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

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

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 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.

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, medical 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?

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.

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.

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!

Yet, that isn’t even everything.

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?

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.

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.  In other words, it better fit your Hell Yes Policy (a policy that I encourage everyone to have).

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

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 The Physician Philosopher.  It is a huge passion of mine teaching other docs how to use financial independence as an escape hatch for their burnout.

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 is fun designing a project to answer a specific question that interests you.

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 withoutpersonal 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 10-20 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 keep my priorities straight.  After all, my wife is my best return on my investment.

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.  Don’t forget to draw lines in the sand outside of home life.

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.

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.

Watching TV helped me decompress!  After starting The Physician Philosopher, 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. 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.



  1. Accidental FIRE

    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!

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      I try to always get 7 and when at all possible to get 8! I really do. I don’t always do that, though.

      Really good point! I need to check the book out for sure,


  2. Dr. MB

    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.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Hahaha I love it. Playing poker my first year of medical school almost did the same to me! I have wisened up a bit since then as my passions have changed!

  3. Doc G

    Some great reminders here. It’s possible to have both passion projects and a good family life. It just takes planning!



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