Too many hobbies - how do you decide?
May 10, 2019 10:20 AM   Subscribe

After spending 30 years as an introvert who spent all his time on the internet, I have bloomed into someone with an incredibly busy personal life. I have a ton of projects I want to do, hobbies I want to follow, groups I want to join, events I want to attend, and relationships I want to build. I can't remember the last time I said "I'm Bored" - usually, my sentiment is "I'm too tired." I'm curious how other people think about their activities

I've tried the whole "mission in life" aspect, where you define your mission in life and then focus on activities and relationships that support your mission.

I've also thought a lot about investment in hobbies - for example, my artistic output the past three years has been focused primarily on drawing, illustration, and watercolor. I've put a lot of time into it... yet now I find myself getting really interested in pottery and forestry and glasswork etc.

House projects are also all over the place. If I end the month with an extra $1,000, do I put it into the principle, buy some new shelves, repair the chimney, plant another garden bed, or just save it "just in case"?

I also find myself studying a vast amount of topics, from non profit information, political histories, local history and news, nature, sustainability, etc. And by study I mean - read, take notes, write summaries.

And my relationships are very rewarding but also involve a lot of choice. Do I go to Adam's party or Brett's? Do I invite A, B, or C over for dinner? If I host a cookout, do I invite my work friends, my family friends, my neighborhood friends, my neighborhood lgbtq friends, my art friends, my band friends, my college friends, or.... everybody and hope it all works out?

I would love to hear your experience - how do you identify what you want to do, what projects you are willing to start (or allow yourself to start), what to fill your day with?
posted by rebent to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
What brings you the most enjoyment?

That's really the simplest way to sort it out. And the answer to that question can change on a daily basis. Granted, there are times when "what brings me the most enjoyment" isn't completely healthy (I've had a propensity to "mindless web surfing" recently), but I find that in time the nagging "this is the entertanment equivalent of junk food" feeling overtakes whatever initial seratonin hit I get, so it sort of self-corrects for me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on May 10

I think you want a mix of top down and bottom up thinking.
So you might have lists of things that you want to do or learn. Divide them into three groups: current (like this week or this month), active (this year) and someday. Every week or every month, review your active list and figure out which ones are your current priorities for now. You might also want to set some frequency goals for the active/current stuff - like talk to my parents once a week or practice a foreign language for 15 minutes every other day.

Second part is bottom up - given the invitations, events, other time commitments, what do you WANT to do, using your priorities as a guide not but a firm rule. So, picking Adam's party or Brett - think about both which would fit my mood/be more fun but also when did I see them last, if I don't go when will I see them again and how does that fit with my sense of priority for that relationship.

The key is to be realistic - you aren't going to do everything now. It is better to have a shorter list of priorities that reduces the decision anxiety and helps you stay focused on what you want.
If you don't already, it might help to use a calendar to keep a track of how you actually spend your time. Then at the end of the week or month, you can see how well what you did matched with what you hoped to do. If you didn't do it, try to be honest with yourself about what happened and more realistic in setting your next priorities.
posted by metahawk at 11:12 AM on May 10

I have a few key goals I focus on and then fit everything else around that. For example I enjoy climbing but not enough to do it more than once a week and often not even that. Whereas I love running so do it everyday and schedule races or other challenges to train for. With house projects I try to only have one on the go at a time so even tho it only gets done when I'm free at least they eventually get finished.
Socialising, again some relationships take priority and others fill in the gaps.
Try to be deliberate in how you spend your time and acknowledge those things you neglect in favour of others. We only have so much time to apportion.
posted by JonB at 11:24 AM on May 10

I likewise enjoy too many hobbies; once triaged by fun there are still too many, so I further triage them based on what can they bring to the world that doesn't already exist but ought to, and more crassly, which ones have more earning potential should I want to (or need to) veer that way.
posted by anonymisc at 12:26 PM on May 10

You mentioned you tried the mission oriented approach to hobbies and time management and since you are asking for other ideas it sounds like that idea didn't work out well for you. My question would be, what didn't work for you with that approach?
posted by TestamentToGrace at 12:30 PM on May 10

Oh hey, me too! I have a lot of friends and a lot of hobbies and have been learning how to do it after spending most of my life quite solitary. Learning how to balance it has been a process. What works best for me is setting out some structure in my life. Certain nights of the week are designated for certain types of activities. For example, last night was friend dinner night. Open house type deal, we don’t cook ahead. A rotating cast of friends comes over and cooks with us and plays music and hangs out until it’s time for bed. It’s open invite and often ends up with mixed groups who don’t know each other. Sunday nights are set aside for household maintenance and upkeep, etc.

