20 Productive Hobbies to Help You Excel in Life
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20 Productive Hobbies to Help You Excel in Life

Post Author - Jacob Thomas Jacob Thomas Last Updated:

Productive hobbies–is that even a thing? You bet!

In fact, as you’ll learn in this post, not having a hobby can be a dangerous waste of time.

Sit with us for the next few minutes and we’ll educate your brain on why productive hobbies can be so beneficial, a few criteria for choosing the perfect pastime for you, and a list of 20 Toggl-approved hobbies guaranteed to help you spend your off hours more effectively.

How the perfect hobby can benefit you

Think hobbies are just a frivolous waste of time? Think again, big shot. You may be the pro-est of professionals, always hustling, loving the grind. But hobbies definitely have their place and can be extremely beneficial.

For instance, having a hobby can greatly increase your ability to cope with stress and feeling overwhelmed. It makes sense when you think about it. After a tough day, is there anything better than getting down and dirty with an activity you truly enjoy?

Whether that means lifting heavy objects at the gym, mixing exotic ingredients in the kitchen, carving nifty knickknacks in the garage, or something else entirely, actively pursuing a hobby is a much better stress reliever than zoning out in front of the TV.

Two episodes of The Office and an hour of your day is already gone! Try spending that time on a hobby instead. In fact, you might as well try tracking your time spent (whether on laughing at Michael Scott or cultivating a new hobby) with Toggl and see how the hours in your day all break down!

Still on the fence about investing time in a hobby? According to Jaime L. Kurtz Ph.D., hobbies have other benefits, too. She says they’ll help you structure your time better, experience flow, meet new people, and even make you a more interesting person–let all boring people rejoice!

Now, you’re not actually going to argue with a doctor are you? Great, then let’s move on to the traits to look for when choosing between productive hobbies.

What to look for in your productive hobbies

Ready to take up a new hobby? We admire your enthusiasm! Now you just need to pick the right one. But remember, we’re not trying to just choose any ole hobby. We want to choose one that will help you excel in life and make you more productive. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Do what you like

Though this may seem like an obvious point, it’s still worth mentioning. If you don’t actually enjoy your hobbies, you won’t do them, which defeats the whole purpose. So make sure that anything you choose to do in your free time is something you’ll find enjoyable. Fair enough?

Stretch your brain

Productive hobbies will often teach you something and/or make you think. Take the game of chess, for example. If you’re actively pursuing chess as a hobby, not only will you be sharpening your mind with every game, but you’ll likely also be learning new techniques.

When choosing your hobbies, look for activities that stretch your brain. If you do, you’ll see the benefits in many areas of your life.

Make something awesome

There are many productive hobbies that involve creating something and we’ll mention a bunch of them in the list section of this post. Not only can a hobby of this nature provide pleasure, it can also be extremely practical.

Take up woodworking and make furniture for your house. Become a painter and sell your masterpieces for extra cash. Immerse yourself in the wonderful world of canning and never waste money on store bought jam again.

Beyond the practical consequences, a hobby that allows you to make things will also help foster your creativity, which is useful (in some way or another) in just about every career out there.


Now, we should take a moment to clarify that not every hobby you choose needs to meet all three criteria listed above. Aim for two out of three and you should be good to go.

The 20 most productive hobbies

Now that we’ve covered why hobbies are important and how to choose a few, let’s go through our list of the top options. Here are 20 of the most productive hobbies:

1. Read a book

You’ve heard it all before: the most successful people in the world are all avid readers. And countless studies show that reading strengthens brain functions, improves health, reduces stress, makes us more empathetic, and boosts our overall happiness.

But despite all the benefits listed above, most people can’t be bothered. Be different! Make the local library or bookstore your new hotspot. Read both fiction and non-fiction. It really is one of the most productive hobbies out there.

2. Cook a meal

There are many benefits to cooking. You need to eat, right? And we’re sure you want to actually enjoy the food you consume, correct? But beyond these obvious advantages to honing your culinary skills, cooking also teaches you greater focus and planning skills.

You can’t let your mind wander when hot food is on the stove or you’re slicing and dicing with a razor sharp knife. And have you ever decided to make something for dinner, only to open the fridge and realize you’re fresh out of an important ingredient? Yes, proper planning is essential.

