The suggestion of acquiring a non work or family related hobby is often scoffed as a waste of time or a selfish endeavour. With so many demands on the ‘here and now’, it seems there is no time to fit anything else in.

On the back of this, I decided to look into the neuroscience of hobbies. They seem like a good idea, but are logically unattainable within a busy schedule.

Depending upon your source, it was either Einstein, Franklin or Twain who said:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In the context of productivity, I draw this parallel: if you choose to put your time into only the things you should do, therein lies repetition as described by one of those three wise men.

Why would I waste my time on hobbies when I can’t even get everything else done?

Much of the web content in favour of hobbies for busy people offers little science to support the suggestion, leaving it rather ‘pie in the sky’.

However, if we consider the role of the amygdala in the human temporal lobe, we gain a better understanding of the science behind such suggestions that hobbies can enhance productivity.

Your amygdala is your autopilot for emotional responses and subsequent physiological states. It is stimulated by external factors, and fires off a pre-wired series of chemical signals depending upon the nature of stimulus to produce a holistic state of mood.

Busy lives can leave us denying our personal pursuits in favour of keeping others happy, in various shapes and forms. The result of this is stimuli of similar nature repeatedly triggering the same internal responses.

When this response is one of stress, grumpiness, exhaustion, etc, we are logically compelled to work harder at the same stuff to make it go away.

Now consider the definition of insanity!

Repetition compounds the psychological and physiological response. We become prone to fatigue and hazy judgement, and risk losing sight of why we do what we do – because we’re too busy trying to do it!

Hobbies afford us some space from our dominant automated state, thanks to a shift in both conscious and subconscious focus; and it doesn’t necessarily require large chunks of time. My rule of thumb is to commit to at least 15 minutes per day. However the requirement has more to do with your focus than your time.

The key in utilising hobbies to enhance productivity is choosing something that you want to do, and engage in it willingly. It will mean taking time out of your day. A hobby will only be useful if you are ‘in the moment’ whilst doing it, thus ensuring an altered feed of feelings, emotions and mood through your automatic control panel.

Whilst I’m a very strong advocate for exercise here, other options could include playing with your pet; hand-detailing your car;  or cooking something complicated from scratch.

The best thing for you is something that you can engage in and enjoy – remember, a hobby doesn’t have to include crochet!