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I always said that if I was given a choice, I’d be a lifelong student, studying one degree after the other at colleges all over the world. Upon reflection, this desire to always be a student is true today, even though I haven’t been enrolled for a college degree for more than a decade.
I’ve realized that I don’t need to be part of formal education to study and learn. In fact, each day comes with various opportunities to learn and upskill. I can learn from my family, my friends, my colleagues… even strangers.
I can learn from myself too and from the activities I engage in. And so, to honor my desire of wanting to be a lifelong student, I practice productive hobbies to help me upskill.
Do you also want to learn more skills in life but in a completely fun way?
Then you need this guide to the best productive hobbies to help you upskill your life.
What Does Upskill Mean?
To upskill means to learn new skills (you up your skills or skill level, or you level up) via additional or advanced training, mentorship, education, or experiences. The skills you learn can be hard or soft skills to help you in various areas of your life.
Mostly, however, “upskill” is a term used in the professional world, and you may want to level up on your own or your employer may want you to learn more.
You can also upskill in your private life because you want to learn more, expanding your knowledge base.
Importance and Advantages of Upskilling Your Life
Upskilling is important because you don’t want to stay in your little comfort bubble your whole life. You want to learn so you can progress and grow as a person, develop your talents, nurture your brain and cognitive health, and benefit from new (or more advanced) skills and knowledge.
You should never stop trying to learn, and it’s essential to stoke your desire to know and learn more.
Plus, there are many advantages to upskilling your life. Upskilling:
25 Productive Hobbies to Help You Upskill
There are many ways in which you can upskill your personal and professional life, but I believe that upskilling through hobbies is one of the best ways.
You learn better when you have fun and when learning doesn’t feel like a boring and repetitive chore. But what exactly makes a hobby constructive? Essentially, any hobby can be productive.
A productive hobby is one that adds value to your life: It can change the way you think, boost your mind, strengthen your body, teach you new hard and soft skills, keep you motivated, and add joy to your life.
The hobbies I chose will all add value to your life, but I chose them specifically for the skills you’ll learn as you practice these activities.
Here are my picks for the 25 best productive hobbies to help you upskill. And because we spend our lives so immersed in technology, I decided to focus on screen-free hobbies.
Put away your Kindles, folks! It’s time to get an actual book (or 50) and start reading. Besides books, you can also read magazines, journals, and more.
Reading is a very productive activity to do, and some of the benefits you stand to gain include strengthening your brain, increasing your ability to empathize, improving your vocabulary, preventing age-related cognitive decline, and reducing stress.
You can also read to learn about various topics, from how to become more self-aware to how to better manage your finances, how to plan a trip around the world, scientific discoveries, and what happened at a specific time in history.
Resource: 100 books to read before you die
Meditation may not be viewed as a hobby by many, but it is a constructive hobby that teaches you how to improve your concentration, manage stress better, connect your mind and body, and become more aware.
You’ll also reap quite a few benefits when you meditate, making this a definite value hobby in my book. In essence, meditating promotes holistic health, performance, and more.
And yes, you can meditate without an app or YouTube video guiding you. Consider mantra-based meditation, or find a place where you can focus, breathe, connect with your body, and practice self-kindness.
Resource: 11 best meditation books for beginners
3. Cooking Healthy Meals
Another great hobby that teaches you skills is cooking (and baking). While you can just whip up any meal, there’s quite a lot of enjoyment to be found when you follow a recipe, try to experiment with a recipe, or let your creativity loose.
When you hone your culinary skills, you learn how to focus better, and your planning and organizational skills improve, too.
You can also learn about nutrition so you only put together the healthiest of meals for you and your family, and there’s a lot of value in meal prepping and planning.
Psst … If you make delicious meals and baked goods, you can even consider selling these at markets or running a business on the side to cater to people who don’t have time to cook.
Writing by hand may seem too old-school, but here’s a little secret for you: It’s really therapeutic when you write by hand.
So, gather some paper and a pen (or pencil or marker), and start writing. You can write a novel, short stories, poetry, a play, movie script, or even just to-do lists.
When you can properly translate your thoughts in a way that’s concise and clear, you improve your communication skills, which is an essential skill for every aspect of your life.
And you can even make money if you have good writing chops!
Resource: How to write a novel in 10 steps
Doing any kind of art is very productive, but painting especially helps you relieve stress, promote creative growth, develop problem-solving and fine motor skills, and improve memory, emotional well-being, self-reflection, and concentration. It can even improve your communication skills!
You can paint from a photograph, a scene in nature, or create art from your imagination. And yes, you can make money too when you sell your masterpieces or greeting cards.
