Hobbies Matter: How Side Projects Are Making You More Productive


Kevin Urrutia




September 13, 2022

When you’re having trouble maintaining your flow, engagement, and discipline in your job – just work more… right?

Well, it definitely seems like the recipe to work tirelessly (even more so when you hit an obvious productivity slump) is widely suggested and applied. But it is coming to light that this approach to work is actually what’s hurting our productivity in the first place.

The truth is that no matter whether you love your job or not, the “grit and grind” mindset is bound to get the better of you at some point. It’s unsustainable and conducive to burnout, which is a common issue in the workforce nowadays, especially among entrepreneurs. Most importantly, it goes against our innate need to engage and expand our minds with diverse tasks and challenges.

That’s why companies such as Google have applied the 80/20 rule, which encourages employees to work 80% of the time on the job they were hired for and use the other 20% to pursue personal projects that may contribute to the company in some way. Now, you likely don’t have this perk on your day job, but making time for hobbies and side projects outside of work can actually make you more productive in the long run, and here’s how.

Bringing something new to the table

Maybe you don’t consider yourself a creative person.  You’re wrong.

The thing is, creativity takes on different forms and can be approached from different angles. It’s about working the different parts of your brain, perceiving the world in different ways, and finding hidden connections between concepts. Once you make a point of doing this, you’ll find that creativity is found in everything we do.

Working on a personal project is bound to be different from the things you do at your job. It may be completely unrelated to your job or it may have some touching points, but either way, it will provide you with a creative outlet that gives you a different perspective. This fresh perspective and having to think from a different angle, along with having to develop a different set of skills, will prove beneficial to your job, even though you may not expect it.

Making up for what your job doesn’t give you

Even the most creative job such as facebook ads marketing can end up draining you mentally and becoming too repetitive or burdened with processing tasks. That’s only natural, because your job can’t really reflect all of your personal interests. And what makes us so disengaged and unmotivated in our jobs is very often that feeling that we’re not fulfilling our lives, not doing the things we deeply care about.

When you work on something that speaks to your personal interests and passions, you’ll have an outlet that makes up for what your job can’t provide you with. This makes you more fulfilled as a whole, creatively charged, and more ready to engage in your day job.

Maintaining the “flow state”

When you pursue something you genuinely care about, no matter what it is – a business idea, social work, crafting, learning a new skill, training for a marathon – you enter the so-called “flow state”, where you’re highly engaged and concentrated.

Psychologists recommend hobbies as a way to boost focus and problem-solving skills because the benefits they provide for your mind will extend beyond the time you spend doing them. In short, by immersing yourself in a personal project, you’ll simultaneously restore your energy and put your mind into motion. This will reflect on all the other aspects of your life, including your job, where you’ll be more mentally awake and energized for the tasks you’re given.

Improving self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is an important and slightly misunderstood concept in psychology. It has been defined by some experts as “the belief we have in our own abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully”. Although it’s closely related to self-esteem and largely contributes to it, it’s a separate construct because it deals specifically with achieving goals and overcoming challenges, rather than being a general idea of self-worth.

How do hobbies and side projects relate to this?

Quite simply, immersing yourself in them will result in setting goals, overcoming challenges, and having to learn new things. These new things might be skills or even qualities such as patience or meticulousness. For example, if you pursue a hobby such as sewing, which may have absolutely no touching point with your job, you’ll inevitably be practicing patience, attention to detail, and precision.

Along with overcoming the challenges that your side project will bring, acquiring new skills and desirable qualities will help you develop this sense of self-efficacy. It’s an invaluable trait that makes you take pride in the things you do and helps you overcome the challenges in your work with zeal. It can also lead you to take on new challenges and pursue bigger goals, perhaps within your company or as an entrepreneur.

You’ve surely heard how some of the most successful companies and popular products are the result of side projects – Slack, Twitter, Udemy, just to name a few. Who knows, your side project could be the next big thing too, but don’t burden yourself with that idea. Pursue your passion without pressure and the benefits will inevitably follow, seeping into every aspect of your life to make you more creative, fulfilled, and productive.

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