(anti-workaholic) hobbies
June 30, 2019 2:50 PM   Subscribe

I've come to the realization that I'm kind of a workaholic, and I think it's because I don't have anything to look forward to outside of work. Hobby suggestions? Requirements within!

Please help me brainstorm ideas for hobbies? I'm looking for something that:

- takes up no more than 1 hr on a daily basis (I work in an office and don't get home until after 8pm)
- has the potential to lead to skill development at a deeper level if done for extended periods of time (either something for which I can progressively become more skilled at, or something that's a "practice makes perfect" kind of deal. For better or worse, I've found that this is the defining characteristic that keeps me interested in something. Maybe this is why I'm a workaholic...)
- preference for something that is not purely intellectual (i.e. learning a language) as my day work is already pretty mentally exhausting
- can be done at home (small apartment, no roommates) or in an urban environment (I live in NYC)
- can be done solo (would not mind suggestions that occasionally needs interacting with others, but I am unpartnered, so it would be difficult for me to do pair activities with regularity)
- can involve a moderate amount of equipment (provided nothing outrageous, money is not an issue, but I do have a small apartment so probably no bulky equipment)

Please send me your ideas, orthodoxed or unorthodoxed!
posted by dragonfruit to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like knitting would be right up your alley?
posted by ejs at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2019 [7 favorites]

I'm basically you, I think. Hobbies I'm into that fit your requirements:
  • Acoustic guitar (or electric, through headphones): Depending on how thin the walls are, this may be a no-go with neighbors. I live in a pretty modern building and have never had any complaints. Low floor (open chords + rhythm will get you through a lot of things), very high ceiling, lots of reference and lessons online, plus I'm sure you can find evening lessons in NYC if you go looking. Bonus: You get a cool skill that's useful (in moderation) at parties. You can diversify into all sorts of effects/recording gear and techniques if you want to get creative.
  • 3d printing / CAD: If you're into making physical things, this is basically the only apartment-safe variant I know of. I've got a couple of printers, the first one I bought, a Maker Select 2.1, cost <$350, is perfectly serviceable, and sits on an Ikea lack table in a corner. if you just want to play around there are even cheaper/smaller options to try (sub-$200). Autodesk Fusion360 has a free personal/educational/hobby license, and while yea it's vendor-lockin, files-in-the-cloud, it's perfectly fine to play with. You could start printing things from thingiverse on an unmodified hobby printer, and end up designing parts to make your printer better (or whatnot).
  • Visual art: My flavor is mostly "wacom tablet + open-source drawing software" but there's all kinds of options and lots of community online. If you want to get a bit more technical, Blender (3d modeling/animation/rendering software) is free and also has a pretty active community. Again, not difficult to get started but LOTS of room to grow.
  • Knitting: When I worked long days in IT field support right out of college, I taught myself to knit to have something mindless, but requiring intense focus, to do after work to make my brain shut up and calm down. Bonus: you get cool things you can give people. Again, it's pretty easy to knit a scarf, difficulty scales from there up to sweaters and etc.
  • Micro quadcopters: At this point you can buy in for less than $500 all-up ($150 indoor quadcopter with blade guards, box goggles, $100-ish cheap radio). There's a whole community building/tweaking/racing these things. I guarantee you there's a 'close down a bar and race little quads through lit-up rings' league somewhere in NYC.
You may be into different stuff than I am, but, good luck! You are not alone in feeling like you feel, I can assure you of that, anyway!
posted by Alterscape at 3:01 PM on June 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Knitting or crocheting
Cooking or baking
Playing guitar or piano (with a keyboard)
posted by Mchelly at 3:08 PM on June 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I enjoy drawing. There are some great basic videos on YouTube to get you started drawing shapes and shading them.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 3:33 PM on June 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Based on your criteria, I would suggest the catchall hobby of cardmaking (which kind of includes stamping, die cutting, and other side stuff like watercoloring, coloring with markers, etc.).

