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How hobbies can make us a better manager

Posted on January 31, 2017

As managers, we all undergo training to improve our communication, delegation, leadership, and problem-solving skills. But one thing that’s not usually taught in management training is how beneficial hobbies are to improving our skills.

This is the opposite of what many are led to believe: that pastimes and other interests have little place inside a manager’s busy schedule. In fact, you may even cut down on pursuing hobbies in favor of working more hours.

But according to research from San Francisco State University, creative pursuits can improve problem-solving skills, provide you with new perspectives, and offer some much-needed recovery from demanding hours.

Appearing in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, a study looked at 341 professionals from a variety of trades, and researchers found that non-work pursuits can improve job performance from anywhere between 15% to 30%.

“It can be rare in research to find that what we do in our personal time is related to our behaviours in the workplace, and not just how we feel.” said Kevin Eschleman, the organizational psychologist who led the study.

Given the results, it’s not only worth pursuing hobbies yourself, but also to encourage the employees you’re supervising to engage in some ‘non-work activities’ as well.


There are a variety of hobbies that can boost your management skills, as well as the performance of your employees. Here’s a short list of some pursuits that offer great benefits:

Meditation – Meditation may not be your first idea for a hobby, but it has major benefits. Research revolving around the Dalai Lama and his monks revealed that consistent meditation gives you the ability to instantly change your mood and feelings. This will come in useful when you’re dealing with tough situations and need to feel calm and confident.

Music – You’re never too old to pick up an instrument, especially when considering that it increases your reasoning skills, cuts down on errors, enlarges the creative (right) side of your brain, improves memory, and lowers the amount of time that it takes to learn new skills. A study from the University of Zurich also found that music raises your IQ.

Strategic Games – Classic games like chess and poker require strategy to beat your opponents, which in turn provides a number of benefits. Chess is considered a game for intelligent people, and there’s good reason why - it increases the size of your brain and improves problem-solving abilities. Poker teaches you that, like managers, different poker players have different strengths, and you need good decision-making skills to win.

Video Games – It seems like the last thing you should be doing as a manager is playing video games. But research shows that 50 hours of gaming spread over 10-12 weeks improves executive functioning, multi-tasking, and mental flexibility.

Working Out – As if exercising doesn’t already have enough perks, it can also give you energy to survive the long hours of management. Mitochondria power your cells and promote the release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical that provides you with energy. And exercising increases your body’s mitochondria, thus leading to more energy. Another benefit of working out is that it boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps you manage difficult tasks.

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