After graduating from college, I felt a nagging sense of aimlessness whenever I had free time.
After work, I sometimes went to the gym, played the piano for awhile, or met up with friends, but most of my days ended with a realization that I pretty much watched YouTube videos, looked at Instagram, and played board games online all evening.
At the end of most days, I felt a lot of regret about how I spent my free time. Before going to bed, I usually told myself that I would do more tomorrow. But you probably know the ending to that story already. The cycle repeated itself.
Even on days when I felt motivated to do something productive with my free time, I often felt aimless about what to do. After a few years of this, I realized that my problem was singular and simple: I didn’t have any hobbies. On top of that, I didn’t really know how to find a hobby. So this year, I decided to try an experiment.
I called it MY NEXT THING.
I created 3 simple rules.
- Choose something.
- Do it most days for a month.
On January 1st, 2020, I chose my first THING: Yoga. I had always been intimidated by yoga as someone who has never been able to touch his toes, but I started doing it as my THING nonetheless. Some days I did yoga for 10 minutes. Other days I did it for an hour. A few days I didn’t do it at all. At the end of the month, I chose something new and repeated the process. Looking back, that simple pattern has completely changed my life.
In the first 6 months of My Next Thing, I spent my free time doing one new THING per month. In that time, I did 25 hours of yoga, read 28 books, did 7,900 push ups, learned how to meditate, designed a website, and ran 37 miles.
To be honest, I feel incredible about those accomplishments. But those are all secondary to my primary goal of repurposing my free time, and in that way My Next Thing has been a huge success. In just a few months, I went from feeling aimless and guilty during my free time to feeling excited and purposeful about it. This will sound like a sentence from a self-improvement book, but the only change I made in my life that led to a complete transformation of my free time was following the three rules behind My Next Thing. Let me break them down.
1. Choose something
This sounds simple, but I have failed to do this well for years. That’s because when it came to doing something productive with my free time, my guilty conscience forced me to choose what I felt like I should do. What’s on that list? Going to the gym. Learning a foreign language. Journaling. Instead of choosing something that I felt like I should do, I started choosing THINGS that I am genuinely curious about or interested in. The difference between doing my THING and something like going to the gym, is simple but profound. The guilty conscience is gone.
2. Do it most days
This step was a breakthrough for me. In the past, not only have I picked nebulous things like learning a foreign language to fill my free time, I always told myself that I should do those things every day. With My Next Thing, I gave myself more flexibility. My idea was if I choose something that was genuinely interesting in the first place, getting myself to do it in my free time wouldn’t be hard. And it hasn’t been. I’m not strict about how long I do my THING, or even if I do it every day. All that I care about is that I do it most days and establish a habit of doing some THING every day during my free time. That way, no matter what the THING is, I’m eliminating aimlessness by filling my free time with purposeful activity.
Part of the power of My Next Thing is that 1 month is a great amount of time to dive into a new hobby without feeling overly committed to it right away. 30 days has been plenty of time to get the hang of something new, especially when I do it almost every day. But it’s not so long that I burn out before I choose my next THING. As a result of this routine, I haven’t really put any of these THINGS down after their month is over.
I still do yoga a few times a week, I have developed a solid reading habit for the first time in my life, I’m happily going for runs (also a first for me), I’m finding time to meditate, I turned My Next Thing into a website, I’m up to a 50 push-up max, and none of those are my THING this month. For the first time in my adult life, my free time is consistently full of stimulating, exciting, and enjoyable hobbies.
I now believe it is possible to eliminate the feeling of aimlessness in life. I have made it my mission to help others repurpose their free time too. I created My Next Thing to give people all of the resources and inspiration they need to pursue their next hobby or passion. I hope I can help you find your next THING.