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This is a guest blog by Kayla Matthews. She is a researcher, writer, and blogger covering topics related to technology, smart gadgets, the future of work and personal productivity. She is the owner and editor of ProductivityTheory.com and ProductivityBytes.com, as well as a senior writer at MakeUseOf.

Like many people, you probably try to keep your work life and personal life separate — and the latter likely includes hobbies.

However, a growing body of research suggests the hobbies you engage in could boost your output at work. Let’s explore why that’s the case, then look at several hobbies you could try that may help you make the most of your efforts on the job.

Your Hobbies Could Help You Learn New Skills

Due to a fear of stepping too far outside of their comfort zones, many people stick to hobbies that are somewhat related to their jobs or things they already know they can do well.

However, a study from San Francisco State University involving nearly 350 employees found that when people participate in hobbies, they often make job-related improvements.

The scientists aren’t sure why that’s the case, but they suspect it’s because people learn new things while doing hobbies that they can later apply to their work.

As a result, productivity goes up, and individuals become well-versed in capabilities that fit with the things they do while on the clock.

They Force You to Manage Your Time Wisely

hobbies 4

Taking up a hobby usually requires rearranging your schedule to fit in the new activity. Plus, you have to stick to that plan or risk letting your work duties suffer or having to give up the pastime. If you need extra motivation to become a better manager of your time, a new hobby could provide the assistance you seek.

People typically feel proud of themselves for taking the initiative and learning something new, and they don’t want to become ashamed after finding out they can’t manage their time well enough to sustain the commitment the new activity needs. That’s especially true if a hobby involves a teacher or a team. When other people depend on you, you’re more likely to stay dedicated.

You can probably relate to how people are generally conscious of what others think of them. They could feel embarrassed by admitting to others that they can’t sufficiently work out their schedules to include both a hobby and work.

Hobbies Help You Think About Obstacles in Different Ways

Running into an intellectual roadblock that gives you the impression that’s no way to solve a certain problem can make your productivity plummet. However, an analysis suggests that having hobbies stimulates your mind to come up with innovative ideas.

You might experience something while doing a hobby that gives you an alternative perspective on a task at work or makes you realize a difficult responsibility at work is not as hard as it seemed at first.

Also, you may want to prioritize hobbies that allow you to interact with others. In situations that permit giving and receiving feedback, you may confide in another person and admit you’re dealing with a problem at work that has you feeling stumped.

Sometimes the fresh perspective provided by another individual could be what’s needed to see you knew the answer all along but weren’t looking at the scenario with the proper perspective.

They Increase Patience and Willingness to Work Toward Long-Term Goals

Although some aspects of productivity and creativity require short bursts of work, they also involve pouring your efforts into an objective that may take years to achieve. Think about your favorite composer or inventor. There’s a good chance the product of that person’s work ethic didn’t manifest overnight. It probably took months, and most likely, years.

Taking part in a hobby often involves learning smaller skills you can combine to get closer to a bigger goal. Think of playing the guitar as an example. Before learning advanced barre chords that require using at least one finger to hold down several or all of the strings at once, you’ll probably master significantly easier chords that might only need pressure put on two strings.

Regardless of the hobby chosen, that kind of progressive learning naturally teaches patience. When you have a more patient mindset about the things you set out to do, it could help you more easily see that it’s worthwhile to set your sights on productivity or creativity goals even if you don’t accomplish them for a while.

Patience is also closely associated with self-control, and scientists have found a link between greater levels of self-control and having better health. Furthermore, when people practiced self-control as kids, they were more likely to see its positive effects as adults.

Maybe self-control has never been one of your strong points, but it’s never too late to start developing it. You could see benefits such as not getting angry if things don’t go your way. It’s likely you’ll realize that not giving in to some of your unhealthy or counterproductive impulses while at work could help you get more done and improve the overall quality of your performance.

Having Hobbies Could Make You Less Stressed

When you feel upset due to stress, reduced productivity often follows. If that happens, you may begin engaging in a harsh internal dialogue with yourself that blames other factors besides the stress, thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle. However, a 2015 study found that people who spent time doing leisure activities experienced less stress, had lower heart rates and felt calmer than when they were not doing those things.

People often have good intentions of starting hobbies but never take the steps necessary to do so. If that sounds familiar, consider that your decision to take up a hobby could promote relaxation and stress relief, making you more able to excel while on the job.

