Work can be a grind, so it’s important to have hobbies on the side to help you relax, focus, and overall, stay productive.
We’ve compiled a list of hobbies that absolutely anybody can get into, but would take a lifetime to master. Consider setting aside some time each week between your work, family and other obligations to try these out and incorporate it into your routine!
With social media, people have gradually shifted their reading habits from concentrated reading to skimming for facts. Deep-reading harkens back to a time when people found solitary places to read long texts, often focusing on the symbols, themes, and concepts presented by the book. You can do it with any book, just slow down your reading pace so you can fully absorb each sentence with clarity. Visit Longreads for some other in-depth interviews, books, stories, and essays. Check out Novel Coworking’s list of 8 must-read books for 2018.
If you really want to stay productive in your free time, the best thing you can do is to exercise. Doesn’t matter what kind you do- whether it’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Crossfit, yoga, or just a quick run- getting your heart and lungs pumping can be liberating while helping you stay focused and energized. Look for gyms and fitness centers near your home, and try to fit in an hour or two of training before or after work. Above all, exercising can help you stay fit and healthy, especially if you sit in front of a computer at work for most of the day.
Everybody wishes they had more time to cook. The truth is there is time! Sometimes the biggest challenge is finding the right recipe- one that doesn’t take too long and doesn’t require multiple trips to the grocery store. Allrecipes is an awesome starting point. They have a gallery of popular recipes with reviews from the community, a recipe finder with ingredient search, and filters for cooking time or cuisine. Save your money, stay healthy, and develop one of the most important skills by cooking at least twice a week. You won’t regret it.
Writing a blog or journal
Writing isn’t just one of the most productive hobbies, it can also be a great method of recording moments, thoughts, and feelings, as well as a timeless way of communicating with someone miles, or even centuries apart. One way to practice writing is through a blog. Not only do blogs let you communicate with readers directly, but it has become a way of earning money for many writers. We recommend reading The Minimalists’ guide to starting a blog, which walks you through each step in detail. Don’t feel like sharing your thoughts with the world quite yet? Try out journaling. Journals can help you think through complex issues and emotions, without fear of being judged.
Drawing and painting
Similar to writing, drawing can be a powerful alternative to traditional communication, like speech or the written word. Drawing (and painting) can help reveal hidden emotions and thoughts, and revisit how we view the world. However, compared to methods of traditional communication, the barrier to entry for drawing is typically higher and is not often treated with the same importance. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain has become a popular introductory course and book taught by Betty Edwards. After just a few pages of reading and practicing, you too will realize drawing isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be, and can actually be deeply relaxing and satisfying.
Time is never wasted when it’s spent helping someone else. There’s something profoundly rewarding about using your free time to volunteer at a soup kitchen, contribute to a charity, or assist at a shelter. Visit Idealist and VolunteerMatch for safe matches with organizations and activities based on your skills and experiences. It doesn’t take much to make a difference.
Programming isn’t just about making apps or video games- it represents the language of the future. That’s why so many schools have begun teaching it as part of the curriculum. The next generation will develop software and programs that we’ve never dreamed of. But even as a hobby, programming will teach you new ways of problem-solving that can be applied to other fields and aspects of your life. Codecademy offers an easy way to learn through a code editor with a built-in tutorial and preview window. Harvard University’s CS50 course is just as good, complete with filmed lectures, problem sets, exams, and homework.
Travel and Sightseeing
Travel shouldn’t be limited to the once-a-year vacations! You don’t have to plan a whole month or save a fortune, you can start exploring the world on a shoestring budget. Try using Skyscanner, a website and app for tracking the best flight deals. You probably already know about Airbnb, but you can get the local experience and stay places for free through Couchsurfing. Want to stay somewhere fancier? HotelTonight lets you know which hotels have discounts tonight or the following night. Even if you can’t get away for a weekend, you can always explore your own city. You’re bound to find something you didn’t know was there before.
Have experience with dogs? Why not walk them in your own time? Get some cardio in your free time while exploring local areas and meeting new pups. On top of it all, you can make some extra cash on the side (some walkers make up to $20 for each walk!). Check out Wag!, an LA-based dog-walking app that connects walkers with pet owners. Check to see if your city is supported.
