Balancing personal projects with full-time work

Since leaving uni and entering full-time work, I’ve definitely gained more respect for the inherent scarcity of time: You might (for the large part) have the power to decide what job to take, who you see on your weekends, how much you want to save and spend, but there’s only so much you can do in a day, a finite number of people you can be. 

Inevitably, this learning has reminded me to appreciate my first-world privilege, the sacrifices of my parents, my own capacity to enjoy these gifts. It has also sparked a series of meta conversations I’ve started with my friends – not just “what have you been up to in your free-time lately?”, I ask, but “what have you been doing to build free-time into your schedule?”

Of course, I’m determined to prove my worth at my new job, but I’m also loving the fact that I don’t have to bring it home with me like I often did my study. That is, there’s room to pursue a few other KPI’s in my life like regaining my fitness, maintaining and enjoying my friendships, and learning languages. However, the onus really is on me to make the effort.

“I just don’t have enough time, you know?”

In the past three months, a common scenario has involved me finishing work, looking forward to a few free hours, only to find myself too exhausted to put two thoughts together. I’d be on the fast-track to depression if I accepted this as my new normal and starting hiding behind excuses.

First, (and it’s a cliché but) I’ve been trying to start and end my days earlier. Achieving something for myself first thing in the morning – it might be doing some stretches or breathing exercises, writing, going for a swim or a run – makes the rest of the day easier. I took inspiration from this episode of the Accidental Creative podcast, albeit without the same degree of structure.

As my family can attest, I suffer from hangriness and can become near-useless if I haven’t eaten recently. 4:30 o’clock second-lunches help me make it to soccer training without throwing a tantrum. Food is an important part of functioning to my best, but I’ve also learned to follow my cravings rather than the stressful, overly-controlling approach I employed last year.


In the three months since I started working, I still haven’t figured out the best way to consistently practice languages – it’s a lot easier to go from work to a physical or social activity than a cerebral one. Recently, however, I’ve been discovering and embracing the path of least resistance:

  1. I’ve been listening to the SBS Spanish podcast most days on the train to work. I know I would benefit more if I took notes and tried to memorise new vocabulary I come across, but listening passively is still something. At the very least, it makes me feel good and reminds me how much I improved in Mexico.
  2. Speaking also provides immediate gratification so I went to the Sydney Spanish Group Meetup a fortnight ago and intend on trying out the Blue Studies English-Spanish Meetup this week.
  3. I’ve also been dabbling in Brazilian Portuguese using really non-committal, non-intrusive methods such as Memrise and Michel Thomas. Because it’s so similar to Spanish, it doesn’t take that much brain power but I still find it pretty interesting.

In the coming weeks, I hope to write more about my goals and motivations in languages but, if I don’t, it’s because I’ll be spending more time doing than talking (though, research suggests that the satisfaction associated with telling someone your goals might leave you less motivated to do the actual hard work necessary to achieve it!).

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