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I Already Have Enough Hobbies: Deciding What's Worth Doing

Four times this year (already), I've told people:

I don't need any more hobbies. I have enough. Let's figure out if we can make money doing this, and if not, move on to something else.

When you work a full-time gig and are trying to fill the other 2,000 hours, you've got to make sound decisions about where and how to spend that time. As a few comments to last week's article about whether or not to quit your job show, spending time with loved ones is important.

I agree. I'm due to become a dad literally any day. When I do, my mornings of waking up at 5 AM (like Matt Cheuvront does) to read blogs, write, and work on (paying) side jobs will be replaced by doing anything and everything for my daughter.

Mix in a wife who would like to eat dinner, watch movies, and talk to me, and quickly the 2,000 free hours shrink. But, the point of last Thursday's article wasn't to pack a lot of work into your free time while skipping out on relationships and entertainment. The point was that we've got more time than we realize, if we choose to spend it wisely.

For me, that means choosing my hobbies wisely. There are a lot of things I enjoy doing for a variety of reasons: reading (and then blogging book reviews), jogging (keeps me in shape and gives me time to think or listen to podcasts), trying to take a picture every day for a year (teaches me commitment and how to use my new camera), and writing (blog posts, books, in a journal). These are just some of the things that keep me sane.

So, when I analyze a new project, whether it be a collaborative eBook, an online magazine, or writing for a new blog, I've got to think carefully about each one before committing. If I had unlimited time (or no wife or daughter or mortgage), I might say yes to everything. But since I have commitments at work, at home, in my personal life, and a few on the side, I have to be selective about where I spend time that only has the benefit of personal gratification.

Before I do anything else, I have to make sure an opportunity doesn't interfere with my non-negotiables. I suggest discovering these before moving on to the next step.

Here are six questions I ask myself when approached with any new opportunity:

The first two tell me whether or not it's a job:

  • Will this generate real income (dollars) from day one?
  • Will this generate indirect income by attracting or creating a new audience or platform?

If I answer both of those in the negative, then I move on to these two questions to see if I'd like it as a hobby:

  • Will this be fun to do?
  • Will this be personally fulfilling? (Note: personal fulfillment is different for each of us. I am fulfilled when I am using my talents of creativity and being challenged.)

If I answer both of those in the negative, I move on to these questions:

  • Will it introduce me to a network of people or opportunities that have a Black Swan potential? (Note: My review of The Black Swan is here. The theory is simple, but the book is complex. Basically, when you think you have a free lotto ticket (little commitment, huge upside), bet big. But, understand that not everything is a lotto ticket - the trick is figuring out when you have one.)
  • Is there a deeper reason I should do this (obligation, duty, guilt)?

If I've got six negative answers, I don't do it. If any are in the affirmative, I juggle my schedules, free time, and priorities and make it all fit in. Maybe it means I drop a hobby, sleep an hour less, eat lunch quicker, or say no to something else that comes along (for good advice on how and why to say no, read this post by Rosetta Thurman).

Hopefully, 2010 is the year we all figure out what's worth doing. To help you out, here's a free, printable flow chart of the six questions above, along with a few other things to consider when trying to figure out what's worth doing.

Share your thoughts: What ideas do you have to discover what's worth doing, committing to, and adding to your list of hobbies or jobs?

WorkSam Davidson5 Comments