Here’s our advice- give it some time! Hobbies aren’t supposed to be stressful second jobs, they’re meant to provide some levity and balance to your existing obligations. Put in a few hours in each week, and you’re guaranteed to develop some skills and perspectives that can even help you in your daily work.
Check out our previous blog on getting a productive start to your morning.
Make sure to follow our blog for more guides and posts on productivity and all things entrepreneurship.
What kind of office environment do you have?
No one wants to work in a depressing cubicle that lacks any sort of inspiration. Design your respective space within the work environment—no matter how small it may be—into your own! Add personality. Decorate with flavor. Enjoy where you spend so many of your days. There could be a total genius inside of you that’s being inhibited by a boring workspace.
Of course, no two office environments are the same. You may be operating in a coworking floor, a private office space, or even working from home. Design and decoration ideas may differ greatly depending on your set, so we’ll cover each type so you don’t feel left out.
Shared Office Space Decorations
Hang up some art, quotes, and graphics
If you’re going to be sharing the same space, it’s important to make your space lively! Invest in some artwork or other visual, whether it’s inspirational, informational, or just light-hearted. Xcite Prom, a Novel Coworking client, set up their space to feature some words of encouragement and teamwork on one wall, and have a wooden map of their other locations on the other wall.
Add a mini accent wall
For a pop of color as well as a boost in productivity, you can install a colored glass writing board. Anything from photos, stickers, and magazine cutouts to goal lists, notes, and ideations can be stuck on to it. If you prefer a more decorative route, forget the board and throw in a chic art piece or framed poster that matches the overall theme you’re going for. The accent wall can be painted, which is allowed and even encouraged at Novel Coworking.
Show off your company logo
Be proud of who you are and what you represent. It will serve as a reminder of your end goal, whether it be in the short or long term. Moreover, a hanging logo will spread awareness by presenting your brand to the others working in the shared space. Novel Coworking allows brands to completely customize their office door however they please.
Small Office Decorations
Choose a color palette
Do you work better in light colors with pretty pastel accents? Do bright colors help jumpstart your day? Find a palette that isn’t annoying to look at all day every day. A classic choice consists of neutrals that have a strong emphasis on white as the foundation. It’s timeless, clean, and the perfect base to match any other workspace addition.
Check out a related post we wrote: How to Create an Engaging Workplace.
Buy a desk or floor light
This has two awesome advantages. First off, chances are that your eyes are completely strained by the end of the day. A little extra light can make a huge difference. The type of bulb and shade matters too—consider bright, soft, or maybe even natural lighting. Secondly, the lighting can create a heartening feel, as if it’s the sort of lamp you would adorn your home with. It should be in the style that makes you feel more like you.
Bring life to your workspace
Having a few plants can go a long way. Take it from someone who’s bad at keeping plants alive—succulents are easy! Greenery is refreshing to be around, especially in a private office environment. Flowers are beautiful without requiring much work either. However, they do have a shorter lifespan, needing to be replaced quite often. Other forms of life, like goldfish or beta fish, are great to have as well. Believe it or not, they’re as easy to take care of as the plants are.
Office Desk Decorations
Set up a dual display
Sometimes one screen just isn’t enough. Consider creating a set up that allows you to use an external monitor with your laptop, or use a dual monitor computer. While it may take some getting used to, we promise that you’ll become a productivity master in no time.
Keep it simple
You don’t need any fancy sculptures or organizers on your desk. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to just keep it clean and empty. Taking the minimalist approach helps you remove clutter while keeping your mind clear and stress-free.
Use the essentials only
Maybe the zen approach is too bare-bones for you. Some people need the basic office supplies to get through the day, like staplers, post-it notes, scissors, and paper dividers. Pick only what you need every other hour, then put everything else away. Congratulations, you now have a lean and efficient workstation you can use.
Remember- this is your space. Embellish it however you believe will keep your creativity flowing. Curious to read more office design tips? Check out our previous posts on boosting productivity through office redesign, and office layout do’s and don’ts.
Time is a resource just as important as money. With only a few hours in the day dedicated to work, how you spend them can impact your overall bottom line.
