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One of the most interesting articles I’ve read recently is The Science of Side Projects: How Creative Hobbies Improve Our Performance at Everything.

It talks about the benefit of hobbies from a psychological perspective and how it can help you in the workplace – those people who engaged in hobbies were more “helpful, collaborative, and creative with their job performance.” I have no doubt that hobbies give you a refreshed and enthused outlook on life, which is what this article is referring to, but for me, I’ve found one of the benefits of having hobbies is that I learn new skills, which I can then apply to my real work. If I’m passionate about something in my spare time, I pour hours into mastering something – and I’ve got a new skill, which I can then add to my resume.

One of the things I’ve found most interesting is that my hobbies have become helpful in my career in unexpected ways. For many years, I’ve been dabbling in clay animation. By extension, this means I’ve had t learn film editing and have had to learn how to use Final Cut Pro. Another hobby of mine has been attending my local Toastmasters Club. Public speaking been a great outlet for creative storytelling. But the thing that has been most interesting for me? I now combine these hobbies – and run workshops on clay animation. These new skills and career opportunities are completely unexpected benefits of my hobbies.

So, this leads to the topic of this post: how hobbies can help your level up your digital media skills. I’m not saying you can plan for the spin-off bonus skills from hobbies – but you can most certainly take advantage of adding a digital component to your real-world hobbies. This means you’ll learn more about these digital spaces and have a broader digital literacy. The best way to learn about a new digital platform – especially social media – is to dive in and experience it. On top of that, the easiest way to learn a new skill is to make it something relevant to you – what better way than by tying it to a hobby you already love?

In order to learn more about the digital world – tie it to a real-world hobby, and see what happens.

Here’s my take on your favourite hobbies with you can level up to expand your digital media skills.

Cooking

If you’re already an avid home cook – there are heaps of opportunities to extend this to the digital world. You can tap into the foodie community on Instagram and follow foodie hashtags like #food, #foodporn and #instafood (and many more), but you can also get inspiration from places like Pinterest and Reddit for recipes. If you’ve not used these platforms before – even better. Learn how to use them and get ideas for delicious noms.

Coding

If you’ve always wanted to learn coding, there are heaps of platforms to get started learning. Websites like Codecademy are a great start. As an added bonus – when you extend your skills coding, you can eventually do things like build programs with the Twitter API.

If you want to get techy – but hands-on, then grab an Arduino set. Arduino is the lovechild of Lego, high-school electronics, and the internet. Learn to build, solder and program your own little gadgets, whether it’s a tool which logs (or tweets!) the temperature, a ham radio receiver, a synthesizer or anything else you can think of.

Programming is really useful to learn – especially if you’re from a creative background – because it gets you thinking in a new way and gives you a greater understanding of how the building blocks of the web works, both in terms of its strengths and limitations.

Related post: On learning to code

Writing

Got a story itching to come out? Maybe it’s a novel the world has been waiting for – or a blog post you need to get out of your system. Either way, the only way to get better at writing is by practicing and doing it regularly. And remember –  even the greatest novel started as a terrible rough draft.

If you’re wanting thought starters for creative writing, jump into Reddit’s story ideas subreddit, /r/writingprompts. If you’re wanting to write about your life experiences, there is a thriving community over on Medium.

Or, just discuss your favourite books on reddit’s books subreddit, /r/books.

Keep it up – and you’ll be ready to tackle this year’s Nanowrimo!

Photography

I don’t need to tell you that Instagram is a solid community for photography. Check out the photography specialist hashtags and get creating. Tag your photos and meet other budding photographers and get your work out there.

YouTube has loads of training videos on how to frame shots if you’re just getting started.

And if you’re stuck for ideas? Why, Instagram’s blog has challenges for photographers every week.

Stop motion animation

You will no doubt see through my motivation for adding stop-motion to the list! Stopmotion is loads of fun and can be made with the objects around you and your smartphone.

However, I was reinvigorated to try stop motion again when I joined Vine with its huge stop-motion community.

Vine is the 6-second video platform owned by Twitter. It’s stop motion community even has a weekly challenge from the folks at Mashable. If you’re wanting to experience the classic experience of an old-school forum, stopmotionanimation.com is alive and bustling.

TV nerds

If you’re a tv buff, you will love the digital extensions you can add to live tv. If live sport or reality tv is your thing, then follow the Twitter hashtag while the show is on. The feed is like all your best friends thinking what you’re thinking about a show and shouting it out lout. It’s great banter, sometimes thought provoking and heaps of fun. If you love reality tv, give it a go during The Bachelor, Masterchef or If You Are The One. If news and politics is your thing, try it during Q and A or Insight.

If deep-dive drama is more your thing, Reddit has subreddits on everything from Game Of Thrones, to Breaking Bad to Twin Peaks.

You also don’t want to miss asking questions of your fave actors hanging out on the Reddit q and a subreddit, “Ask Me Anything” also known as AMA. But it’s not just limited to actors – writers, scientists and people from many fascinating walks of life are there.

(Psst! You can also see the upcoming AMAs here).

Videogames

You should be playing more videogames. If you don’t know where to start, look at the ace games of the previous year and look for a game with mechanics you like – a role-playing game is very different to a strategy game, which is different to a puzzle game.

You don’t just acquire awesome skills like reflexes and problem solving in a safe environment, but you understand media in a new way. You might get new ideas for your new app tutorial, your onboarding process, or website navigation by exposing yourself to the way that different media types tackle these challenges.

On top of that, multimedia is on the rise, so having a better understanding of how text, images, video and interactivity combine will only put you in a better position if you are thinking critically about how and why games are designed in certain ways.

Fitness

Want a new hobby but don’t want to sit down? Try geocaching! It’s a treasure hunt where geocachers hide logbooks – sometimes smaller than a film canister – in the great outdoors. You just download the app and follow the clues using your phone’s geolocation.

Some geocaches are hard to find and some are hard to get to, but the free app gives you just easy caches to try your skill until you decide to level up with the paid app.

Understanding how people use the mobile space is essential in this day and age. To back this up, Facebook has stated that Australians use Facebook almost exclusively on mobile devices – if this isn’t a sign of things to come, then I don’t know what is. Spending more time in the great outdoors with your mobile device will give you a greater appreciation for how people use mobiles day to day.

Bonus skills from geocaching: learning about your local area, learning how to read a map, and of course, exercise. Regular exercise is shown to increase your creativity – and that is a bonus in and of itself.

Now, go and take on the world with your new hobbies and add a digital extension to them! Happy hobbying!

Rachel Beaney is an Australian freelance social media specialist with over a decade in digital media. She’s worked with global names like Microsoft, Samsung, News Corp and General Assembly, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping clients solve their business needs with creative and data-driven solutions. Get in touch today for a free consultation call.