How do you juggle multiple hobbies/activities while working full-time?
August 13, 2016 10:30 PM   Subscribe

I’m a 30 year old guy who recently broke up with my ex this past April. Since the break-up, I’ve subjugated myself to the gym and playing basketball again after a 2 year hiatus. Exercise has done wonders for me physically and mentally. However, there are also other items that I want to learn: learning how to play the saxophone, how to cook, how to maintain my new car, and etc.

I don’t have a child at this time so I’m looking forward to having a lot of me time. However, I’m finding out that putting aside the time for all these activities is challenging thus I find myself procrastinating such as actually learning more about my newly-purchased saxophone. I’ve had my sax for at least a month now, and I’ve only spent one hour so far on it. I dislike the feeling of always putting stuff off because there's not enough "time".

Here’s my usual routine for the week: I work 8:30-5:30 Monday-Friday. I usually don’t get off work until 5:45-6 pm and it takes me about 45 minutes or so to get back home. By the time I get home, its almost 7pm and it takes me 15 minutes to get to the gym. I spend an hour working out and showering afterwards. I don’t get home until 9pm or so, and I’m already tired for the day. I find myself aimlessly browsing online until I fall asleep.

This routine is all about rinse and repeat. I’m glad to be making the effort to go the gym, as I’ve lost 9 pounds in 1 month. It also helps that we’re having a biggest loser challenge at work with $1,050 dollars on the line come October 11. The financial and physical incentive has gotten me motivated to exercise 5x a week. Now I just need the same motivation in pursuing my other hobbies. Any advice or suggestions would be gladly appreciated!
posted by tnar23 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is very normal and a lot of people either don't go to the gym every day or just do hobbies on the weekend. However, some people do the gym before work as a compromise.
posted by jojobobo at 10:49 PM on August 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

could you set an alarm to do, say, 10 minutes of saxophone practicing during when you're scrolling around on the internet? just 10 minutes. i find that the "scrolling around on the internet" is powerful inertia that keeps me stuck on not doing something more awesome. you probably have a few minutes a day to spare. if you start with 10 minutes, you might find that you want to do that instead of facebook (or whatever) but even if you don't, it's still over an hour a week of practice that you weren't doing before.
posted by andreapandrea at 10:54 PM on August 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

Can you join a gym that close enough to your office to go at lunchtime? Can you swap a gym day for a sax lesson with a local instructor? You already have a lot of your time spoken for if you're working full time and hitting the gym 5x a week, so some compromise is going to be necessary.

Maybe pick one dish that you shop for and make over the weekend. Find one thing you want to fix on your car and do it on Sunday. You don't have to go all out on every hobby, just carve out a bit of time here and there.
posted by ananci at 11:05 PM on August 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

Here's a schedule tweak that might help you find more time after work:

Instead of fighting rush-hour traffic at 5:45, go to a gym as close to your workplace as possible and do your workout before you commute home. You'll hopefully avoid most of the traffic by sticking around your work environs for an extra hour. Then maybe you'll be home closer to 8:15 or 8:30, having worked out and showered already.
posted by delight at 11:06 PM on August 13, 2016 [15 favorites]

What you are already doing is using the power of routine to stick to your exercise habit. Btw, good job on that! You are already doing something with more willpower than most people.

I'm a big believer in routine, but also in having extended periods of time to do something. I.e. ten minutes is not enough time to me to truly learn something in a session. For example, a ten min workout each day is not as effective as doing a thirty min jog every other day. You need to warmup, and you need to cool down. It would be probably far more effective and rewarding to do it once every weekend for a hour.

Some other tips:
--Do it early in the morning during your weekend, or first thing in your day. That way you can continue to do social activities, etc. and not run the risk of ditching a sax session because you are on a fun outing with your friends (what I would do).
--After each session, write one thing that you learned or if you haven't learned something, what you did. Write down what you want to do next. What will be cool is to see the cumulative effect of sticking to the routine, and by looking ahead, you will have more excitement to do the next session.
--Sign up for some competition or rehearsal or class or something in six months. This will be a great way to keep up your progress, and give you incentive to keep going.
--Join a meetup or do something with other sax players. Being in a community makes it really fun, and it can further your progress as they can teach you more than you can teach yourself.
--Be realistic. You're already doing alot, and sometimes that aimless internet clicking is good! You need a way to relax, and it's not realistic (in my opinion) to practice sax after you work out. You need at least a hour each day, especially during the weekday, to relax.