I love it because it's easy to start off, doesn't take up too much space, and you can pick it up and put it down whenever you want. Plus you get to make things you can give away! There are some great stamp shops in NYC and they regularly hold cardmaking classes if you want to get a taste of what you can do.
posted by jraz at 3:34 PM on June 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

- Knitting and/or crochet. Definitely something you can increase in skill, but isn't outrageously expensive if you buy less expensive yarn or thrift it. Great for when you don't have a lot of brain but still engaging enough to be mentally stimulating.
- Drawing. Taking part in something like r/SketchDaily can be a lot of fun, and definitely fits the increase in skill bill. I almost exclusively use a drawing tablet, so after that initial investment it's a zero cost hobby.
- Reading. You may not think of this as a skill, but I've found that you really need to build up to more complex works; there are a lot of books I've bounced off of only to come back to years later and finally feel equipped to understand them. May be too mentally stimulating, though. But definitely doesn't have to be expensive if you use your library.
- Video games. There's two levels of skill to this: one is the skill you build in every game specific to that game; the second is the overall skills you build in particular genres (FPS, point and clicks, platformers, etc.). You don't need a big fancy gaming PC to get started, and there's loads of indie games nowadays that don't need high intensity graphics. The nice thing is you can adjust it to your current mental energy; complex puzzlers for when you want some intellectual stimulation, mindless action game when you don't.
posted by brook horse at 3:35 PM on June 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Baking bread, pancakes, waffles, crumpets and other desserts and pastry items. Being able to whip up homemade Belgian waffles from scratch is a huge treat. And it definitely takes time to perfect a chocolate chip cookie recipe.


Reading specific types of books (“all the classics”, all of one author, philosophy 101 etc)

Model making or LEGO kits!

If you’re into skincare, I love geeking out on my nighttime routine with different products. Part of it is reading and researching what different ingredients do. Or any other self care - oral health (activated charcoal toothpaste and proper flossing), nails (cuticle oil! Special scissors!) etc.

Yoga is good for this especially Ashtanga yoga, google “primary series”. It’s a specific sequence of poses you do over and over and it lends an intimacy to the practice that I didn’t get from other classes.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:47 PM on June 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

For compactness: recorder or penny whistle, although the latter plays one key so you may need several. Also, embroidery takes up little space and is quite portable, also inexpensive if you design your own patterns or use books rather than kits. You need fabric, thread, needles and a hoop. Cross stitch doesn't even require a hoop. The results can be framed, made into pillows, incorporated into garments, etc.
posted by Botanizer at 4:02 PM on June 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm one of those creepy middle-aged ladies without children who makes.... dollhouses? I put them together, paint, decorate and furnish them. I buy some things and make others, but in general I enjoy the tools, the crafting, the decorating, the wiring, and the teenyness of it. I also watch a lot of YT videos from makers when I#'m not doing, so in that way it is a nice, flexible and relaxing hobby.

I restrict myself to one dollhouse at a time for space reasons and they make good gifts and charity auction donations when completed, so there's somewhat of a point to them.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:20 PM on June 30, 2019 [15 favorites]

You might enjoy juggling.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:56 PM on June 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

pottery classes at Greenwich House
posted by Morpeth at 5:00 PM on June 30, 2019

Painting in acrylic is fun and not too messy or expensive. Just playing with colors and strokes is soothing.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 5:24 PM on June 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Crochet. A skein of yarn, a hook (I like G, H, or I), something to cut the yarn, a big eye needle (don't wait decades to get several), and a few books of stitches and ideas.
We live in an age of marvels. Access to YouTube instructions, online groups, libraries filled with books, magazines, and ebooks.
I'm all about Red Heart Supersaver yarn, available at Wal-Mart and Joanns and Michaels, and also Hobby Lobby's I Love This Yarn. You may prefer wools and cottons to synthetics. You may get into spinning and hand dying.

Learn slip stitch, single crochet, half double, double, and triple. Learn granny stitch. Learn how to make granny squares. Learn how to make long, narrow scarves. Learn how to join the squares and rectangles into lap blankets.

