7 Hobbies That Can Make You a Better Business OwnerBusiness acumen isn’t just built in the workplace. These hobbies will help you grow both personally and professionally.
You’ve worked tirelessly to build your business. But to take it to the next level, you may need to do something unexpected: play.
While it may sound counterintuitive, having a hobby can actually make you more successful at your job, said Srini Pillay, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and author of “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind.”
“Sticking to one thing every day can be boring, and your level of attention drops off,” Pillay pointed out. “A hobby brings variety to your day, and what you learn as you’re doing it can increase your creativity.”
In fact, a 20-year study found that scientists with hobbies related to visual thinking, hands-on learning, art or music were more successful than their peers.
According to Pillay, the most beneficial hobbies are those that tie into a person’s vocation. So what pastimes might be right for you? Experts suggest looking into options like these, which can be helpful in nearly any line of work.
As a small business owner, you probably spend most of your time leading others. How about falling into the ranks for a change? Participating in a team sport, like basketball, baseball or soccer, can be a great way to hone your team-building and organizational skills.
“You’ll get a mental break from your usual role, and you’ll be working on collaboration and communication, which can make you a better supervisor,” said Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychologist.
What’s more, if your business depends on referrals, the court or field is a great place to make new friends and expand your network.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, practicing yoga can give you a quiet, meditative space.
Yoga is not just a great tool for relieving stress, it’s also “wonderful for increasing your focus,” said Kristen Donnelly, a small business consultant specializing in employee retention and customer satisfaction. “While you’re stretching and relaxing, your subconscious is still working on issues,” she explained, which can help you find a new, creative solution to that work problem that you previously couldn’t solve.
“I recommend any kind of manual or physical art-making, because it connects you with your creativity in tangible ways,” says Tory Marsh, executive mentor and entrepreneur success coach.
Marsh said creating art can give you more confidence. “It’s not so much about how masterful an artist you are, it’s about dealing with your mental chatter, your self-judgments, and learning to get out of your brain and really be present in the moment.”
As a business owner, you’re always striving to sharpen your skills against the competition. Playing chess encourages you to think strategically about how to overcome your opponent, said Donnelly. Flexing those strategic thinking muscles can help you come up with long-range plans for your business, and think of winning moves before your competitors do.
The ability to think on your feet is always prized in the business world. With dance, you practice this skill in its most literal sense.
“It requires you to make split-second decisions, to find balance, to trust yourself, to be flexible and to try things that may be a stretch,” noted Marsh. “It will also teach you to appreciate both the times you need to move fast, and the times you need to move slowly. In the workplace, these skills will keep you at the top of your game.”
Choir or community theater
Have you ever envisioned playing crotchety old Ebenezer Scrooge or Aladdin’s Genie? Think again. It might make your business wishes come true.
“Music and theater will develop you in new ways,” said Hakim. “You’ll be working on your people skills and public-presentation abilities. Then maybe the next time you have to get up in front of a board meeting or investor conference, you’ll do it with more confidence,” she said.
It may sound cliché, but golf can still be a great hobby for a businessperson, said Hakim. “A lot of good deals are made between people on the golf course,” she noted.
Playing golf gives you a chance to interact with colleagues or potential customers in a non-pressured, pleasant setting, which gives them a positive association with you — and your brand.
A final tip: Whatever hobby you choose, make sure it’s one you truly enjoy, said Hakim. That way, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and reap its long-term benefits. And who knows? Your pastime may help vault you, and your business, into the big leagues.