Getting involved in a hobby is a fulfilling and fun way to spend your free time. A hobby can help you expand your social circle, increase your fitness level, and improve your mental health. But you may hesitate to throw yourself into a hobby because it seems like anything you’d like to do requires a major financial investment. Even if you’re comfortable spending that kind of money, you can’t be sure if you’ll still be excited about the hobby after you’ve blown some serious bucks on it.
Before you give up and decide to watch the same show on Netflix you’ve seen 100 times, consider trying any of the following 50 hobbies. Each one costs $0 to start, which means you can try several to find the one that fits you best without having to worry about wasting your money on hobby-hopping.
Somewhere on this list is your next hobby — no investment necessary.
Also check out: 47 cheap, fun things to do this weekend.
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1. Joining community theater
Working on stage play is an exhilarating experience that allows you to feel like part of an important team — and joining a community theater is a completely free way to do so. To find one near you, do a quick Google search for local community theaters. Their websites will offer information about how to get involved. You can also find audition notices in the Arts section of your local newspaper.
Consider taking a crew position behind-the-scenes if you don’t get a role in the cast. Working as part of the crew can help you learn more about putting on a play, and give you a chance to hone your acting skills before the next audition.
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2. Becoming a museum volunteer
If you have an interest in anything from art to astronomy, from pop culture to photography, and from natural history to sports history, volunteering at a local museum could be an excellent free hobby. Most museums need volunteers to serve as docents, or guides, which means you will be leading visitors on tours. Museum volunteers may also help with educational programming, and other public-facing services as well as clerical work, cleaning, and the like.
To become a museum volunteer, navigate to your preferred museum’s website and search for a volunteer application. Once you’ve applied, you will likely have an interview and an orientation before you are brought on board. (See also: How to visit a museum for free)
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3. Learning computer programming
There are a number of free online resources available that will teach you programming and coding, including Khan Academy and Code.org. As long as you have a computer and access to the internet, you can learn programming without spending a penny.
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All you need for stargazing is a comfortable spot to watch the night sky, which makes this an ideal free hobby. Although a telescope can help you to better see the sky, it’s not necessary for stargazing, since up to 5,000 stars are visible to the naked eye.
Of course, stargazing involves more than just admiring the view. You’ll want to either print out some sky maps or download a free astronomy app to help you identify what you’re looking at. You can also record what you see each night, and keep track of everything from the phases of the moon to the movement of the planets and the shifting of constellations as the seasons change. (See also: 5 best telescopes on the market)
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5. Playing free online games
Online video games have exploded in popularity in recent years. There are free games for every kind of player, such as shooters (Team Fortress 2), objective-based team games (League of Legends), card-based strategy games (Hearthstone), battle royale survival (Fortnite), fantasy roleplaying (Runescape) and immersive massively multiplayer games (EVE Online). If you don’t know where to start, ask for recommendations on the Reddit forum Gaming Suggestions, or browse through Steam’s list of popular free-to-play games.
Most free online video games work on a freemium or microtransaction model — you can enjoy the game for free, but you can buy aesthetic and functional upgrades to improve your gaming experience. If you’re setting up online games for your kids, make sure they understand which part of the game costs money.
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6. Researching family history
Genealogical research is a fascinating way to learn more about your roots — and researching your family history can also help you to feel closer to your loved ones. Your research should start with what you already know about your family. Ask members of your immediate family about their past and what they know about deceased and distant relatives.
From there, you can start contacting extended family to fill in the gaps. Between your relatives and information available online for free through the National Archives, you can learn a great deal about who and where you come from.
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7. Joining a book club
Whether you’re a dedicated reader or would simply like to read more books, joining a book club is an excellent way to make friends, learn new things, and eat some tasty snacks. Start your search for a book club at your local library, which will often host book club meetings onsite. You can also find established book clubs on Meetup.com.
If you’re having trouble finding a book club that meets your reading interests (Feminist Victorian-era romance? Alternate WWII history? Dinosaur steampunk?), then consider creating your own. Your library can help you advertise, and once you’ve found some fellow readers, you can debate the merits of a steam-powered mechanical T-Rex to your heart’s content.
