Here’s How the World’s Most Creative People Organize Their Daily Routines

From Maya Angelou to Beethoven to Picasso

Never sure how to budget your time each day to maximize your productivity and enhance your creativity? Well, perhaps you should take a cue from some of history’s most successful and prolific artists, writers, musicians and thinkers. This interactive tool created by Podio compares the daily schedules of some of history’s most famous creative types.

(View full-size. via Podio).

So if you’re looking to create some new daily habits, allow these folks to be your inspiration.

TIME psychology

Strokes of Genius: Here’s How the Most Creative People Get Their Ideas

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Where do strokes of genius come from?

Keith Sawyer tells an interesting story about breakthrough ideas in his book, Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity.

Researcher Vera John-Steiner wanted to know What nourishes sustained productivity in the lives of creative individuals?

She interviewed over 70 living creative geniuses and analyzed the notebooks of 50 dead ones (including Tolstoy, Einstein, etc.) to look at their work habits.

She assumed this was going to end up as a review of Eureka! moments in the greatest creative minds.

She even planned to title her book “The Leap” because it would be about those giant flashes of inspiration that led to breakthrough ideas.

But she was completely wrong.

Eureka! moments turned out to be a myth.

There was no inspiration moment where a fully formed answer arrived.

Strokes of genius happened over time.

A great idea comes into the world by drips and drabs, false starts, and rough sketches.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Creativity started with the notebooks’ sketches and jottings, and only later resulted in a pure, powerful idea. The one characteristic that all of these creatives shared— whether they were painters, actors, or scientists— was how often they put their early thoughts and inklings out into the world, in sketches, dashed-off phrases and observations, bits of dialogue, and quick prototypes. Instead of arriving in one giant leap, great creations emerged by zigs and zags as their creators engaged over and over again with these externalized images.

She heard it over and over again in the interviews and read it in different forms in every notebook.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

    • Albert Einstein always said he thought in pictures: “Words do not play any role in my thought; instead, I think in signs and images which I can copy and combine.
    • English writer Jessica Mitford engaged in a constant dialogue with her unfolding drafts: “The first thing to do is read over what you have done the day before and rewrite it. And then that gives you a lead into the next thing to do.”
    • The painter Ben Shahn described creativity as “the long artistic tug-of-war between idea and image.
    • Poet May Sarton wrote, “The poem teaches us something while we make it; there is nothing dull about revision.

It was never a clean, linear process.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Successful creators engage in an ongoing dialogue with their work. They put what’s in their head on paper long before it’s fully formed, and they watch and listen to what they’ve recorded, zigging and zagging until the right idea emerges.

What can we take away from this?

  • Stop expecting inspiration to deliver a finished product.
  • Write all your ideas down as early as possible. (It’s no surprise so many of the geniuses kept notebooks.)
  • Stop discarding half-baked ideas. Those crappy ideas are the good ideas — they just need work.
  • Don’t think your first idea is the right one. And don’t think it’s perfect as-is.
  • Wrestle with your ideas. Dissect, combine, add, subtract, turn them upside down and shake them. Get ideas colliding.

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Related posts:

What good work habits do nearly all geniuses have in common?

5 quick things you can do today to boost your creativity

Creative Teams – What 7 elements do they all share?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Creativity

El Bulli Chef Ferran Adria’s Favorite Breakfast and Philosophy on Creativity


Spanish chef Ferran Adrià had one of the most famous and admired restaurants in the world. He had hundreds of people wanting each set every single night. And then in 2010, he abruptly announced he was shutting up shop. Except, as he explained to TIME in a recent interview, he’s not really shutting his restaurant, El Bulli, so much as transforming it into a foundation that explores creativity. And food. He even had a show of his drawings of plates at New York City’s Drawing Center recently.

“Picture if you were a doctor, and 70% of your time was spent with patients and 30% on research,” he says in Spanish. “Well, then you suddenly decide you want to flip it around, and you want to do 70% on research and 30% of actually taking care of patients. That’s what we decided to do.” For Adrià, to be creative, you have to be really ruthless about everything, especially your time. “People are always demanding more, more, more creativity. And if you’re not organized, you don’t have systems in place, you’re not going to last.”

Elsewhere in the interview, which can be found in this week’s issue of TIME, Adrià talks about his fascination with honey, the only food animals cook for us and how he believes people’s nostalgia gets in the way of them being able to really judge food. (His mom may want to skip reading the back page of TIME this week.)

For a guy with such a dedication to pushing the boundaries of gastronomy, Adrià has pretty simple ideas about breakfast: fruit, yogurt, coffee. Perhaps he’s saving his creative energy for the other meals.




Robert Redford Almost Gave Up Acting


When considering who most influenced his life, Robert Redford, who has performed with Hollywood’s finest and mentored independent cinema’s rising stars, cites a “mixed bag” of people who helped him along the way.

“There is power in an idea that you will stay with, against the odds,” he tells TIME Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs in this short interview. Whether it’s called ego or drive or stubbornness or vision, Redford endorses the impulse to “keep pushing through” in spite of the obstacles. Even failure, he notes, can be valuable, even “fun.”

