While many business people claim that they don’t have time for hobbies, it’s vitally important to any professional to maintain a work-life balance – and that means getting out of the office. Hobbies can build a variety of skills and knowledge bases, whether you’re climbing mountains or reading the latest bestseller.
Whether focused on personal development or on cooperation and networking, hobbies can also make you more adept at your job, and in particular, at leadership. Here are six hobbies that will make you more effective as a leader.
Running Marathons (or Just Working Out)
Running, while usually a solo pursuit, demands dedication, planning, and a good sense of direction. Many runners also report that they do some of their best thinking when running, and an early morning run can inspire new thinking on how to resolve a problem at work, or new approaches to a professional challenge.
If you’re up for the challenge, consider running a marathon. Of course, if you just can’t get into it, find another form of fitness that will make you happy. CrossFit, swimming, cycling or even yoga could work for you. Many people opt for martial arts, as it builds strength, confidence, and self-discipline.
Athletic activities can boost your energy levels throughout the day, as well as your mood – which will make you not only easier to deal with as a supervisor but give you extra energy to handle any curveballs that come your way.
Creating and Collecting Art
Thinking creatively is an essential quality of any good leader, and artistic pursuits – whether sculpting, painting, sketching, pottery, music, dance, or theater – can help you develop creative ways to address problems.
The arts can assist in developing “out of the box” thinking – unique and non-traditional ways to address problems that may arise. Whether you are learning how to mix the correct shade of royal purple, sing an A-flat six, or correctly perform a grand jete, each of these pursuits will teach you how to work through and around problems creatively.
Of course, you don’t have to focus solely on creating art. Collecting works of art is a great hobby, and you will actively be supporting artists and the art scene. True leaders know aesthetics and how to appreciate art.
Enjoying the Great Outdoors
Spending time under the open skies, in nature, or on the open sea can be very beneficial to your health and peace of mind, and can also develop your leadership skills. If you enjoy the hillside, try mountain climbing, hiking or camping. Mountain climbing requires stamina, energy, dedication, and strategic thinking in order to make the ascent safely. Each of these qualities can contribute to better leadership, especially if you work a lot of overtime.
If you’d rather spend time on a body of water than dry land, then you should try sailing. It’s similar to mountain climbing in the sense that it is physically demanding, you’ll learn how to depend on yourself, but others as well, and you’ll have to take care of others in your group. You do have to prepare yourself before going sailing and learn about the basics.
Playing Board Games
Board games, in addition to sometimes fostering cooperation, promote strategic thinking and decision making. Any hobby that promotes these two qualities is well worth pursuing, not only for leadership development but for personal edification.
Whether you’re playing Apples to Apples, Carcassonne, Stratego, Risk, or Clue, playing board games can help your mind hone its capability for systematic and strategic thinking, especially in highly competitive games like Eclipse or Settlers of Catan.
Playing board games can train you how not to be petty, how to win, but also how to accept defeat with grace. Even leaders are sometimes wrong, and a loss at Monopoly might help you figure out that you’re not always right.
Everyone has a cause they believe in but working for that cause for free, that’s volunteering. Humanitarian work is rewarding, because as you’re helping others, you’re also growing as a person. You are learning how to appreciate the things you have and how to give without asking something in return.
Help the homeless, volunteer at a soup kitchen, teach a class, donate to orphanages, collect food and clothes for the needy, assist the elderly, join an animal shelter group – just go, and do good. Without even noticing, volunteering will shape you into a better leader.
Reading, and Talking About It
Reading is a fantastic way to relax and focus the mind, whether you are reading for pleasure or for business. Reading also ties into creative thinking – something you are reading may inspire a new line of thinking towards a challenge you’re facing at work, or if you’re reading fiction, the qualities of a particular character may inspire you as something to emulate.
Reading also develops vocabulary and encourages new synaptic connections – much like music. Some professionals make it a daily practice to read for at least twenty minutes, regardless of the reading material – from science fiction to financial management.
Joining a book club – online, or in your community – can also help you grow as a leader. As a member of a book club, you’ll regularly discuss books with other people, debate and validate other people’s opinions. Remember, a leader needs to know how to talk, but knowing how to listen is equally important.
Engaging in hobbies is important not only to your well-being but to your career as well. Interests outside of work can help prevent burnout at work and can help you come to work each day refreshed, renewed, and ready to engage with the challenges that lie ahead. If you are one of those professionals who say they do not have time for hobbies, remember one of the most important rules of entrepreneurship and professional leadership: “Make time.”
About the Author
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. She spends her free time trying out new recipes or reading Scandinavian crime novels. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.