Resource: Painting for beginners
When you regularly work out, it becomes a hobby – luckily, it’s one that keeps you fit and healthy, and it helps you experience a high quality of life.
Exercising helps you manage stress better, while it improves your cardiovascular, cognitive, and mental health. Not to mention, your self-confidence increases too.
It helps you achieve your goals, teaches you time management skills, and shows you how to face and overcome challenges.
Resource: How to start exercising
7. Doing Arts & Crafts
If I asked you to think of a few hobbies, I’m sure arts and crafts would feature somewhere in your mental list. And if you’re into these kinds of hobbies, you’re in luck, because they are highly productive.
You can knit, sew, scrapbook, and more. And when you engage in arts and crafts, you learn the value of planning, patience, and precision, as well as the joy of exploring your creativity.
If you aren’t into gardening and want to be productive in how you spend your time, this is one hobby you need to take up right away. And if you don’t have a garden, you can keep plants in your apartment, patio, balcony, or windowsill. Or, how about keeping a beneficial and lovely smelling air plant in your shower?
Gardening is a stress-buster, and it also teaches you patience, commitment, and observation, planning, time management, and harvesting skills.
Consider planting herbs, fruits, veggies, flowers, trees, or shrubs to beautify your spaces.
Resource: Gardening for beginners
9. Playing Board Games
Board games and strategy games are full of lessons to be learned. There are lessons in patience, strategizing, following the rules, decision-making, problem-solving, critical thinking, analysis, reasoning, and hand-eye coordination to gain.
Another major benefit of playing board and strategy games is that there always is a game out there that you’ll fall in love with. You can play Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, Backgammon, Clue, Checkers, Battleship, Trivial Pursuit, Jenga, and so many more.
Resource: 11 best board games
10. Trying Improv
Improvisation is definitely a hobby, and there are various skills you can learn when you try your hand (and luck) at improv.
You may be terrified to even think of doing improv, but you get to be creative, build confidence, and learn how to better handle the unpredictable in life.
Sign up for an improv class near you so you can get started with this cool, fun, and constructive hobby many love.
Resource: Everything you need to know about improv
11. Learning a New Language
You can also add learning new languages to your productive hobby repertoire. While this skill looks fantastic on your résumé, learning languages helps prevent cognitive decline while you also improve your memory, perception and observation skills, and ability to multitask, make decisions, and solve problems.
Invest in a few language learning books, but first, choose a language you want to learn.
You have a choice of around 6,500 to 7,000 languages, but to avoid decision overwhelm, start with some of the most spoken tongues in the world, such as Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, Swahili, Russian, Hindi, or German.
Resource: 10 best language learning books
12. Side Hustling
Having a side hustle (or two) is a great way to earn some extra money, and best of all, you can be productive and creative while you’re at it.
One of the main skills you learn when you have a side hustle include learning to run a business – you have to take care of the finances, marketing, suppliers, customers, and more. In your own right, you are an entrepreneur or solopreneur.
Other skills that side hustling teaches you are decision-making, problem-solving, innovation, critical thinking, and more. You’ll most certainly upskill your life when you have a side hustle going on.
Volunteering helps your upskill efforts too. There are so many ways in which you can volunteer your time, skills, and resources these days, from helping in soup kitchens to building houses for the less fortunate.
Benefits of volunteering include learning how to take initiative and developing your leadership, organizational, time management, and social responsibility skills.
Another way you can upskill is by taking up photography. Since I want to keep you away from modern technology (#SmileyFace), consider going old school and using a film or analog camera – or use photographic paper to make a pinhole camera.
You can get your photos developed or set up a dark room and learn how to develop your photos yourself.
Besides the various technical skills you learn, you exercise your creative muscles as you explore and capture the world from different angles. You also improve your creativity, imagination, patience, and ability to focus on detail while you benefit from reduced stress levels since photography is very therapeutic.
Resource: Beginner’s guide to film photography
Many hobbyists will have traveling on their list of productive activities, and this hobby ensures you explore your home country and a few international ones. You’ll meet and connect with new and interesting people, which helps broaden your perspective, making you see the world in new (and better) ways.
Besides being wonderful for your emotional, mental, intellectual, and physical health and making you more resilient, traveling teaches you planning, organizational, and problem-solving skills.
Resource: Travel tips for beginners
16. Playing a Sport
When you play a sport, you most definitely benefit in terms of your physical and mental health. But engaging in sports such as volleyball, basketball, soccer, and tennis helps you upskill in many ways.
