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Last Updated on July 24, 2018

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 hobbies are ever considered productive ones, 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.

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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.

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.

Find out more about the relationship between yoga and productivity:

What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity

9. Cosplaying

While cosplaying might not be a particularly mainstream hobby for most, it is nothing more than the celebration of the love and emotion for a particular character or media form (a television show, a film, etc).

Cosplaying can be an extremely useful hobby and a way of allowing you to accurately express your creative side, particularly if you’re in a rigid or strenuous job; it can inspire you to work harder, and achieve higher, even drawing upon your fictional heroes as role models.

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.

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12. Gardening

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

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 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.

Who said there weren’t benefits to daydreaming?

Featured photo credit: tim lowly via flickr.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 March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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