Playing the drums or doing CrossFit can seem like activities that would never help you with coding, app development, or any other tech-related pursuit. In fact, these actually sound like perfect ways to blow your free time and prevent you from improving your work performance.
But the truth is that having hobbies outside of work really can make you a far more productive worker.
According to a San Francisco State University study, led by organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman, hobbies increase your work productivity up to 30 percent, versus those who don’t have a regular hobby.
Of course, not all free-time pursuits are created equally. So let’s look at a few hobbies that can really accelerate your work results.
Learn an instrument
Picking up an instrument all of a sudden may conjure up images of someone in a midlife crisis who’s trying to start a garage band. However, learning music can provide a number of benefits for your mind and even increase your IQ.
According to psychologist Lutz Jäncke, who led musical research at the University of Zurich, learning to play an instrument increases one’s IQ by an average of seven points, in both adults and children.
“We found that even in people over the age of 65 after four or five months of playing an instrument for an hour a week, there were strong changes in the brain.” said Jäncke. “The parts of the brain that control hearing, memory, and the part that controls the hands among others, all become more active.”
Dubbed the Mozart Effect, music can provide the following work-boosting benefits for you:
- Reduces errors
- Improves memory
- Recruits both sides of your brain for more creativity
- Reduces the amount of time it takes to learn new tasks
- Provides a calming and stress-relieving effect
Play games with strategy
Many people love a challenge, and strategic games like chess can provide this. Research shows that chess will boost your IQ, raise your creativity level, increase the size of both sides of your brain, enhance your problem-solving skills, and increase your concentration.
Of course, many people have a vague notion that chess can make you smarter. But what about a more-popular strategy game, like poker, for instance?
Texas hold’em can improve your math skills, decision-making abilities, and ability to deal with stress and emotions. The only catch is that you need to play a certain style of poker to fully develop work-enhancing skills. According to researchers from the University of Cornell, you must adopt a tight-aggressive poker style that sees you play fewer hands to get the most benefits.
Even strategic video games—largely considered one of the biggest time drains—can offer benefits to tech workers. Some of the best skills that video games provide include multi-tasking, mental flexibility, and preventing mental decline with age.
Develop a workout routine
We all know that working out provides many perks for our health, but what’s not emphasised enough is the mental improvements that a workout routine can provide for your career. Specifically, exercise offers chemical benefits that give you more energy and long-term brain power.
Working out increases the number of mitochondria in your cells, which results in more adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—a chemical that supplies your body with energy. Exercise also leads to an uptick in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which improves your concentration and ability to handle difficult tasks.
Research from the Journal of Applied Physiology also reveals that working out is crucial to preventing neurogenesis, or the process where you produce fewer and fewer brain cells as you age. But remember that you need consistent exercise to get all of these productivity-boosting perks.
As you can see, common hobbies like playing games, learning an instrument, and exercising are also beneficial for your career. And keep in mind that plenty of other hobbies will not only provide you with fun challenges and entertainment, but also rewarding work skills.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.