“I started it in 2020” has become a typical response many Americans state when they begin to talk about their recent endeavors. During lock-down, many of us had time to sit, regroup, reconnect, try new things, and pick up passion projects inspired by our creativity and curiosity.
Over the last two years, we have seen some of these pandemic passion projects become lucrative side hustles or successful businesses (In fact, I started HIRE BLACK NOW as a passion project) – and others remain hobbies that bring joy and pleasure.
I interviewed five Black women who have or are balancing pursuing their passions while thriving in their 9-5 careers to see how they avoid burnout and continue making space for the passion(s) that fill their cups. Read on for their tips:
Schedule deep work.
“Your day job has a schedule – and your passion should, too,” says Ariel Belgrave Harris, who grew Gym Hooky to her full-time job after balancing it while holding a Sr. Program Manager position at a large tech company. She suggests identifying and committing to a time in the day dedicated to working on your passion.
Scheduling is also how Jade Flores balances her schedule as a med student, working as Lab Tech, training in pole fitness, and owning Poletics Wear. She emphasizes how important it is to be laser-focused on one thing at a time to relieve the anxiety of living a busy life. “I follow a time block system which entails blocking out chunks of time to do things, and I do no other task except what I scheduled in that time frame,” Jade adds, specifying that she even scheduled spending time with family and friends, work, business tasks, and pole dancing classes. This laser-focus approach to productivity is an example of Deep Work, a concept coined by computer science professor and author Cal Newport.
Prioritize your self-care.
Polly Irungu, Photo Editor and the Founder of Black Women Photographers, says that her advice for balancing your passion and your job is prioritizing your self-care. “You won’t be able to do your work, let alone pursue other passions, if you’re not mentally and physically okay,” she shares, adding that she listens to her body and rests when needed, which fuels her to be able to do the work she does.
One way to regularly check in with your mind and body can be by asking yourself a prompt. One of my favorite prompts to start the day is, How do I feel today, from 1-10? What do I need to get one point higher on the scale? This prompt can reveal thoughts, feelings, or needs that you otherwise would not have recognized.
Follow your curiosity.
“There’s this idea that a passion is this innate, fixed thing, but our passions can – and should – be flexible to who we are becoming,” adds Yrbenka Arthus, who has scaled an Amazon FBA business and started an event series, Industry Link, outside of her 9 to 5 role as a Creator Program manager.
Navigating your career and passions the Yrbenka way looks like letting go of the idea of blueprints, creating your own lane, and pursuing interests that pique your curiosity.
Don’t forget your why.
“When you forget your why, you’re no longer doing it for the right reason,” shares Jalonni Weaver, who balances being a recruiter, hosting a podcast, and managing her photography business. “Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we are doing, earning potential, or social media engagement that we forget why we are doing what we are doing.”
That’s why it’s essential to examine and identify external and internal pressures that may derail you from aligning with your why. Examples can look like feeling pressured to monetize your craft after getting requests from others or like you should make your passion a full-time role after monetary success. Remember: entrepreneurship ain’t for everybody, and it is okay for your passion to be something you simply enjoy.
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