Good luck!
posted by pando11 at 11:06 PM on August 13, 2016

What about going to the gym early in the mornings before work? It's a great way to start your day and help you power through the rest of it. During the commute home you could listen to podcasts about the hobbies you're interested in. There's lots of ways to structure your days to have time for activities.

To be honest with you I almost see this as a way of stalling on getting started. I would often do the same thing with telling myself I'm going to do this or that and not getting headway on any of the 20 things I decided I would do. Pick one thing, maybe two. Focus on that. Take the pressure off of yourself. Decide to spend maybe 10-15 minutes a day on your interest. Explore, go slowly. The goal is not to do the activity but to be in the activity, if that makes any sense at all. Essentially just remember you are doing this hobby/interest/whatever for enjoyment, and to take a simple pleasure in its learning.

Also remember its hardest to get started, but once you get over that hill its smooth sailing.
posted by wilywabbit at 1:34 AM on August 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Set aside some meaningful but doable amount of money...$100? $500? Whatever is a nice chunk of change that you wouldn't normally spend on yourself. Pick one saxophone song that you want to play...more complicated than hot cross buns but simpler than Baker Street. Give money to a trusted friend, tell them that user no circumstances are they to give you that money until you perform that song for them flawlessly. Then splurge on something with the money.
posted by ian1977 at 2:49 AM on August 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Something that helped for me was shifting my sleep timing. I realized that, like you, I was aimlessly browsing the internet from 9 to about 11 pm because I just never had any motivation then. What I did was to start going to bed and getting up an hour earlier. When I'm up early, it makes me feel like I should be doing something productive—probably leftover from high school, when I would get up at the latest possible moment and so I never had time to goof off in the morning. YMMV of course, but I have more motivation in the morning than at night so this worked for me.

This was hard at first because I never felt tired at 10, but I was really good about actually getting up early, so the sleep deficit eventually had me feeling tired at 10.
posted by dondiego87 at 3:20 AM on August 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also! Changing your exercise routine is probably going to be helpful. As others have mentioned, try finding a gym that is close to your office so you can avoid rush-hour traffic. If that's not possible—no gyms there, too expensive, locked into a contract with your old gym, etc.—then try working out without the gym. If you can work out at home, you're saving 30 minutes of drive time. It might be annoying because you don't feel like you're getting your money's worth out of your gym contract, but just imagine it as paying to have more hours in the day.

There are a lot of great workouts you can do with body weight alone, in the vein of the "7 minute workout." You can find a lot of apps with that name that basically have you do 10–12 exercises of 30 seconds each with 10-second rest periods in between (I'm probably getting these numbers wrong). This is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I'm in pretty good shape, and four repetitions of this (so about 30 minutes) and I am exhausted. It's good for both strength and cardio.

You can also try running! Another gym-free exercise that you probably hate if you're like most people, but at least all you have to do is put on your shoes and go. Start with something like Couch to 5K to make it easier to get started. A side benefit is that it is HARD, especially when you're starting out, so even short runs get you a good workout.

And finally, I didn't see anywhere in your routine where you mention dinner. What do you usually do? Is there any way you could hack that with make-ahead meals, for example?
posted by dondiego87 at 3:33 AM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I struggle with this too! One thing that's helped me to cut down the aimless internet browsing in the evening is to either make concrete plans (can you book a lesson with a saxophone teacher or something?) or at least do something linked to one of my hobbies/goals before I even let myself sit down at the computer. So if, as someone suggested, you want to commit to doing 10 minutes of saxophone practice every evening, don't even turn on your computer until you get that done (and ideally do the saxophone stuff right when you get home). Bonus is that once you overcome the inertia required to get started, you may well end up practicing more than 10 minutes.

I think habits are vital, so to me, 10 minutes every day is more valuable than half an hour every two or three days -- it's been easier for me to build up from there once I have a routine.

And I second the podcast suggestion during your commute -- even if it's not something where you could learn something (eg. if you were learning a language, listen to short slow news podcasts in your target language), if it's about your hobbies, it could help you keep your enthusiasm up, which then makes it easier to sit down right away with your saxophone when you get home.
posted by diffuse at 4:20 AM on August 14, 2016

It's hard to do new stuff or too much stuff when you are actively losing weight. Once you get to your target, plan on having more energy.

