OK, so the knee-jerk reaction to someone telling you to ‘get a hobby’ when you bemoan your busy work schedule may be for you to shut them down, but hear us out on this one. Hobbies may not necessarily be the productivity disruptors you’d initially think them to be.
While stimulant drugs like adderall boost mental performance and help users concentrate for extended periods of time, a lot of jobs require creative problem-solving which quite frankly, isn’t within the remit of amphetamines. Enter: knitting. Or cycling. Or maybe even baking.
Several studies have found personal hobbies can boost your output at work. San Francisco State University reported that in a test with nearly 350 employees, when people participated in hobbies, they often made job-related improvements.
This could be due to a number of factors. Whether you learn new skills while doing hobbies that can later be applied to your day job or it’s the fact that you’ve had some constructive time out that’s left you feeling refreshed, both of these seem like ample motivation for keeping up a personal hobby.
Taking up a hobby will most likely require you to rejig your schedule, thus forcing you to manage your time more wisely. Doing repetitive or intricate tasks will no doubt increase your patience too and if you think about something like knitting an item of clothing, there’s a definite requirement of willingness to strive towards long-term goals involved. All practical skills that you can carry through into your work life.
On a personal level, keeping up a hobby can provide many with a new found confidence in their abilities, and let’s face it, we all perform at our optimum when we’re feeling self-assured and like total bosses.
Where stress leads, reduced productivity often follows. However, a 2015 study found that people who spent time doing leisure activities experienced less stress, so there’s an argument to be made for taking time out when it’s all getting a bit too much at your desk and you’ve noticed your body entering ‘fight or flight’ mode.
Even Google has a 20% rule, whereby employees are encouraged to spend a fifth of their time working on whatever they think will most benefit Google; "This empowers [employees] to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner."
The evidence speaks for itself: Losing yourself in a creative task can be healing, restorative, stress-relieving and actually productive in the grand scheme of things.
Hobbies help develop our tastes and our passions in life, not to mention the fact that it’s important to have a personal interests outside of your work and career. For those who find meditation near impossible and need to be constantly ‘doing’ instead of ‘being’, things like knitting and painting can provide pockets of quiet solace within their habitually busy days. From cooking and gardening to sports for those who want something more physically demanding, there are plenty of hobbies you can start imminently without having to invest much time or money into beforehand.
Here’s our final golden nugget: Your new found hobbies don’t have to be something that you can already do well. We know it’s handy (and ego-boosting!) to be really good at everything you do, but it’s also character building, challenging, humbling and actually quite fun to start off as a rookie in something you’ve always been curious about. After all, maybe it’s not the amount of hours you clock in, but the time you spend checking out that will give you the competitive edge.
Photograph Suzanne Saroff for The Nue Co.