Hobbies for a workaholic engineer.
September 2, 2004 1:56 PM   Subscribe

I am an engineer who is a workaholic. I'm quitting my job & starting another one, with the hopes of keeping more regular hours. Part of my problem is that I don't have commitments after work that require me to be elsewhere. Particularly, I don't have any hobbies that aren't engineering/computer related.
What kind of hobbies would you recommend to a mid-30s adult that could be fun and engrossing and not earth-shatteringly hard to pick up?
posted by j to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cooking... I'm serious, it's a mix or art and science, and the results can be very tasty.
posted by riffola at 1:59 PM on September 2, 2004

Get a dog and take it for walks. It sure makes me leave work on time (there are consequences if you are late). It's also healthy (walking) and a good way to meet other people.
posted by batboy at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2004

Cooking, definitely. Also, some kind of fitness routine helps out a lot. If you bike to and from work, for instance, you'll have a reason to get up early and leave work before sunset, and you'll have some quality outdoor time every day.
posted by josh at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2004

I drive a 45 year old car, (my only car), and always enjoy the car club events. It won't fill your calendar on a daily basis but can really give you something to look forward to. The social interaction with people I might not otherwise have even met is great.
posted by geekyguy at 2:13 PM on September 2, 2004

I am an engineer who is a workaholic.
Night School, take some classes in things that interest you.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:17 PM on September 2, 2004

Rock climbing. The Austin Rock Gym (ARG!) even has Ladies Nights (with free clinics). Engineers love it. It's freakishly easy to pick up, especially for women, and it offers a complete range of "just at the gym, thanks" to "my whole life revolves around this in its exquisite variety." Also offers wonderful opportunities to solve problems with other smart introverts.
posted by caitlinb at 2:30 PM on September 2, 2004

Be a volunteer tutor.
posted by coelecanth at 2:32 PM on September 2, 2004

Adult Education classes. Like Photography or Art or such. Not a huge commitment but they're usually at 6 PM or so, so it forces you to leave work at a certain time.
posted by smackfu at 2:33 PM on September 2, 2004

Austin's got a great Disc Golf scene. Give it a shot and feel free to ask to join a group or another solo player for a round. Most vets are happy to help out newbies.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:35 PM on September 2, 2004

Christ, TV is a great reason to leave work. Get the hell out of there.
posted by jmgorman at 2:39 PM on September 2, 2004

You've gotta figure out what sorts of things might interest you.

One way to do this is to just try lots of things and see which ones you like. Another way is to see what cool things friends of yours do and find out how to learn them. That way you could do stuff with your friends and meet new ones with similar interests.

You could think about if there's something you've aspired to every now and then (like, seeing or hearing something cool and saying - "I wish I could do *that*!")

You could also think back to your past and see if there are some old hobbies that you left behind for whatever reason, and see if you might want to pick them back up again.

Marital arts?
Stained glass?
Remote controlled airplanes?
Playing guitar? piano? accordion?
Collecting postage stamps?
Doing magic tricks?
Ballroom dancing?
posted by jasper411 at 2:42 PM on September 2, 2004

Dungeons and Dragons? I've known some engineers that played. And is good for increasing social contact in general.
posted by stoneegg21 at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

geocaching. get a GPS receiver, find a cache in your area, and go tromp around in the woods. combines techy stuff and playing in the woods.
posted by ShawnString at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2004

i second the volunteer tutoring thing. and IIRC austin is one of the places where books are recorded for the blind, so you could volunteer for that, too. i like vounteering to counteract working too much because it's a committment you can't blow off in a sudden burst of introversion or desire to keep working.

derail: i'd love to know why everyone thinks dogs are a great way to meet people. i love my dog but i've never met anyone because of him. i also stop and talk to dog owners, pet strange dogs, and go to the doggie beach but have yet to make a new friend that way. in my experience people don't equate your liking their dog with your being a fabulous person they must integrate into their life. the whole idea that getting a dog = new friends! just strikes me as odd. /end derail
posted by crush-onastick at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2004

Photography, with a film camera. It's technical enough to engage your engineer side, but creative enough to make your brain work in other ways. Even if you don't consider yourself "artistic," the medium is flexible enough to engage you from a number of different angles (abstract, nature, family photos, events, macro, etc). Unlike a lot of other (non-digital) visual mediums, the turnaround time is pretty short, so it will make the trial-and-error period less taxing, and give you some short term gratification.
posted by samh23 at 2:47 PM on September 2, 2004

i did not even SEE the question 2 questions down...weird.
posted by ShawnString at 2:51 PM on September 2, 2004

haha. I was totally going to say rock climbing. You can have fun climbing at any level. Scared of heights? That's cool. Think of it as a challenge. And, yes science types love rock climbing. You look at a route as a problem. If one solution doesn't work you try something else until it just clicks. It's a lot more mental and techinical than brute strength. And there are a lot of good outdoor places to climb in Texas. My favorite: Hueco Tanks.
posted by trbrts at 2:53 PM on September 2, 2004

a friend of mine who was not a workaholic engineer did this
as well as a robotic dog that he was working on that was more realistically animated as well as drumming in several bands and creating the "Scar of Indiana Machine and Drum Corpse"
(looking for a better link)
not to mention is other "hobbies"---
posted by ethylene at 3:02 PM on September 2, 2004

get your pilot's license
posted by reverendX at 3:19 PM on September 2, 2004

btw, to clarify, he is an engineer, but not a workaholic
posted by ethylene at 3:28 PM on September 2, 2004

