Do I have too many hobbies?
April 26, 2010 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Hobbies: I have too many of them! Is this really a problem?

I've heard many people complain about not being able to find satisfying hobbies to occupy their free time. I think I have the opposite problem: I may have too many hobbies! Though this might seem like an enviable position to be in, I'm actually finding some significant costs to it.

By the time the weekend rolls around, I find myself paralyzed with indecision, because there's just so much that I'd like to get done, and not enough time. Should I work on the code for my website redesign, or should I tend to my garden? If I try to spend some time on both, I end up not getting a whole lot done with either one, which isn't satisfying. The same holds for things that theoretically could be done at the same time, such as hiking and photography; it's impossible to devote my full attention to either one, and I end up feeling like I didn't fully enjoy either one. But then, focusing wholly on one project takes time away from other things that I'd like to progress on, so the whole thing's a mess! Not to mention that I seem to pick up new hobbies with an alarming rate!

In a nutshell, this is basically the Paradox of Choice. I have a feeling that if I had just a few hobbies that I was incredibly passionate about and could devote all my time to, I'd be a happier person. But with too many hobbies, I end up being unsatisfied no matter what I do, because I'm always regretting what I could've done instead, even though I really enjoy each hobby on its own.

Is this an unusual dilemma at all? What can I do to ease my feelings of regret? I almost feel guilty for asking about this, at it seems like the opposite of what most of my friends complain about (There's not enough to do in this town!), and I don't want to gloat or anything.

A few notes: No, I don't have a commitment problem, I'm generally good at finishing projects. Yes, I did goto a liberal arts school, so yes, I'm probably trying too hard to be a Renaissance Man. Yes, I realize that I need to prioritize, but I'm not sure where to start.

Thanks everyone!
posted by goateebird to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
It's definitely something I can relate to. I'd suggest you block off the weekend and set small, measured goals. "This week, I'll get working on this site." Focus on just one piece of just one hobby and get it done. Don't bracket the rest of your time and let things develop organically around that.

Really get yourself going by doing a 365 blog. Make it a goal to do something like post a blog or take a picture or make some very small progress on each of your hobbies once per day. Make the goals VERY small and you'll see SOME progress being made, which is more than none, and you'll see yourself setting what you do with the rest of that time based on the return on your investment in those small bits.

posted by disillusioned at 6:10 PM on April 26, 2010

you know, you don't need to do them all all the time. If I tried to participate in all my hobbies on a regular/daily/whatever basis, there would NOT be enough time...

But, you can rotate through them (assuming this doesn't impact on other people).. I love fishing, but last summer was spent training the dog instead... I love riding my motorcycle, but I'll do 10,000 one year and 1,000 the next... photography comes and goes.. The kayaks get used one summer, the canoe the next....

live in the moment a little more... there isn't some quota you have to meet...
posted by HuronBob at 6:20 PM on April 26, 2010

I think it's better to rotate through the seasons and enjoy everything you possibly can. I do about 3 or 4 things almost all year round and then rotate another few through every 3 months or so.
It's allowed me to be semi-pro in quite a few things and at least intermediate in everything else.
Life is too short to worry if you're enjoying too many different things!

You didn't list what you do but I do the following and I find time for doing all of it each year along with having a lot of friends and a girlfriend of many years:

I play hockey as a goalie and a player. I ski, I snowboard, I'm an Alpinist, Ice Climber, Rock Climber, Boulderer, I take weight lifting and diet study very seriously, I play bass guitar, keyboard, guitar, record\produce music, I have a full time job as well as my own business which are in separate areas dealing with computers (dba and web), I play golf, tennis, and I'm about to take up boxing or mma.
posted by zephyr_words at 6:29 PM on April 26, 2010

Ask those around you if they are getting enough goateebird-time.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:21 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Refuse to Choose! I admit to having only scanned (heh) the book, but it sounds right up your alley.

I have a lot of hobbies, too, and not a lot of attention span. What's helped me is knowing that those interests aren't going anywhere and I can always pick them up later. My enthusiasm for certain things ebbs and flows, and I've found it's better to roll with it than to force myself to work on something I'm not into.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:26 PM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have that problem! Only, honestly, I kinda like it.

What's helped me get a grip on what I really want to do, though, is to figure out where my hobbies have overlaps. I know that you said that you feel like doing two things at once ends up taking away from both, but try to reframe that. Look at it like, for example, my photography enhances my gardening, because I have a record of what I did and how it went. The gardening enhances your photography because you have a steady stream of images. You can use it as a challenge of sorts, too--how can you make this photo of ready-to-burst flowers different from the ones you took last week? For me, that sort of reframing has allowed me to combine a lot of hobbies, and I get to do them all a little more often.

