Get a hobby! Leisure activities for busy residents

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published July 3, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • The majority of residents wish they had more time for hobbies.

  • There are many satisfying hobbies that don’t require significant investments of time or money.

  • Some hobbies, such as becoming a Wikipedia contributor or Google Local Guide, are virtual and provide a benefit to the greater online community.

It’s probably no surprise that physicians who feel personally fulfilled in their lives achieve better outcomes for their patients. One source of joy for many people is pastimes. Hobbies, however, are hard to indulge with a physician’s schedule. One study found that 75% of physician mothers surveyed said that they were unsatisfied with the time they had available to devote to personal hobbies and pastimes.[]

Let’s take a look at four hobbies that pack in plenty of pleasure on a tight schedule.

Relearning an instrument

If you’re interested in making music and you once played a musical instrument, perhaps it’s time to retrieve your flute, violin, or other instrument from the attic. 

Rest assured that relearning an instrument is less difficult and time intensive than learning one from scratch. After all, you’ll quickly recall the basics once you start practicing again. With string instruments, for example, in a short time, you will be able to reclaim previous muscle memory and finger placement.[]

“You can relearn an instrument quickly by creating an exciting working space, establishing a simple routine, go slow, and using fun resources to help you focus. It is helpful to join a group that rehearses somewhat regularly and provides you with a performance opportunity,” wrote musician Clif Dodson for the website Practice Room 101, which offers plenty of tips to beginning students of music.[]

On a related note, if you want to pick up a simple musical instrument, there are options.

It takes about a week to play a tune on the Irish tin whistle. Harmonicas are also relatively easy to learn how to play.[]

Becoming a Wikipedia editor

It hardly seems a day goes by without referencing Wikipedia for some topic in the general pantheon of knowledge. If you’re drawn to Wikipedia’s purpose to create a web-based, free content encyclopedia representing all branches of knowledge, and you like content editing, then becoming a Wikipedia contributor (ie, editor) may be right for you.[]

Wikipedia recommends that editors be bold and accurate when editing in an encyclopedic, “just-the-facts style.”

According to Wikipedia, “As a new editor, also known as a contributor, you may feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of this project called Wikipedia. Don't worry too much if you don't understand everything at first, as it is acceptable to use common sense as you go about editing.”

The site also instructs editors that Wikipedia is a “work in progress,” and perfection is not required. The collaborative nature of the online encyclopedia means that rough first drafts “can evolve over time into excellent articles.”


Neurology Today runs an intriguing column called “Off the Clock.” Each feature focuses on a neurologist and one of their hobbies. One neurologist, Dr. Jennifer Bickel, the chief wellness officer at Florida’s Moffitt Cancer Center, makes soaps, bath salts, and lotions in her spare time.[]

“The soaps I found I love the most because it's this combination of science and gift-giving. There's something that's really satisfying about calculating the rates [of ingredients] and learning about the different fats and butters,” Dr. Bickel tells Neurology Today. “I found it's a fun way to experiment. And it causes me much less weight gain than baking,” she said.

Fortunately, soap-making need not take up most of your day, with melt-and-pour options often available, although you can create soaps from scratch (which may bring back memories of chemistry lab). 

Other upsides to the craft include the ability to gift personalized soaps to friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

According to Dr. Bickel, even if you craft a bar of soap that looks subpar, people still tend to like them because they look and smell good.

Want to learn more? Check out this beginner tutorial from Good Housekeeping.

Becoming a Local Guide

Local Guides, an effort from Google Maps, is a collection of reviews and associated content written by everyday people. Local Guides write reviews, answer questions, share photos, and add/edit places (businesses, recreational activities, forest preserves, and anything else you can imagine).

The work is important to travelers worldwide and informs millions of people when making decisions on places to visit. 

A useful site to check out is Local Guides Connect, which shares tips and news with the Google Maps community.[]

Although Local Guides donate their time, there are perks to the role, including early access to new Google products and invitations to real-world meet-ups.

What this means for you

Residency is a busy time, professionally and personally, so it can be hard to engage in leisure hobbies. Fortunately, there are many enjoyable activities that don’t require loads of time or money. Many can be done from the convenience of your home, while you’re winding down from a hard day of training or during moments (however rare) of time off.

Read Next: 7 residents reflect on moments they thought about quitting

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