What's a hobby I can do in very small spurts (5-10 mins.)?
August 30, 2010 3:37 PM   Subscribe

What's a hobby I can do in very small spurts (5-10 mins.)?

I usually can work for about 1.5 hours before my id begs me for a more exciting change of pace.

My current habit is to answer it with food, sex, a walk, websurfing, or online poker or flashgames. But food and sex are appetites that can only healthfully be fulfilled so often -- walks feel pointless unless you make them take long enough to justify having put on your pants -- and websurfing and online games lure me into longer sessions.

I'm looking for a hobby that
A) is instantly gratifying,
B) can be fun even in small doses of 5-10 minutes, and
C) doesn't actively try to entice me into prolonging my break.

The ideal solution would take into account that:
D) I have little patience for working with my clumsy hands (eg art, cooking, carpentry)
E) Although I love to read and write, I have to read and write enormous amounts for school and so they wear a little thin
F) In a perfect world -- and this may be asking a lot -- the hobby would somehow be edifying or productive or self-improving in addition to just being an entertaining distraction.

Any ideas? All suggestions are appreciated. I know I'm ruling out a lot.
posted by foursentences to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:39 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Knitting! If four year old kids can learn to knit, then so can you. I promise you.
posted by ErikaB at 3:41 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Phone photography. Use the camera on your cell phone to take a picture, and come up with an interesting or clever short caption for it.

If you want to be really strict, figure out a way to make yourself do it now and again, even when you are in a boring, unphotogenic environment, because nothing challenges you to be creative like a little adversity and some limitations.
posted by quin at 3:42 PM on August 30, 2010


No joke. Any musical instrument that can be picked up and put down easily-- little four-octave piano, travel guitar (or normal-sized). Hell, you could even pick up Reason and start laying down quick beats. Listen to 'em while you're working again, and I'm sure you'd figure out way to make them even better.
posted by supercres at 3:46 PM on August 30, 2010

Gardening. Maybe not completely instantly gratifying, but you can buy plants, plop them in the ground, and call it good. If you don't have a yard, try orchids, succulents, cacti.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:48 PM on August 30, 2010

Practice singing or whistling.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:57 PM on August 30, 2010


It will give you more hand coordination, and I found it good stress relief. When learning to juggle, your mind is completely empty, except for the balls.
posted by antiquark at 3:57 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nthing ukulele, or knitting. Drawing little comics, while being nice to yourself about your artistic abilities, is a really absorbing way to spend some time. Pair those with something physical that can be done quickly (squats, push-ups, etc.).
posted by verbyournouns at 3:59 PM on August 30, 2010

Photography: take a walk and find something interesting to take a picture of in every block. There's always something and it gives you a different view of the stuff you see every day.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:00 PM on August 30, 2010

ErikaB: "Knitting! If four year old kids can learn to knit, then so can you. I promise you."

I was going to suggest knitting too at first - I picked it up to give my fidgety hands something to do - but I wouldn't say that it's instantly gratifying. Regardless, it is a rewarding interesting hobby that you can pick up and put down without any trouble.
posted by Gordafarin at 4:01 PM on August 30, 2010

More instruments: Berimbau, indian flutes, darbuka drum, kora
posted by Not Supplied at 4:02 PM on August 30, 2010

posted by phunniemee at 4:05 PM on August 30, 2010

Seconding everything antiquark just said. Juggling is very zen.

I've also recently embarked on a quest to master speedcubing (although it's a long journey). You learn it in chunks (patterns called "algorithms"), and I find that practicing those for a few minutes is just as good as juggling. And considerably less distracting to others if you're in an office environment.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:06 PM on August 30, 2010

I love the less corny cross stitch and needlepoint and embroidery projects. (For those of us who are less creative, there are a ton of kits, some very easy, some demanding.) They can be picked up anytime, and in the end you have something nice -- a cushion or chair cover, a gift, or something that is rather nice when framed.

They can take awhile if you don't have much time to devote. I've been working on a needlepoint/embrodery project of cats in a library for a couple of years now.
posted by bearwife at 4:08 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

These are all good suggestions (ukulele and knitting and two of my personal vices) and I'm going to also suggest weightlifting! A few reps here, a few reps there... maybe it's not exactly a hobby, but it is easily broken down into short chunks.
posted by mskyle at 4:13 PM on August 30, 2010

P.S. Here is my current project, which of course will go up in our study when finished and framed.
posted by bearwife at 4:19 PM on August 30, 2010

Crossword puzzles (on paper, not online). If you get a crossword puzzle magazine, you can pick it up, fill in a few answers, put it down, and come back to it later, as many times as you want. Each little 5-10 minute session will stimulate your brain and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
posted by amyms at 4:26 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Learn some yoga and just do a few favourite postures or a few rounds of sun salutations.
posted by penguin pie at 4:51 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jigsaw puzzles. You can spend as much or as little time as you want on them, and all you need is a flat surface. Plus they are super cheap.
posted by tryniti at 5:20 PM on August 30, 2010