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8. Creating origami
The art of folding paper animals and flowers is a satisfying and meditative activity that is very easy to start. All you need are squares of paper and folding instructions. You can find a number of free diagrams and YouTube tutorials online that will walk you through the steps to make your folded creations — or you can borrow books showcasing origami art from your local library.
If you work on your origami daily, you can progress from the simplest designs to the more complex ones, and eventual begin making designs of your own.
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Getting outside for a hike will not only improve your health, but it will also lift your spirits. Spending time in the great outdoors is a natural stress-reducer, and adding in exercise boosts the positive effects.
If you’re new to hiking, make sure you choose the right trail for your fitness level. Some hiking trails have some difficult terrain that you will want to work up to. Dress for the weather, and make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes or hiking boots and wool or synthetic socks to help prevent blisters.
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10. Learning a new language
The ability to speak another language can feel like a superpower. It can not only open up another culture to you, but it can also improve your memory, and job prospects, as many employers highly value staffers who are bilingual.
And you don’t need to spend money to learn a new language. Start your journey to fluency by downloading free language apps or podcasts, such as the Coffee Break Languages program. From there, consider volunteering with local multi-cultural community centers or refugee resettlement programs. This can give you a chance to help your local community and make friends while practicing your language skills and potentially helping them with English.
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11. Playing tabletop roleplaying games (Dungeons & Dragons)
The concept of tabletop roleplaying games is pretty simple! Each player creates a character for the game, making decisions and describing their actions as the character, while a game master creates the setting and its inhabitants for the characters to interact with. Everyone contributes to the story as everyone’s choices and actions will impact the direction of the game.
Most tabletop RPGs only require you to have pencils, paper, and dice. The first two are easy to come by. If you don’t have dice, there are free apps and websites that generate dice results for you. Of course, you’ll also need to know the rules of the game! The best-known tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, has their Basic Rules available online for free, as do many other tabletop RPGs across many genres.
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12. Learning how to invest
Learning how to grow your money through investments is both a fun hobby and an important life skill. You can also learn how to invest for free (that is, without putting up your own money) so that you gain confidence before you start in earnest.
Start by learning the lingo of the market, either through a book or online. Then pick a couple of investment strategies and pretend you have purchased several different investments using these strategies. Track how your fake money does in these investments over time to learn how the market works — and how to respond rationally to it.
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Many nonprofits have tight budgets and need volunteers to help support their mission while keeping their costs low. So if you’re passionate about a particular cause, what better way to support it than to give your time and volunteer?
Whether it’s walking dogs for your local animal shelter, volunteering to build a home for Habitat for Humanity, participating in a park clean up, or volunteering at a hospital, there are many opportunities you can explore. Not only will giving back to a worthy cause make you feel good, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to network with new people who share your interests.
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Hobby couponers may not be able to emulate the superstars on couponing TV shows who are able to get hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries for next to nothing, but you can still have fun finding coupons and stacking them to get the most for your money.
You can find coupons in the local paper, in-store flyers, coupon websites, and on coupon apps. It’s important to organize your coupons so that you can take full advantage of local sales to get the cheapest price possible. You should also make sure you understand the coupon rules at your favorite stores, to make sure your coupons are honored.
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15. Watching movie classics
The film industry has been around for over 120 years, and there are a number of phenomenal early and classic films that continue to influence modern directors. Create your own film school by going back to the best films of all time to learn about the art of moviemaking.
Both the American Film Institute (AFI) and Roger Ebert collected and ranked the top films, and you can use their recommendations as a starting point. Borrow them from your local library or on the streaming services you already subscribe to (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime), or on your cable networks, so you don’t have to spend a penny on your impromptu film lessons.
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If you’ve never gardened before, a free way to get started (and give back to your community) is to find a local community garden. These gardens are tended collectively by members of the community, and will often provide the seeds, nutrients, and garden tools that a newbie gardener may not have the money to purchase.
Becoming a regular at your community garden can help you to learn the best practices for tending your plants, flowers, and vegetables. Spending time at your community garden can also provide you with a social outlet and an opportunity to bond with other community members who share the garden plot.
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17. Discovering new music
You already know the music you like to lounge to, or blast while you’re on the treadmill. But finding new music suited to your tastes can be tricky. Luckily, Spotify has created an algorithm so brilliant and advanced that it can find new music for you, based on songs you listen to through their subscription. For users with an account, check out the daily and weekly Discover playlists that Spotify creates for you. These playlists are based on music you’ve listened to repeatedly, and songs you’ve added to your own playlists.
