I’ve read dozens of blog posts about increasing productivity and performance at work. Most of which speak about systems of organization, demonstrating initiative, being dependable, and building relationships with coworkers, staff, and management. Most of the things I’ve read have proven to be valid and valuable. At the same time, I rarely see mention of one’s personal satisfaction in life as a tool of workplace performance.
With this realization, I curiously decided to search for articles regarding extracurricular activities’ effects on our workplace performance.
One of the best articles I found was published by “Fast Company” called: “How Creative Hobbies Make Us Better at Basically Everything”
The article references this study which used 400 participants to conclude that: “Creative activity was found to have both indirect effects and direct effects on performance-related outcomes, but the effects varied by the type of performance-related outcome. The results indicate that organizations may benefit from encouraging employees to consider creative activities in their efforts to recover from work.”
Personally, I have two categories of extracurricular activities I dedicate much of my spare time to… One is an action-sports video production business. Yes, this is also a physical endeavor, but mostly, it fulfills my creative needs.
My second category of passion is to physically challenge my body and spend time outside. This lead me to search for the benefits of physical activity relating to our outcome at work.
The first article I found from the Harvard Business Review referred to this study from the US National Library of Medicine to explain many of the benefits of physical activity to our performance at work.
I found many more great articles from reputable sources that made the same basic claim. “Physical activity in life increases performance at work.”
Finding creative and physically-active outlets has been very effective for me personally, so I will focus on these two types of passions for much of this article.
Now I am a normal person like you. I have a busy life with responsibilities and obligations. There was a point in life when I was so dedicated to my startup business that I literally moved into the basement of my office. The only time I would leave was for a meeting or to go to the gym and shower. I was the last person to turn off my phone or take an afternoon to just enjoy coffee with a friend, go fishing, or see a movie. I was so focused on the future that I had completely neglected myself in the present.
Over time, I began to realize that I was losing my own sense of identity… Although work was pretty much my only life, I was not happy.
Looking back, my lack of satisfaction was affecting my appearance, my interaction with subordinates, and my presentation at sales meetings. It also affected my patience and caused some pretty serious issues with contractors a couple times.
Another thing that was affected was my passion to focus on the tasks at hand… As my mood declined, I spent more time on social media and “R&D” (Surfing the web) and less time prospecting for business or generating income.
During the period I’m speaking about, I was single, so my zombie-like state rarely affected people who were close to me. Still, I can imagine I would have been unpleasant to my wife if I were married at that time.
One of the biggest reliefs in my life happened at the moment that I realized I needed to get away from this version of life. It was the moment when I decided I was hurting my own outcome by continuing down the path I was on… I’m not saying that you or anyone should walk away from their current life like I did. I just want to set up where I’m coming from.
Why should anyone care about my story? My guess is that many people can relate to it on one level or another.
Although I’m not saying its time for you to leave your current life. I am however asking you to recognize the amount of time you spend doing things that allow you to truly enjoy life.
I want you to ask yourself, what are you passionate about in life? Many will answer “Family.” Some will say ” watching sports.” Some might mention an activity like “cycling, bowling, working out, etcetera.”
As a recently married man, I am beginning to understand how one can care so deeply for their family, yet I am sure that people with children have a far deeper understanding than I do.
Now that I have given the family credit, I want to encourage family members to search for something outside of the family or any other person to focus your energy on. I want you to think about you and you only for a brief moment.
I also want to encourage singles to look for things that you are passionate about, which reach beyond your piers’ interests and activities. I want you to be selfish in your pursuit of passion.
Don’t worry about any one else’s opinion or willingness to engage in your newly-found or renewed passion.
Hopefully you already know the thing that is so interesting or exciting that it makes you completely forget about your stresses and problems a brief amount of time. Hopefully it is something you look forward to doing often.
I’m not going to waste anybody’s time with suggestions of specific things to get involved in. I will however re-state my personal belief in creative and physical outlets.
I want everyone who doesn’t know what they are passionate about to spend some real time thinking about and researching something to fill this void. Maybe you could become passionate about finding your passion as you explore a new activity or outlet each week.
For those of us who know our passions but rarely participate in them, what better time to become re-engaged than right now?
How do unproductive activities and interests improve performance at work?
First, unproductive is not the correct term, but our interests rarely put more money in our pockets, so let’s focus on the big-picture.
Regardless of what your passion is, you should place a high priority on taking time for that passion.
Imagine the way you feel after playing your favorite sport, after you’ve created a new piece of art, or when you are catching your breath after a great workout.
Not only have you taken time to focus on something other than the stresses of work, family, finances, or chores. You have taken time to find a bit of happiness in life, while your body is producing endorphins and serotonin, which make you feel happy.
After you have focused some time and energy on your passion, take note, how is your evening after doing something you love? How is your interaction with your family or others who surround you? I bet it’s a little bit easier to perform chores and tasks that would normally feel monotonous.
Now, imagine how much better work can be if you were involved in your passion before work or you know you will participate in it after. Can you envision your day having more purpose? Don’t you think it would be just a bit easier to get out of bed at the beginning of a busy day?
The articles I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post show studies, which conclude that creative activities help us recover from the stresses of extended focus and performance at work. They also show strong correlation between physical activity and increased concentration, sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity, and reduced stress.
Finding fulfillment in life on a consistent basis will make it easier to interact with others. It will give us something to look forward to, and it will put us all in a better place to perform our best at work. So take this opportunity to find some time to dedicate to your passion. Do this and it will be obvious to those you work with. It will show in the quality of your work and productivity, it will increase your value at work and possibly add to your pay over time… Most importantly, you will find more fulfillment in life and every day will be just a little better, happier, and more productive.
Passion in Life Improves Performance at Work
Article by Mike Gamache
(Freelance journalist – Colorado Mountain Life)
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