I hate working in tag ends at the beginning and end of the length of yarn. My solution? This Susan Bates finishing plastic knitting needle and weaving the 3-inch tag end back in the fabric in a Z shape, S shape or hairpin shape back onto itself. Still a pain, but the tags don't work out of place over time.
I hate working with black and dark yarns. My solution? This Crochet Lite hook (remember to remove the batteries when not using it for a while) and not crocheting gifts in dark colors on request.

It's summer, so I hate working on large projects in my lap. But I'm working up all my small balls of leftover yarn into granny squares, which I will turn into blankets after the first hard frost.
This is my fiberart. Even when I make a mistake, it will keep someone warm.
posted by TrishaU at 5:33 PM on June 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Close-up magic.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:51 PM on June 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Sorry if this is something you already do, but working out can be a nice hobby. With cardio you can improve by getting faster or by going longer distances. For strength training you can improve by increasing the weight you (safely) lift or the number of repetitions you perform. You can sign up for a 5K run, a charity walk, or a bike ride if you'd like to set a goal to provide motivation to train. After you get in a workout routine, exercise can (at least for some people) become addictive. You may find yourself not wanting to stay too late at the office because you have a workout to fit in before bed.
posted by mundo at 8:23 PM on June 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm doing hand tool woodworking in a one bedroom. Using plain pine with hand planes (no sandpaper) means sawdust removal can be done the old fashioned way - with a broom and dustpan (or a shopvac). The trick is to keep sawdust out of the bedroom because you don’t want your bedsheets billowing dust up into the air every time you roll over.

It's a rewarding hobby but can also be a very frustrating. I think sharpening hand tools should be a fundamental human skill - it means you don’t need to buy a new bit or blade every time your power tool is dull. It teaches you about patience, the value of failure. Learning for yourself that traditional methods are sensible puts you in touch with a type of communal consciousness.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:19 PM on June 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

Depending on your predelictions, playing with an Arduino may be up your street. It can stay simple, extend to the not quite as simple (programmable LED strips are fun, and cheap from Aliexpress - requires a 5V PSU, also easy enough to lay hands on). Generally, learning involves taking a working example program and changing it to see what happens. You can also take it to the complicated (soldering circuits, of which many are available online, playing with home automation, etc.). If you do a tech job, it may be enjoyable because it builds on skills you have, or it may be too much like work, but a straightforward Arduino kit with bits and pieces goes for $30 on Amazon so it's not terribly expensive if you decide it's not your bag. (If you don't program then the level required is not terribly much for the basic things and there are plenty of online resources.)

Raspberry Pis take you the same direction and are a full blown computer that will run their own desktop. They play to grade school users (so relatively straightforward), but actually connecting them to other stuff is a little more complex.

3D printers frequently come as kits. Think Ikea on steroids. If that is going to annoy you before you even start, then don't go there. For me it's like a satisfying jigsaw.

Of all things, spinning yarn with a drop spindle is not that complex and is a skill you can build on, has the potential to be social, and after the first bit of frustration getting the hang of it becomes quite satisfying, but you will be making yarn and will need to find a use for it (see knitting/crochet). In your vicinity, there used to be a specialist shop in Brooklyn for this; there are probably others. It's sub $50 to get the bits to give it a go.

Of knitting and crochet, making rookie mistakes with crochet is generally less catastrophic (nothing is worse than the first time a knitting needle slips out of your work).

Talking of which, learning knots is also a useful skill; it probably has a finite lifespan, but knowing the basics has helped me so many times to know what I'm doing with a bit of rope, from hanging things from trees to tying things down in a moving van. It will take you to the fancy and decorative if you want it to.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 9:34 PM on June 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Plus one for powerlifting. Steady progression for at least a year, at which point you either make your peace with "only" squatting 300lb or you get serious about it or you branch out into Olympic lifting or bodyweight stuff or something.

