Turns out there are bigger benefits to knit one, purl two than a just a fabulous fall sweater. Having a hobby such as knitting or woodworking is actually good for your career—not to mention your reputation.
Pastimes that were thought of as passé are trendy again and working with your hands is hip. The surging popularity of hobbies may have a direct correlation to the technology industry. In fact, it’s thought by some that the rise of the “maker movement,” the most recent round of the do-it-yourself contingent, is to some degree in response to the high tech/high touch era of always-on computers and smartphones.
“Bleary-eyed souls peering up over their laptops and monitors, craving something more tactile than a keyboard, plus a measure of control over their surroundings,” describes Gwen Moran in a 2011 Entrepreneur article on the rise of the Maker Movement. “And then it began: They started making things, things that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with 1s or 0s.”
Moreover, research now proves that creative, crafty hobbies offer a number of career-boosting benefits:
Increased productivity: Research from San Francisco State shows that those who engaged in a creative hobby performed between 15 to 30 percent better at work. Researchers aren’t sure why; hobbies might help you recharge, learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, or give you greater feelings of control and mastery, according to Inc.
Enhanced creativity: “Challenging and stimulating hobbies may inspire ideas that will help you at work and may lead, for example, to a new approach to making presentations, solving problems or meeting a client’s needs,” writes the New York Times. “By tapping into our creativity through hobbies, we make connections that lead to a flurry of insights and new ideas.” In addition, concentrating on something different for a while gives your subconscious the opportunity to work on whatever else might be bugging you, writes Lindsay Lavine in Fast Company.
Broader networking opportunities: Whether it’s the Model Railroad Club or the Knitting Guild Association, doing your hobby with others can expose you to people you might not meet otherwise. There are even groups for men who knit—a crafty hobby, by the way, that some liken to programming.
Better brain power: Numerous studies have found that learning new things helps your brain work better, such as a UCL study that showed exposure to new experiences improves memory. In particular, people can actually perform better by being motivated by factors such as autonomy and competence rather than being motivated purely by money.
Increased happiness: If you’re stressed out about something at work, having a hobby gives you another outlet for success, even if it’s finishing a watercolor or setting a new personal best at running. This is especially true for very busy people such as entrepreneurs. And doing well in one area—including your hobby—helps build your confidence in other areas, writes Joel Gascoigne, the CEO of content social media sharing company Buffer. Performing a hobby also gets you in a “flow” state, meaning you are absorbed in something you enjoy, and that helps make you happy as well, notes psychology professor Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi.
A new stream of income: If this whole programming thing doesn’t work out, who knows, maybe you can build birdhouses or design lamps for a living. Seriously, with sites like Etsy, it’s easier to make money with your own handcrafts than ever before. You never know which of your side projects might take off.
Industry analyst Tim Bajarin goes even further, likening the Maker Movement and creative hobbies to the birth of the PC industry itself, noting that major tech companies such as Intel are getting involved in “maker faires,” or conventions of craftspeople. “I see the Maker Movement and these types of Maker Faires as being important for fostering innovation,” he writes in Time. “At the very least, some of these folks will discover life-long hobbies, but many of them could eventually use their tools and creativity to start businesses. And it would not surprise me if the next major inventor or tech leader was a product of the Maker Movement.”
Photo courtesy of Kate Bolin.
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