Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Does having a hobby really improve your creativity at work?

Laura Jončiulienė, Team Manager, Product Management Operations at AdForm

Laura is part of the latest PMU cohort

I think everyone at some point in their life has struggled with work when creativity was needed. I’m no exception. 

A couple of surveys from Adobe in 2012 and 2016 show that less than half of people on average (39% in 2012 and 41% in 2016) would describe themselves as ‘creative’. It comes naturally to some, but it’s hard to get new ideas if you’re not constantly showered with sudden inspiration.

The solution isn’t a series of self-help books, or expensive retreats. I’m happy to confirm that I’ve discovered a good work-life balance and having a hobby works wonders.

A few years ago I was satisfied with my work-life balance. I had a few hobbies, but never thought about their benefits for my creativity. But then Covid-19 hit, and everything changed. We worked from home, with no possibility of the gym or any other social activity, and the clear line between work and my spare time disappeared. I prolonged my working hours and even after I finished work I continued to think about it.

After some time I noticed it was harder to work on tasks that required creativity. I read a book The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker by Dorte Nielsen & Sarah Thurber, and whilst it contained some interesting exercises, it just wasn’t enough. I still had a creative block. 

The next obvious step was to look for advice on the internet. Among all other suggestions, I’ve discovered a few articles on how hobbies can improve creativity at work. This was groundbreaking for me. An article written by Kayla Matthews on “How hobbies make you More Productive and Creative” explained that if you’re stuck in a creative rut, research indicates it’s useful to break up your workday with a hobby that makes you move, such as walking. 

Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf are two famous authors who kept up a regular walking habit for the purpose of creativity. Study from Stanford University shows that when people carried out mental tasks that required creativity, walking while doing them led to more creativity than sitting still. There were other suggested hobbies that could improve creativity at work such as playing video games, learning a new language, stamp collecting, playing chess, scrapbooking and team sports.

So I walked. Every day. My productivity increased by (my estimates!) about 60%. And I joined online yoga lessons that took place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 pm and that helped me finish my work on time and become more aware of the things going on internally and externally. 

I also tried ceramics at home. I made a vase using a kit from a studio in my city and found that during the process I came up with so many other new ideas. Then came the sewing. I’ve started with small projects such as a bed for my dog and finished with a skirt for myself. Then a few more hobbies followed, like Crossfit, running, gardening and puzzles. Rather than being overwhelmed or distracted, I feel more awake and inspired every day. These small changes can make a massive impact on how ‘alert’ and creative you feel. 

My advice to business leaders is to make sure your staff have a hobby, and give them time to work on them. Maybe have ‘show and tells’ in the office so that people can share their hobbies with each other. No matter if it is walking, playing games or stamp collecting, it really helps you to come up with new ideas or gives you an alternative perspective on a task at work.