Same for riding a bike. You can commute to work or just go for fun rides. On the weekends, the NYCC runs group rides ranging from 10 miles in one hour to 100 miles in five hours. Sign up for the spring training series if you haven't risen much before. They're super beginner friendly.

There are also a number of social dances that don't require you to bring your own partner. For example, square dancing (bandana very much optional), contra, English (did you ever watch the BBC pride and prejudice and want to be Darcy?), Scottish. All the styles I just listed meet on weeknights, so you'll have some incentive to leave the office.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 10:20 PM on June 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Origami. It's worth investing in the special paper for the more complicated models, but you can basically practice anywhere with pretty much anything, flyers, leaflets, waste-paper in the office, etc.

Calligraphy/handlettering. Also pretty compact in terms of material needed. Very pretty, very calming. Comes in handy when ever it's time to class up an invitation, a birthday card, or guestbook entry.
posted by sohalt at 10:44 PM on June 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Sewing fits these requirements...I see quilts and garments, and either would meet all of the criteria on your list.
posted by christinetheslp at 1:11 AM on July 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Drawing, ukulele, quilt-making, cross-stitch, knitting, crochet, collage, singing, pastel work ... these are all things you can do for just an hour - or even less - here and there.

Pottery, suggested above, is wonderful and very absorbing but for me demands more than an hour. I don't think I've ever been able to complete a session at the wheel in under an hour - for me it's generally at leas 2 hours to wedge (prep the clay), set up, throw my pieces, clean up my wheel and tools, and put away my pieces, plus I have to use a studio with a wheel and am restricted to working when it's open. Handbuilding might be easier to do at home with less equipment? And people seem to be doing some fun things with polymer and air dry clay, too.
posted by bunderful at 5:25 AM on July 1, 2019

I started sewing my own clothes a couple of years ago (in a small apartment) and it's a very satisfying hobby in that it (a) fulfils a need (I don't love waste), (b) definitely has skill progression that can easily keep me learning for decades in drafting and techniques, (c) is nothing like my day job and has smaller problems to solve, and (d) can be done in steps based on time available. Unless you're looking for slow sewing and working by hand, it requires a machine, fabric scissors, pins, marking tools, and the fabric, pattern, thread, and notions to go with your project, with a flat surface for the machine and a table or floor space to cut the pattern and fabric. There is a world of patterns out there for all shapes, styles, and gender presentations - here's a searchable database at the Fold Line for starters - and indie patterns in particular attract a lot of blogging/vlogging/instagramming showing how people adjust for their own bodies.

I also knit (especially when too tired to sew/looking to curl up and watch something) and work out, but sewing is the most utterly satisfying hobby after many years of dabbling in creative projects.
posted by carbide at 6:39 AM on July 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Letter writing/postcard writing/pen pal: quick and easy ways to jump in are Postcrossing or Swap-Bot. For a more serious ongoing pen pal, try joining the Letter Writer's Alliance (membership, one-time: $5) and request a pen pal. They hand match each request. Get socially or politically active by joining Amnesty International's Write for Rights letter writing campaign, Postcards to Voters (USA-oriented), the Postcard Happiness Project, writing to an incarcerated person (don't have a site to suggest for this, sorry). Commit to sending a physical birthday card to your friends and family for a year (and continue next year if you like it!).

Basic needs: paper and envelopes or postcards, pen, stamps. Stationary, pens, and ink can easily become their own fun offshoot of the hobby.
Completely scalable for the commitment you want to make.
Bonus: you get fun mail!

Optional: keep a journal of the post you send & receive. Especially useful with pen pals so you can keep notes on what you wrote about last time.
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:16 AM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Take up rock climbing. Climbing gyms are open late. It is so different from daily life that it's pretty thrilling. While I'm not, like, euphoric while doing it, (just, enjoying it), few hobbies have given me that kind of fervent desire to get out of the office and go do That Other Thing now. All you'll need to keep at home is a harness and shoes. You can definitely see improvement as you move from routes of one grade to the next.
posted by slidell at 8:30 AM on July 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Amateur radio!