Amazon and iTunes also have helpful recommendation sections of their music stores, based on music you’ve purchased or played before.
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18. Starting a blog
You can start a blog entirely for free through a number of different platforms, including WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and LiveJournal. Once you’ve set up the basics of your blog, which can take as little 10 minutes, you’re ready to start writing.
Successful blogging depends on regular posting, so decide how often you intend to post, and consistently follow that schedule. It’s best to choose a topic you’re passionate about so you have plenty of writing fodder. Also, interacting with your audience, whether in the comments or on social media, can become one of the most satisfying aspects of blogging, as well as an easy way to grow your blog.
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Picking up cooking as a hobby can offer you an enjoyable creative outlet, and way to learn (or hone) your kitchen skills — as well as bring you closer to loved ones, since food is such an important part of social life.
Though you will have to buy ingredients, you can learn to cook without spending any other money via YouTube tutorials, free online cooking courses, old-fashioned cooking shows (the competition-style shows are tougher to learn from), and cookbooks you borrow from the library.
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20. Playing fantasy sports
Fantasy sports involves picking real players to create your own fantasy team in a professional sport. Based on how the real players perform in real-life games, they can earn you points. If your fantasy team earns more points than the others in your fantasy league, you win.
While the concept of fantasy sports is relatively simple, many fantasy sports enthusiasts can really immerse themselves in information and statistics about various players to make sure they have the best possible fantasy team. You can create a league with friends, or seek out an established league. ESPN.com has free fantasy league play, and the site also helps individual players find public leagues to join.
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Even if you have a busy mind that you can’t seem to quiet, you can still benefit from meditation. While clearing your thoughts is a common component of a successful mediation practice, there are plenty of free guided meditations available on YouTube and free apps that will help you focus on certain images and thoughts that result in the same calming feeling.
All you need to get started is a comfortable place to sit, and comfortable clothes to wear while you meditate. You can also start by just focusing on breathing deeply in and out, no matter what is going through your mind while you do so.
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22. Collecting stamps
Philately is a perfect fit for anyone who likes collecting, since there are always new stamps being released. To start your collection, begin by snagging the interesting, beautiful, or unusual stamps that come in the mail — and soaking them in lukewarm water to remove them from their envelopes. You can also get free stamps from friends or family, penpals in other countries, or by joining a local stamp club through the American Philatelic Society.
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23. Playing Sudoku
Not only are puzzles like Sudoku and crosswords a good workout for your brain, they are also an engaging hobby. Successfully filling in the final square of one of these puzzles offers a uniquely satisfying rush of pleasure, since our brains take great pleasure in finding patterns, as well as completing tasks.
If you still receive a daily paper, you can get your puzzle fix from that — although beginners may want to seek out easier puzzles. Google “free easy puzzles” or check out free apps to get started.
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24. Becoming a mentor or tutor
For professionals who work in an interesting field or have knowledge about certain subjects that some students may struggle with, becoming a mentor or a tutor is an impactful way to spend your time!
High schools often have mentor programs set up to help students see what it’s like to work in a particular field, so reach out to your local high schools to see if they offer any programs like this. You can also get in touch with local elementary schools to find out if they need tutors for programs they run to help kids after (or during) school hours.
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Juggling — that gravity-defying staple of every circus clown — is actually an excellent way to unwind, focus, and strengthen those brain muscles. In fact, learning to juggle can also help improve your confidence, since failing (that is, dropping the balls) is guaranteed, which means you learn to shrug it off and try again.
To start this hobby, you just need three items to juggle, some time (and patience), and a quick tutorial. Some jugglers start with scarves, since they float slightly, giving you a little more time to catch them. You can recreate this newbie trick for free by using plastic grocery bags.
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26. Learning magic card tricks
If you have a deck of playing cards, you can become a magician! No special equipment or trick decks are necessary. Though it may take years to learn the kind of sleight of hand that Neil Patrick Harris and Ricky Jay use to amaze and delight audiences, you can get started with several basic magic card tricks that will wow your next party and be fun to practice. You can also find online tutorials and books at your local library to teach you the next steps in becoming a skilled card magician.
