A fun and rewarding homework assignment

Technically, summer’s still about a month away, but culturally, the seasonal shift happens this weekend with the Memorial Day holiday.

What do the next three months have in store for you?

I sincerely hope there’s a vacation, which has been proven time and again to improve morale and productivity. But when you’re the owner of a small business, with only a handful of helpers, and it’s wedding season…well, it’s easy to see why some florists never make it to the beach.

At the very least, though, I implore you to carve out some time every week to do something you truly love (no, arranging flowers does not count). Losing yourself in a hobby can do wonders for your mental and physical health, as well as your business.

I play in multiple tennis leagues. My favorite is mixed doubles on Tuesday nights. We play two sets of tennis and a 10-point tiebreaker, then head upstairs to the club bar and grill for a late dinner or a drink and a lot of socializing. I’ve done this for two years now, and can pinpoint several ways it’s benefitted me:

  • Stress Relief: I’m prone to worrying, particularly about my deadlines, which really never go away. (Side note: I did not appreciate the semester system of college nearly enough.) Running around and whacking a fuzzy yellow ball floods me with endorphins that make me happy. When I’m relaxed rather than overwhelmed, a) I’m less likely to snap at loved ones and b) I don’t suffer from “professional paralysis” (aka writer’s block). Nonathletic hobbies can have the same effects. Crafts, such as knitting, have been shown to diminish anxiety, dull physical pain, and increase creativity.
  • Strategy: It’s not enough to have a powerful serve or a precise down-the-line forehand. To win in tennis, you need to read your opponent’s body language, pay attention to their placement on the court (as well as your own and your partner’s), and factor in other elements, such as wind or the sun. (True, you could just hit “safe” shots in the middle of the court and wait for your opponent to make errors. But it’s terribly boring, takes forever, and, really, it’s so much more satisfying—and effective—to actively play “to win” rather than passively play “to not lose.”)  In short, tennis has taught me problem solving skills.
  • Perspective: Tennis gives me something to focus on other than my job. It keeps me from having tunnel vision and heaping too much importance on one area of my life. It reminds me that my identity doesn’t hinge on one specific skill. If you have a down day (week, month) at the shop, you may feel like a failure. Having a hobby won’t undo those bad numbers, but it can keep your spirits up.
  • A Social Network: Through the tennis league, I have added dozens of friends of all ages and backgrounds. It goes without saying that friends generally make life better. But friends can also become customers and/or refer you to more customers. I’ve landed several freelancing assignments through my tennis friends, and I’ve had dozens of opportunities to discuss flowers. Rest assured, the players at The Bath & Racquet Club in Sarasota are well versed in why you should buy from a local florist!

So here’s your first assignment of the summer: Find a new hobby or nurture an existing one.