Published: January 19, 2018

It sounds painful, but I can assure you that self-development is an incredibly worthwhile exercise.  It’s all too easy to fall into a familiar routine of household chores and day-to-day work, sitting down every evening to watch the same television programmes before going to bed and starting the entire process again, day in, day out…  A mental or physical challenge to learn a new skill (or improve on an existing hobby) can draw you out of this monotonous state and give your personal and professional life a boost, though I know that can seem like a far fetched idea on a cold, grey January day, when all of the motivation and inspiration that swept you in to 2018 like some kind of productivity god appears to have vapourised.

Learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby – regardless of whether it is a physical activity or a more sedate occupation – has been found to improve both psychological and physiological wellbeing.  A 2013 article for the Washington post stated that “research has shown that people who have hobbies are generally healthier, and have a lower risk of depression and dementia[1].  Learning new skills can help to keep your brain active and, if engaged in a team sport or if you are learning in a classroom setting, the social benefits of getting out and about and interacting with different people can also prove to be a rewarding experience, particularly for remote, lone-workers like small business owners and self-employed individuals, who can potentially go for weeks without having meaningful face-to-face interaction with anyone! Trust me, it can happen!

Admittedly, making time for a new hobby or course can be a difficult process in itself! If you’re already busy at work, or have a million and one things to do at home every day, it’s difficult to justify spending an hour or two a week on what could be perceived to be a ‘frivolous’ activity.  But self-development isn’t a purely selfish act – with the health benefits associated with hobbies, it’s an investment in your own future, and an aid to relieve stress that could otherwise manifest itself in other aspects of your personal or working life.  Upskilling via an online or open course, or even the odd webinar, will also help to benefit your customers in the long term; you may be able to offer them an additional service, or have greater knowledge in an area that you already work within. So block out a regular slot in your diary for self-development, and treat it as a business necessity, just like invoicing and marketing, to ensure that your business remains competitive and sustainable.  There’s never been a better time to start.