Every year as the holidays approach, I hear a steady cadence of advice to “disconnect, recharge and focus on the people and things you love.” For businessmen and women in particular, this time of year gives them a reason to step out of the office and reevaluate their work/life balance. They take advantage of their vacation time to play the guitar, cook elaborate meals, play a game of basketball, or brush up on any number of hobbies and skills have been collecting dust over the last year.
The holidays give professionals an opportunity to step back and slow down. But smart leaders make a point to spend time on their hobbies throughout the year — not just over the holidays. Here are three reasons business leaders should make time for extracurriculars year-round.
Recharging your battery to 100% is a must
I always make time to exercise, and my sport of choice is hockey. I play in three leagues during the year — and I make sacrifices to keep up with them. You can find me at the rink at 11pm on weekdays and 6am on Sundays (and occasionally, I’ll skip lunch so I can get in some time at the gym). My co-founder Todd McKinnon has a similar mindset and commitment to CrossFit — which takes consistency to excel the way he has.
Even when our schedules were jam-packed in preparation to take Okta public, we both made time for our hobbies. We didn’t uncover a secret to time management or a life hack that puts us in the gym and on the ice, either; we simply prioritized our personal commitments — to get out of the office and into a different environment that allowed us to recharge, mentally and physically.
That commitment built an air-tight capsule that limited work to the hours we determined, which prevented our professional responsibilities from leaking into every open slot in our schedules. We’re motivated to be efficient at work so we can enjoy time outside of the office — whether we spend our “free time” being active, reading or being present with our families — and give 100 percent to the next day’s tasks.
Focus and creativity will come more naturally
All skills require practice to make progress, and there’s no question that focus does as well. Checking your focus at the door when you head home at the end of the day blocks your potential to progress as an individual and professional — and as a result, you may end up slowly training yourself to only channel productivity and creativity in one environment. But by channeling focus and creativity into your hobbies, you’ll change the way you work, how you “play” and potentially even impact who you are as a person (not just as a company leader). Whether your hobby involves technology — photography, videography or design — or requires you to sign off completely and focus on a new hiking trail or spotting a unique breed of bird, focus and creativity outside of the office will help you cultivate it in the office as well.
And don’t just take my word for it. Research shows that those who engage in activities for pleasure are more positive and are less stressed, which will lead to motivation both at home and on the job.
Easy conversation > awkward interactions
Business leaders in particular face unique time constraints. Their calendars are typically packed with a mix of customer meetings, employee meetings, board meetings and more, and anyone who has worked in the corporate world knows that interacting with a diverse set of people is a key part of running a successful business. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that these leaders need to be relatable as colleagues and partners (not just as company spokespeople) to be successful.
If I am only Frederic, a tech executive, I can only relate to fellow tech executives. But with hobbies and interests outside of work, I can easily relate to fellow sports fans, hockey players, and fathers who are also trying to balance work, family and hobbies. My additional interests allow me to avoid awkward silences, and easily move from work to favorite pastimes to family and friends in any conversation — enabling me to add a personal element to professional relationships.
It may seem counterintuitive to put one more task on a business professional’s plate — especially a hobby that’s typically the first task to cut from the to-do list. But it’s important to prioritize. Being active outside of work can help you to be more productive during work hours, by keeping you rejuvenated, relatable and generally more focused and fulfilled.