Amateur radio does not require a large footprint and covers an entire subset of hobbies that all somehow intersect in RF somewhere. These include: storm spotting/emergency communications/event support, low power/long distance communication, digital modes, morse code, software-defined radio, satellite communications, high-altitude balloons, microwave, semi-competitive contests, diy/scratch-building, experimentation, and so on. Many of these also intersect with non-ham hobbies like drones, rocketry, and amateur radio astronomy. In short, there's a whole raft of electronic/radio-maker-type technical pursuits that all sort of aggregate under the heading of amateur radio. Long-term learning is probably the most significant common element and in these days of Pis, SDR dongles, and other frankly amazing gadgets, there's never been a better time to get into it.* Communication is a major aspect of course, so it helps if there's someone (or some thing) on the other end to respond, but these conversations can be pretty perfunctory and amount to "I hear you so-and-so loud" with "...and I hear you so-and-so loud as well kthxbye." No long convos needed.

* - current sunspot conditions notwithstanding
posted by jquinby at 9:25 AM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ultra-local history on a website, starting with your own building and then all the buildings that were on that site before it. Write the history of the building (or buildings) and thumbnail biographies of the people who lived there. Go back as far as you can, maybe to when it was just part of an orchard (what kind? who owned it?) and, before that, maybe just woods (what sort of woods?).

Take pictures of the current place (especially old details if it's an old building). Find and digitize old photos. If it's a multi-tenant building, interview old-timers and what they know about the building and former tenants. Read newspaper archives to see who did what there (or who lived there and did interesting things elsewhere).

Document how and where you found everything (websites, libraries, government agencies, etc.). Put full credits on everything. If it works out and turns out to be interesting, do it for other places or show other people how to do it (as part of the website). Teach kids how to do it and give them a little help.
posted by pracowity at 11:40 AM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Serious model ship building. By which I mean wood, not plastic.
posted by BWA at 12:27 PM on July 1, 2019

- Building elaborate scenes in Minecraft creative
- Cross stitch
- wood burning
- running/jogging/walking
- Twitter bot building
- pokemon cards
posted by typecloud at 1:21 PM on July 1, 2019

A quiet musical instrument is worth a try. I bought myself a pretty good electronic piano with the same goal last year. (The only instruments I can actually play are so loud that I wouldn't dare play them in my building during the hours when I'm ever home.) Sadly, I've proven pretty good at putting it off.

Long walks with a goal also work for me, e.g., walk every street in your city council district, walk 500 cumulative miles in a month.
posted by eotvos at 1:49 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding piano (or ukulele). Electric keyboards are easy to find at Goodwill or on CL. Check out some basic piano books and when you have time, take a few lessons? Ukulele can be more social if you have a chance to meet up with other players.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:24 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Get this MIDI Keyboard (or something similiar.) You get software that emulates thousands of different synths, pianos, etc. as well as Ableton Live Lite, where you can experiment with recording, sampling, looping, and all sorts of cool computer/music stuff.

So for 200 bucks you basically get a number of different hobbies: learning to play piano (and music theory, and read music,) messing around with all the synths and learning how to manipulate sound with them (an entire other musical world,) and Ableton, which can do some really cool stuff beyond just recording or editing.

Whatever you do, I highly recommend learning an instrument. It's very rewarding in a number of different ways.
posted by saul wright at 12:38 AM on July 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm seconding bunderful on the suggestion of polymer clay. Tons of great tutorials on YouTube to get you started, takes up very little space, basic tools are inexpensive, bakes in a standard oven or toaster oven. I find working with it very calming and meditative and I'm constantly striving to improve my sculptures.
posted by komara at 7:16 AM on July 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Video games! You can choose ones that are more focused on quick reflexes, or on exploring a different world, or on logic puzzles, depending on your preferences.
posted by metasarah at 11:20 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

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