Use your spare time now to research sax teachers or local music schools during your internet browse time. When you're ready, set up weekly lessons. You'll have motivation and accountability.

I did all this with the violin a few years back.

I'd go to the gym after my lesson.
posted by rw at 4:33 AM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

A procrastinating brain will procrastinate. It's almost more frustrating realizing that you have had just a fun thing on the todo list and still managed not to do it.

Starting is the battle, try setting a timer to trick your brain (you only have to do it for 20min, brain) and get started on something.

Remember that you do need down time, some mindless surfing is OK sometimes.
posted by freethefeet at 5:22 AM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

What I do is:

1. Stay happy, do what I want to do, don't be hard on myself for "procrastinating" — so I don't want to do something, big deal!
2. STAY SOCIAL. If I can make one of those hobbies social, I do. Hanging out in person is better than hanging out online is waaaaay better than alone. I find that if I keep the social gas tank full, "procrastinating" ends up being less of a problem.

The greatest things happen when I'm doing something I love with like minded people. The most fun I've had hobby-wise since my breakup was a sort of mini-convention with people I knew vaguely from the internet, who I'd never met before. We all got together for a weekend and rehearsed cover songs, then played them together in a 3-4 hour show.

It was utter chaos, way more than I thought I could do, and a total blast. And it'll never go on my resume, and it's not cool enough to brag about, and who cares?
posted by billjings at 6:55 AM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

First, you're losing a ton of time getting from work back home for the night. If you get off work at 5:30, commute 45 minutes, 15 minutes each way to the gym, and work out for an hour, that's 2:15. You should be home by 7:45. Instead, you're getting home almost at 9. That's over an hour of time you're losing. Five minutes here, ten minutes there - it adds up. See if you can tighten that up. Go straight to the gym from work (bring your gym bag to work with you). Leave work right at 5:30 (let your boss and co-workers know you've got something going on that night).

Second, your commute is the major time suck here. I don't like the idea of moving to be closers to work in general, but in your case, it would be helpful. Even if you only move fifteen minutes closer, that's an extra half hour a day you could use for your hobbies.

It's awesome that you've successfully developed a gym habit, but maybe you've gone too far. Could you cut back a little bit? Maybe only go every other day, or only 30 minutes a night, or both?

There are programs that can prevent you from aimlessly browsing when you get home. Install one of them and block Facebook/Metafilter/YouTube/etc. until shortly before you're ready to go to bed. That way, you're taking the option out of your hands. It's no longer a question of willpower ("should I practice sax or browse aimlessly?").

The social aspect of learning new things is helpful, but I think it's spurious. The big thing about doing something social is that you have to commit to a time to do your hobby. You can't just say "well, I'll meet up with the guys to play sax whenever". You have to coordinate a time, and then mark that down on your calendar. "I'll be playing sax with the guys at 8pm on Thursday." You no longer have a choice in when you play. Social is helpful because if you don't uphold your commitment, other people will be disappointed, but you can get the same effect solo. Put it in writing, and it'll be that much harder not to do it.

Use your weekends! There's only so much time during the week. Even leaving aside the gym, assuming eight hours of sleeping and ten hours of work/commuting, you have more free time (32 hours) during the two days of the weekend than you do during the five weeknights (30 hours). Weekends are especially great for things like working on cars. Your weekends are also a lot less structured, which can be helpful if you're "in the zone". If you're practicing sax on a weeknight, and you feel like you're *this close* to getting something, you have to choose between between giving up on what you're learning and losing sleep. If you planned to practice for an hour at 11am on Saturday, though, and you're that close, you can keep playing for another hour with no problem. You'll just eat lunch a little later.

One thing that has been incredibly helpful to me, even though it seems kind of silly, is the "don't break the chain" method. Once you start doing something and you've got a streak going, it's very difficult to break that streak. is the easiest tracker I've found.

