Programmers are often stereotyped as being workaholics who spend all their time in front of a computer. And hey, when you’re passionate about programming you might genuinely enjoy learning about new technology, listening to tech podcasts, and immersing yourself in developer communities. But one of the secrets to having a sustainable, fulfilling career could be stepping away from the keyboard and picking up a hobby that’s got nothing to do with coding.
You might be thinking: Who has time for hobbies when you’re in the middle of a sprint?! When your day is spent working long hours on complicated projects, it’s important to balance it out with something else that can give you a sense of accomplishment. Though knitting a hat or planting a veggie garden might not seem “productive,” you may be surprised how a hobby can shift your perspective or rejuvenate you after a tiring day.
In fact, there’s some solid science supporting the fact that hobbies are good for your mental health. Studies show that making time for leisurely just-for-fun activities can reduce stress levels, ease symptoms of depression, and boost your confidence. So for Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we asked folks in the Codecademy community to share their go-to non-technical hobbies that keep them motivated, inspired, and grounded.
“One of my hobbies is to sculpt. I like it because it is very different from my work. It is more intuitive and less rational. It works out the kinesthetic and spatial parts of my mind.” – Judah Anthony, Codecademy Director of Engineering
“I love doing big jigsaw puzzles. It’s time away from staring at a screen, but there’s still the puzzle-solving aspect that I love about both.” – Mariel Frank, Codecademy Software Engineer II
“I have a niche hobby called modular synthesis. Basically, I have a case that I fill with different synthesizer modules that are made by a bunch of different companies, and I wire them all together into one cohesive electronic music-making machine. I have a YouTube channel. I love it because it’s a very tactile way to make electronic music that doesn’t involve using a laptop at all. It’s also a very satisfying cross-section of left-brain technical wave-science stuff with right-brain creative musical compositional stuff.” – John Rood, Codecademy Senior Software Engineer
“Rock climbing, but half the people at the rock climbing gym are programmers.” – Maxwell Goldbas, Data Engineer, in response to an invitation from Codecademy for people to share their personal experiences on Twitter
Chess and word games
“I play chess (I’m very mediocre at it, but I enjoy it) and word games (hurdle is my current favorite). I also read a lot about tech-ethics-philosophy-politics, and am currently reading Artificial Intelligence, A Guide for Thinking Humans by Melanie Mitchell. I am also learning how to swim at the local rec center at the moment.” – Nitya Mandyam, Codecademy Senior Curriculum Developer
“I have a ‘hobby farm’ and keep bees, chickens, turkeys, goats and horses. It is my ‘mental floss’ when I take a break from writing code and managing the IT enterprise at work. I find that hobbies which are perpendicular to my work trajectory helps me to keep my 63-year-old brain frosty.” – Bob Minteer, Chief Software Architect, in response to an invitation from Codecademy for people to share their personal experiences on Facebook
“I love playing music! I play the violin, but also love dabbling on the piano (which I don’t really know how to play) or picking things out on my mandolin (which is tuned the same as a violin, so it has been a fun extension for me to pick up since I impulse bought one during 2020 lockdown).
When I play music I get into a flow state. It clears my mind and fills up my spirit. If I’m by myself I love it as a meditative/creative outlet where I can choose if I want to challenge myself, comfort myself, experiment with something new, or just dig down on technical drills and feel like I’m improving myself. If I’m playing with other people, it’s basically the most magical thing in the world! Making music together is something humans are just meant to do!” – Eva Sibinga, Codecademy Senior Curriculum Developer
If you don’t have a hobby like this, that’s totally fine. (Remember: These are supposed to relieve stress, not generate it.) Think about what you enjoy doing in your free time: Do you like to be active? Do you prefer to be creative? Do you like to read and learn new things? The most important thing is to find an activity that you are passionate about and doesn’t feel like a chore. When you’re doing something that you love, it’ll be more likely to stick with you in the long run. And who knows? Your hobby could give you an idea for your next coding project.