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Even if you regularly trip over your own feet, you might want to make dancing your new hobby, since cutting a rug is an excellent form of exercise that offers a great deal of stress relief and confidence. And there’s no need to sign up for expensive classes to learn the latest steps. YouTube has dance tutorials available for every style of dance from hip hop to ballet to merengue — or even the steps to Beyoncé’s latest performance. Other than your YouTube connection, you just need room to dance and comfortable clothes.
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Though it’s pretty easy to fall down the expensive rabbit hole that is scrapbooking (Stickers! Cricut machines! Decorative paper!), there is no need to spend any money on supplies to get started with this hobby. You probably already have most of the things you need: the photos, notes, mementos, and memorabilia that you’d like to commemorate, a blank book, glue stick, pens and markers, and some creativity.
If you’d like to include some of the more complex accessories, you can find several free-to-download scrapbooking designs that you can print from your home computer. Another good source for scrapbooking materials is your fellow hobbyists. Consider joining a local scrapbooking group where you can exchange stickers, paper, and other materials among friends.
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29. Practicing harmonica
The harmonica is one of the easiest musical instrument to learn how to play. Not only does general noodling on the harmonica sound pretty good, but it’s pretty simple to learn songs, and the portable nature of the harmonica means you can practice anywhere.
Unless you already have a harmonica, there is an initial investment for the instrument, although you can find decent harmonicas under $10. From there, it’s time to start watching tutorials, improving your embouchure, learning how to read harmonica tablature, and practicing whenever you get the chance. Before long, you’ll be a one-person blues riff!
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30. Playing Ultimate Frisbee
Ultimate Frisbee is best known as the game played on college quads across the country, but it’s also a great hobby for anyone looking for a fun sport that offers an excellent workout. Ultimate Frisbee is also a very low-cost game to join, since other than a regulation Ultimate Frisbee, there is no special equipment needed to play.
You can search for pickup leagues near you through the USA Ultimate organization. There are leagues in every state in the nation, which means there’s likely to be one near you.
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31. Bird watching
Searching for local avian life is a great hobby for any nature lover. Not only does bird watching give you an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors on foot, but it also encourages you to explore areas you might otherwise overlook.
If you’re new to birding, start with a quick search for the best places near you to spot interesting birds. Audubon’s official website offers a great deal of information and tips for new birdwatchers, including the best local birding spots. You’ll also need a field guide so you know what you’re looking at, and you can easily borrow a copy from the library. A pair of binoculars is also an important piece of equipment for birding, although they are not necessary. If you don’t have a pair, many local Audubon Society chapters will lend out binoculars to newbie birders.
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32. Practicing yoga
Yoga is a great solo exercise that increases flexibility and balance, relieves stress, and improves physical fitness. And you can start your yoga journey from home without spending a penny.
Since yoga is all about using your breath and your body to adopt various postures while emptying your mind, there is very little that you need to get started. Find a Yoga for Beginners video on YouTube, or a free guided yoga app to begin. If you have a mat, that can be helpful, although you can also substitute a folded towel or blanket if you don’t. Dress in comfortable clothes that offer full range of movement, and begin your poses.
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33. Playing Pokemon Go or Ingress
Pokemon Go is a free mobile game app that allows you to capture adorable creatures (called Pokemon) in the real world. The game uses GPS and augmented reality technology to place Pokemon all around you. You may find a few around your neighborhood, but the biggest concentration of Pokemon will be around your local parks or tourist attractions. This video provides a great two-minute overview of the game’s basic concepts.
Several key rewards in Pokemon Go are earned through walking. For example, for every one kilometer you walk, you gain resources to make your captured Pokemon stronger. This walking mechanic is a great way to incentivize yourself to reach your daily activity goals.
If capturing cartoony monsters isn’t your cup of tea, you may enjoy Ingress — another GPS and augmented reality-based game with a grittier sci-fi theme. Ingress is a deeper game that requires more teamwork and planning. While thematically different, both games encourage you to go outside and explore the world around you.
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Running is a fabulous full-body exercise that requires little more than a pair of comfortable shoes and comfortable clothes. Just throw on your running clothes and hit the open trail or road for $0. You can set your own pace, and slowly build up your endurance over time.
If you’re new to running, know that it will be tough at first, and you might find yourself frequently out of breath, but the famous runner’s high is real, and once your muscles and stamina begin to build, you’ll feel like a superhero in no time.