Business owners and entrepreneurs should strive to find new ways of saving and managing time. A great starting point is finding a robust collaborative calendar app that encourages communication and teamwork.
Why you should use a collaborative calendar
Better time management – To-do lists aren’t enough. If you really want to get things done, block out a time during your day to work on that project or task. Seeing your task as a part of your day will motivate you to better plan the rest of your week.
Reminders – Forget to return a call? Showed up late for a meeting? Next time set an alert by scheduling it on your calendar. No matter what you’re doing, a quick notification on your phone will make sure you’re on time.
Clearer team communication – Stop worrying about time zones or conflicts- sending someone a calendar invite ensures they have the event in their calendar as well. Better yet, sharing a whole calendar with your team allows them to see your weekly agenda.
Want some tips for better managing your time? Check out our previous post on time management hacks.
Top Five Collaborative Calendar Apps
For many businesses, Google Calendar and the rest of the Google Suite has become the defacto cloud setup. It’s easy to use, has a sleek interface, and best of all, is free. No wonder it’s become so popular. Inviting others to view your calendar through a unique URL can be convenient for colleagues. Best of all, it’s already integrated into your Gmail account, so you can easily schedule meeting requests or calls.
If your organization uses Apple hardware, Apple Calendar will already be installed. Make no mistake, Apple Calendar is a sleek app. The interface is as simple as it gets, echoing the same visual design seen in other Apple apps. While Apple Calendar may lack flashy extensions and is limited to Apple and iOS devices, the company’s apps have always centered on simplicity and user experience. As some people say: “It just works.”
Apple uses Calendar, and Microsoft relies on Outlook. Many businesses with desktops continue to use Outlook for its Microsoft Office integration- allowing them to manage emails, contacts, tasks, events in a unified setup. Features include team calendar sharing, side-by-side comparisons, and sending meeting requests straight from email or the calendar. Unlike Apple Calendar, Outlook can be used on both Windows and Apple devices. Subscriptions start at $6.99/month or $69.99/year. You can also purchase Office 2016 completely at $149.99 (for the Home & Student version). Fortunately, the mobile versions are free.
Looking for a more casual, social-oriented calendar set up? Try UpTo. Unlike other calendars on this list, UpTo resembles more of an enclosed social network for planning events- allowing you to view your colleague’s activities in real time, with options for liking and commenting. The app also allows you to follow other calendars, like the schedule of your favorite TV show, or your favorite sports team. You can even set up groups for work, family, projects, and more. Best of all, UpTo integrates with your existing calendars, including Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Facebook Events.
Maybe you just want people to view upcoming events or projects neatly without all the trouble of setting up accounts and permissions. That’s what TeamUp is for. Designed with a colorful interface, TeamUp works to simplify team collaboration. The calendar is so dynamic and customizable, it has been used by everyone from the education industry to technology, including Harvard University, NASA, HPE, Philips, Red Bull and more. Visit their website for a deeper look into real use cases.
As with most tools, a calendar is just a means to an end. You shouldn’t expect your organization to radically change overnight. Collaborative organizational values and practices have to be instilled over time, but having a calendar is a great place to start. When businesses can internally communicate more clearly about what they’re working on, and when client meetings have reminders before they start, operations become almost automatic.
Are digital tools getting in the way of your productivity and organization? Try an analog method with the bullet journal.
People spend more of their waking hours at work than with their family or friends, and thus it only makes sense that employers should strive to cultivate workplace environments that promote healthy, happy living. One of the steps that companies have taken to enhance the workplace has been through implementing employee wellness incentives. These policies not only drastically improve employee lifestyles, but they also often lead to greater employee motivation and efficiency.
So, which wellness incentives should you consider offering to your own team? Here are a few ideas from some of the leaders in wellness.
Wellness Incentive Ideas
Dedicated Medical Clinic (Apple)
Apple has long been a favorite place to work- the company knows how to take care of its people. Most recently, the brand announced the launch of health clinics specifically for employees and families. In partnership with AC Wellness, the service promises to offer a “concierge-like healthcare experience.” Details are scarce, but career pages on AC Wellness’s website indicate the involvement of primary care doctors, exercise coaches, and care navigators. You don’t need something on Apple’s level for your own business, but having some sort of healthcare program or connection to doctors and medical facilities will ensure your team is protected in the event of an emergency.
