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Make Your Passion A Priority At Work

Make Your Passion A Priority At Work

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    Maybe one of your goals involves traveling the world or maybe you’re looking for enough time to help with a cause you feel passionate about. Either way, though, you likely have a prior commitment to an employer — or at least to paying rent and eating on a regular basis. Most of us are not in a position to quit working and spend all our time on those activities that we’d like to make a priority. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t add our own priorities to our work — it’s possible to incorporate our own interests into our work even if we haven’t landed our dream jobs.

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    Talk About Your Passions

    Your interests may have absolutely nothing to do with your job: most corporate jobs don’t take your passion for the arts or your after-work involvement in sports into account. But that doesn’t mean that limiting your discussion of such topics will pay off in the end. If you want to balance your work with your passions, it’s worth making sure your work actually knows that you have a few passions.

    I went to school with a friend who took an IT job immediately after graduation, despite being far more interested in making films. Just talking about his passion opened up some opportunities for him: he’s gotten involved in national competitions for films on his employer’s behalf, gotten access to company property for sets and props for his own projects and has been able to add some interesting responsibilities to his resume that actually involve making films. At the very least, he’s turned his job into something he enjoys — but he also has moved a little closer to working in a job that focuses on his passion, rather than incorporates it.

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    You don’t need to dominate every conversation around the water cooler, but it’s worth mentioning your hobbies and interests when they’re relevant. And if you see a clear path to bringing your interests to work, speak up. Even if it’s as simple as something like asking your employer to sponsor a local sports team, the company probably isn’t aware of the opportunity — or benefits — of sponsorship.

    Look for Flexibility

    There are certainly passions and professions that don’t really intersect: if your employer primarily targets local customers, you probably won’t be able to convince the company to send you to Thailand. That fact doesn’t stop a web designer that I’ve worked with in the past. She doesn’t have any interest in running her own business or freelancing — she likes the company that employs her. But she also enjoys spending about half of each year in Thailand. With a little flexibility on both the designer and the employer’s part, they’ve come to an agreement that works out pretty well for both of them. She telecommutes for months at a time, making sure to be in the country for those projects that her employer really wants her to handle inside the country.

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    Once again, you’ll have to actually mention that you’re looking for some flexibility to actually get it. As long as you have a pretty clear idea of what you want — leave work early once a week, telecommute or any other option that makes it easier for you to devote time to your priorities — and how you can turn that into a benefit for your employer, ask for a meeting with your supervisor. You may not get a ‘yes’ straight away, but if your employer sees that you are serious about making a change, you’ve at least built a starting point.

    Skip the Bluffs

    Adding your own priorities to your work day isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. There will be cases where bringing the two together just isn’t possible, times when you have to focus on the fact that your employer is paying you money for your time and the company just isn’t interested in your hobbies. That’s okay. You don’t have to stop trying to focus on your passions during your 9 to 5 — it’s just time to step back and asses the situation.

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    There’s a danger in pushing too hard for one of your own priorities. There are plenty of examples out there of folks who told their employers that another priority or the need for flexibility and heard that the company couldn’t or wouldn’t offer them any help. In such situations, there is a temptation to try to bluff — to suggest that if you’re needs aren’t meet, you’re ready to move on. Such a bluff is generally not an ideal option. That isn’t to go against my suggestion to simply talk about your passions, especially to your boss. Instead, it’s an issues of the force you put behind such discussions.

    Instead, before things progress that far, it’s worth considering your options as a whole. For the time being, the best option may be keeping your job as your main priority: you still have after hours to work on your own projects, and you can slowly work towards finding a new job or business that allows you to shift your priorities. Your alternative is making the jump now: you can start a job hunt in earnest, hopefully focusing on jobs to are more closely related to your own pet projects. Or you can strike out on your own, focusing on freelancing or building your own business focused on your own priorities. It’s a question of which option is practical for your own situation.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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