Hobbies Help You Recover From Demanding Days

Many people who strive for consistent productivity or creativity find it’s sometimes hard to stay on track because they don’t have sufficient recovery periods during their leisure time. That phenomenon frequently becomes more problematic when people blur the lines between work and pleasure by doing things such as taking career-related paperwork home with them at night to read outside of work hours.

However, a 2016 study that highlighted the recovery periods of people working at a hospital found that a cultural — and preferably creative — activity encourages recovery from taxing work and increases the likelihood of mastery.

Also, 41 percent of the hospital workers in the study had experienced moderate to poor recovery periods, and related research cited by the team found that those who do not learn effective methods of recovering are at higher risk for exhaustion and cynicism after one year.

When trying to get as much done as possible, people often don’t allow themselves to have as much downtime as needed for optimal performance. Even after reading some of the advantages of having hobbies, you may feel tempted to give up yours due to the time management-related concerns mentioned earlier.

However, when you start sacrificing some nonwork-related activities — such as hobbies — it becomes easier to justify other things you normally do in your downtime, like sleep.

Research carried out on mice found that slumber allowed the rodents to recalibrate neurons in their brains, helping to reinforce the lessons learned during time away. That research strengthened the belief that the minds of living things can only hold so much information before requiring rest.

If you take care to set aside time for relaxation through hobbies, it should be easier to get enough shut-eye, too. Together, both those activities could help you excel while getting things done.

Now that you’ve gotten an overview of why hobbies help keep you creative and productive, let’s look at several of the best options to try.

7 Hobbies to Foster Productivity and Creativity

1. Walking

Many people believe that the ultimate way to stay as productive as possible at work is to stay in one place — usually their desks — and devote attention solely to the task at hand. However, if you’re stuck in a creative rut, research indicates it’s useful to break up your workday with a hobby that makes you move, such as walking

Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf are two famous authors who kept up a regular walking habit for creativity reasons. Also, research from Stanford University showed that when people received mental tasks that required creativity, walking while doing them led to more creativity than sitting still.

Some people even take part in meditative walks and focus on things such as the wind blowing through their hair and the sound of their footsteps on the pavement. If you often feel it’s hard to remain productive due to the wild thoughts running through your head, meditating in that way could calm down the inner turmoil and make it easier for you to concentrate.

2. Playing Video Games

playing video games

You might think that video games are low on the mental stimulation scale compared to some activities, but that’s not always the case. A comprehensive review of the effect of video games on children found that role-playing and strategy-based games improved problem-solving abilities.

One potential downside of a video game-playing hobby is that you might find it too solitary. In that case, consider looking for video game groups in your area that involve participants playing at the same time as at least one other person. The combined knowledge you already have about the game and the suggestions from other gaming fans could make it easier to progress through levels and tackle challenges compared to playing by yourself.

Also, consider how much more effectively you could work on solving problems quicker than usual, due in part to video games. In addition to helping you overcome challenges, improved problem-solving abilities could cause you to not find yourself in as many tricky situations that compromise an ability to work at your best.

3. Learning a New Language

If you only speak one language, substantial amounts of evidence indicate that learning another during your downtime could promote more alertness, improved multitasking, and other worthy benefits. Also, it doesn’t necessarily take a long time to see those positive outcomes. In the case of the study that determined a link between language learning and alertness, those students were only enrolled in a one-week course.

To connect productivity with your language-learning goals, determine if there are things you typically do during a workday that could benefit from knowing another language. Do you live in an area that has a large Spanish-speaking population? Have representatives at your company recently signed a deal with a large company in France?

After learning a new language and becoming fluent, you could get more done by using your brain for language-related duties and being less reliant on Google Translate or a similar, potentially time-consuming service. If that outcome happens, you’d also be in a fantastic position to assert that you deserve a promotion.

4. Stamp Collecting

stamp collecting

Stamp collecting is a pastime with a rich history. First established as a hobby in the late 1800s, it reached a peak in the 1970s when there were over 1,000 prominent dealers active in the United States. Even though it’s been around for generations, stamp collecting is a hobby that’s still worth pursuing.

Many people do so for investment reasons, knowing that some rare stamps can become extremely lucrative possessions. Regardless of if you’re in it for the money, collecting stamps can help you appreciate the creative motivations that went into producing specific limited-edition stamps. You could also engage with other stamp collectors in your state or city and meet with them for trading, sales, and discussions.

5. Playing Chess

Earlier, we explored the benefits of getting engrossed in video games as a hobby, but some other kinds of beneficial games aren’t as high tech. Chess is one of them, and research suggests it has several brain-building characteristics. For example, it teaches you to think in patterns and uses previous memories to make decisions, which could increase productivity.

