Something odd has happened to me since I started to work for myself. Despite frequently having to work quite long days, I end up with these huge swathes of time when I have nothing to do. I think it’s because I’m less exhausted in general than I used to be when I worked in someone else’s office.
Previously, my day went something like: get up, down caffeine, stand on crammed train, work all day with interruptions from direct reports to ask questions every three minutes, leave work late, stop at supermarket, home on other horrible commuter train, make dinner, feel exhausted, watch crap on TV, go to bed. Weekend: catch up on sleep, try to clean the house, fail.
Nowadays, due to a load of different factors, I don’t have to do most of these things, and that means I end up not exhausted. I normally clock off at about 5pm, unless I’m at a conference or in the middle of a big investigation, and then I have all evening in which I can do whatever I want. And because of this I get to bed early, and because of that I also have whole weekends to do hobbies in.
But what hobbies do I want to do?
I honestly had no idea. So, being me, the other day I sat down, made a spreadsheet and did some research.
I went through the things I already do in my spare time, and then I found a few lists online and went through those too, to see if I could find other things I’d like to take up.
In case you’re also currently looking for pastimes, here’s what I came up with.
Spending time on forums / Tumblr / etc.
One of the great things about the internet is that it’s much easier than it used to be to find other people with similar interests to your own. I hang out on all sorts of forums, work-related and otherwise, including the Forensic Focus forums and various others.
Without a doubt my #1 hobby, I do this every day without fail. I’m a really fast reader though, so I often want to do something else with my time as well.
My favourite way of doing this is through Duolingo, which is a lot of fun and easy to carry around with you. I’ve always been a fan of huge textbooks as well, but when you travel as much as I do it’s definitely useful to have something a bit more portable. Plus, Adventurous Kate recently said they have a Klingon option, which I need to start learning!
Listening to music
I pretty much listen to music non-stop (including while I’m asleep, since I usually have the radio on), but sometimes it’s nice to sit down and properly listen to an album from start to finish.
DIY / decorating / renovation
At the end of last year I moved into a house that’s falling down, and I’m currently doing it up. I haven’t done much yet beyond stripping wallpaper and ripping up old carpets, but I plan to do more of this.
When I got back from Somerset a few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to continue the tradition I’d had whilst there of walking several miles each weekend. So far I’ve been pretty good at this, mainly spending time wandering through Hyde Park.
Not something I’ve done a huge amount of recently, but as a child the vast majority of our food was foraged, and I’d like to get back into it. I suspect, however, that it’ll mean leaving London for most of a day, and since I’m working the next couple of weekends I don’t know if I’ll get chance.
I did the Stanford online cryptography course a while ago and really enjoyed it, and from time to time I do other cryptography-related things, but I’d like to make it more of a priority.
Writing / playing music
I thoroughly enjoy bashing pianos and wailing over the top of the bashy noises. I also enjoy busking with my ukulele. And from time to time I open Spotify and sing along to big diva tunes, because it makes me happy.
Oh, Star Trek. I love you so. But I’m not allowed to spend too much time with you, because I become obsessed and cannot tear myself away.
Swimming is a great way to exercise, and it’s also a lot of fun. Plus, it’s great because you don’t realise how much exercise you’ve done until you go to climb out of the pool and realise your legs have turned to jelly.
Conquering a fear
Yeah, OK, it’s not exactly fun. But it’s a way to pass the time, and I can imagine that once you’ve done it, it’ll feel rewarding. I’ve conquered my fear of small-to-medium sized spiders, and now I’m trying (currently not very successfully) to conquer my fear of big ones.
Building a computer
I really enjoy hobbies that help me to learn something, and also have some use in my daily life. Building a computer is one of those things, and is something I’m going to try in the near future. One day, my living room will look like one of these.
Making crafty things for Hallowe’en
You could extend this to any kind of craft making, but this year I’m having a Hallowe’en party, so I plan on making fun things to decorate the house with.
Combat / self-defence / martial arts training
Because it’s good for you, it’s exercise, it helps you stay safe, and it’ll make you feel like a total bamf.
Forensics / coding / hacking / computer geekery
Yeah, OK, this is my day job. But there are bits of it I’d like to do, that I don’t get chance to do during the day. So I’d like to expand my skills in my spare time too. The only downside of this is that I already spend so much time staring at a screen that I’m not sure it’s exactly healthy.
The last time I went to see Brigitte, aka my ex-French teacher, surrogate parent and inspiration for the book I’m currently writing, she asked what had happened to my quantum physics paper. When I said I hadn’t worked on it for a while, she told me I should. She was right.
It’s a paper I started when I was 18, one that got me onto a master’s degree programme without having an undergrad. It’s one of those things I revisit from time to time, when some new evidence comes to light or I feel inspired, but I should spend some more time on it.
Physics in general is a lot of fun though, and it touches on a huge range of fields. Go on. Don’t be put off by how bad you were at O-level Science. Pick it up again and have another go. Or focus on another subject you enjoyed at school but haven’t done much with since.
I’ve always wanted to be able to do this properly, and I think it’d be useful for when I inevitably lock myself out of my house.
Chess is one of those things I’ve always thought I should be into, but I’ve never really tried it. So I might take it up.
My mother’s favourite hobby! And one I’ve always thought would be boring, but it turns out it’s actually quite fun. Although I can see how it’d be possible to quickly become obsessed with it.
Making candles / incense / soap
Because crafty things are fun, the materials often don’t break the bank, and it’s a new skill.
I travel a lot, but so far it’s been almost exclusively for work. However, I’m definitely open to the idea of travelling just for the sake of being somewhere else for a while.
Learning to drive
I really need to do this. I have to drive across America (and possibly Africa) in the relatively near future, so it’d be good to… you know… have a valid licence.
If you already know how to drive, maybe you could take yourself out on random drives. Get in the car and decide to follow every sign where the place name contains the letter ‘R’, or something. See where you end up.
This is something I’d never heard of before I started googling potential new hobbies, but it does sound like it’d be fun.
It’s basically a treasure hunt: people bury little boxes in public places, they send you clues online, and you have to go and find the box. More information here.
I’m aware that this sounds a bit odd. But it looks like it’d take time and patience, and perhaps would have some kind of meditative effect. You never know until you try, right?
Going to the gym / exercising
I used to love running around the track opposite my old house. Now that I’ve moved, the patch of grass outside is small and usually populated with dogs/people/children. So I caved and bought a gym membership, and was surprised to remember how much I enjoy it.
I love reptiles. I used to have pet snakes and be part of my local reptile society, and I’d like to do it again.
The last time I went to a boxing class, I fell over myself and broke my foot. But that’s no reason not to try again, right?
Another one that’d make you feel like a total bamf. I’m pretty sure it’d require special knives though, and that I couldn’t just stand in the kitchen hurling bread knives at the wall.
Those are some of my ideas for new pastimes to try. What are your hobbies? Is there anything you think I should add to my list?