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How Downtime can Make You More Productive

What do you do during your downtime? If you turn your attention to something creative – such as cooking, photography or painting – you may find yourself reaping more than just psychic rewards. It can benefit your work performance as well.

That’s what a 2014 study found. As Psyblog summed it up, those with creative hobbies were more likely to feel relaxed outside of work, along with greater control and mastery. Those feelings carried over to the work environment, inspiring them to help others and be more creative in their jobs.

It’s not just the work environment where this applies. Study breaks for creative activities can help reinvigorate your brain and support academic performance.

So what does this look like in terms of specific activities?

Well, outdoor pursuits can qualify, especially if you think creatively about them. One healthcare technician tells Fast Company about skateboarding to and from work, something he’s done for the last 10 years, which helps him arrive at the office more energized, having staved off the stress from a typical commute by car.  

For truly away-from-work activities, there’s also hiking and golf. A study mentioned in WebMD found that hikers scored 50% better on creativity tests after four days on the trail, disconnected from their devices. And here’s a reason to get out on the links more often: Golf’s been shown by other studies to improve your focus, calmness and performance even as it keeps anxiety at bay.

Music’s benefits have been well-documented, improving brain chemistry, focus and attention – no matter how you enjoy it. Entrepreneur and music major Panos Panay wrote in Fast Company: “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.”

And on another front, video gaming is not nearly as bad for you as some would have you believe. This kind of play fosters the kind of decision-making skills that help you advance to new levels, in the virtual environment as well as real life. Scientists from Queen Mary University of London found that video games encourage you to learn to think quickly and learn from your mistakes.

A number of companies encourage their employees to pursue creative hobbies and side projects as a matter of course to keep their people performing at peak levels. They understand the need to break the “work-spend-work-spend” cycle that stifles creativity.

UK-based Hiut Denim, for example, calls them “labours of love” in a post on Medium: “You provide the ‘Labour.’ And you provide the ‘Love.’ So when you spend time on it, it is because you really want to. That keeps you coming back and pushing it on.”

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