Scientific evidence also shows that chess players have smaller brains compared to non-chess players. Although that may seem like a negative factor, the associated research indicated the smaller size could be a sign of increased neural efficiency. Furthermore, the act of playing chess makes people use both sides of their brains, which stimulates more advanced thought processes.

6. Scrapbooking

When going on a trip or reaching a milestone in life, you probably like to have some mementos to help you recall the occasion. To keep all their memories in one place, many people create scrapbooks. You may find that’s a fun and fruitful hobby, especially if you take pride in finishing projects and showing them to others.

Scrapbooking also lets you practice being both creative and productive. The creativity comes into the equation when you decide how to arrange photographs, ticket stubs, and other materials while simultaneously choosing which color of paper to use, whether to decorate the page with cutout shapes and if you should describe a page’s contents with a handwritten caption.

Productivity is a factor because if you take too long to complete each page of the scrapbook, you’ll likely lose interest before finishing the endeavor. You might even find it useful to set up a scrapbooking schedule. It’ll keep you on track by providing things to get involved in each day and help you keep tabs on the extent of the work you’re doing, thereby increasing self-esteem.

7. Team Sports

team sport

A study carried out on workers in the United Kingdom found that sports boosts morale and makes work environments more productive. Perhaps that’s because people who get involved in sports can see their efforts pay off when they practice their disciplines. Although you’ll undoubtedly see some benefits by picking a sport you play independently, consider doing something that makes you part of a team.

Taking that approach could enhance your communication skills, making it easier to get results while on the playing field as well as at work. While interacting with their teammates, athletes often use body language, gestures and similar techniques to tell fellow players things without giving the other team valuable strategies.

Also, recall the earlier discussion of the positive effect of hobbies on patience and self-control. Playing a sport with your team tends to increase those qualities. For example, you’ll have to show patience while learning new skills.

Self-control is also necessary when you have the option to practice with your teammates or binge-watch a favorite TV show. The latter may feel more tempting if you lack energy, but coming together with your teammates to work toward a common goal increases your focus and willpower.

If people at your workplace are up for the idea, think about asking your supervisor if you could organize a sports team made up of your colleagues. Then, you’d not only reap the benefits of having a hobby, but you’d also learn more about the people at your job and make your social life more diverse.

At first, hobbies may seem like productivity disruptors, but now, thanks to these studies and examples, you know better. By rearranging your schedule to make room for hobbies, you’ll likely notice some of the benefits described above, as well as others you’d hadn’t considered. As a result, you’ll be on a path to a better work-life balance, which could pay off in other ways besides more productivity and creativity.

This is a guest blog by Kayla Matthews. She is a researcher, writer, and blogger covering topics related to technology, smart gadgets, the future of work and personal productivity. She is the owner and editor of ProductivityTheory.com and ProductivityBytes.com, as well as a senior writer at MakeUseOf.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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  1. This article was a great read! It was very informative and provided a lot of useful insights into how hobbies can help us become more productive and creative. I especially liked the list of 7 hobbies suggested at the end. It gave me some ideas for new activities to take up and was a great help for finding new ways to increase my productivity and creativity. Thanks for sharing! Read This blog post Best Hobbies For Mental Health to know more.

  2. Nice article! Hobby give you a new energy and help you in your low days.
    I want to add one more hobby in this list is WRITING. Writing has always given you new direction of thinking and bring out your sadness, stress easily.
    If you want to start writing or you are regular write, then I would to suggest you write online because this is easy to maintain from everywhere or anyone can read it easily.
    Now days many online writing platforms are available you can use any one which suits you.

  3. I think the main task of a person is to find an occupation that he likes. If you can connect work and your hobby, it will be the best that can happen to you. Of course, you are right that your hobby helps you to constantly develop and not stand still.

    1. We totally agree, Nick. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll not get tired of working hard for it. We appreciate your thoughts on this. :)

  4. I think the main task of a person is to find an occupation that he likes. If you can connect work and your hobby, it will be the best that can happen to you. Of course, you are right that your hobby helps you to constantly develop and not stand still. It is a favorite activity that can open new skills for you, which in the future can be useful to you. I’m more than confident that almost every hobby, you can connect with some specialty, which will help to reach new heights. You are drawing? Then you can master a web design or become an artist. You write? Excellent, you can become an excellent writer, a copyright or a bestselling author. The main thing is to find your calling, and then you yourself will want to conquer the peaks and become a professional in your business, do not you?:)

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