Too often we find ourselves thinking about work when we’re not at work. In the age of information and technology, it becomes increasingly difficult to unplug after work. A 2012 survey of smartphone-using professionals found 60% in contact with the job for 72 hours every week. Broken down, that’s 13.5 hours per weekday and 5 hours of email every weekend.
How do you focus when you’re always ON?
A recent study from San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschlemann suggests finding a creative hobby outside of work. A creative hobby can be defined as any activity that allows for self-expression and the opportunity for you to discover more about yourself. “Whatever the activity is that you're doing in your free time, it becomes incredibly more valuable if it is different from what you've been doing most recently in your work environment,” says Eschlemann.
Cognitive researchers often relate to the brain as a muscle. The more you use your brain, the more output you’ll receive. Investing in creative activities like yoga or painting helps improve skill areas that aren’t normally exercised at work.
Yoga’s main focus is mindfulness. The more you practice yoga, the more mindful you become of your internal self and stress levels. Being able to recognize when you’re too stressed at work will help you know when to step away and refocus.
Another hobby to look into is improv comedy. Customer service or fast-response jobs will benefit from this hobby as it improves your ability to think under pressure. Overcoming mental blocks in the workplace becomes easier as you practice how to think on your feet in your off-time.
Setting an exercise goal like finishing a marathon or completing an Ironman challenge is another way to take on a hobby. Not only are you reaping the benefits of exercise, but you’re also working on important skills like time management and mental mastery. The Ironman competition has become so popular among top executives that there’s the Ironman XC Executive Challenge -- a physical feat designed specifically for the 'world’s top executives.'
Make work-life balance a priority this year. Invest and focus on creative hobbies to directly and indirectly improve your work performance.