Sarah Green writes about the commonalities of how geniuses structure their days and routines for work in The Daily Routines of Geniuses for the Harvard Business Review blog. Her article is based on author Mason Currey’s popular book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which examines the work lives of 161 painters, writers, and composers, philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers.
She notes:

“And although the book itself is a delightful hodgepodge of trivia, not a how-to manual, I began to notice several common elements in the lives of the healthier geniuses (the ones who relied more on discipline than on, say, booze and Benzedrine) that allowed them to pursue the luxury of a productivity-enhancing routine.”

Peppered with examples from the likes of Jane Austen, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Graham Greene, N.C. Wyeth, Charles Dickens and Beethoven, she summarizes these as:

  • A workspace with minimal distractions
  • A daily walk
  • Accountability metrics
  • A clear dividing line between important work and busywork
  • A habit of stopping when they’re on a roll, not when they’re stuck
  • A supportive partner
  • Limited social lives

You can also read a series of articles by Mason Currey at Slate. While a few of these articles focus on vices that fueled the greats (alcohol and amphetemines) and others focused on quirks (Truman Capote and Marcel Proust wrote in bed, Somerset Maugham preferred the bath ), we point you to the more instructive entry on early rising: Is waking up early the secret to artistic success?:

“In researching Daily Rituals, I came across story after story of creative artists who did their most important work—and sometimes their only work—just as the sun was rising. (Of the 161 figures in the book, about a third got up at 7 a.m. or earlier.) If I were going to extrapolate one lesson from the book, it would be this: Get up early and go straight to work, making a cup of coffee if you like but not doing much else before sitting down, and take advantage of that time before the myriad demands of daily life have a chance to take hold.”

Use the drop down box to review the entire series.
For snapshot views, there are also many well-designed infographic style summaries of the book:
A cool infographic from Info We Trust, the source of the illustration in this post. You can view this in poster form – click to enlarge.
The Daily Schedules of Creative Geniuses (Interactive Graphic)
Sleeping habits of geniuses
For more inspiration from the notable, see our prior post on How successful people start their days. It discusses the morning rituals of successful executives and entrepreneurs and how they invest in their top-priority activities for the day.


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