Hobbies and the Art of Time Management

Got any hobbies? Most people do and 95% of the students I surveyed at my college were no different. Hobbies are fun and they kill time, but do they provide people with anything more than entertainment? Can they prepare students for the future or help them in the present? Does how we dedicate time to our hobbies matter? I think everyone can get something more out of their hobbies and I’ve got a survey and some fine articles to back that up. Speaking from personal experience, I can at least say that hobbies can lead to interesting opportunities. Let’s dive in.

By The Numbers

A few weeks ago, I got my notebook and a good pencil and headed out to my college campus. Survey time. I had people list some hobbies they enjoyed, how much average time they spend on these hobbies each day, and ways in which they think they benefit from these hobbies. I made sure to get a varied data sample, asking students from all over campus. As you might expect, their hobbies were pretty varied as well, but the most common were sports, videogames, and music. Out of all the students I talked to, exactly half of them said that their hobbies benefited them in some way beyond just being fun. One quarter of those surveyed believe they benefited professionally, compared to 15% financially and 30% academically. Not bad. Admittedly, some students said that their hobbies were actually getting in the way of other aspects of their lives, such as school. There weren’t many who said so, however, and the rest remained very neutral on the whole topic. Everyone said that their hobbies were fun, at least.

Responses collected from surveyed students.

Schedules, etc.

The value of a person’s hobbies seemed to be defined by the amount of time they spent on them and how they spent it. Students who benefited the most from their hobbies reported spending a lot of time on them in one go and then taking a break from them for a few days. The skiing guy spent whole weekends skiing, but focused on other things the following week. One student, who was very focused on music, said that she spent up to five hours at a time practicing, but only on certain days. By investing time intensely but sporadically, it seems that good progress was made. However, another type of hobbyist was present in my data: Mr. Consistent. This type of person spends one or two hours a day, every day, on their subject of interest. Through constant, short term practice, people with hobbies like running or basketball were able to make significant gains as well. These findings felt slightly inspiring, to be honest. After all, everyone likes seeing returns on their investments.

Hanging Out: A Strategy for Success

Students often said chilling for two hours a day with friends was an excellent hobby. I’d really never thought of hanging out as an actual hobby. Interestingly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that college students spend an average of four hours per day socializing while my own data suggests slightly less than two. Students replied that hanging out was important, although not for any specific reason. Some, though, said they found jobs through friends or had friends help them with their studies.

A paper by Ranjita Mishra and Michelle McKean, published in the American Journal of Health Studies, suggests that spending time on hobbies can improve college students’ academic performance, mostly by relieving stress. This lines up with my data. However, the authors also note that time management plays an even greater role in helping students academically. Looking back at my survey data, it appears that students who spent the most time on hobbies actually reported benefiting academically the most. That connection could be backwards, though: get better grades, have more time to spend doing whatever. Of course, that could also be the incentive for getting work done in the first place.

What Hobbies Have Done for Me

From my own experience, spending a lot of time on hobbies can pay off eventually. Learning programming and computer networking has consistently opened doors for me, sometimes in unexpected ways. At one point, I was reading a book about cybersecurity on a plane and the guy next to me looks over at strikes up a conversation about it. Next thing I know, I’ve got a job offer. This didn’t work out for various reasons, but you’ll note that a simple hobby almost single-handedly got me a job. Knowing just a few words of other common languages has also been surprisingly handy. Simply being able to read non-English comments on some website or picking up a little bit of some foreign conversation on the street is really interesting and many hiring managers will pay more attention if you’re multilingual. As I put more and more time into learning app development, I’m constantly betting that it will pay off some day. The way I see it, it’s best to put in enough time to make your hobbies count, but not so much that they distract you from everything else.

Conclusions

My research has shown that hobbies pay off through either intense or frequent practice while also balancing other priorities. This made me realize how poorly I use my own time, so now I’m going to try to follow schedules and actually get things done. I’ll make some lists on actual paper and actually cross things off of them. I’ll try to get out of bed before noon on weekends, if possible. Normally, I just wing everything, which often works surprisingly well. Times change, though, and I’ve noticed that college is a bit hostile to procrastinators and the easily distracted. To my fellow slackers: good luck out there!

TL;DR: Good hobbies + good use of time = good progress.