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20 Productive Hobbies That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

20 Productive Hobbies That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

Everyone needs a hobby, as the old saying goes. Hobbies help develop our tastes and our passions in life – they can be as diverse as gardening, cooking, writing, skydiving, stand up comedy and sewing to name but a few.

However, very few are ever considered as productive hobbies, unless you happen to belong to one of those rare few lucky people who manage to turn their hobby into a second job… or who manage to utilise the skills they built in their hobby in their work to become more productive, efficient, and happier.

So, if you’re looking to pick up a new hobby and develop some skills that will help you enhance your proficiency and productivity, then check out this list of productive hobbies you could consider picking up, and their benefits:

1. Cooking

Cooking is one of the most productive hobbies out there, and something everyone should consider trying their hand at.

Cooking forces you to be in the moment, focusing entirely on the product and processes at hand. It also forces you to plan ahead.

As a bonus, with practice, you’ll get really good at preparing and making food in advance for the days ahead, meaning you’re being even more productive than you realized.

This article is great for anyone who’s trying to start cooking: Cooking 101: 20 Lessons to kick start your cooking skill

2. Hiking

Hiking is one of those quintessential ‘weekend’ hobbies, for people with a passion for long treks and experiencing the beauty of nature.

Studies have shown how hiking can benefit our brains. They can also have a beneficial effect upon your productivity, as hiking allows you to clear your mind of all worries and focus on the present, as well as providing you with exercise to improve physical fitness and stamina.

3. Painting

Painting may not seem like a particularly productive hobby, but it can lend some wonderful perspective on your life and can help unleash your creative side.

Painting allows you to tap into the thoughts, desires, and feelings swimming around in your head, and can help translate them into something physical.

Your painting might even inspire you to be more productive in the workplace, so go ahead and pick up a paintbrush.

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4. Sculpture

While few of us may be at the standard of sculptors such as Michelangelo or Rodin, sculpture, even in its most basic forms, can be a productive hobby and tool.

Sculpture at its very nature behooves you to create with the materials you have, and to be mindful of what you’re creating, even if it takes many tiny steps at a time.

Sculpture also gives you something at the very end of it – it might not be the kind of art or sculpture created by masters, but it’s still tangible, and it’s yours, and truly authentic because of that very fact.

5. Writing

One of the most productive hobbies to have is to write in your spare time. Writing is an incredibly powerful and important form of self-expression and it can help to channel your energies into something which you feel passionate about and in which you can pour your thoughts, dreams, and desires.

Whether it’s writing articles, plays, radio scripts or diary entries, writing helps unlock your creative side, and helps you be as productive and healthy as possible.

To kickstart writing, you don’t need to write a lot of words, try writing journal, or just write 750 words a day: Kickstart Your Creativity By Writing 750 Words a Day

6. Running

Running is the go-to relaxation-slash-exercise sport activity for a significant amount of the population. However, it also allows productive benefits and is one of the most productive hobbies out there.

Running not only improves your fitness levels, it can help with any kind of mental block by teaching you how to push through those same kind of mental barriers and obstructions, that are causing you delay.

Download one of these running apps to help you keep track of your running progress. For running beginners, this is a nice guide to check out: Running for Beginners

7. Dancing

Dancing isn’t really considered to be a hugely important hobby in terms of productivity. However, when you examine the hard work and dedication that is undeniable in the art of dance, it starts to become clearer in terms of productivity merit.

Dancing forces you to learn routines obsessively, training your focus into a series of practised movements, and using that as a template for achieving productivity in the minutiae of your daily life is something well worth considering.

8. Yoga

Yoga is one of the most productive hobbies you can fit into your schedule, as it allows you to close off all external thoughts and focus entirely on your bodily practice.

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You focus strongly and single-mindedly on improving your body and physical fitness, as well as emotional and spiritual wellbeing, and you’ll be well prepared and more productive for the future.

You can try out yoga easily even at home: Yoga Poses For Beginners To Achieve A Detoxed And Healthy Body In 7 Days

9. Meditating

Meditation has great recharging capacity. It improves focus and memory. You will be energetic throughout a day just by making as little time as 5 minutes a day to meditate.

Meditation is also the best stress reliever that helps to calm your thoughts and emotions.

You can simply kickstart meditating with this guide: The Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)

10. Reading

Reading is one of the world’s most popular pursuits and pasttimes, and with good reason. There’re many benefits of reading.

