It’s very easy to assume that if you dedicate all your time to work, your productivity is going to skyrocket. I’ve seen people who exclude almost everything from their lives except work in the quest to become as productive as possible.

In my humble opinion, this is a great mistake. Your brain needs some downtime, it needs to unwinds and involve itself in some pleasurable activity that is not related to work. I’ve found that constant work makes me irritable, tired and prone to errors.

Personally, I’ve cultivated a number of hobbies to take my mind off work, and allow me to relax and recharge. My main hobbies, aside from playing with new tech gadgets, are gardening, reading, running and horology.

These are hobbies that I care deeply about. I set aside time for each of these activities so that I always have time to indulge in them. For example, during winter, fall and spring, I set aside every Friday morning for a run. I used to run in a gym, but soon got bored of this and now run in the streets. Every Friday at 6AM, I’m out in the streets until about 7AM or 8AM. Mostly I run alone, but sometimes I join Cairo Runners, a local running group, for encouragement — by the way, the weekend is on Friday and Saturday in Egypt, not Saturday and Sunday. I run on a weekend day to avoid interference with my work.

I have to admit that I’ve fallen of the running wagon ever since I got married and we had our first baby. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to this hobby soon when the baby begins to sleep more regular hours. This early morning run, when I am able to do it, refreshes me, and gives me a shot of exercise endorphins that keeps me happy for the rest of the day.

Saturday mornings are dedicated to major work in my garden. I mow the lawn, edge it, prune my trees and shrubs and do any major planting or dividing of plants on this day. Again I do this early in the morning before the sun scorches the place — especially in our desert summer.

Gardening gives me peace, and allows me to become a part of nature. I love surveying the garden after I’ve finished working on it and seeing how my plants have responded to my coaxing to bring out their best forms. I even enjoy the physical work involved in turning the compost, its a form of exercise and seems to release the same endorphins as regular exercise does for me.

Reading is my other main hobby. I read whenever I get the time: fiction, nonfiction, news, long-form articles on the net — I devour them all. I have a subscription to The Economist and read that magazine as soon as its issued (Thursday evening). I then read from my kindle or iBooks library while on the go. When I’m at home, especially during the weekend, I read in my home office from my collection of fiction and nonfiction paper books — I leave the ebooks for when I’m on the go.

Finally, horology. I’ve been bitten by the watch bug. As an engineer, the mechanics of mechanical watches fascinate me. I love watching the miniature gears work to display the time. This is my most expensive hobby. Since I’ve gotten married and taken on new responsibilities, I’ve stopped adding to my watch collection, but I still read about the new developments in the world of horology and maintain my existing collection — while dreaming of the day when I’ll have enough disposable income to be able to afford a Patek Philipe moon-phase, or a Philippe Dufour without harming the finances of my family.

By engaging in these hobbies, I allow my brain to relax and recoup for the work week. I’ve noticed that my productivity rises when I give sufficient time to the things I enjoy. So don’t worry, go ahead and dedicate time to your hobby, your work will benefit from the break your brain will get.

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