3. Paint a picture

Painting is an amazing way to relieve stress. It’s also a fantastic hobby for self-reflection. By unleashing your creative prowess in this way, you’ll be able to explore emotions and make them come alive on the canvas.

When your masterpiece is finished, you can then try to sell them or use them as decorations around the house–both productive options.

4. Write a story

Write a story, or anything, really–a play or movie script, a song, even a private diary entry. Writing is an incredibly powerful skill and one most people never take the time to hone sufficiently.

Being able to effectively translate thoughts onto paper in a clear and concise way is not only therapeutic, but also productive. Don’t believe us? Take a writing class and see how much easier it is to polish your resume or sell your old stuff on Craigslist.

If you really get into it, you can always use your writing abilities to supplement your income! The power of words, friend.

5. Move your body

Exercise is a wonderful thing. And as we all tend to spend so much time in front of screens, it’s becoming an even more important hobby. Those who exercise regularly tend to be healthier and experience a higher quality of life.

But exercise is also one of the absolute best ways to reduce stress. Not to mention, those sculpted biceps and washboard abs will look great in the mirror, elevating your self-confidence.

And when your best friend decides to switch apartments again, you’ll be more than up for the challenge of lifting boxes. Win!

6. Stretch your body

Looking for a new hobby? Try yoga. It’s not just for self-proclaimed yogis. Superstar athletes like Blake Griffin and Justin Pugh swear by it.

Yoga helps your body by stretching your muscles and making you more limber. It also helps your mind by blocking out distractions.

Imagine being able to play with your kids without worrying about a pulled muscle. Or remembering your to-do list without the aid of your smartphone. Intrigued? Try yoga.

7. Grow something

What, you don’t garden? Maybe you should start. Especially if you’re looking for a new stress-buster. But beyond restoring your calm, gardening has also been linked to improved observation skills, decreased levels of depression, and better health.

Plus, who doesn’t love the taste of fresh herbs and veggies? Start gardening and you’ll have plenty to choose from come dinnertime.

8. Get crafty

When many people think of “hobbies,” they think of the crafting sort. You know: knitting, scrapbooking, sewing. And if that’s what you’re into, they make for very productive hobbies!

For the sake of this post, we’ll also include woodworking, metalworking, and the like in this section.

So why are crafts of this kind such a great way to spend your free time? Well, just as we mentioned with cooking, many crafts require planning skills. They also allow you explore your creativity in many different ways.

And when you’re done creating your work–be it a comfy knitted sweater, a classy bookshelf, your daughter’s baby scrapbook–you’ll have something you can use or give away. That’s pretty practical in our book.

9. Explore nature

Work got you down? It’s time to get out of the office and explore nature. So go ahead and camp, take a hike, or kayak down the river. Just get outside and enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings.

Studies show that time spent outside can improve cognitive performance, relieve stress, improve creativity and more. So get productive and go outside! After you finish reading this blog post, of course.

10. Take up meditation

Some may argue that meditation isn’t a real hobby. They might be right. But this is our list and meditation provides too many benefits to exclude. Speaking of benefits, let’s talk about a few:

Did you know that meditation can reduce stress and increase concentration? It’s also been known to slow aging, aid cardiovascular health, and improve a person’s overall level of happiness. Yes, meditation is pretty awesome.

The other interesting thing about meditation is that it can alter our perception of time. This might be great for people who always feel hurried and harried no matter how much time they actually have. It also pairs well with a time tracker like Toggl. You can track your progress by timing your sessions and thinking about whether the sessions feel longer or shorter.

And just so we’re clear, there are many different types of meditation. Some are more spiritual than others. Just pick the kind that’s right for you and get started. You can begin with only 10 minutes a day.

11. Unleash your inner rockstar

Do you play an instrument? Do you want to? Now’s the perfect time. Playing an instrument has a tremendous effect on brain function. Musicians have been linked to higher academic scores, improved memory and better abstract reasoning skills.

But that’s not all. Honing your musical kills can also make you feel less stressed, be more creative and patient, and have more confidence. So break out the ole six string or pull up a chair and tickle those ivories. You won’t regret choosing music as one of your productive hobbies.

12. Play a board game

Board games have come a long way since Monopoly hit the shelves in 1935. Now there are thousands of options on just about every theme imaginable.