It is also an extremely productive hobby as it can be done easily during your downtime and ’empty time’ in which you are doing nothing.

Reading research and studies about productivity, can in turn make you learn new habits, behaviours, and patterns that will make you be more effective with your time.

In short: reading can be productive by allowing you to read up on how to be productive.

11. Playing Video Games

Sure, playing video games might seem like a waste of time, but the roles and rules inherent within video games can actually make you more productive.

Video games encourage focus, determination, trying again and again even if you fail the first time around, teamwork, and cooperation. These are all useful and admirable traits that will make anyone more driven and productive at work.

12. Gardening

Is there anything more inherently relaxing, at least in theory, than gardening?

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Gardening is not only a pleasant and relaxing pastime, it’s also a fantastic way to boost your productivity.

How?

Gardening allows you to relax and unwind, conserving your energies for the frantic days ahead you might have. It also teaches you about managing different projects (or in this case plants) all at the same time.

13. Knitting

Knitting is usually considered to be something that the elderly and the niche of Hollywood celebrities like doing, but knitters circle the world – and for good reason.

Knitting is, aside from an enjoyable pastime and a way to craft a perfect gift for someone you love, a fantastic tool for enhancing productivity. It uses the same multi-tasking and planning skills that a modern day workplace will utilise, and it promises a physical, tangible end product to your endeavours.

What’s more, science says knitting makes you mentally happier and warmer.

14. Woodwork

Woodwork is a surprisingly productive hobby due to the fact that you have to focus hard on your singular vision of what you wish to build.

Constructing something of your own out of wood – whether it’s a shelf, a spice rack, or even something more complex or beautiful – can be a wonderful boost to your self esteem, and building yourself the materials you need to help make your life easier, will, in turn, make you more productive and happier as a result.

15. Playing Poker

Playing poker may not seem like a particularly productive hobby, but it’s certainly one of the most challenging and mind-stretching card games to play.

Poker allows your mind to both unwind and practice its logical and strategic muscles in a way that can help you make those important decisions and focus on those all-important goals on your workplace.

16. Acting

Treading the boards at your local dramatic venue might not seem like the sure-fire way to enhance your productivity muscles, but acting as a productive hobby is not to be sniffed at.

Acting forces you to reawaken those memorization abilities you might have previously otherwise forgotten, and awakens creative talents such as improvisation and the ability to think on your feet in a crisis, making you calmer under pressure, and more productive and competent as a result.

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17. Amateur Radio

Amateur radio isn’t a very popular pastime, otherwise everyone would have their own radio show or podcast on iTunes. However, aside from being a great way to express your opinions and develop some public speaking chops, amateur radio can be extremely productive.

When writing, performing, editing and producing amateur radio, you learn about working with deadlines, developing creative ideas and storylines, and how to do your best work in a sharp, creative burst of time – all talents and skills that will help you be at your productive best.

18. Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding might not seem like a particularly mainstream or productive hobby; after all, unless you’re a particularly enthusiastic gym bunny, you might have had little to no contact with the practice.

However, bodybuilding focuses on building up core strength, control, self-discipline and focusing on a key, singular vision – all key practices which could prove to be extremely relevant and transferable in terms of productivity in other areas of your life.

For bodybuilding beginners, here’re some tips for you: 15 Bodybuilding Tips for Beginners

19. Swimming

Swimming is relaxing, strengthening and an extremely positive and healthy way of exercising. It’s also a beneficial way of becoming more productive.

Swimming can help channel all worries into something productive, clear the mind for more positive action and thoughts, and can make you feel more energized leaving the pool after a hearty workout.

Swimming has been shown to have numerous physiological and psychological health benefits, so there’s no reason not to head to your local pool.

20. Daydreaming

Okay, so maybe this last one isn’t what is technically considered to be a ‘hobby’, but it still has plenty of benefits when practiced regularly and will make you more productive if used correctly.

Daydreaming awakens your creative side and allows you to explore ideas that you never even considered – even ideas that might just prove to be the solution you’ve been after.

If daydreaming leads to napping, that’s even better – studies have shown that a quick 20 minute nap in the afternoon can help provide clarity, memory retention, and help make you even more focused and productive with your batteries recharged.

More About Everyday Productivity

Featured photo credit: Roman Kraft via unsplash.com

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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