Janya Sachdev is returning home at 9 pm on a wintry night in Delhi, humming a tune stuck in her head, a souvenir from the last few hours. Every Wednesday, the 30-year-old resident doctor from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) leaves work to attend rehearsal with the choir group, The Capital City Minstrels.

For the last two years, Sachdev has sung with this group that rehearses weekly and performs regularly in Delhi and, occasionally, in other parts of India and abroad. Music has been an integral part of her upbringing, and though her job is demanding, Sachdev ensures that she makes time for her passion.

If you are among those who feel that balancing a full-time job with a committed pursuit is unmanageable, listen to these professionals who share how making time for their passion is not only a great way to unwind, but also contributes to their personal and professional development.

Going with the flow

The Cigna TTK Health Insurance The Cigna 360° Wellbeing Survey 2018, an annual survey conducted across 23 countries with 14,500 respondents last year, found the highest stress levels in India among all the surveyed markets. Most working professionals are unable to leave workplace stress behind in the office, blurring the lines between personal and professional time. The little personal time people get is usually spent on family, personal errands and social obligations, rather than pursuing interests or hobbies. However, Kaushik Bose, senior director at Global Health Strategies, an international organization in health and wellness advocacy, ensures that he makes time for an activity he is keenly interested in because that is a great way to beat stress. Bose started Theatreworms Productions in 2011 to pursue his long-time passion for theatre. “Theatre, as I see it, is very de-stressing. It’s a place where we all unwind after a long week. It involves a lot of group activities and it gives me the energy to face the days at work with renewed vigour," says Bose.

 Janya Sachdev never misses a singing session with her choir group
 Janya Sachdev never misses a singing session with her choir group

Psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience defines “flow" as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost." Pursuing an activity that is not motivated by financial or social obligations, but because it is enjoyable, is a way to achieve balance, energy and happiness. Amentha Marques articulates “flow" through her passion for creating food. The 34-year-old business development manager for the Globus Family of Brands, an international travel company, always enjoyed cooking and baking. She turned it into a more serious pastime over the last few years, even starting her own home order service, HappYness Kitchen . “I travel a lot for work. The only time to de-stress is the weekends and all I can think of is cook, bake and repeat. It has helped me balance my professional life and my passion at the same time. It’s my detox for the mind, body and soul," she says.

Finding the time

Not having enough time is a common reason cited by working professionals for being unable to pursue a serious hobby. But for those who are committed to their passion, finding time is not difficult. Weekends, or even breaking it down into 30 minutes a day are ways to manage the time. Gayle Remedios, 34, an administrative manager with Omair Al Thani Luxury Transport in Dubai, discovered patchwork and quilting in 2015 when looking for an activity to do outside of work. She joined a quilting workshop, and now enjoys the lengthy creative process which absorbs her mind and distracts her from everyday stress. “I carry a small notebook and pen down my schedule every morning for the day or week. On working days, I allot a few hours in the late evening a couple of times a week, and on weekends the whole day to quilting," she says.

For Aakash Malhotra, 26, CEO and founder of digital and advertising agency, Digato OPC, it’s about working smarter. Starting his own agency gave Malhotra the flexibility to mould his work schedule within his passion for travel.

He may spend the morning hiking up a volcano in Indonesia to watch the sunrise, but be back by the afternoon to work and coordinate with clients.

“I have been able to optimize process enough to work four hours a day. While travelling, I work two hours early in the morning and two hours according to the time zone my clients are in so that I can do e-meetings with team and clients. I take the rest of the time to travel, build experience and create content for my social media channels," he says.

Pursuit of happiness

If you truly enjoy your part-time interest, staying committed to it is easier. Sachdev’s motivation is simple, choral singing makes her happy. “It is the perfect combination of a creative art and a team sport. You get the thrill and rush of creating something beautiful as a member of a team; to create this beautiful collective sound," she says. Encouraged by the support of friends and family, she is undeterred by the occasional reaction of some former colleagues who assumed that she had too much time on her hands.

For Remedios, support is important, “The passion I have for the craft and the reaction of my family, friends, fellow vendors and clients who appreciate and encourage me keeps me motivated," she says.

The positive effects of this activity permeating into one’s personal and professional life are also a key motivation. “It helped me explore ideas and knowledge, leading to self-realization. It is a form of communication and expression, which has helped me in learning team building, cooperation and empathy along with management and organizational skills," says Bose.

We all want to be happy, and though this is not the solution to all problems, committing to a part-time pursuit contributes to overall well-being.

Sachdev sums this pursuit of happiness eloquently, “Having something in your life which is just for you, which isn’t geared towards paying the bills or getting a promotion, brings you joy. It is essential to finding happiness."

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