Innovators like Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Darwin had common intellectual qualities of mental agility, fearlessness, and unbound curiosity. They also shared another attribute: an interest in activities outside their profession. For instance, as much as Galileo was known for his insights into astronomy, studies reveal a deep fascination he had for art and literature.

Why is this important? Such diversity of experience and thought is where good ideas come from, says Steven Johnson, researcher and author. And people who embrace a variety of hobbies, outperform the smartest employees of an organization in solving a problem.

Organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman, surveyed 340 employees across job roles, to learn if pursuing hobbies helps their performance. These employees rated themselves, and were assessed by co-workers. Eschleman also studied a second group of 92 active duty U.S. Air Force captains on the same subject, who were rated by co-workers and subordinates.

The result: it was found that employees with hobbies were more likely to be helpful, collaborative, and creative on-the-job. Infact, their performance was measured to be 30% higher.

What leads to such an impact?

  • Hobbies offer space away from work demands, helping people recharge. It’s called recovery, where people engage in meaningful activities to seek growth, or enjoyment.
  • Pursuit of activities provides a sense of control, and mastery of a skill that engages their mind. These two experiences correlate with intrinsic motivation, or the ability to be self-driven.
  • Experiencing a variety of perspectives, and stretching our brain through diverse activities, helps us form connections between unlikely things, making us more creative.

Wondering how to sustain a hobby?

Be it gaming, knitting, writing, woodworking, or even just taking long walks, to achieve a positive impact on performance, we need to pursue a chosen activity consistently. Here’s how:

  • Find a hobby that is low pressure. Our goal is rejuvenation. If you set daily to-dos for your leisure time, you’ll take the fun out of it. Pace it out. Even if you’re building furniture.
  • An obstacle for creative pursuits is finding the time to do them. Choose something that has meaning for you. Learn an instrument your mother played, or the language of a country you’re traveling to. Tie the hobby to a bigger life goal, so you can prioritize.
  • Focus on the process of engaging with a hobby, not the end result. It is okay if that run gets delayed by 20 mins, or if you are experiencing writer’s block. Reduce the risk of failure.

Inspired to kick start a creative pursuit? Let us know in the comments what your chosen activity is.

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