Want to save the world from infectious diseases? Travel through time solving puzzles? Solve crime and catch killers like your favorite movie sleuths? There’s a game for you. Actually, there are probably a bunch of games for you.

You just need to find the ones you’ll enjoy and a few people you’ll enjoy playing them with. If you do, you’ll help keep your mind sharp, develop creativity and problem solving skills, and hone your ability to plan and strategize.

13. Learn a language

Speaking multiple languages looks great on a resume and will definitely come in handy when traveling. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for number 13 on our most productive hobbies list.

Learning a new language will help you stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia, improve your memory and decision-making skills, and make you more perceptive. True story. So pick a language and start studying.

14. Volunteer your time

Most of us tend to think of hobbies as a way to benefit ourselves. But what if we reversed that? Maybe the most productive hobbies for you will involve some kind of volunteer work.

Volunteering can take many forms. This means you can probably combine it with one or two of your other favorite hobbies as well and create a super-hobby! For example, do you love to read? Why not volunteer to read aloud at the nursing home near your house?

Volunteering also has great benefits for the volunteer, including increased levels of happiness and satisfaction and emotional stability.

15. Start a side hustle

Can’t stop working? Maybe you can use your free time to build a second revenue stream. You know, the whole diversify thing. If it works out, you could even start a side business that also incorporates one of the other hobbies on this list.

If you love the outdoors, become a wilderness guide on the weekends. Accomplished musician? Give lessons after work. 

There are many benefits to starting a side hustle, the most obvious being the potential for financial gain. This is where the free Toggl time tracker can be incredibly useful, because it has a built-in feature that allows you to see how profitable a certain task or project is. Who knows? Your side gig might end up becoming more profitable than your day job!

But being a business owner can also improve critical thinking skills and increase confidence.

16. Try out improv

Many people will find this productive hobby suggestion to be terrifying. We totally get where you’re coming from! But improv is an incredible way to exercise creativity and build confidence. After all, there’s no script.

It will also teach you to handle the unpredictability of life–a very important skill since, you know, life is completely unpredictable. And while it may be scary at first, many people discover a true love for improv and pursue it as a hobby for many, many years.

17. Grab your camera

Seems like every person with a smartphone and an Instagram account thinks they’re a world-class photographer. They’re usually not. But that shouldn’t deter you from pursuing photography as a hobby.

This art form can be incredibly therapeutic and can reduce stress levels. It also allows you to explore your creativity, look at the world from new angles and improve focus. Sounds like a winning hobby to us!

18. Play a sport

What’s your game? Do you like to hoop it up on the hardwood, or kick it on the soccer field? Maybe the racquet sports (like tennis) are more your speed. If there’s a sport out there you enjoy, consider making it one of your productive hobbies.

Why? So many reasons: Sports teach us teamwork, how to deal with failure, the art of self discipline and control. They also keep us physically fit and reduce stress. Game on!

19. Be the next karate kid

Turns out Mr. Miyagi was on to something with the whole “wax on, wax off” thing. Martial arts has been proven to boost both mental and physical health.

Those who pursue this hobby experience more self control, lower levels of rage and more focus. Pretty cool, right?

20. Brew brew baby

Last, but certainly not least, try brewing your own beer. Not only is it a fun and interesting pastime, but also imagine all the money you’ll save by not buying six packs at the local liquor store every weekend.

Let’s ride this money-saving train a bit further; home brews also make for amazing, thoughtful gifts. Ka-Ching! More money back in your pocket.

Brewing your own beer is pretty inexpensive and not overly difficult. Sound interesting? Get started today.

What will your productive hobbies be?

Now that you’ve experienced the sheer awesomeness of our list, it’s time to choose the productive hobbies you’ll pursue. Are you more artistic, jock, or foodie? Maybe you’re a closet board game geek and don’t even know it yet. The possibilities are endless.

Just remember, the perfect pastime for you will be something you enjoy doing and an activity that either teaches you something or makes you think (stretches your brain), or allows you to create something (make something amazing). All of the productive hobbies on this list meet those criteria.

Once you’ve chosen the right productive hobby for you, let us know what they are in the comments. We can’t wait to hear how you spend your free time and why you love your chosen activities so much!

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