Do you have a hobby? If so, congratulations. Having a hobby is crucial to finding success in many parts of life, including the workplace. If you don’t have a hobby yet, find one as soon as possible. Science shows the benefits of doing something productive and engaging with your free time, even if it isn’t spent on your actual job or something you’re getting paid for. Here’s summary and commentary of a study by San Francisco State University that was published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, previously covered by NPR.
To get their results, the researchers gave surveys to around 350 people who had a number of jobs and variety of hobbies. The surveys asked what they did with their free time as well as their behavior in the workplace. People who wrote that they regularly participated in a creative activity scored between 15% and 30% higher than those who participated a hobby only once in a while, according to the research’s standards. The researchers also had a test group of ninety United States Air Force captains. Their training had already taught them to solve complex problems and help others, which made them a particularly interesting subset to survey. The researchers asked the officers about their own work performances and also read the performance reviews of co-workers and employers. As with the individuals from a variety of professions, there was a significant increase in performance based on the amount of time they participated in something creative outside of work. What makes the findings more convincing is that the researchers also had other things in consideration when they were performing their tests. In particular, they took the survey responders’ personality into account since that’s long been linked with improved performance, especially in a collaborative environment
How did the researchers determine the test takers’ level of creativity? Their solution was to ask them to answer how open they were to new experiences based on a scale of 1 to 7. Not the most full-proof method, admittedly; still, San Francisco State University did find a significant correlation, if not causation, between creativity at home and performance in the workplace.
The study and the reasons behind it offer pretty strong evidence that spending time away from the job participating in a hobby is going to help you improve your cognitive reasoning ability and figure out your best skills, among other benefits. Once you’ve accomplished those feats you’ll be able to do the kind of work that gets you noticed, which is likely to lead to something like a raise or a promotion.
So what hobby should you take up? That obviously depends largely on your interests, talents and personality, but there are a few ways to distinguish whether or not a hobby is a good use of your time. It should definitely be something engaging, for one. I love good television, but simply binging on Breaking Bad on Netflix probably isn’t going to help me get promoted. However, studying the scripts, looking for the film techniques used and writing about the findings might help me grow my reasoning and deductive skills.
It’s also worth looking into what some of the great minds did to both relieve stress and keep themselves mentally active outside of their main profession. Albert Einstein was an accomplished violinist. Actually music is a very popular method to mentally engage yourself. A lot of the best developers in Silicon Valley are also gamers, which allows them to solve complex problems without major stakes. Legos, pictured above, are another great way to stretch both your creative and constructive muscles.
What you really need to do is identify a hobby that closely pertains to the skills you want to grow. It should absolutely be something you actually enjoy, because otherwise your hobby will really just become more work. But, if you can connect your hobby as closely to your profession as you can without creating more stress for yourself, you have a leg up on other employees trying to get promoted.