Also, I've found that setting concrete goals helps me. Decide that you're going to spend, say, 30 minutes a night doing blog stuff, and you're going to finish thingying your whatchamacallit. Then do those first. I try to pick one or two things a day to get done--maybe on Sunday, I knit 2" of sock, and then in the evening I edit a dozen photos. Pick a few main hobbies and aim to do each of them at least, say, twice a week. It's often enough to get stuff done, especially if you commit an hour or two, but infrequent enough that you still get to do a variety of things.
posted by MeghanC at 7:27 PM on April 26, 2010

Best answer: Meghan C has a point- All these developing talents may have a common outlet. Your hobbies take on new meaning in service to a larger unifying goal. And you get to practice exercising discipline in channeling these talents, which you surely lack despite your protestations- this is the crux of your distress.

I am speaking from personal knowledge, so this is more commiseration than accusation. As you are developing the skills you need, to accomplish whatever task you take on, there is no reason why you can't plan out your next adventure, using another different skill set.

To sum up, see whether some of your hobbies can dovetail and combine into a larger multidisciplinary project, for example hiking to a remote spot to photograph the plant life there, and reconstructing the habitat at home, documenting your progress. That will mix it up and give you a significant challenge. Even better if you put these talents in service to a cause you believe in, because you will reap lots of personal pride as well as satisfaction.

Hijacking the login, I am MISTER SLC Mom.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:03 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a bunch of hobbies (RC aircraft, shooting, programming games, playing games, reading, sailing, and more). The way I almost naturally manage it is by not trying to do everything all the time. I sort of rotate through them, and do the high-intensity, high-skill-atrophy hobbies in short-but-regular sessions.

In order to do this, you have to get used to the idea that maybe your camera will gather dust for a few months. But, on the other hand, when you burn out on kayaking, you'll have something to return to. Maybe your fencing skills will atrophy too quickly to be useful in a year, so you go down to the salle at least once every two weeks for a lesson/bout.

You don't lose cred just because you haven't participated in one of your hobbies for a few weeks.
posted by Netzapper at 9:14 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing Refuse to Choose. There are a lot of strategies in that book for juggling tons of interests and hobbies, and it will help put things in perspective.
posted by Nattie at 10:47 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't know if you can find it on the Internet, but "The Young and the Restless" is an essay published by Daniel Rosenberg in the 'Sloth' issue of Cabinet Magazine, and it's a pretty interesting read. Actually, the whole issue might give you some perspective on your predicament
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 10:49 PM on April 26, 2010

Another vote for Refuse to Choose - I bought it for my wife, who has tons of hobbies/projects and similar worries to you, but I got quite a lot out of it myself particularly, as Nattie says, in putting "hobby overload anxiety" in its place.
posted by crocomancer at 3:20 AM on April 27, 2010

Refuse to Choose (as mentioned by Nattie and Metroid Baby above) is really great for figuring out how to fit all your interests into your life. One of the ideas from the book, that of setting up "project stations" with all the supplies for each hobby, has made a huge difference for me in getting through the paralysis of too many choices: it's now so easy to grab up the supplies/books for each hobby, that doing a few minutes on this one or that one doesn't feel like a waste of setup time (like back in the days when it took half an hour to find my pens & paints & paper and clear off a place to work and find something to draw, etc.) This was just one of many strategies in the book, however. There are a lot of different ideas for different types of Renaissance people.

Another book that is great for helping you juggle various interests is The Vigorous Mind.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:24 AM on April 27, 2010

This is absolutely me... too many interests, too little time & a jumpy attention span. I have weekends exactly like the one you describe, where I'll spend so long dithering about what I want to do that I wind up without time to do anything.

Like Metroid Baby said, I've found that the way to stay sane is to just roll with whatever has most recently grabbed your attention and won't let go. Try not to get hung up on completing things as the end goal of a particular hobby or interest; just because I get all fired up to work on a linoleum block print one day doesn't mean I'm going to feel like working on it each subsequent day until it's done, before I let myself go back to learning fiddle tunes on my banjo... it's not a fun hobby any more if you're only doing something just to get it over with.

Sometimes having a bunch of half-finished projects lying around can be a bit of a source of guilt, but again... this stuff we do in our spare time is supposed to be fun and fulfilling. Unless it's something big and life-affecting like finishing a house, or unless there's some kind of external deadline involved, who cares when (or even if) it gets done? I'd much rather turn my attention to something that really pushes my buttons right now, even if it's a whole new project.

(Thanks everyone for the Refuse to Choose recommendations, it sounds like I definitely need to check that out.)
posted by usonian at 11:05 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

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