How Hobbies Help

By Carolyn Lyon James

Aaaaah, springtime. The grass is getting greener, the trees are beginning to bud, and educators everywhere are counting down the days until summer vacation. This last month is always a frantic one as we try to ensure that students are finishing all their assignments and are ready to pass on to the next level of learning. We plead, we cajole, we threaten. We try every trick and method possible to keep them motivated. Hang in there just a little bit longer, we say. Just a few more assignments, and you’ll be done with this class forever. But how do we keep ourselves motivated? What gets us up every morning? What brings a smile to our faces? I decided to ask my co-workers that very question.

The people I spoke to were all happy with their jobs. They truly enjoy the work they do and the students they work with. But, for many educators, they are more than just their job description. They have hobbies and passions outside the workplace. And these outside interests can help make them better educators. Mary Gibney, a teacher at John F. Kennedy High School, says, “Working out in the morning makes me better at my job. It’s a stress reliever. I feel better about myself and it energizes me. Plus, when I don’t work out, I have no one to blame but myself.”

Lauren McClelland, another teacher at Kennedy in Cedar Rapids, says that getting up and going to work each day is the easy part. “What takes real motivation is getting myself to dance class on Monday night. Sometimes I am so tired at the end of the day, it’s hard to push myself to get back up off the couch and go out again. My husband gives the best pep talks, though,” she says, laughing. “He reminds me how much I love to dance and how much better I’ll feel once I’ve gone. And, of course, he’s right.”

There are many ways employers can keep their workers content and motivated to come back to work every day, such as recognition for hard work, creating a comfortable and happy work environment, and offering decent benefits. But that only goes so far in making workers happy. We need outside interests and passions to keep us motivated to return to work day after day. A study by San Francisco State University showed how activities outside of work can actually boost work performance by 15-30%. “We found that in general, the more you engage in creative activities, the better you’ll do [in the workplace],” states lead author Kevin Eschleman.

Having fun and creative outlets outside of the workplace gives us back some of the control we lose when we are on the job. We choose the activity — whether it’s exercise, painting, baking, sewing, or playing video games — and how much time and energy we want to devote to it. In addition to reminding us that we are more than just our job description, activities outside the workplace ease our stress and boost our happiness. And then, we can bring that happiness to back to work with us, so we’re even better at our jobs.