Going extracurricular: successful women share the hobbies that inspire them

As research shows that having diverse, non work-related interests outside the office can be a huge catalyst for productivity and wellbeing, more and more organisations are allowing staff time off to indulge their extra-curricular passions, learn a new skill or volunteer in the community. If you’re looking to bolster the ‘life’ element of your ‘work-life’ balance with something more meaningful than a gym session, take inspiration from the women whose hobbies impact their lives – and careers – in surprisingly positive ways.


Presenting a present

The day job: Regional Vice President, US Channel Sales at Salesforce. The extra-curricular activity: Bestower of random kindness.
Research reveals that performing small acts of kindness can provide a health boost, increase satisfaction in relationships and foster all-round better moods, even reducing stress levels in socially anxious people.
The story: Since 2011, Dials has self-funded The Sussy Project – “sussy” being a gift given for no reason, simply “because you thought of someone and wanted to make them smile”. Nominations are ciphered through by Dials until a worthy recipient is discovered and then one of a team of US-wide volunteers is tasked with sourcing and delivering the gift. The recipient’s story is then shared on < href=’http://thesussyproject.com/’>TSP’s blog, not, says Dials, as a way to promote good deeds, but as a way to inspire others with their insight into the lives of others. Gifts are small – usually around $20, a scarf, a voucher for a breakfast: “We’re not solving world problems, but maybe we’re putting a smile on the face of someone who needs it, even if it’s only for five minutes.”
Career-boosting potential: “I love my job, but it’s not exactly making the world better. I have an altruistic side and a capitalistic side – right now I’m serving both. [This project] gives me perspective. If I’m at my job, pounding away, I’ll get a nomination and think, ‘And I thought I was having a bad day’. I’m scheduled to work, and I’m scheduled to work out, and I’m scheduled to sleep, but I’m not scheduled to make someone happy. You have to make it a priority, or it doesn’t happen.” Footnote:When Dials isn’t at her desk or doing good deeds, she’s running marathons, doing CrossFit and reading fiction.


Woman playing a guitar

The day job: Founder of Startup Buenos Aires, a community led organisation tasked with inspiring, connecting and supporting entrepreneurship in Argentina and Latin America. Besserman was named in Business Insider’s 100 Most Influential Women In Tech On Twitter. The extra-curricular activity: Writing music on acoustic guitar.
Regularly playing a musical instrument has been proven to change the shape and power of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills, even increasing your IQ by seven points!
The story: “My hobby is playing the guitar and writing music. It’s a fun little escape from the day to day chaos of running a business, and allows me to tap into my creative side by playing and composing music.” Career-boosting potential: “Some of my best ideas have occurred while playing music!” Besserman is on to something: scientific studies have shown that sitting around the office trying to come up with an idea is rarely a path to creative success – but changing up your routine, doing something unrelated to the problem or challenge at hand can be. Psychologists have shown that even the simple act of using a different method to make your usual sandwich can result in unblocking creative pipelines and enabling new ideas to spring forth. Discover more in our workbook Unleashing your creativity.
Footnote: Besserman is also an avid traveller (she’s visited over 50 countries and counting) and can be found on Twitter and FourSquare sharing her discoveries of guitar shops and cool live music venues around the world.


Mixing a cake

The day job: Associate Editor of Stylist magazine. The extra-curricular activity: Baking.
“You can turn the destructive into the creative just by stirring some sugar and eggs. Working through the steps of a recipe in a methodical way means you don’t have time to concentrate on everything else that is whirring through your mind.”
John Whaite, 2012 winner of The Great British Bake Off
The story: Two weeks before my wedding I decided it would be a brilliant idea to bake my own four-tiered wedding cake. It wasn’t like I was already about to internally combust with stress or anything. When we launched Stylist I worked until 2am for three months but I still spent my first weekend off making a giant gingerbread house. When I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed, like my brain can’t quite focus and my heart is a bit racy, I bake.” Career-boosting potential: “We spend eight hours a day in front of a computer screen and rarely have something tangible to show at the end of it. Modern technology means we don’t switch off until we actually sleep. Baking is the antithesis to this. It’s physical. Methodical. It can’t be rushed. Follow a recipe step by step and you’re almost (almost) guaranteed a certain result. There is calm in its predictability; reassurance in its simplicity. You also receive an extra shot of happiness when you see the positive reaction your baking has on other people. Then, of course, there’s the eating.” Footnote: The sense of calm that baking can instil is thought to stem from the techniques of stirring, mixing and kneading. “Repetitive behaviour and rituals can be very effective in increasing focus and reducing stress,” says Chartered psychologist Dr Jill Owen. That’s why knitting, needlework, or simply squeezing a stress ball can all have the same effect.
Sources: IndyStar, EBOC and Stylist.


Not a member yet?

Meet your goals and develop your skills on the everywomanNetwork. Join 1000s of other members today.


Not a member? If you would like to hear about our latest content, news and updates, sign up to our monthly update newsletter.