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5 Ways to Pursue a Passion Project While Working a Full-time Job

Hobbies aren’t just fun — they’re also good for your well-being.

Courtesy of elwynn/Shutterstock
Courtesy of elwynn/Shutterstock

I’m a writer (in case that wasn’t obvious). I’m also a visual artist and musician, but unlike writing, I don’t have the privilege of drawing or singing professionally. “There’s a reason they call work work,” my Grandpa likes to tell me — a reminder of how few people get to pursue their creative passions as a full-time professions. 

Enter: The Freelance Life, the side hustle, the Etsy page — the myriad of modern-day ways we try to address the dilemma of not getting to pursue our “real” passions in a nine-to-five world.

You might be wondering: “Why bother, when we’re all so busy as it is?” Well, studies show creative hobbies have numerous benefits for our happiness and well-being, and they can even aid in boosting productivity at work. Interestingly, a new study in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found that spending more time on a hobby that’s unrelated to our work has the power to boost our confidence at our jobs. What’s more, when we go through tough times, having a hobby may help us cope. One study, for instance, found that activities like drawing, painting, and sculpting were especially useful in helping people deal with difficult emotions and experiences.

Clearly, creative activities serve a multitude of purposes, on top of just being fun. That’s why I asked the experts: How can everyone, no matter what our day jobs, find time for the hobbies we truly enjoy? Read on for their advice.

Create a morning routine

“Having a morning routine is a game changer,” says Stephanie Hendrick, a certified business coach and time management expert, who recommends getting up an hour or two early to work on your passion project. Your mind is the clearest, there are no distractions, and the best part is that you feel accomplished before your day begins.” Your routine is unique to you, of course, and everyone needs to find the groove that works for them. But just for an example: Hendrick spends 30 minutes reading then another half hour working on a single step in business, like registering a domain name or starting a website. 

Work in increments

In a perfect, mythical world, I’d set aside days of uninterrupted work time for my passion projects. But this kind of all-or-nothing thinking can stop us from taking any steps toward the things we want to spend our time doing. So instead of setting unrealistic goals, start small. “Work on your passion project in 15-minute increments,” says Debra Eckerling, a productivity coach and author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning, and Achieving Your Goals. “While sometimes you need to carve out an entire afternoon to work on big-picture tasks, consistently working in small pockets of time adds up.” 

Practice the 5 of 7 rule

I’m constantly inundated with writers’ “tips” that tell me to write everyday, “NO MATTER WHAT.” While that advice may work for some people, it hasn’t been realistic, or sustainable, for me. That’s why I love Eckerling’s “5 of 7 rule,” which provides the flexibility to decide how many days you can realistically work on your project per week. Most opt for five of seven days, but it can be fewer, too. “It’s all about setting yourself up for success in a schedule that works for you,” Eckerling says.

Track your progress

Tracking the time you spend on creative pursuits is an incredibly helpful tool for reaching your creative goals while also helping to boost your confidence. Eckerling suggests making appointments with yourself in iCal, Google Calendar, or whichever calendar app you prefer. “After you complete whatever task during each designated passion project time, make a note about your progress within the appointment,” she says. That way, “at the end of the week or month, if you are frustrated that you didn’t get more done, you can look at your calendar and be proud of your accomplishments and dedication.” It’s always nice to have a reminder that you really are working toward your goals.

Get enough sleep

It may seem obvious, but attempting to, say, make progress in a manuscript, or break out the watercolor paints after work is less likely to happen if you’re constantly scrimping on shut-eye and exhausted. “If you’re chronically sleep deprived, you won’t have the energy or the creativity you will need to pick up that side gig at the end of a long day,” Maura Thomas, M.B.A., productivity, work-life balance and attention management expert, reminds us. Prioritizing sleep can give you the boost you need to reach for your craft.

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