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Innovation By Design

The Daily Routines Of 26 Of History's Most Creative Minds

10 p.m. to 7 a.m.: Sleep. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Be a genius.

[Image: Kurt Vonnegut, Maya Angelou via Shutterstock, Haruki Murakami]

Even Beethoven and Balzac had just 24 hours in a day. How did history's most prolific minds schedule their greatness? Based on research from Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (which we covered previously here), a new interactive infographic by creative marketing agency Distilled offers us mere mortals insight into the daily routines of 26 famous artists, writers, composers, and thinkers. Organized from earliest to latest risers, the visualization reveals hours spent sleeping, eating, working, bathing, socializing, and exercising (good news for the lazy: most of these greats preferred casual strolls to pumping iron).


Perhaps what stands out most is how few of these creative people had good old-fashioned day jobs. Writer Franz Kafka was the only one in this group who had a profession unrelated to his creative field: he was, famously and miserably, a bureaucrat at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute in the Kingdom of Bohemia (not as cool as it sounds). Philosopher Immanuel Kant lectured at a university in the mornings, American writer Kurt Vonnegut taught at a school, composer Wolfgang Mozart gave music lessons here and there, and Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, treated patients. But the rest spent virtually all their waking hours—in some cases, hours most people spend sleeping—devoted to their creative and intellectual work.

The infographic is accompanied by the subjects' thoughts on productivity. Japanese writer Haruki Murakami likens his strict daily routine, which involves writing from 4 a.m. to noon, to a form of mesmerism, while Pablo Picasso is quoted as having said, "Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success."

The graphic suggests there may be other routes besides vigorous action, actually—the award for Most Leisure Time goes to Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor, who sandwiched three to four hours of writing a day between church-going and obsessively tending to her peacocks, among other hobbies. Peacock-raising wasn’t the strangest obsession in the bunch, though: that would be French writer Victor Hugo’s habit of taking an ice bath on his roof every morning. There's one productivity tip we've yet to try out.

To play around with the full interactive infographic, go here.

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