ADVICE: How to balance a passion project alongside work and everything else life throws at you

Work-life balance is increasingly important to professionals and yet seems increasingly impossible to achieve. Instead, terms like ‘informal workplace flexibility‘, which may involve being allowed to take personal calls at work, and ‘work-life fulfillment‘, which may involve empowering employees through greater choice in their work environments, are becoming more mainstream.

Whether you’re juggling parenthood, a relationship, dating, socialising, or a side hustle, finding a balance is hard. We spoke with Amy Nhan, an employment lawyer by day and Founder and CEO of Art by Ames outside of her day-job. In this interview, Amy shared her experiences and advice for others looking to balance their job among the many distractions and responsibilities that life naturally brings.

  • How do you balance and prioritise your career and your passions? 

I don’t do it perfectly and it’s evolved over the years but I like the analogy of putting the big rocks (your top priorities such as physical/mental/spiritual health, relationships, job, downtime) in first and then pouring the sand in between (hobbies and passions around that). 

If you are finding you don’t even have time to look after yourself by exercising and sleeping well, something has gotta give. I learnt this the hard way last year when I caught an infection that knocked me out for a few days = huge wake up call. I had to recalibrate everything and reassess what was most important, do those first and then fill in the rest afterwards.

  • When you’ve got multiple interests, how do you know which one to monetise and which one to do for fun?

My advice is to consider the following:

  1. What do you keep being asked about (you’ve become the go to person in your circle for “X”)?
  2. Have other people been able to turn it into a business? This is actually a good thing because that means there is a demand.
  3. Once you know the answer to 1 and the answer to 2 is YES, then spend time to upskill in that space (e.g. attend some online classes, read up on it)
  4. Brainstorm a few different ways you could make money from your interest and test them out to see which one you like and what is a profitable exchange of your time and effort.
  • Did you ever consider making calligraphy your full-time gig? Why or why not? 

When I started, I did have dreams of maybe one day doing art full time however, I am still in love with the law and want to help people through it so for now, I’m content having it just as a side business for now. You never know what the future will hold! 

  • What’s the biggest challenge with balancing your career and your personal passions? What’s your advice for others experiencing this challenge? 

My biggest challenge has and I think will always be time management. We all have 24 hours in a day so it’s really about working out how to use what we have wisely and efficiently and that might change day-to-day, week-to-week etc.

A few techniques I’ve found helpful in tackling this challenge is:

  • Choosing your top three priorities for each day and focusing on getting those done and celebrate when you’ve done just those three things (anything else is a bonus)
  • Time blocking i.e. setting aside a block of time to complete a task and putting away your phone or closing outlook while you are doing the task to not get distracted
  • Schedule rest and downtime: I used to be a huge productivity junkie that did not know how to rest but now I’ve “seen the light” and realise that without rest, you will eventually burn out and productivity drops after a certain point anyway