Life Insurance and Disability Coverage (Costco)
No matter what line of work you’re in, accidents can happen. You may break a bone or contract an illness, and the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not you have enough money to look out for yourself or your family. Companies like Costco have begun offering life insurance plans to both full and part-time employees at no cost. Such plans include basic insurance and accidental death and dismemberment coverage. For eligible employees, Costco will even cover both short-term and long-term disabilities even if the accident or illness is non-work related. Startups can take inspiration from Costco’s leniency and take care of their employees whether they’re salaried or hourly.
Travel Allowance (Expedia UK)
Nothing reinvigorates and refreshes the mind like a good vacation. Expedia UK understands this and offers some of the most competitive travel benefits within the industry. Business Insider even called it “the happiest office in London”, because employees are treated to a generous travel allowance. As long as you’ve been with the company for more than 12-18 months, you’re eligible to receive between $8,500 to $14,000 towards vacations. Equally important is that by offering an allowance instead of a specific deal, employees have greater freedom in choosing where to go. For small and medium businesses, it’s not uncommon to start seeing allowances for fitness (such as gym memberships and yoga classes).
Company Vacations (Virool)
Sometimes the best way to bond with your team is outside of work. Company vacations can provide an outlet for stress while allowing team members to improve their teambuilding skills. Based on a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, 94% of vacations have a positive effect on energy and outlook upon returning to work. Virool, the popular video service, creates opportunities to explore and travel their local Bay Area and beyond. Previous trips include camping at Yosemite, getaways to Mexico, and wine tours in Napa. The company also covers trips to other corporate offices- including San Francisco, New York, and St. Petersburg. Taking your team on a brief trip, even around your home city, can help break up work and develop team relationships.
Free Gourmet Food and Snacks (Google)
Google was one of the first places to start a paradigm shift in how workplaces should look. Instead of the dry and dreary cubicles that most offices had, Google sported colorful murals, swimming pools, and even gaming lounges. Some people describe Google’s office as a college campus for adults. While Google employees benefit from free fitness classes, on-site massages, and fantastic networking opportunities, nothing beats Google’s free gourmet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their campuses often feature coffee and juice bars open to any employee. Companies can forget how powerful a meal program can be- not only does it result in savings for the employees, it can ensure a consistently energized workforce, all the while encouraging employees to socialize and network with one another.
On-site Gym and Free Fitness Classes (Rodale)
Rodale is the publisher for some of the world’s leading health and fitness magazines, including Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Bicycling, and more. It only makes sense that the company would offer compelling fitness programs to its own employees. Rodale’s Energy Center is the company’s own gym, and it features free daily fitness classes for X-biking, core workouts, and yoga. The Emmaus campus also offers bicycles for traveling between buildings, and local, organic meals for purchase at affordable prices.
If you run a business, you can purchase special gym membership plans or fitness classes to encourage employees to be more active before and after work. Check your local gyms and fitness centers for more information.
Nap Rooms (Zappos)
Dedicated employees like to work late into the evening, sometimes to the detriment of their overall energy. Instead of prohibiting any resting, online shoe company Zappos encourages its 1,500 employees to take naps. In addition to nap rooms, Zappos has futuristic sleeping pods with reclining chairs, light/dark controls, and headphones for sleep-inducing sounds. We all know how energizing just 20 minutes of sleep can feel. Imagine going to work and taking a short siesta after lunch- you may wake up feeling much more energized and ready to tackle the rest of the afternoon!
Wellness incentives for your own business
These are just a few examples of wellness incentives used by the biggest industry names but don’t feel restricted by them. If you own a small or medium-sized business, consider tweaking these programs to apply to a smaller workforce while retaining the programs’ spirit and intent.
For example, free gourmet food may not be realistic for a startup, but a company meal every week or every other week can help reinforce a sense of solidarity and camaraderie.
While creating a dedicated medical clinic may be a large scale endeavor, basic medical coverage (such as vision or dental) would go a long way in alleviating the personal concerns of your employees.
