Why You Need a Hobby, Not Another Personal Project

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I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about personal projects, tips for managing them and ideas for getting started. While I think every professional can benefit from having one or two personal projects in the works, and I typically do myself, I also think personal projects can contribute to work-related stress, over scheduling and eventually burnout.

Sure, you have a lot to gain by working on projects that directly benefit you and your business. But in reality, personal projects are just more work. It may be work you enjoy and may eventually contribute to your long-term earning potential, but it’s work.

Do I really need a hobby?

Personal projects are typically fit in around paying client work. If you’re already busy to begin with, you may find that you’re working on your personal projects when you really should be taking a break. Again, this can push you one step closer to burning out.

I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t have time for a hobby; a hobby is a waste of time; my free time is best spent on more productive activities.” But guess what? Those thoughts can be a sign that a hobby is exactly what you need.

A mix of personal projects and absolutely-not-work-related hobbies can be one of the most effective ways to balance the stress of your daily workload. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

What will a hobby actually do for me?

Not convinced a hobby will do anything positive for you? Here are some of the benefits from picking up a hobby:

  • It’s a break from the work pressures and always-on mentality.
  • A hobby can boost your self-esteem, energy and creativity.
  • It’s a structured way to take time off from work (structure that people like me need!).
  • You can learn something about yourself outside of who you are as a professional.
  • A hobby can inspire you in ways you would not have anticipated.
  • It’s time that can reset your perspective on work when you get back to the grind.

How do I choose a hobby?

To ensure your hobby is a hobby and not moving into personal project territory, make sure it passes each of these tests:

  • This is something I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to doing.
  • I have no commitment to doing this hobby at a certain time, in a certain way.
  • The goal isn’t to make money or further my business/career.
  • This hobby typically makes me feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
  • I am often surprised by how quickly time goes when I am focusing on my hobby.

One hard lesson I’ve learned is that a good hobby doesn’t have to be intense; it doesn’t have to be something you do that produces a measurable, physical end result. In fact, sometimes the best hobbies are those that allow you to adopt a more passive approach — watching TV, reading, arts and crafts time with your kids, taking walks.

Do you have a hobby? How does it help you find balance in your work?

Image credit: dinoberto

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  • Matt

    “Smoking Cigarettes.” – Goofy

  • mccambridge

    I wish I would have understood this two years ago — er, one year ago — well, last month. I used to do a lot of sea kayaking. I’ve been stuck in burnout all summer and “just don’t have time” to go paddling. The truth is I’m stuck out of balance. Big changes ahead.

  • charlie

    The most important requirement of a hobby for anybody who works in the web world is that it doesn’t involve a computer screen. I like to hike, grill and tinker with electronics. The key is to break up the monotony and you’ll return refreshed, maybe with some good new ideas.

  • kira8080

    What’s the point of life without hobbies ? The day I need someone to list me reasons to find hobbies I’ll know there’s something wrong with me.