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35. Starting a small business
For people with an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a small business could be a lucrative hobby to pursue. Whether you play a musical instrument, are a gifted writer, skilled at social media, have a green thumb, or are crafty, you can build a business around your talents.
You can advertise your services or creations online at little to no cost using sites like Craigslist, Etsy, Fiverr, or Upwork. As an added bonus, using these sites can help you determine the going rate for your services or products, enabling you to price yourself competitively.
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36. Playing board games
You’ll never regret the time you spend playing board games with friends and family. It doesn’t matter if it’s a card game, Hungry, Hungry Hippos, CandyLand, or one of the thousands of games out there. Playing board games centers around socializing, strategizing, and it boosts your competitive spirit. You can play a game you already have, or check out a local restaurant or pub that has games available to customers.
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37. Trying photography
Art lovers with a smartphone can channel their inner Ansel Adams and take up photography. Start off simple with stationary subjects while you learn the basics, then work your way into more complex action shots.
A simple Google search will give you even more tips on how to take beautiful photos using your phone, with advice ranging from using natural lighting to balancing your shot to trying different perspectives to playing with reflections, and more. Once you get the hang of it, you can use apps like Foap or EyeEm to sell your pictures and earn a little extra money.
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Cosplaying is all about creating a detailed costume of a favorite character from film, comics, video games, or literature. You’re most likely to see cosplayers at conventions, but there are a number of events where cosplaying is an important part of the entertainment.
The cost really depends on who you choose to cosplay. If you go with modern-day characters with distinct styles, like the Scooby-Doo gang or Dr. Who, you can recreate their outfits with only a few commonly-found items. Focus on iconic pieces (think Princess Leia’s double-bun hairstyle), and build your costume out with clothing and accessories you already own, altering as necessary. You can even find suggestions and tutorials online for the best way to apply makeup and style your hair to complete the transformation. Get creative!
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39. Joining a team sport
Team sports are a fabulous way to meet your exercise goals while making friends, reducing stress, and feeling like part of a community. There are leagues available for every sport from roller derby to flag football to quidditch (really!), so you can easily find a perfect fit.
Depending on the type of sport you decide to pursue, you may need to invest in some safety equipment, but otherwise you can start your new hobby for free. To find a league near you, either search League Lineup for some of the more common league sports, or do a Google search for your preferred esoteric sport to find the local intramural or pickup teams.
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40. Learning web design
Even if you have no formal background in HTML, CSS, or any other computer language, you can learn how to make stunning websites for free.
Newbie web designers may want to start with the free platforms such as WordPress or Blogger to learn the basics of web design within a larger structure that is done for the user. Web design differs from coding in that design focuses more on color and style to build the layout of a website, rather than back-end coding to add additional features. There are a number of tutorials available on how to make the most of the platforms, which makes them an ideal starting place.
As your confidence and talents grow, you can start branching out into DIY web design, using the myriad online tutorials and books to help you learn as you go.
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The Freecycle Network is a large group of local organizations that work to keep reusable items from ending up in a landfill. Freecycle offers an online registry that matches individuals who are offering free items with those who are seeking them.
There are a number of ways you can make a hobby of this kind of exchange. For instance, you could make a hobby of taking in unwanted items and using them for crafts, home improvement, or giving them to individuals who need them.
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To become a geocacher, you will need the Geocaching app and a GPS to lead you to a hidden treasure. Once you have found one, open it up and sign the logbook. There may also be some small items inside, such as toys or keychains. You can generally take an item if you leave one or equal value. Make sure you leave the container exactly how you found it.
There are over 3 million geocaches hidden all over the world. You can play to collect items, or to see how many places you can you visit. Either way, you’ll get to enjoy some time outside and the thrill of the treasure hunt.
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43. Becoming a sports fan
There are few things more fulfilling than investing your time and energy on rooting for a local sports team, and then seeing that team succeed within their league. It’s a relationship that can span decades, and you can become as involved as you’d like. You can watch every game on TV, pick your favorite players, discuss stats with other fans, or just catch a game occasionally when you have the time to do so. It’s up to you. But it’s a fun way to pass the time and feel part of something bigger than yourself.