Well, if you're at all interested in history you can always join the SCA. No, I'm not kidding. There is a very large, active group in Austin and you can do lots of different, cool things -- everything from armored combat to fencing to leatherworking to dancing to building and operating full size seige engines to ... well, you name it. The SCA is full of a) introverts b) engeneers and other geeky types and c) workaholics. There are even newcomers classes starting up in your area shortly. Plus, its a very fun way to meet lots of people from diverse backgrounds. email me if you have questions and don't think this is a totally off-the-wall idea.
posted by anastasiav at 3:29 PM on September 2, 2004

You have to become passionate about something. With me, as with so many others, I am passionate about cooking and gardening and look forward to spending time and money on both.

This may sound odd, but how about looking around at your living quarters and dedicating yourself to making it unique. I was going to write "absolutely unique" but unique doesn't need any qualifiers. Make it a one-of-a-kind habitat that could have only been dreamt up, created by yourself. This means collections that make you passionate (doorstops, pictures of gargoyles, Japanese swords, old sneakers, bottles of sand from around the world.) Colors that resonate for you. Wall treatments that take time and effort. It feels good to come home to a space that is very inviting to you.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:30 PM on September 2, 2004

Home brewing beer.

The adult-ness of which is debatable.
posted by goethean at 3:38 PM on September 2, 2004

Secret life of gravy! Not to threadjack, but that's got to be the greatest user id ever for someone who loves cooking!

C'mon, what's the story behind the nickname? And don't worry about sounding insane!
posted by jasper411 at 3:40 PM on September 2, 2004

Should have looked at your profile...what do you like would be a start. Art, exercise(biking is big in your town), eating, boating (lake near by)...what would you like to accomplish...or engineer your favorite thing.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:42 PM on September 2, 2004

I find my writing group provides a nice balance to work.
posted by seanyboy at 4:43 PM on September 2, 2004

Ultimate Frisbee. Good way to catch up with and meet new people including cute girls. Great excercise at your own pace depending on the league. Numerous cool throws which are fun to master, and once mastered, feel zen like. Lots of spectacular catches and plays which involve a bit of strategy, accuracy, space, and speed.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:22 PM on September 2, 2004

You can try out my hobby: starting cool new projects and abandoning them. Anything goes: software, electronics, sculpture, painting, music, film, fiction, home improvement, carpentry... you name it.

Since you'd never finish anything, you don't need to be good at any of the above -- nobody would be able to tell anyway. You'll spend your freetime thinking up neat ideas, but won't get bogged down in the tedious details of implementation.

Feel free to e-mail me if you need help getting started getting started.
posted by Eamon at 8:40 PM on September 2, 2004

once i finish preparing for my godforsaken professional engineer exam i plan on taking a local course on welding and start making some wacked out furniture and other various creations.

I'd suggest a hobby where you get to take something from your mind and make it a real world example (i've been building hideous furniture from 2x4's, plywood, and veneered fiberboard from ikea's clearance area (really really cheap) to get off my need for a hobby), as that's what i've found is the driving force behind my engineering behavior. whatever it is it's gotta be something that clicks and where at the end of the day you look back on what you've done and say "damn, that's cool"
posted by NGnerd at 9:55 PM on September 2, 2004

I second the cooking ideas, I never knew how much I would like it. I also propose: re-finishing furniture. In my career, I very rarely get to see a 'finished project' for all of my labor, other than a large stack of paper. Re-finishing furniture has an aesthetically pleasing end product, which I find satisfying.

Tip: Many antique stores have a back room where they store furniture that needs more attention than they are willing to give, so you can find antique furniture with much potential at a reasonable price.
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:23 PM on September 2, 2004

Knitting. Creative, tactile, and actually involves a fair bit of math and lateral thinking. You can even do geeky engineering stuff with it like knitting Fibonacci sequences and making Dr. Who scarves. (Heh.) Join a knitting group or class and you'll have a reason to leave work every night.
posted by web-goddess at 1:50 AM on September 3, 2004

Try an aquarium!
I just inherited a 55 gallon salt water aquarium and am enjoying it very much. Un/fortunately the difficult part had already been done for me (set up stocking) and it is now in maintenance mode.
I'm really getting a quick out of the behavior of some of the critters in the tank. Some fish actually swim up to the cleaner shrimp and 'request' a cleaning from time to time. Pretty cool.
Also, it brightens up the room a bit and is a nice conversation piece.
posted by evilelf at 6:28 AM on September 3, 2004

Bicycling--group rides. Start with "turtle rides" until you're in shape. Oh, and if you're an engineer you have to ride a recumbent. It's the law.
posted by mecran01 at 8:25 AM on September 3, 2004

Response by poster: wow - what a great group of ideas, thank you all so much !!
posted by j at 8:39 AM on September 3, 2004

Try swing dancing.
posted by turbodog at 11:46 AM on September 3, 2004

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