TIME career

Being Creative Outside of Work Makes You Better at Your Job

Ronnie Kaufman/Larry Hirshowitz—Getty Images/Blend Images

Researchers at San Francisco State University surveyed 341 employees about their "creative activities," which ranged from writing to video gaming, and discovered that having an outlet connects to experiencing mastery, control and relaxation

Have a creative outlet has long been considered good for your well-being, but a new study suggests it will help you be better at your job.

Researchers from San Francisco State University surveyed 341 employees about their creative activities, including what they do during downtime, how creative they are at work and how well they supported their employer and co-workers.

The researchers let the interviewees determine for themselves what “creative activities” meant — and the results spanned from writing to video games. Originally, the researchers wanted to know if having a creative outlet impacted a worker’s performance by allowing them to detach and recover from a stressful work day. But they realized it wasn’t so simple because it’s hard draw to a line between career and hobby for some people. For example, a wedding photographer by trade may take pictures of landscapes in their free time. The work is still very similar to their day job, so “detaching” from the daily grind doesn’t fully apply.

What they discovered was that partaking in creative activities was linked to experiencing mastery, control and relaxation, as well as reported positive work performance related outcomes.Why? The researchers are not certain, but it’s likely that people learn new skills through their other activities, and these skills may be applied to their daily work.

“It can be rare in research to find that what we do in our personal time is related to our behaviors in the workplace, and not just how we feel,” said study author Kevin Eschleman, an organizational psychologist at San Francisco State University in a statement.

Even though what the participants defined as “creative” was different for each person, the researchers said that whatever the activity was, it provided them with some form of self-expression and ability to discover something new about themselves. This type of experience can have implications beyond just relaxation after a hard day, but can actually help people with their day-to-day duties, like problem-solving.

The study is published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.

TIME Creativity

Cheating is a Good Thing (Sometimes)

Troels Graugaard—Getty Images/Vetta

A liberated mind is a creative mind, and nothing frees you up like breaking the rules

Want to compose a great symphony, write a classic novel, come up with a brilliant new app? Cheat on your taxes first—or on your spouse, or on your poker buddies. It’s easy—and fun, too.

That’s the unsettling implication of a new study released by the Association for Psychological Science and conducted by business professors at Harvard University and the University of Southern California. The investigators recruited a sample group of volunteers and had them complete a math puzzle in which multiple columns of figures were added in multiple ways. The subjects were told they would be paid for each correct answer and, incidentally, that they’d be grading themselves. Nobody would check their work before they got their cash prize. So: free money, right?

That’s how it seemed. A dispiriting 59% of the subjects lied about how well they did and took the ill-gotten payoff. All of the subjects were then given what’s known as a remote association test in which they were asked to come up with one word that connects a group of three other words (“sore,” “shoulder” and “sweat” can all be connected by “cold,” for example). The two exercises ought to have been unconnected, but there was this revelation: The people who cheated on the math test did significantly better on the word test. The implication: Breaking the rules frees up the mind and makes it easier to be creative.

In some ways, that’s no surprise. Jazz is all about rule-breaking, tossing out the conventional structure of music and replacing it with something closer to improvisational anarchy. Picasso blew up traditional ideas of shape, perspective and proportion. And there’s not a successful novelist alive who would sell so much as a single book without making use of the artful sentence fragment, the well-deployed redundancy, even the wholly invented word.

There’s actually hard brain science supporting the proposition that the best ideas can come from breaking laws of reason. Paul McCartney, Mary Shelley and Jack Nicklaus came up with “Yesterday,” Frankenstein and the perfect golf swing—respectively, of course—in a dream. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that this is because the occipital lobe, where visual and auditory processing live, powers up when we’re asleep at the same time the prefrontal cortex—the cognitive traffic cop that keeps us thinking in an orderly way—goes off duty. When the lawman’s not looking, we can get away with all kinds of creative mayhem.

But not every dishonest person uses the spark of rule-breaking inventiveness to write a song or win the Masters. The wiseguys who dreamed up bundled mortgages or credit default swaps probably felt a delicious frisson of freedom too when they were inventing their toxic pile of economy-tanking instruments. The same is surely true of the smug political operatives who decide it’s “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” or who burgle offices or political headquarters to dig up dirt on their enemies. The more rules you break, the more imaginative you become the next time you do it.

Sometimes, the bad guys are being goaded in their creative misbehavior. “We’ve got a counter-government here and we’ve got to fight it,” Richard Nixon told Charles Colson in the run-up to the Watergate crimes. “Do whatever has to be done. … I don’t want to be told why it can’t be done.” And so he wasn’t—and so they did it.

But most of the time, the Nixon mob came up with their exceedingly unethical antics on their own—as long ago as college political campaigns, when they called their dirty tricks “rat-f–king.” And want to bet each time a rat got, well, effed, the dirty tricksters got better and better at what they were doing?

In the exquisite play Sideman, the lead character describes the way his father, a jazz trumpeter, could make things up as he went along, reacting in real time to what his bandmates were doing:

When he’s up there blowing, he’s totally in touch with everything that’s going on around him. Ziggy bends a note, he echoes it instantly. A car horn sounds outside, he puts it into his or harmonizes under it a second later.

Jazz is wondrous lawlessness; so is cubism. Credit default swaps and political break-ins are nothing of the kind. But broken rules are broken rules. What we do with the freedom that results is up to us.

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