Sport is a productive hobby because it teaches you how to work in a team, how to exert self-control and self-discipline, and how to deal with failure. Another few lessons you can expect to learn include patience, interpersonal skills, and how to lead and follow.
While you use your skills to tutor others, you also learn a lot from this productive activity. One of the main skills you’ll benefit from when you tutor is patience – it’s not easy to teach someone else, and especially not when they don’t grasp what you are trying to teach in the first go.
You also dive deeper into the subject or topic you are teaching, while you learn empathy, how to better connect and communicate with your students, and how to actively listen.
Resource: 10 golden rules for being a good tutor
18. DIY Decorations and Gifts
DIY-ing decorations and gifts can really upskill your life because you can make these goodies to beautify your home or give them to loved ones for free. Or there is always the option of monetizing this hobby so you can benefit financially while living out your passions.
And there really is a market for decorations and gifts, especially if you play with themes and holidays and start selling at nearby markets.
Plus, you also learn how to plan and market yourself (if you sell your decorations and gifts), while you fine tune your motor skills.
19. Dog Training
While you can “sell” your dog training skills, you can also just offer these services for fun. When you train a dog (whether a puppy or mature or senior pooch), you’ll learn how to be creative – you need to come up with new tricks to keep the doggie entertained and motivated.
You also need to be patient, disciplined, committed, and communicative. You’ll also boost your self-esteem and self-confidence as you need to be the alpha leader and take charge.
Resource: Dog training 101
Doodling is something you do when you are bored, right? Wrong.
Doodling isn’t an absurd hobby because it can help you upskill. When you feel less stressed (which is what doodling does for you), you’ll feel more creative, be able to concentrate better, and your memory will improve. Plus, you learn to be more mindful and focus on the present moment.
Resource: How to start doodling
Journaling is different from just writing, which is the other constructive hobby on this list. When you journal, you can decide why you want to journal and then choose the best journaling method (junk journaling, bullet journaling, stream of consciousness journaling, and more) to help you achieve your goals.
Your journal can help keep you accountable, become more creative or organized, or give you a space to be and breathe.
It also helps you to communicate your thoughts and feelings (improving how you express yourself), learn how to make sense of your world, and discover how to solve problems.
22. Making Jewelry
When you make your own jewelry, you have a space to be as creative and as practical as you’d like to be. You’ll learn many technical skills, depending on whether you choose to work with clay, beads, metal, or other materials.
Then there’s also the part where you improve your imagination, your planning and execution skills, and organizational skills. And you learn how to be patient, work with money if you sell your creations, and more.
Resource: Guide to jewelry making
Bushcraft teaches you how to survive if you are in the wild. Maybe you got lost while hiking, or there’s been some kind of accident and you are stranded in the middle of nowhere. Or perhaps everything you read about in post-apocalyptic novels and see on shows like Sweet Tooth has come true.
Having survival tactics under your belt is one of the best methods to upskill your life. There are hard and technical skills to learn (like how to light a fire and how to navigate), but you also benefit from soft skills such as learning to be more aware, thinking before you act, and how to become more resilient.
Resource: The beginner’s guide to bushcraft
When you learn how to forage, you learn how to gather safe wild resources so you can feed yourself with what grows naturally and feel more connected with the land. You learn how to harvest food naturally, observe and pay attention, solve problems, and be responsible for how you harvest food and what food you forage.
Resource: The beginner’s guide to foraging
25. Event Planning
Another great hobby that teaches you productive skills so you can level up is event planning. You can surely start your own biz, or you can enjoy planning and organizing birthday parties, picnics, family gatherings, and more.
Event planning will teach a lot of skills, from how to be a great communicator, work with budgets, research themes and ideas, be organized and creative, work with people, solve issues, think on your feet, manage projects, and actively listen.
Resource: Event planning checklist for beginners
Final Thoughts on Productive Hobbies
It’s crucial to have hobbies in your life. Besides the fact that hobbies help you relax, have more of a work-life balance, and add happiness to your life… these activities can also be productive and constructive, teaching you new skills or helping you improve the skills you have.
Productive hobbies are valuable to your personal, social, and professional life. You can take up reading, foraging, doodling, writing, exercising, volunteering, and gardening – to name a few.
Which of these activities strikes your fancy? Still not sure? Need a bit more inspiration? Then check out our detailed guide to 50+ passion project ideas or these 30+ fun outdoor hobbies, if you love being out in nature and getting some vitamin D.
And if you're looking for more resources on hobbies, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 23 Cheap (But Fun) Hobbies to Try
- 21 Fun Hobbies for Seniors & Retirees to Enjoy
- 45 Best Hobbies for Stay-at-Home Moms