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Saija Saarenpää
Saija Saarenpää

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4 tips on getting your hobbies done

If you want to skip the background section and go straight to the tips, jump here


As long as I've been in a full-time job, I've been, more or less, struggling with balancing work, hobbies, and sleep. For a long time, I've known how many hours of sleep do I need to feel even slightly awake to start doing any brain-related work. This has even been emphasized during the remote work era since there are not many minutes from the moment I wake up until I'm in my remote workstation with a cup of coffee and breakfast. It doesn't help a lot that I'm an evening person, and in most of the seasons in Finland, it's already quite dark outside when I've finished working from the day. In general, if the hours needed for working and sleep are counted, there is a certain amount of leftover hours for doing the rest of your life.

The era of remote working that I count starting from spring 2020 has helped to organize life a bit. I find it a relief that I can take a needed break of brain-work to start or empty a dishwasher or water the flowers. I can appreciate the usefulness of the break as that time is now freed for my hobbies in the evening. Of course, at the same time, I miss hanging out with my colleagues on those breaks. The other thing I miss is the ready-made food for my lunch. Sometimes it's fun to cook during the day, but some days are just so busy that I would have wished I've had a microwave dinner that I can consume at my workstation.

Despite some of the relief with the house chores brought by the era of remote work, there are still plenty of things I would like to achieve during the few hours left during the evenings after work and before getting some sleep. I know I have too many hobbies. I'm the person who gets excited about everything. I often start many projects simultaneously, and then I always have to choose which one to continue at which time, and that seems to be overwhelming for me. Besides the selection problem, another problem I've had is the "I can barely start" problem. I don't know if this is familiar to you, but it's this feeling that if you only have an hour or two to do something relaxing and fun, you think that there's so little time that you can bearly start working on it until the time is already over, it's not worth to start at all. That has happened to me a lot. Usually, it means that I browse some social media or play some casual games on my phone instead of doing something I know I would enjoy and would be useful for me, but I'm just unable to start doing it.

It hasn't been very long since I've overcome those issues. Every once in a while, I still might spend a whole evening browsing social media or shopping on my phone to fill some kind of void. There just are some days that I'm so tired of work that I can't even think about doing any useful afterward. The situation currently is way better compared to what I've had in my worst days, even though it still could be improved. I've had some times when I have lived for the weekend. Evenings during the week have meant nothing to me. I have just been wishing it would be a weekend again and I could do something productive.

The actual tips

The path to overcoming those issues has been quite long, but I'll now share my few tips on how to make it better if you are having similar problems.

  1. Overall, the most important thing you can do is to change your mindset. One needs to think that doing something is better than doing nothing, even if you wouldn't have time or strength to progress a lot. You can choose a task that is the easiest to grab or which you'll know will last the least time to accomplish, as long as you do something. If you think all your tasks will take a long time or need a lot of preparation, the next tip may be helpful.

  2. Prepare your projects in subtasks. This is helpful if you only have a small timeframe to do your hobby at a time. I have a concrete example of a task I recently churned into smaller pieces. I'm planning to apply for a Finnish version of the Lego Masters reality show, and I have a lot of practice to do to make sure I can pass the building test. One of the tasks that I set to myself is to make the same assignment as the first episode of Australian Lego Masters season 1. Basically, to build a city block which can live along with the skyscrapers already present in the city. I know this is a huge task to be completed in one go, so I divided it into several tasks. At the first session, I will clean up some space to even think about starting to make a project that big. The next task is designing the main building in the block and its surroundings. The following tasks are to complete one or two buildings or parts of the block. Actually, any of those tasks are not needed to be completed in one go if I run out of time or feel like not finishing them. I used to start tasks with a mentality that I need to have something concrete finished in the same day, and that caused me to not start at all until the weekend because I knew I didn't have time to accomplish the whole shenanigan. Now I know that it's a great job if I accomplish even a simple subtask.

  3. Keep your projects easily available. It's quite hard to start anything if you need to go through a lot of trouble to get started. This is the reason I have organized my Legos so that they are easily available if I just sit on my building bench. I also have my watercolor inks and acrylic paints easily available if I want to start painting. I store my yoga mat on the living room floor (not very pretty, but handy) to start exercising whenever there's a feeling I want to do that. I have a puzzle building mat that I can just unwrap to continue building the one I'm in the middle of. I have my knitting bag, including my WIP knittings, for taking it with me anywhere I need. I also have all my code editors always open for jumping into any project whenever I feel like it. If I should dig all these things from the closet and use some time to set them up, I probably would not be as keen to start working on them.

  4. The previous tips have been mostly for the "I can barely start" problem. For the selection problem, for me, the most efficient tip has been to try to do stuff evenly. Sometimes I'm more interested in one particular project than the others, and it's easy for me to select to work on that one, and it's ok, but sometimes it's more tricky. As I'm the one who gets excited about everything, I'm usually interested in many projects at the same time. In those situations, the best thing for me is to work on the one I haven't worked on in a while. It's also refreshing to alternate the projects and keep all of them in fresh memory.

I hope these tips are useful for you if you're struggling with the same thing. You're also welcome to share yours in the comment section. I have lots to do until I'm as productive as I want to be in my free time.

Top comments (3)

dmbaturin profile image
Daniil Baturin

Typo. "I can bearly start". s/bearly/barely/

All good tips otherwise. I would add a somewhat controversial one: sometimes you need to make up excuses for people who insist that you should be doing something else.

Some trivial (and usually correct) "excuse" like "it helps me stay fit/improves my mental health/etc." keeps it from sounding like "I just don't want to do more work/chores, I want to do something useless instead" to those people.

It also adds an implicit question for those people: what are you doing to stay fit/sane etc. ;)

matrixx profile image
Saija Saarenpää

Thanks for noticing the typo, fixed now! Great tips also. I didn’t even think about the excuses cause I don’t have kids or any such people around me needing attention and convincing me to work on something else. The other tip is also great for changing the mindset to a one where you realize you are working towards your own body and happiness. I’ll definitely involve this in practise next time I need a pep talk.

minna_xd profile image
Minna N.

This sounds sooo familiar.

I also try to divide my time evenly for tasks I enjoy doing. I have an Excel with week columns and task rows and I mark a cell when I do something from the list. Then when I'm trying to decide what to do, I make a conscious effort to pick a task I haven't yet done that week.