Take a class. Network. Get a Mentor. Get organized. Work harder. There’s no shortage of advice on what steps you should take to improve your skills and your career options.
Developing your leadership ability, boosting your odds at successful entrepreneurship, and laying the groundwork to advancement can start to feel like a second full-time job if you take all that advice and apply it. What if, however, the secret to honing your skills was as simple as getting a new hobby?
Work Hard & Play Hard
Yes, there is value in taking classes and workshops to learn new skills or to further develop the skills you already have. There’s great value in connecting to a network of peers or building a relationship with a mentor. Nixing the clutter and chaos is always a plus. There’s also great value in taking time away from the job-related tasks and focusing on tasks you do just for fun.
Even better, that value is even bigger than the usual relieve-stress-refocus-self-care type advice you usually see attached to it. Time focused on things you enjoy can certainly offer those benefits, and it can also help you develop skills and tools that you can apply to your work life too.
Tickle the Ivories
Okay, it doesn’t have to be the piano. Maybe you pick up the guitar or drums instead. Maybe you decide to try your hand at being a violinist or flutist. The instrument doesn’t matter, making music does. Playing music can improve your executive function (It’s true! Research says music makes you smarter). It can also help improve your memory, time management, and coordination.
Get Lost in a Good Book
Yes, you can grab a great book on management or other non-fiction titles related to your field. That would be a great tool to expand your knowledge base and advance your skills. You could also grab the latest title from your favorite fiction writer. Reading, no matter what’s on the pages, can help improve your vocabulary. It can also help expand your ability to understand different cultures and different viewpoints.
Grab a Microphone
Go ahead and rock your favorite tunes at karaoke night. Try your hand at improv or stand-up. Try out for the local community theater or the choir at your house of worship. Join a club or special interest group and jump in to help run their info table at recruitment events and community outings. What do these activities have in common? They can boost your confidence and hone your public speaking skills.
Whether you gravitate to board games or video games, grab a group of friends and have fun. Gaming can work on your ability to problem solve and think strategically. Some team games help us practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills, leading a team, and collaborating. Gaming can enhance our attention to detail and subtle cues too.
Whip Up a Dish
You may never be ready to Beat Bobby Flay on television, but that doesn’t mean you can’t whip up something delicious in the kitchen. Start with something you’ve never made before. The lessons in your kitchen are plentiful, from following directions to adjusting when things don’t go exactly right (maybe your oven cooks a smidge hotter than the recipe expects it to or maybe Alexa didn’t hear you ask for a timer!).
You’ll learn to trust yourself a little. You’ll learn to be adventurous, to experiment, and to savor. And if you’re cooking for a family member with food allergies, you’ll also learn how to adjust for your audience and problem solve to find the right fit for your specific needs.
Ready. Set. Exercise!
Exercise can reduce stress, improve your mood, better your health, and build stamina. If that wasn’t enough, team sports can improve your communication and leadership skills. Joining a gym or taking a class helps you expand connections which could also lead to new business contacts – in other words, you’ll be networking.
Journaling can help you organize your thoughts. Writing regularly can help you communicate those thoughts more effectively. It can spark your creativity and develop problem solving skills. Jotting down ideas and then revisiting them later can give you some clarity and perspective. It can help you see new angles.
Added bonus: When you keep a notepad (paper or otherwise) nearby for your writing hobby, you also have a quick resource to jot down ideas you don’t want to forget and questions you want to ask.