What Should I Do About “Non-Productive” Hobbies?

It’s easy to get trapped on the self-improvement treadmill.

And once you’re on it, it can be hard to get off.

I mean, it makes sense. Naturally, we are a goal-driven species.

But recently a friend asked me… 

With so much emphasis on self-improvement, where do non-productive hobbies and entertainment fit into the picture? Should you quit them entirely? Should you give them up for a time?

In this post, I attempt to answer that very question.

Don’t Dismiss Your Non-Productive Hobbies

First, don’t dismiss your non-productive hobby and throw them away. 

Sometimes your “non-productive hobbies” are really where you should be focused on growing/improving. 

Take the college student who binges Netflix like it’s her job. Like most college students, she really doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She starts reading this blog because the author is incredibly handsome and charming.

So, she’s decided to improve herself. She quits Netflix because she thinks to herself, “how could Netflix equal improvement?”

Woah, woah, woah. Let’s slow down there.

Netflix for many people is an unproductive activity. But for her, it could be something she is interested in. Her interest in Netflix may mean she has an underlying desire to (a) work in the entertainment industry in general or (b) around the specific contents of the show.

Maybe she watches murder mysteries. Could she be interested in working for the government as a Special Agent in some capacity? Or as a scary movie writer?

The places where you procrastinate can actually lead you to the places you should invest the most time in.

Maybe You Can’t Utilize Your Non-Productive Hobbies

But not everyone is the Netflix-loving college student. Other people enjoy their job but have non-productive hobbies.

Let’s say you’re studying to become a doctor. And you’re enjoying becoming a doctor too. However, you’ve found video games give you the greatest joy in the world.

You want to improve yourself, but you wonder… Do I have to stop playing video games entirely?

The answer is… no, not if you don’t want to.

If you want to quit, go ahead. Never play a video game again. But if this is really something you love, why not use it as a reward? 

Most people don’t have hobbies they really enjoy. So they tell people, “Don’t do that, it’s bad for you” or “Don’t do that, you won’t like it.”

If you have a hobby you really like, you have a built-in reward. You can then set a rule for yourself: “I will only play video games after I’ve meditated for 10 minutes” or “I will only play video games after I’ve completed my streaks.”

You can then start to link the video games with the completion of a task.

Push this reward (whatever your non-productive hobby is) as a way to push yourself over the edge to do the activities you maybe don’t want to do.

You Can Grow From “Non-Productive Hobbies”

Self-improvement is not a linear path.

Derek Sivers has said: “If knowledge is the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”

We don’t always do what’s best for us. We all have non-productive hobbies.

What’s amazing is you can grow from activities that you might believe have nothing to do with improving yourself.

Here’s what I mean…

Let’s imagine you’re a smoker. Smoking is quite clearly a “non-productive hobby.”

But then one day, you quit. You never smoke again. Well, instead of beating yourself up (a truly non-productive activity), realize you have experiences from quitting that non-smokers have never had.

You know what it feels like to quit something difficult. You have a process in place. You can then use that same system to build yourself up.

Many addicts often channel their addiction for something negative and turn it into something positive.

When you are able to turn your negative habit into something positive, you grow as an individual.

Would I recommend anyone take that path in order to grow? Of course not.

But just because you did something non-productive doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it.

You grow from many things life throws at, even if you might consider it non-productive.

In Summary

  1. Figure out if your non-productive procrastinations are actually telling you what to pursue.
  2. Either quit your non-productive hobby or use it as a reward.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up about your non-productive hobbies. Use it to fuel the process of growth.

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