Benefits. Scheduling time for a hobby in our lives (tennis league every Monday night or a weekend bridge tournament) enables us to take a break with "permission." Since we have signed up, we feel we should show up and we are "forced" to take a break. Some people need to structure their hobbies into their daily lives, otherwise they would feel too guilty to take a break from work. Many hobbies also provide a social outlet for us if we join teams or interact with others (a sewing group, a chorus). These social interactions can provide a degree of social support we may need. Hobbies can also bring pleasure to our life. I have talked to many executives who reported the sheer joy they got from traveling to new places or taking a cooking class. Hobbies provide an outlet from daily stressors that can keep us from getting burned out in our jobs. They also provide numerous health benefits from lower blood pressure, to better physical function, and higher positive psychological states, and less memory loss. Further, hobbies may actually improve our work performance if they improve our decision-making skills, creativity and confidence.
Finding time. Setting a routine to carve out time is important initially. You may have to give up watching TV every night, or you may have to force yourself to leave the office a little earlier each day. Make your hobby a priority. Set goals for yourself and get a buddy to support you and to help you stay with a hobby.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is a famous proverb. There may be some truth to this so make sure you find some time for yourself to relax, enjoy some fun and pick up a hobby — especially if you are depressed, stressed or going through a tough time. You will thank yourself for it, and so will your family and colleagues.
Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.