Maybe You’re Not Passionate Enough? Passion Projects: Making Time

“What do you mean you don’t watch sports anymore?  You just gave them up completely?”  I stared incredulously at one of my attendings while in training.  He gently explained to me that he had a lot of other passion projects and found he had more free time when he didn’t waste it watching sports.  Being a sports guy, my jaw was on the floor.  In a round about way, he was teaching me how to make time for passion projects.

The simple truth he was teaching me was that passion projects take time, and there are only so many hours in a day.  Recently, that has made a whole lot more sense.

Productive passion projects (you like my alliteration there?) are the real deal.  It’s probably a better term than “side hustles” which implies that you may or may not put a lot of time into them.

Some of mine include making inventions, expert witness work, this website, non-clinical bonus work (i.e. research) at my main hustle:

How do I find time for all of mine?

Let’s dig in.

Time for a Humble Brag

In terms of side hustles, I had one of the best weeks of my life recently.

In a seven day span, I had two randomized control trials accepted for publication.    That makes it a total of three in my first year as an attending. This was the culmination of two and a half years of work (and means I’m going to be a total let down for the next two years).

Both of these research projects work towards my non-clinical bonus that I receive at work.

I also received word that a medical company wants me to fly to their headquarters to pitch my invention in front of their leadership. That same day I was told a second company wanted to enter into a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) regarding our invention so that they could talk about it, too.

Oh, and I had a guest post go up on White Coat Investor!

All of these endeavors will hopefully lead to some cold hard cash.  At least that’s the hope.

In my best Wyclef Jean voice….

Singin’ Dollar Dollar Bills, ya’ll.  Dollar Dollar Bills, ya’ll

That’s a pretty epic week!  It does beg one of the most common questions I get, “How do I have time for all of this stuff?”

It’s a great question, really.

I am married, have three kids, and a full-time clinical job as an anesthesiologist.  How can I do research, write posts for my website, make inventions, perform medical expert work… all the while being a husband, dad, and doctor?

Passion Projects Don’t Feel Like Work

If you are going to spend a lot of time on something, it better be something that you are passionate about and that you enjoy.

If you aren’t willing to make sacrifices for it,
then its probably not worth the effort.

Think about it as the “5am/10pm challenge.”  If you aren’t willing to wake up early (5am) before your main hustle or stay up late (10pm) afterwards to work on your passion project…its probably just not worth it.

On the other hand, if you are passionate about a specific project, then spending time on it likely won’t feel like a sacrifice at all.

As an example, I love writing posts on this website.  Helping future and early career medical professionals avoid some really painful mistakes (some of which I made) makes it all worth it.

It doesn’t even feel like work, honestly.  That’s why I don’t miss watching sports.

The same goes for research.  If its something that I am passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work (if you have the right help).  It feels fun designing a project to answer a specific question that you are interested in.

However, if it’s just for your CV and not something you are interested in, you’d probably have more fun watching paint dry.

Family On the Same Page

Adirondack Chair and Picnic Table
One of my passion projects used to be wood-working until I realized that wasn’t a good idea without personal disability insurance.

It’s crucial that family members understand that these passion projects are sources of self-worth and, hopefully, income.

I spend an hour or two on my website pretty much every day.  I definitely average 15-20 per week.  This is all on top of my job as an academic anesthesiologist.

I won’t lie and say that my wife never minds how much I work on this, but she also gets it 90% of the time.  The other 10% of the time, I simply need to spend time with my wife.

She is usually asking for time that is rightfully hers. After all, I married a saint.

If my wife didn’t understand how passionate I am about helping people figure all of this stuff out, she simply wouldn’t tolerate the amount of time I spend on it.  Plain and simple.

The other side of this to mention is that if your passion projects negatively impact your main passion project (i.e. your marriage, family, etc), you need to check your priorities.  Don’t sacrifice too much, because none of it is worth sacrificing what should be your main focus.

Hash it out.  Get on the same page.  If you can’t, make sure your priorities are where they should be.

Make time for things that matter

I wake up most days between 4 and 4:30.  This gives me roughly 45 minutes to an hour in the morning to be productive.  It’s usually the time I spend commenting on the blogs that I commonly read.  I can also finish a post if I was staying up too late the night before.

When my kids are awake, I try and make sure I am in the moment with them.  I admit that this isn’t always something that I am good at, but my little boy is only going to want to play “fighting dinosaurs” for so long.

He’s already growing up too fast; right in front of our eyes.

When my kids go down for bed, I usually spend some time writing posts a few times each week.  Otherwise, my work writing posts is done during the weekends when the kids are napping.

Using this time at the beginning and end of the day really helps me keep up with my post schedule and all of my other side hustles. I keep my posting schedule at least two weeks in advance just in case something comes up, like when I recently took a trip to D.C. and didn’t have time to write.

You have to choose

More than a year ago, one of my attendings blew my mind when he told me he stopped watching sports.

At the time of the conversation, I spent most nights watching some random TV show or sporting event.  Hey, number #10 is playing #1! Too bad, they were often teams I cared nothing about.

Maybe I’d be reading an epic fantasy novel (my favorite genre… highly recommend Brandon Sanderson for those looking for a place to start in this genre).

Watching TV and reading books helped me decompress!  I felt like I really needed it at the end of a long day.

After starting this website, my free time is no longer spent decompressing with unproductive activities.

Instead, I get out of my head and I write posts.  Sometimes what I write is good, sometimes its just okay. I am still finding my voice. But it is always passionate.  And always freeing. And always worth it.

Take Home

At the end of the day, you simply cannot do everything you want to. You must choose, which is why it’s vital that your passion projects really are something you are passionate about.

Otherwise, you’ll simply burn out.

Make a list of your passions and priorities and fashion a life that chases after them.  You might notice yourself cutting out some of the activities that simply aren’t helpful to you in achieving your goals.

Maybe, like me, you’ll take some good advice and stop watching TV that doesn’t matter.  You might be amazed at how much time you have after the unnecessary things are gone.

How do you tackle your side hustles and passion projects?  Did you have to drop anything to make time for them?  Does your family support you in your efforts? Leave a comment below.



9 thoughts on “Maybe You’re Not Passionate Enough? Passion Projects: Making Time”

  1. Great post Doc, my side hustles are a passion now as well. I would caution you though, don’t cut into your sleep. I just got done the book “Why Do We Sleep”, and it’s alarming. As you’re aware sleep is still one of the relative mysteries of medical science but the book goes into many new recent clinical studies that show time after time that lack of sleep will shorten your life and cause a whole host of other problems. And when he says “not enough” sleep, the author means 7 hours ain’t enough. Study after study shows that we humanoids need 8 or a little more, and he has the science to back it up. I’ll do a book review on my blog but you should check it out.

    And congrats on the successes!

  2. TPP, you are a machine!!! I am a veritable sloth in comparison. I admire your energy!

    I agree with your attending. I almost failed medical school watching Michael Jordan in the first of his 3 peats.

    So yeah. Be productive.

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