Simple body weight exercises, like prisoner squats and/or push-ups? Do as many as you can, and then each time try to beat your record, or follow a program like this or this or this.
posted by synecdoche at 5:29 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I got a stop-motion animation app for my phone and have been amusing myself by creating epic battles between my Hello Kitty figures and my Anpanman figures. Of course this requires a phone that has a stop-motion app, but you could probably do the same thing with a digital camera and some simple software.
posted by dogmom at 6:21 PM on August 30, 2010 [7 favorites]

2nding the Rubik's cube. What about lockpicking? Basic sets of picks are cheap, and there are always a few old padlocks laying around.
posted by jquinby at 6:51 PM on August 30, 2010

I second the word find magazines, or crosswords/Sudoku. And if you juggle, start with scarves or Koosh balls, it's a lot less frustrating than bouncing balls. Read up on how to do it before you begin- I learned out of a Koosh book, but it looks like that's out of print on Amazon.

Actually, juggling is a really good idea, it'll get you pretty tired after 10 minutes!
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:09 PM on August 30, 2010

I love jquimby's suggestion of lockpicking. You can pick up cheap doorknobs at (furniture/stuff oriented, as opposed to clothing) thrift stores to practice on.

Was going to suggest making chainmail, but that, too inolves working with your hands.

A great way to try to de-clumsy your hands is to work with them - lockpicking will certainly train your fine motor and sensory skills. Making chainmail will work on strength and control.
posted by porpoise at 8:27 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of people pick up pen spinning in call center work or during lectures. Speed arithmetic is a pretty interesting one too since it doesn't need many if any tools.
posted by angusiguess at 8:41 PM on August 30, 2010

I love to knit but instant it is not. Also it is so tempting to do just one more row.

How about crossword puzzles or sudoku? Mentally challenging and easy to put down/pick up.
posted by bq at 9:39 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing chain mail. I am very uncoordinated, especially at small stuff, but I can make chain mail. I made a shirt over the course of a few months with a few minutes here and there. Now I have an awesome chain mail shirt.
posted by novalis_dt at 10:08 PM on August 30, 2010

When I have little blocks of downtime at work I've been drawing a stop-motion animation cycle on 2" x 2" Post-Its. So far I've got about 30 seconds of animation at 24 FPS, which is slightly over 700 drawings. Eventually I may have a short film, but for now it's just something to keep my mind and hands occupied during slack moments, of which there are many lately. You might also enjoy practicing tying knots: years ago I got a book on knots and learned a few simple ones, then progressed until now I could serve as crew on a Royal Navy ship in 1815 and be able to keep up with the other able-bodied sailors, as far as knot-tying ability goes.
posted by motown missile at 1:20 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Work on a dorodango mud ball?
posted by peagood at 8:32 AM on August 31, 2010

This summer my work was very hurry up and wait: 5 minutes of time sensitive work every 15 minutes. I also needed to be aware enough to keep an eye on my experiment to make sure nothing had changed. I occupied my time with writing letters to a friend in another country. That is write, handwriting letters. I filled them with random things, including scribblings on RPG material and book reviews, common interests of ours. If found it great for when I was waiting in line or waiting at the doctors or such since all I needed on me was a scrap of paper and a pen.

Another thing that I don't have any experience in is miniatures painting. My Dad paints 35mm lead or pewter miniatures, litter statues for use in D&D. While he spends hours on them he paints a bunch at once as you have to keep stopping & waiting for the paint to dry. Would that be something you could do?

One of my coworkers/housemates played harmonica to occupy such moments, using one we quite oddly found in our dryer one day and never could find the owner of...
posted by Canageek at 11:10 AM on August 31, 2010

yo-yo. card tricks. learn a short speech.
posted by UltraD at 12:05 PM on August 31, 2010

Harmonica is pretty much perfect for this. Quick to pick up, you can sound halfway decent in a short time (though becoming actually good takes years), and especially at first, your mouth can get kind of tired in about 10 minutes, encouraging you to stop.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 3:33 PM on August 31, 2010


Anything you want to learn, break it down into chunks and put 'em on flashcards. If you want to do them on your computer, there are lots of great free programs for it (I like Anki - multiplatform - and Genius - Mac).

Also: calligraphy. You say you feel too clumsy for art, but some nice repetitive calligraphy loops can be a great thing to practice, and you can make nice hand-made birthday cards.

And if you feel like a bit of exercise but don't want a big long walk, look around for stairs. A quick zip up and down the nearest staircase is a terrific pick-me-up. If you're feeling really ambitious, bring your flashcards along.
posted by kristi at 11:08 PM on August 31, 2010

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