Forget Income Streams and Focus On Your Income River

Jul 22, 2021
 Photo Of the author by the author


The idea of having multiple income streams seems smart. Yet the common execution is more trouble than it’s worth.

Sure, someone, you saw on the internet juggles real estate investing, crypto, dropshipping, blogging, YouTubing, and a dozen other micro-businesses but it would be a disaster for most of us.

The problem is the focus on the number of streams rather than the river feeding them. Many people start things because of the potential income and become frustrated when the cash doesn’t flow as fast as they want.

If you’re looking for writing advice from me, the worst thing you can do is tell me you don’t have ideas and you’ve never written before but want to earn money. You’d be wasting your time.

If any method of making money was easy then everyone would be doing it. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Understanding this is key so you choose something you can excel in rather than blindly following a crowd. Here’s how to set yourself up the right way.


Passive income is often a myth

I have 11 income streams at the moment giving me a comfortable inflow. It sounds like a financial guru’s fantasy but it’s exhausting.

It’s not fun to always have a million small to-do list items. I find I’m doing one task but thinking about a dozen others. I go through my days with the sinking feeling that I’m forgetting to do something important for something but who knows what.

Despite what people tell you, few income streams are passive except maybe automated investing. If I stopped writing today, I’d earn some money on my old articles but it would dry up quickly as the world forgot me. Everything takes up your most precious resource. Time.

Even if you only need to give it half an hour a week, the actual time you lose is much greater than this. It will occupy some of your brain space however well organized you think you are. The costs of switching between tasks are well-established with some estimates saying 80% of your productivity is lost to it.

A scattergun approach will make you lose time and feel drained if you’re anything like me. Don’t chase after every shiny object if you want peace of mind.


Slow down

Be intentional about how you diversify your income. There are so many options but don’t start at the end.

Always begin with yourself. What are you good at? What do people ask you for help on? Where can you add value to people’s lives?

Maybe you’re hilarious, what opportunities are there to monetize your talent? You could look into appearing at live shows, creating TikTok or YouTube videos, or drawing cartoons.

Pick one area to start with and learn everything you can about it. It’s important to work out if you actually enjoy it so it can be sustainable. If you already find it a chore after a couple of weeks, it’s not a great sign, and life’s too short.

It took me a while to find out what my river was. I initially thought it was writing but since appearing on other types of media, I realized it wasn’t this at all. Writing is just a secondary skill. The main thing I stand for is a fascination with how to achieve balance in life through self-awareness.

My output has slowed in the last few months while I’ve spent time figuring myself out. In the long run, this is important because I will focus on how everything connects to my core rather than randomly starting new things.


Processes, processes, processes

When you are comfortable with your river then you can start adding more streams. It’s not a competition so add them slowly when the time feels right not because of me or any other person on the internet.

You’ll need to learn new skills as you go along but make sure you’re doing it for the right reason. As a profit-making strategy, it’s better to outsource tasks where it would take you a long time to get to the standard you’d want your product to be at. You could spend this time building your reputation instead.

I enjoy learning new skills but I don’t delude myself into believing it’s financially clever. I do it for the thrills, not the bills. I make less money than I could but I’m happier so it’s a sacrifice worth making. Make sure you acknowledge what you’re giving up if you do the same as me.

Once the early excitement of the new challenge is over, I make sure to create repeatable processes. This means I can hand it over to someone else and free up my time.

This week I launched a podcast called Mindful & Driven which is strongly aligned to my income river. It’s a potentially lucrative new income stream but it’s almost a river in itself because it has so many branches.

For each episode I will have:

  • 1 audio podcast
  • 1 YouTube video
  • 1 written article
  • 4 pieces of Instagram content
  • 2 LinkedIn posts
  • 5 Tweets
  • 2 Facebook posts
  • and 1 new friend

For the first few episodes, I’m doing all this work myself but I’ve created a system where in the future I pay someone else to do everything else for me. All I need to do is focus on the recording of the podcast itself as this is the thing only I can do. By not distracting myself with everything else, I can ensure the quality is the best I can do.


Optimize for energy not time

Another mistake people make is counting the hours in the day rather than their energy levels.

You might be able to fit 6 income streams into your day on top of your workday technically. It doesn’t mean you should because if one is intense then you are less effective at the others.

The paradox is when the task draining your energy is bringing in lots of money so it feels self-indulgent to cut it. Yet it could be stopping you from fulfilling your potential in the tasks that energize you.

When everything feels connected in some way then the day moves faster. You feel like you are switching focus left often so your creativity has the space to go wild. The stronger the river flows, the more the streams do too.

There’s no judgment here, I have done things in the past because they would earn me money even if I found them tiresome. The more I listen to my own thoughts, the more I realize the bigger picture is what really matters.

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.