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44. Becoming a community leader
From the PTA at your kids’ school to the local food pantry to your neighborhood association to the board at your place of worship, there are a number of local organizations that could use your time, energy, and passion as a leader. While some community organizations will be happy to have you step in as the president or board leader right away, in most cases, you will want to volunteer for a time in a non-leadership role to learn the structure, culture, and expectations of the community you would like to lead.
To start this important hobby, simply contact the organization you are interested in getting involved with and ask how you can help. You’ll likely be welcomed with open arms.
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45. House- or pet-sitting
If you love to travel or be around animals, house- and pet-sitting may be right up your alley. With free accommodations or the potential to make some extra cash, these are hobbies you’ll want to consider.
Sites like HouseSitter.com or TrustedHousesitters.com can help you find house sits across the globe, enabling you to have a free place to stay in exchange for taking care of someone’s property.
Or “if you love animals and want to earn extra money, pet-sitting is a fun option with travel or staycation potential,” shared Ashley Jacobs, founder of Sitting for a Cause.
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46. Dumpster diving
Dumpster diving is about rummaging through trash cans to save perfectly good items from the landfill. Many hobbyists turn their diving into profit by reselling the items they find on eBay or Craigslist.
You need to start by finding out if the practice is legal in your area. Do a search on your city’s website for the municipal code covering trash and trash pickup. If you’re in the clear, think about where you’d like to dive. You’re likely to get great, reusable items in the trash outside of major retailers, for instance. Wear clothes that can get dirty, bring a flashlight, some hand sanitizer, and heavy-duty work gloves, and have fun.
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47. Becoming an expert
Becoming an expert is something you can cultivate as a hobby. Though reading, discussing, and thinking about your chosen subject can help,psychology professor at Florida State University, Anders Ericsson has found that there are four things that every budding expert must do to reach the top of their proficiency:
- Find a mentor to help you pinpoint what you most need to focus on.
- Get outside of your comfort zone. Repeated practice (or thinking) in the same way doesn’t grow your skills or knowledge.
- Build those skills. Just knowing things doesn’t make you an expert — knowing how to do things does.
- Learn the history of your chosen subject and quiz yourself, so you can determine if you are improving.
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48. Writing a novel
Writing a novel is all about showing up to the page every day and committing to putting your story on paper. But even though that’s pretty simple, it’s certainly not easy. That’s why anyone who wants to jump into novel-writing might start with a challenge that will help maintain accountability. For instance, the wildly popular National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenges participants to write a 50,000 manuscript in 30 days each November. It’s a great way to jumpstart the daily habit of writing.
In addition to writing, make sure you also read as part of your novel-writing hobby. Both novels and books on the craft of writing can help to develop your storytelling skills.
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49. Drawing or painting
Getting in touch with your artistic side takes nothing more than some paper and pencils, pens, markers, or brushes and paints. There’s no need to buy new supplies. Just use what you already have lying around.
If you’re not sure where to start, find some pictures online or in books that you’d like to copy. Copying is an important part of learning to draw or paint. Seek out online tutorials or lessons on YouTube to learn new skills. And if you sketch or paint every day — and carry a sketchbook with you wherever you go — your skills will improve and you’ll soon find your unique style.
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50. Reviewing products
Shopping is a beloved past-time for many of us, but it typically requires the spending of money. As an avid shopper, though, you know that shopping smart is all about reading reviews in order to find the best quality products for the lowest possible price.
So rather than emptying your bank account to shop, revisit your favorite purchases while helping out fellow shoppers and write detailed reviews of those products. Review books that you love on Goodreads, review delicious meals you’ve had at local restaurants on Yelp, review other products on Amazon, and you can even do video product reviews and unboxings on YouTube. All you need is an account for the site on which you’d like to post reviews, and an internet connection, and you’re ready to go! It will occupy your time, help other shoppers buy the best products, and you might even gain a following and score free products in the process.
Baking a cake or knitting a sweater might not seem like career building activities, but participating in after-work hobbies actually has a measurable impact on workplace performance.
Maintaining such hobbies can make individuals seem more appealing to potential employers, improve their mood, increase their confidence, reduce stress, provide networking opportunities and help them work better with others.
“It gives you a sense of mastery, you’re developing new skills, new thought processes and really challenging yourself to learn something new and develop your skill set,” said Dr. Kevin Eschleman, an assistant psychology professor at San Francisco State University, who led a study on the correlation between hobbies and job performance.
