In order to remain relevant and useful as a web designer, you have to continually reinforce your knowledge and skills. That’s easy enough to do online these days with the plethora of design blogs, video tutorials and coding playgrounds available.
Soft skills will help you become a more well-rounded designer. These are the skills that make you better at everything else, like communication, collaboration and creativity.
While you can read blog posts or watch tutorials that teach you about soft skills, it’s easier to acquire them through practice. And choosing hobbies that strengthen these soft skills is not only an effective way to do this, but can be very fun and enriching.
Different hobbies will help you strengthen different skill sets. While I can’t give you one hobby that will magically spring open all of your soft skills at once, I can get you thinking about the types of personal activities you might be interested in and how they can help.
There are many ways to strengthen your soft skill set and reap benefits from cooking.
For starters, most meals require some level of preparation and coordination. Take something like spaghetti and meatballs. You have to cook the pasta, sauce and meatballs. Even if all you’re doing is heating up frozen meatballs and sauce from a can, each of the components require different setups, moderation and cook times.
Also, the more you cook, the more opportunities you have to learn new and better ways to cook, different tools to use and various methods to try out. This will teach you how to be more creative and agile as you tackle different challenges—in your life and in your work.
Even if you’re already a seasoned cook, there are ways to learn something new in the kitchen. That’s because there are so many different types of cooking and, generally speaking, most people haven’t mastered them all.
For instance, you might be a whiz when it comes to cooking casseroles or making sandwiches. But how are you as a baker? And if you’re used to making cookies, have you ever thought about trying to make bread from scratch? Challenge yourself with new types of cooking and you might find inspiration to do the same as a designer.
There are plenty of local organizations looking for volunteer assistance. Once you’ve found a cause that’s near and dear to your heart, watch as your soft skills improve.
Different types of volunteering bring different kinds of benefits, too.
For example, I used to volunteer for a dog shelter. My responsibilities were split. Half of my shift I spent in the back cleaning the dogs’ bedding and bowls while preparing their treats. The rest of the shift I spent taking dogs on walks and snuggling with them afterwards in their kennels.
There were various skills and lessons I learned in my two years there. One was time management—both in getting myself to the gig on time as well as managing my time properly so I could attend to everything and everyone. I also learned how to better communicate with people, which was important in pairing people up with the right dogs and vice versa.
It doesn’t matter who you want to work with—kids, animals, seniors, a religious organization, a local candidate running for office, etc. Volunteering can teach you a lot about yourself as well as other people, which is invaluable if you work as a service provider.
Reading and writing are (usually) solo pursuits that allow you to kick back and relax while enjoying a mentally stimulating activity. I’d argue that some movie watching can be just as rewarding.
Two important skills you can learn from all of these activities are patience and focus. Just being able to sit still and immerse yourself in a story can be challenging in this day and age. But if you can train yourself to turn off the devices and to focus on what you’re doing in your personal life, you’ll learn to do the same professionally.
What you read or write (or watch) can also give you the tools to think more creatively and critically. You could try reading something in a genre you never thought you’d read before, for instance. Just making that switch to something you can’t easily anticipate the outcome of can improve your brain power.
When it comes to writing, you don’t need to sit down and write a novel to benefit from it. For instance, you could buy a journal and just do some free-flow writing. I also use my journal for writing down my dreams. You wouldn’t believe some of the ideas and inspiration that comes from that simple writing exercise.
You’re already immersed in artistry in your work life. Find something that takes your eyes off of the screen, puts a tool in your hands and forces you to look at the world in a different manner. For instance:
There are a number of reasons to play around with art as a hobby. For starters, it creates a new challenge for you. When you’ve been doing one kind of art for so long, it’s easy to grow bored and feel unchallenged by it. Adding friction to your artistry can reawaken your senses and your talents.
Also, when you step away from the screen, you’ll start to notice more things about the world around you and it may inspire you to incorporate different elements into your design work.
For instance, I used to take my DSLR any time I visited a new city or town. There were so many funny, strange and inspiring things I’d find along my journey. And so many different ways to frame them within the context of a photo. A lot of what I saw and did on those photo-taking adventures ended up in my writing work.
You don’t need to be a child in order to enjoy playing games. But to understand how games are teaching you important lessons? Yeah, you probably need to be an adult for that.
Just like with art, there are many different ways to get your gaming fix. For instance:
Every game requires a different skill set. For instance, if you join an organized sport, you’ll strengthen skills like patience, collaboration, agility and communication, among other things.
On the other hand, if you play video games, you’ll tap into skills like strategy, cognition, multitasking, hand-eye coordination, decision-making and more. These types of games could also be useful for gaining inspiration.
Competition can also be good for you as a web designer. It might be something you need to reignite a fire that’s been burning too low for too long. It can also be useful in showing you how to become a better team player, which will come in handy when working with different clients with different needs.
One of the things I love about hobbies is that there are so many ways to make them your own. Because of this versatility, you can always switch from one to another if you get bored or haven’t found one that’s a good fit for you.
Doing a good mix of physical activities, in general, can be good for your body. For instance, let’s say you go to your Crossfit gym five days a week. The workouts are super strenuous, you’re constantly being challenged to hit new personal records, and you also benefit from the community aspect. That alone can do you a lot of good in terms of soft-skill building.
But then on your days off, you do some yoga at home. Both your body and mind are being forced to switch gears—to slow down, realign themselves and tap into a different set of strengths.
Even if you don’t do a mix of workout types, there’s still so much you can gain from working out regularly. Improved concentration and focus. Better goal setting. Prolonged stamina. Just to name a few.
Just as with the other versatile hobbies I’ve mentioned on this list, the key is to invest in a type of fitness or workout regimen that makes you feel good. You won’t reap much benefits if your hobby feels like a chore.
I debated including this hobby since not everyone has the space for it in their homes. Then again, that’s one of the reasons why gardening is such a valuable hobby to have. Even if you live in a small apartment dominated by dogs like I do, there are creative solutions you can use to create space for your garden.
In addition, there’s a huge planning component to gardening. If you don’t do your research on what to grow, when to grow it, how to nurture it, and so on, you’re not likely to see good results. So you need to develop skills for research, strategy and ingenuity in order to succeed.
There’s also something about gardening that makes people more resourceful. Even if you end up growing just a few small things—for instance, essential herbs—you wouldn’t need to depend as much on the grocery store or your local farmer’s market in order to prepare your meals.
On a related note, gardening can provide you with the means to be better about managing your finances. You invest a small amount of money into seeds, dirt, potting, and so on, and then stock your kitchen season after season with produce you’ve grown on your own.
If you want to acquire new soft skills and strengthen the ones you already have, the best thing to do is put them into practice. And having external hobbies and activities you regularly spend time on will allow you to do that.
Hobbies can provide a whole host of benefits. They can:
There are different lessons to be learned and skills to be acquired based on what kinds of hobbies you spend time on. Spend some time figuring out what will bring you joy and fulfillment, and then start extracting lessons and skills from them that you can apply to your work.
A former project manager and web design agency manager, Suzanne Scacca now writes about the changing landscape of design, development and software.
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