Like a lot of people, I define myself by what I do. More specifically, what I do today. So, while I used to consider myself a journalist, a skier, a trumpet player, a cook, and other things, I consider myself those things less and less today. But why? At first glance, there could be plenty of excuses for this—marriage, fatherhood, career—but they aren’t good excuses for losing one’s identity.
The real reason, I realized, is I haven’t been prioritizing my hobbies. And when I do have free time, it’s way too easy to default to social media, Netflix, or straight-up sleep. This needs to change! If you’ve felt the same and want to start redefining yourself, there are six good reasons to reprioritize your hobbies:
- Hobbies help you structure your time: According to Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, things take up as much time as you have. If you block off the whole work day for a project, you might get it done early, but you might just as easily find ways to keep iterating until the sun goes down. On the other hand, if you have to get to band practice or your beer league softball game by a certain time, there’s a good chance you’ll get your project wrapped in time. Self-imposed deadlines for the win!
- Hobbies promote “flow”: In between lazing around the couch, I saw this Canada Dry commercial. The premise: work hard, play hard, relax harder. My first reaction was, “Yeah, I HAVE been working hard. I DO deserve some relaxation!” And sure, some down time is warranted. But really, it’s not the kind of activity I’ll remember fondly—or at all. Activities that stretch our skills and drive us to keep learning (i.e., hobbies) help us keep learning and are the things we’ll remember at the end of the day.
- Hobbies foster new social connections: Some hobbies are fun to pursue solo but what happens if we have questions? Or want to compare notes? Or learn what else is possible? We look to other people. Naturally, this can turn into new friendships, more fulfilling hobbies, and even business opportunities. Right, Nick Offerman?
- Hobbies make you interesting: What makes Cara Delevingne and Donald Glover each so interesting? Their hobbies. But even if you can’t be an actor, model, or musician (or all of them), your own hobbies give you something to talk about. They help you find common ground with people. And they give you something to talk about. We all have a story and it’s defined by our interests. Have hobbies and stay interesting, my friends.
- Hobbies help you cope with stress: You had a long day. Your client randomized you all morning, only to ignore your recommendations and criticize your work. You forgot to pay some bills and now you owe even more. And your family is guilting you into attending a birthday for someone you’ve never met. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to take arbitrary stressors personally. Don’t fall for it. Chances are you don’t actually have character flaws; you just need some hobby relief. Sure, you’re an employee, a bill payer, and a parent, but that’s only part of who you are.
- Hobbies infuse other aspects of your life: Talking about your hobbies with coworkers, neighbors, and anyone else you encounter throughout the day helps you understand the complexities and awesomeness of people around you. It also shows them what you’re about, and opens the door to sharing new experiences with great people. Even if it’s just an hour or two each week for your hobby, you have something that’s yours, part of your identity, and always available to help you center yourself.
In her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, Brigid Schulte argues that “I’m too busy” has become a badge of honor, a sign of virtue and importance. Don’t believe it. Your time—and your hobbies—really do matter.