system help too.

Rachel Extance How do you mentally switch between roles?

Andrea C Joyce  I have each project objective on my Trello board and I look at that first before I dive into working on something for a different client.

Exploring trello 

Louise Lee  My only caveat is that Trello will collect information. Not just your account information but your content too so check that this is OK.

Helen Lindop I’ve tried focusing in one one thing and it doesn’t work well for me, so I’m happy balancing multiple interests. My challenge is getting across what I do without confusing other people. I’m also worried about looking like a jack of all trades and master of none.

Andrea C Joyce I’m so glad you brought up the elephant in the room. Multi-hyphenate definitley isn’t just a different word for a jack of all trades.  It’s human nature to want to label things. It is always challenging to communicate what we do so I usually start with, what do you need help with and then focus on the things I can do to help.

Focus

Kate Patterson We can have so many facets to our lives and can either feel exhausted or excited! Do you find when things aren’t going so well you seem to have less enthusiasm or are you the sort of person who will “dig deep and get the job done”? Any tips on how not to get overwhelmed by the spinning plates?

Andrea C Joyce I think it’s challenging for all of us to keep going when the chips are down whether your life is multi-hyphenate or not. Resilience is definitely a skill/character trait that all of us entrepreneurs need. What does motivate me though is how lucky I feel to get to be involved in so many different things. My attention span is quite short and so having lots of different plates to spin does motivate me. Being organised is also one way to avoid feeling overwhelmed. But also listening to yourself is so important, if the overwhelmed feeling isn’t going away then it is usually an alarm bell for me that I have been neglecting my self care basics like sleep, exercise and time with loved ones.

Switching between tasks

Helen Lindop I feel overwhelmed if I spend too long on one thing. Switching from a logical task to a creative one or vice versa is what gets me moving again.

Andrea C Joyce This is where the pomodoro technique is my quick fix. If I am stuck on something, or more often procrastinating, then I impose a set number of pomodoros to get it done and that regularly helps me.

Perceptions

Jo Dorrington-Neville I always found the ‘what do you want to do when you grow up’ question difficult as there were so many things I had a passion for. I have ‘pruned’ my business to make it neater for my customers sake but would love to do so many things. How would you go about adding new things (my business is craft and design) without it looking messy and disorganized?

Andrea C Joyce One of the things that excites me most about identifying as a multi-hyphenate it the opportunity to educate people about how the world of work is changing and we don’t all fit into neat little boxes. I wonder if your other things need to be added to your existing brand/website. Andy Boothman is a good example of someone doing different things in different spaces and not making it look confusing.

Andy Boothman Clarity of message is key. If you put everything into the one place that clarity will be lost. Defining and managing the facets is critical.

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts Although I’m a coach my subject areas are broad… I struggle to define it in that first introduction. I tend to tailor to the audience

Andrea C Joyce  It’s great to be able to be flexible about what you can bring to the party. It means you are not accidentally excluding yourself from other opportunities as well. Being responsive to what your client is looking for is never a bad thing.

Boundaries

Berenice Smith As a designer and stained glass artist, boundaries and hours in the day and not feeling bad about doing one thing not another are all thoughts that occupy my mind.

Andrea C Joyce Boundaries are difficult things whether you have multi-hyphens or no hyphens at all. I think hard landscaping (quoting Louise Lee) is always our friend, plus building in extra time into projects to give that flexibility for the unexpected. I also think it’s possible to organise your week and days into time for each different hyphen set. At the moment Mondays and Fridays are my days for one client as I know they are more available for questions on that day. But I am definitely aware that I am still vulnerable to focusing on the projects I enjoy most on occasion.

Emma James I’m boring and so am hyphenless. How do you curate your different hyphen sets, getting them in the first place and then allocating sufficient time to each and giving them all room to breathe?

Andrea C Joyce You are one of the least boring people I know Emma! I think the curation of your hyphen sets is a personal experience because it depends so much on your career journey so far. I have always been aware of having multiple hyphen sets because I had the beginnings of one career before university and a whole other career before I decided to train as a teacher. Allowing them sufficient room to breathe is a work in progress. Time management is always my best friend.

“What do you do?”

Lucy Churchill I tie up in knots before meeting new people because I know they will ask “What do you do?”. As other people have said – there’s the fear of sounding dangerously vague and unprofessional if you have multiple strings to your bow. And what wrap-around title can one give? Sometime I say “I’m a creative working in a variety of materials..” but that does sound a bit vague and pretentious?

Andrea C Joyce I had an experience last week of exactly what you’re talking about. I tried out my wrap-around title of “I help people and businesses reach their potential whilst I reach mine”.  When I resisted the urge to waffle some clarification they then asked me to give an example. It’s often the case that we make the biggest impact when we let our guard down and reveal our true selves.

Rachel Way Andrea what are your hyphen sets and what are the greatest challenges?

Andrea C Joyce My current hyphen sets are teacher – strategic development director – mentor – social media consultant – entrepreneur – brand ambassador. I think the challenges will always be giving enough time for each set to be appreciated on its own, particularly the ones that are only mine. I am currently in the early stages of developing a project which always seems to get shelved over the ones I work on for clients. That’s when hard landscaping comes into play.

Rachel Way What is the best piece of advice you’d give to someone challenging the approach?

Andrea C Joyce I would say that in digital technology, flexible working arrangements, outsourcing, zero hours contracts, increasing work pressure and mental health issues, the importance of a work/life balance have all created a tectonic shift in what the world of work looks like and the multi-hyphenate is the product of that new world of work.

Connect with Andrea on LinkedIn on Twitter @ACJoyce or in the Drive Facebook Group!