It sounds counterintuitive, but this bit of advice has impacted me more than most:
Have a hobby that doesn’t matter.
That’s the simple version, but it may make more sense if I expand on it a bit.
Have a hobby that has no immediate impact on your career or the others around you.
As a developer, this means that I like to have a hobby that has nothing to do with software development (or better yet, technology at all). In the past, this has been hiking, kayaking, photography, and paddle boarding. Recently, I’ve been trying my hand (or rather my feet) at learning to ride a longboard. And I love it.
It’s quite simple, actually. Although it may seem like this is a productivity black hole, the time I spend on these hobbies is some of my favorite. Because there is no stress.
Nobody is expecting anything from me. Nobody is expecting me to make them money or produce a product for them. Nobody even cares if I’m any good at these hobbies.
Better yet, theres no internal stress, either. I’m not secretly trying to monetize these hobbies or use them for any kind of personal gain. I set the pace of my learning, and I decide whether or not to participate. I can stop at any time, and I can start at any time.
Now, it may seem that these hobbies are a zero-sum game, and that there’s no penalty for partaking, but there’s also no gain. Because if there was gain, then it wouldn’t be an unimportant hobby, right? In a sense, yes.
The key difference in an important and unimportant hobby is the purpose, not necessarily the outcome. The purpose of an unimportant hobby is pure fun, rather than gain. But along with learning anything, some kind of gain is bound to present itself.
For me, the gain in practicing these kinds of hobbies is relaxation. It helps me to unwind from the pressures of work and adult life. Rather than spending my evenings working on side projects to sharpen my craft (a pressure), I get to spend time outdoors. Rather than trying to become a better version of who I think I am, I get to spend time exploring who I want to be.
And if I find something that I love, I can try to become known for it or make money from it. It’s wholly up to me what I do with what I learn.
Finding a hobby that’s unimportant to me has been unexpectedly important. It’s changed the way I spend my time, and has helped me to be a more relaxed person.
I’d encourage anyone to explore new hobbies. You never know what you might stumble upon that brings you joy. And if it doesn’t, the beauty of it that no one really cares. Drop it and never return.