Finally, the best advice I've ever gotten is that you make time for what's important for you. If you can't make time for something, it's obviously not that important to you. If you can't find time to play sax, ask yourself why learning to play sax is a goal for you. Is it something that you really want to do?
posted by kevinbelt at 7:53 AM on August 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have a similar schedule/goals - full-time job, daily gym, substantial hobby time - and it works out pretty well, although I have much less of a commute. A couple of optimizations you may or may not have tried:
- Can you go to the gym in the morning? One daily shower / get-dressed routine is better than two.
- Shorter, more intense workouts on the days you're not playing basketball. I run long distance for the pleasure of it, but the days where I do a crossfit or interval workout instead are noticeably freer.
- One step at a time, and small steps are easier. Maybe you spend some time one night browsing and saving recipes, get to the grocery store another night, do your food prep (chopping, etc.) another night, and ultimately end up cooking roughly one decent meal a week. I'm assuming you're currently not cooking at aware that learning to cook takes a lot of mental energy at the beginning (planning, shopping, dealing with occasional failures) but gets easier.
- Learning to play an instrument on your own is a nebulous & challenging goal. Get some structure if you can - a community ed class, ongoing lessons, a structured introductory practice book.
- Weekend time is better than evening time, especially on days that work is draining. On the nights that you're too worn out to do anything but read the internet, do one short chore - a load of laundry, an errand, anything that's brainless but that otherwise would suck up precious weekend time.
posted by orangejenny at 9:30 AM on August 14, 2016

I think it's a common myth that people can realistically juggle many hobbies successfully. Trying to pack every hour of your day to "make this most of this time" is such a grind. Your 30s is when you realize that even with time you can't actually do it all, and you need to make choices about what you enjoy doing and provides value to you personally.
There really is not enough time. Choose what you want to do and enjoy it, but learn to get comfortable with the idea that you don't have to do everything, you can't do everything, and feeling guilty about neglecting hobbies because you're trying to do it all is a miserable way to live. Your current routine sounds pretty great to me considering you've gotten back to exercise and that is awesome. You can practice cooking or noodling with your car on the weekend, if you find those activities to be enjoyable, but you really don't have to just because you thought you might.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:51 AM on August 14, 2016 [12 favorites]

As a beginning saxophone player, 10-15 minutes to start is enough practice time to makeprogress. It can take some time to develop the physical stamina to maintain a correct embouchure and playing position. That might be something you can get done in the morning. No need to dedicate an hour a day if you're not aiming for Carnegie Hall.
posted by defreckled at 2:10 PM on August 14, 2016

You have to allot your time. I used to be very diehard about going to the gym and now I pretty much only go on weekends if I have the free time. Which is sad, but that change boiled down to (a) my job is super draining now and doesn't let me out of work early to go to the gym any more, and (b) I can't do any other activities I like in a weeknight night AND go to the gym. You can really only do one activity on a weeknight, especially if you can't even get home until later. It sounds like working out/weight loss is your priority right now, so the other things are probably gonna have to wait until the weekends, or you drop working out one night to practice your sax (or whatever) instead.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:34 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gym in the morning. I am very much not a morning person but some hard exercise first thing makes me feel much more awake and refreshed (and hungry) at work in the morning than normal.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:21 AM on August 15, 2016

Assuming you shower in the morning before work, you also save time on showers since your morning and post-gym showers are combined into 1.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:22 AM on August 15, 2016

Nthing recommendations to take some lessons for sax - external pressure can be a really good motivator for practicing. But I also reluctantly agree with ch1x0r in that sometimes there is simply not enough time to do all the things you want to do - while that sounds like kind of a downer response, I think it's ultimately a healthier outlook and can help you to let go of the guilt/indecision that can come from only doing a couple of hobby things at any given time instead of ALL the hobby things. In the U.S., anyway, I think our deeply-rooted, dysfunctional puritan work ethic has a lot to do with making us feel bad/guilty about not hobbying efficiently/productively. It's really kind of absurd and unhealthy when you look at it that way. This stuff is supposed to be for fun!

Yesterday I'd been looking forward to fooling around with my electric guitar a bit, but then it got later and I felt tired and then I felt like I shouldn't play guitar because I've been focusing more on banjo lately, and isn't guitar was a distraction/waste of time and I should just pick one instrument and work on getting really good at it rather than jumping around all the time and so instead of picking up my guitar I let myself slip into 'aimless clicking around the internet' mode and feeling even worse for it. Then I read your question and asked myself what good is it to have an electric guitar if I'm going to talk myself out of playing it? I closed my browser, plugged in my guitar and had fun for 20-30 minutes before going to bed. And it was great! I'm constantly having to remind myself that it's OK to roll with whatever grabs me at the moment, and that I can come back to other things.
posted by usonian at 8:00 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

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