In his study Eschleman found that hobbies provide a variety of benefits that extend into the workplace. Furthermore, his more recent research has found that the less relevant the activity is to the person’s profession, the greater the impact on workplace performance.
“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,” he said. “People need to be mindful and aware of what resources they’re using in the work environment to realize which resources they need to protect and refuel in their free time.”
One activity that Eschleman believes can improve overall work performance is yoga.
“I think what a lot of activities similar to yoga and meditation can provide is a kind of mindfulness or self exploration,” he said. “It makes you a bit more aware of what’s going on internally, and allows you to manage it.”The less relevant the activity is to the person’s profession, the greater the impact on workplace performance.
Maren Showkeir would agree. While working as an editor for the Arizona Republic in the late ‘90s–a particularly stressful time to be in the print industry–she took up yoga to help cope with her demanding work life.
“I started sleeping better almost right away,” said Showkeir, who has since coauthored a book with her husband called Yoga Wisdom at Work. “I noticed that in meetings, where I used to start to get tightly wound or stressed out about things going on, I started incorporating some of the breathing techniques and I found it easier to settle my mind so it doesn’t start running away. It made it easier to focus.”
PLAYING A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT
Showkeir adds that yoga also taught her an important virtue commonly accepted amongst musicians and other hobbyists; that while practice makes perfect, perfection is unattainable.
“Musicians know it as well,” she said. “They never stop practicing ever, they never get to a place where they say ‘I’m a perfect saxophonist now,’ they practice every day.”
Musicianship provides a wide variety skills and values that can increase workplace performance, beyond a creative outlet.
“Learning how to play a musical instrument and becoming a musician is an exercise in developing good listening skills, experimenting, overcoming repeated failure, self-discipline, and successful collaboration,” wrote entrepreneur Panos Panay in an article for Fast Company in November. “It is simply impossible to become a successful music professional unless one also masters certain theoretical concepts, develops good presentation and improvisational skills and, ultimately, attains that elusive quality of originality that only comes once fear of failure is overtaken by the desire to acquire a new insight, a fresh perspective and a unique voice.”
In his study Eschleman also noted the positive benefits of volunteering, which can provide a more broadened perspective and a sense of community.
“Anything that provides you with a real cognitive shift in how you see the world, that’s going to be an asset in terms of your overall health and wellbeing, and also how you solve problems, whether it’s in personal relationships or in a work environment,” he said.
Contributing to an important cause can also offer networking and leadership opportunities, hands-on skills, a feeling of empowerment and much more, says Tanisha Smith, the national director of volunteer services for Volunteers of America.
“You’re connecting with a community, you’re accepting that you’re not an island unto yourself,” she said. “I think that gives you a new perspective and helps potentially bridge gaps that you didn’t know existed.”
PLAYING TEAM SPORTS
Another way to improve collaboration skills is through competitive team sports, though it is just one of the many work-related benefits of hitting the court, gym, diamond, rink, track, pool or other sports venue after work.
“Six out of the past 11 U.S. presidents were collegiate athletes,” Vincent McCaffrey, CEO of Game Theory Group–a Greenville, N.C.-based recruiting and career services firm with a focus on athletes–told Stephanie Vozza in a story for Fast Company in April. “You can train an employee on the day-to-day job requirements, but you can’t change work ethics. Athletes already have that dedication.”
Vozza’s article goes on to explain that athletes have a sense of resilience, are well practiced at managing their time, work well with others, develop strong communication skills and work hard to achieve their goals.
LEARNING IMPROV COMEDY
Though it may seem like fun and games, improvised comedy classes teach students how to collaborate, think on their feet, develop ideas and express their creativity without fear of ridicule, which can be invaluable skills in the workplace.
“When you’re improvising you’re always listening, that’s one of the keys to improvising, and you’re always building on what your scene partner is saying to you,” said Sandy Marshall, vice president of Second City Communications, which has provided improvised comedy classes for more than half of all Fortune 1000 companies. “People take improv classes on their own and with companies all the time so they can gain more confidence in a sales presentation or a client meeting or in customer service.”
This post was first posted here: https://www.fastcompany.com/3041085/5-hobbies-that-make-people-better-at-their-jobs