At the end of the day, business is about people. When you look after your own team first, profits, positive customer experiences, and recognition will all follow soon after.
Searching for some more corporate wellness program ideas? Check out our previous article on the topic. As always, make sure to follow the Novel Coworking blog for more information and resources on developing your business.
Whether you’re starting your own design agency or a career in freelance coding, competition is fierce. You’re either facing a giant in the space or a thousand other hopeful entrepreneurs or freelancers like yourself.
How do you stand out? Through carefully-executed branding.
Brands help to create a relatable identity and personality for the collective efforts of an organization. Without a brand, businesses seem inhuman, without values or purpose. That’s why it is crucial for businesses to nail down their brand- then ensure that it’s consistently communicated on all channels.
Branding can be notoriously difficult. It is, after all, mostly subjective. Thankfully, there are a few books you can read to follow the golden rules of branding, for your business or for yourself.
Books on Branding for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners
This text from Giep Franzen and Sandra E. Moriarty is one of the more modern takes on developing branding strategy. Franzen and Moriarty suggest building a brand from the perspectives of both the marketer and customer. Brands aren’t manufactured in a factory- they’re a combination of the “producer’s intentions, external brand realities, and consumer’s brand perceptions.” Successful brands understand how each piece fits in the whole to create the most well-known names in business today.
Based on the agile methodology and teachings of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, The Lean Brand demonstrates how to develop brands quickly while minimizing risk. Authors Jeremiah Gardner and Brant Cooper have helped entrepreneurs, startups, even Fortune 500 companies rethink the most important (and usually less accessible) aspects of branding.
In the early 60s, business school graduate Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father to start a shoe company, importing cheap but high quality from Japan. He made $8000 his first year. Now, Nike is a multibillion-dollar company, endorsed by the world’s leading athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs, while still having an everyman appeal. Knight shares his story of how he built one of the most recognizable brands in history.
Books on Branding for Designers
Designers have to think differently about brands- they’re usually the ones responsible for the aesthetics of a certain brand. These books are great for any designer who wants to enhance their brand’s look and feel.
Designing Brand Identity is a staple resource for anyone looking for a guide into brand design. The book features 50 case studies of real branding processes and their results, as well as hundreds of diagrams, illustrations, and other visual aids. Perfect for both marketing managers and aspiring students alike, this book features a comprehensive guide to branding fundamentals that are critical to launching or even re-launching a brand.
Most businesses treat brand as the last step, a separate arm from the rest of the business functions. The Brand Gap is one of the first books to approach brand development as an integrated part of all business aspects. Learn how to create a brand informed by the business’s values and actions, and how impactful brand can be to the customer experience.
Books on Branding for Freelancers
Interested in building brands while self-employed? It takes a lot more work and research, but these books are perfect starting points.
Freelancing can be tough work, given that it requires constantly having to put yourself out there and market your service. My Creative (Side) Business is a helpful guide for freelancers ready to bring their work to the next level and start making more money.
Creative, Inc. is for illustrators, photographers, designers, animators, and other freelancing professionals struggling to put their work out there. This book is brimming with useful advice on developing a portfolio and business that stands out from the crowd.
Books on Personal Branding
Branding doesn’t just apply to businesses and entrepreneurs – in fact, it goes hand-in-hand with how you market yourself. It may be strange to think of one’s self as a brand, but in terms of finding new partnerships and creating business opportunities, it is no different from marketing a service. Here are a few books on personal branding.
Karen Kang has written a brilliant, detailed, and above all, timely guide to developing your own brand. Kang explains how to use the BrandingPays methodology by drawing on examples and concepts from the marketing agency that catapulted Apple to success. Whether you’re an entrepreneur veteran or an aspiring professional in college, this book sheds light on how you can clearly market your unique value and achieve success.
No matter what industry you work in, selling yourself is a fundamental part of a business. Nobody is really taught how to sell themselves, but this book serves as a great crash course. Founder of Beckwith Advertising and Marketing, Harry Beckwith teams up with professional consultant and speaker Christine K. Clifford (CEO of Christine Clifford Enterprises) to deliver a humorous but inspiring book.