Setting aside time for the things that matter doesn’t have to be weekly, either. You may have things that you are interested in doing once a month or once a quarter. I have some time blocked out that’s sort of that rotating time. Having structure means I don’t have to do as much choosing between things, because there’s time for each of the things I’m interested in. Choosing between parties is harder, and I usually do it based on who I haven’t seen in awhile or who I want to deepen a relationship with.

(And finally - yes, save that $1,000 extra at the end of the month. If you are a homeowner, you’ll need it for repairs like the chimney.)
posted by stoneweaver at 12:55 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]

You might want to look up Renaissance Soul or multi potentialite.

Passions Pilot has a Passions Portfolio system that may be of interest to you.
posted by divabat at 2:00 PM on May 10

I hesitate to recommend this book because I haven’t read it, and like all “self help” books it’s hard to work out from the blurbs whether it’s nonsense or not... but it’s been on my list of books to look out for for years, so I guess I saw it recommended somewhere, and it sounds up your street... Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. When I wrote it down it was “What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything?” by her, but I think it’s the same book.
posted by fabius at 2:16 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]

I listed them all out and picked top contenders from each category - spiritual, sport, hobby, friends. In my case it was, meditation, soccer, sewing, and Friends X and Y. Not to say I didn’t do the other ones but I know those are my top ones.

As for spending money, I did a financial budget and a year plan - what house upgrades did I want done by the end of the year.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:10 PM on May 10

Well I'll second the recommendation of Refuse to Choose, I loved it because it had very practical ideas about how to go about having many hobbies and interests at the same time. I like to learn new things to a 'competent' level, and then move on to other things. I might get back to it in a few years or not. Some things I do very well I keep going in the background, like piano or Spanish. This year I had an idea for a carving design on an emu egg. I made a practice version, and figured out how to do what I have in mind, so now I'm going to carve the final one and don't expect to ever do it again. I love the classes in Coursera etc that are project based, when I've finished the class I have a working coding project or whatever, and then I move on to something new. I try to finish things regularly so I don't have to keep track of 100 things at a time, but if I'm honest I really do everything at once and if it's taking too long I might focus on one thing to finish off a project.

I had today off so I walked the dog, worked in the garden for an hour, worked on a papercraft project for an hour while watching the next lesson of a Coursera programming class, practiced piano for 30 mins, listened to a chapter of Harry Potter in Spanish, watched a watercolor tutorial and painted for two hours, did some laundry, read quite a lot of a mystery novel, and now I haven't quite decided what I want to do with the evening. I have a partially finished clay octopus, and some unhung canvases, and a couple things to spray paint, so that's probably the plan.

Most days aren't quite like that, sometimes I can only do one thing, or between work and working out there's no time left, but if you take today and spread it over the week, that's my usual way of doing all the things.

I chose projects by making long lists in different categories (languages, music, painting, clay, house, garden, papercraft, 3d printing, programming, whatever) , and picking a couple from each category. House and garden projects might get priorities based on how urgent something is or how much something is bugging me, but other than that I do whatever is most interesting for a few months, and add new things and hit pause on others based on what I'm most interested by at the moment.

Anyhow, reading back over your question, you really should read Refuse to Choose, there is even a section specifically about studying and taking notes and cycling through different topics. Some people like me do all the things all the time, others might focus on one thing for a few months or years and then move to the next thing. She had very practical suggestions for how to handle wanting to do everything.
posted by lemonade at 6:55 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]

I get obsessed with stuff and projects! A few topics I get very dogged about and pursue for a long time, following branches into their intricacies, cycling back, trying to dig deeper, refining my mission over decades. These are things I have to do. Others are more like enjoyable, superficial diversions that I do when there’s nothing more important on my agenda - things I like to do. Some are just weekend flings and don’t go anywhere - but still joyful.

Aside from diverse interests, I also enjoy this process itself - the diversity of my engagement in topics, and the succession of how one thing leads to another and how experiences become more and more complex as I go and often reinforce one another.

And at that point it’s not about ‘what’s most enjoyable’ anymore - e.g., reading a challenging book that takes me out of my comfort zone is often not fun in the moment, but a year later I’ll listen to a piece of music and it clicks into place and I understand it on a deeper level? That is deeply fulfilling, and in a way, not predictable or planable.

Honestly, trying to steer that whole process would be about as hopeless as steering who to fall in love with or who to befriend, and writing out plans would take the joy out of it. YMMV.
posted by The Toad at 8:46 PM on May 10

I ran into this kind of thing when I retired. I keep a lot of lists: I’ve got no shortage of projects.

The only area that requires discipline is in making realistic decisions about whether or not to add a project to my Master List. My primary limiting factor is space. At some point I should probably move to a larger house, or buy or rent a studio space somewhere.

In the meantime, I just kinda naturally bounce around between the most ‘interesting’ 3 or 4 projects. I enjoy the freedom of doing choosing whatever I want to do.
posted by doctor tough love at 4:51 AM on May 11

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