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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

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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