The “Youpreneur” may sound unconventional, but it’s really a way to describe the new kind of entrepreneur- the personal brand entrepreneur. Youpreneurs aren’t bound by the traditional set of rules, but they still manage to stay as leaders within their niche. Regardless of what kind of business industry you may be in, this book will help you learn what it takes to become more successful in your career.
Craving for some more entrepreneurial insight? Check out these must-watch TED talks we discussed in a previous blog post.
Follow Novel Coworking‘s blog for more resources for entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers.
Why podcasts are great for productivity
Everyone wants to improve their grasp on their personal finances, but few have the time or patience to learn all there is to know. Some feel overwhelmed or completely lost by the information, procrastinating their taxes or dipping into savings until it comes back to haunt them.
Fortunately, podcasts offer a way to learn without spending thousands in tuition or hiring an expert. Whether you’re writing a report or exercising early in the day, listening to a podcast on financial advice requires little effort.
We’ve covered podcasts on productivity in the past, so this time we’ll discuss podcasts on personal finance.
They say you’re never truly independent until you’re financially independent. That’s exactly what Brandon, aka the “Mad Fientist”, achieved. Once a software developer, the Mad Fientist eventually became financially independent and retired at 34.
Now he runs his own podcast, guiding others who hope to retire (or at the very least organize their finances) at a relatively young age. Listen to the Financial Independence Podcast to learn about tax-avoidance strategies and financial tools to begin your journey into early retirement.
Suggested episode: Camp Mustache – Q&A with Mr. Money Mustache, Afford Anything, & The Military Guide
Now in its 10th year, Planet Money has developed a following with its simple premise: “The economy explained.” Originally a spinoff of This American Life, Planet Money features engaging dialogues with industry experts, with episodes on American health care, the 2008 financial crisis, and the Wells Fargo account fraud scandal, for which they won a 2016 Peabody Award.
If you want to stay updated on financial news, but also be able to understand it in simple English, Planet Money is a great starting point.
Suggested episode: Inside Washington’s Money Machine
When Freakonomics was released in 2005, the book received both rave reviews and criticism for its unique take on economics- from cheating in sumo wrestling tournaments to the socioeconomic impact of selecting certain birth names. Journalist Stephen Dubner and economist Steven Levitt were able to make economics interesting, and more importantly, relevant to current events.
With the Freakonomics Radio, the weird insights continue in a weekly format. While Levitt is only an occasional guest, Dubner makes for a consistently reliable and entertaining host. Some of the most interesting topics explore what the world would be like if run by economists, and the true value of a college degree.
Suggested episode: The Health of Nations
Every entrepreneur worth their salt is bound to face some personal finance problems. After all, they are trying to grow a whole business with minimal investment. But the best way to learn is through the shortcomings of other entrepreneurs. That’s where Entrepreneur On Fire comes in, a podcast specifically for entrepreneurs.
Most episodes feature other expert entrepreneurs that discuss their own experiences and their lessons learned. Whether you’re an entrepreneur veteran or forming a startup for the first time, Entrepreneur On Fire will be worth listening to.
Suggested episode: Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy with author James Whittaker
If other podcasts are like TV shows with weekly episodes, Stacking Benjamins is like a weekly magazine with varied sections. Each episode is a little over an hour, but each segment is about fifteen minutes, covering anything from saving to investing. Stacking Benjamins is the recipient of numerous podcast awards, including the Academy of Podcast award for Best Business Podcast of the Year, the 2017 Plutus award for Best Personal Finance Podcast, and Kiplinger magazine’s sole recommendation for finance podcast. It currently has a 4.5-star rating on Apple Podcast, based on 605 reviews. If you’re looking for financial advice, Stacking Benjamins is a great place to go.
Suggested episode: Our Best Advice For Beginning Savers (No Matter Your Age)
High quality, informed financial advice can be hard to come by. Sometimes it’s expensive, ill-informed, or just plain mind-boggling. Podcasts have a way of simplifying some of the complicated concepts, therefore creating more accessible ways for people of all ages to learn.
Don’t put off your personal finance until it becomes serious. Take the steps to save and organize your money today. Once you start listening to any one of these podcasts, there’s no excuse.
For more resources and guidance on personal financial planning, check out Level Office’s blog today.