Finding Time for Hobbies
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.”Carl Jung
Some of us are not so singular in our pursuits and interests. From one activity to the next, our curiosity is peaked and we dive in head first. Sometimes, we are lucky enough to spend enough time at these hobbies to develop some proficiency or skills at them. We become “Jack[s] of all trades” or “Renaissance men and Women.” But time is finite and we have less and less of it to pursue these personality rounding activities as our lives progress. I have struggled over the last few years to do just this; find time to play or pursue what makes us grow.
Travel, work, and other commitments have sapped away those windows to learn a new skill, practice an old one, or just get lost in general discovery. While researching ways to gain mastery of my time again, I discovered two important books that have given me a new perspective on how to take back control and have, well, enough time for everything. From writing on this very blog, to practicing guitar, to workouts and reading. The books “Deep Work” by Cal Newport and “When” by Daniel H. Pink, have given me a playbook for organizing my hours and days for greater productivity. But more importantly, I am finding time for my hobbies again.
First, I recommend you read both of these books so you can get the same knowledge in greater depth. They are comfortable reads and have workbooks and practical techniques and strategies in every chapter that you can use and test out right away. To help you get started, I will share below my favorite details from them summarily and how I am applying them in my everyday. And of course, all of these approaches are amplified by a healthy dose of minimalism. Cutting out all of the noise of email, social media, news, and other distractions is the first way to free up time.
In Maslow’s Hiearchy of Needs our Physiological well being is the foundation of all our needs. Food, water, warmth, and rest are the base ingredients necessary for our Physiological stability. We all generally take care of most of these, except one. In our hectic world, sleep is an after thought. My initial take away from both of these books was that not mastering your resting hours will doom the rest of your day and limit your maximum productivity.
To that end, you have to develop a “Sleep Hygiene” routine to give your body the rest it needs so that your faculties are fully available for you throughout your day. We all think we have a sleep pattern but you really do need to take time to document and refine your sleep habits along with your morning routine; in order to find more time for cultivating habits. This approach involves:
• Defining clearly, your 8-hour window of sleep, that you can stick to.
• Creating a “wind down” flow that disengages you from electronic devices an hour before bed and keep them away from your night stand.
• Getting the temperature in your home to the optimal temperature for sleep.
• Minimizing all lighting to near pitch black.
• Blocking out noise or substituting in ambient noise for calming sleep.
Getting some consistency in sleep habits first will set the baseline for good morning and even better days. And during those days, try to introduce Coffee & Nap combos around 2:55 every day. This is the time of day we usually enter our deepest trough of productivity. It takes 25 minutes for coffee to be fully absorbed. Drink a coffee just before, nap for 20 minutes, and wake up feeling like you got a solid 4-hours of sleep. The cognitive and physical benefits are amazing.
“You show me your calendar and I’ll show you what your priorities are.”Joshua Fields Millburn
This quote is so true. We schedule what we think is most important. For many of us that means we do a poor job organizing our calendar which means we have no control. So whatever someone else puts in front of us becomes the most important thing. There will never be time for the gym, hobbies, or getting shit done if there is no control of your day. Not having a plan, does not equate to more freedom or control. It’s the exact opposite.
So, after sleep, get control of every hour of your day. Take a sheet of paper and number 24 lines, one for each 1-hour period. In your ideal world, write out what and how each hour would be ideally used. This list will be your template, that with some refining will be the blueprint for each day. I made one for weekends and weekdays myself. Of course, things don’t always follow the plan. But not having one is worst then having a good plan interrupted. You can adjust and balance when you have a plan; you just put things off for the next day when you don’t have one. And “some day” will stay way out in the distant future until you just end up rehashing them as “New Year’s Resolutions” or dropping them all together.
“When we live according to other people’s values, time moves rapidly. As we explore what matters, as we honor our values, we can stretch time and ask time to support us.”Jacki Carr
Email, phone calls, meetings, errands, and all other sorts of tasks fill our work days. Much of it is simply filler. In a 40 hour week, we may get a solid 8-hours to do truly meaningful work that moves the dial forward because the rest is filled with activities that are just surface. You can and should limit these.
To do so means not immediately responding to every email or instant message. It means asking frankly to corral meetings into shorter windows of your days and rejecting them outright if you will have no valuable contribution. It means sometimes locking yourself away from distractions to work on a singular task and avoiding multi-tasking (which is fundamentally not a real thing). I have even gone so far as to task block 30 to 60 minute chunks on my calendar for singular tasks in order to get more deep work done.
Defining a plan for the day, sets the chess board and allows you to see all the moves you can make to maximize your day. Being rested gives you the energy you need to get through the low periods. Isolating tasks gives you the concentration you need to get challenging work done.
After these techniques are implemented then the free time, 20% time, hobby time becomes visible; but only when every minute is accounted for, when you are rested, and have a plan. It becomes easier to find moments to “steal” for things you value most. It may only be an hour at first but over time you fine hours of time on weekends or weeknights you might otherwise have spent watching TV (numb from the day), scrolling social media, or diving down the rabbit hole of a long email thread. I have seen dramatic results in my own schedule. For the first time in years, I have time for most things.
Even then, I am adding in one more tweak. I am trying to pursue one hobby at a time. I am trying out a 90-day commitment to one specific hobby at a time. Such as playing the guitar during as much of the free time I have claimed. The goal is to reach proficiency, like riding a bike, so I can always come back to it at an intermediate level and get better as time allows. Then move onto the next thing I want to learn; a language, technology, or even just meditation. The overarching goal being continual self improvement and development. You only get so many years on earth, don’t waste them.