Success is more a deliberate practice of what works than a serendipitous streak of luck or privilege. The path to greatness is paved with tiny consistent rituals.
Almost every book devoted to time management includes a chapter about a daily routine. This is really dependent on the effective time management. But any rigid framework is not always relevant in this regard. Mason Currey, described daily routines of some of the world’s most prolific minds in history — past and present — in his book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work”. These routines and habits might inspire you to create your own. After all, we all aspire to be remarkable at what we do.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Having moved to Vienna at the age of 25, Austrian composer Wolfgang Mozart earned his living from giving private music lessons, performing concerts. He composed more than 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. All this took a lot of time. In a letter to his sister penned in 1782, Mozart outlines a routine so intense that it left him a mere five hours of night’s sleep:
“At six o’clock in the morning I have my hair dressed, and have finished my toilet by seven o’clock. I write till nine. From nine to one I give lessons. I then dine, unless I am invited out, when dinner is usually at two o’clock, sometimes at three, as it was to-day, and will be to-morrow at Countess Zichi’s and Countess Thun’s. I cannot begin to work before five or six o’clock in the evening, and I am often prevented doing so by some concert; otherwise I write till nine o’clock. I then go to my dear Constanze, though our pleasure in meeting is frequently embittered by the unkind speeches of her mother, which I will explain to my father in my next letter.”
“At half-past ten or eleven I go home, but this depends on the mother’s humor, or on my patience in bearing it. Owing to the number of concerts, and also the uncertainty whether I may not be summoned to one place or another, I cannot rely on my evening writing, so it is my custom (especially when I come home early) to write for a time before going to bed. I often sit up writing till one, and rise again at six.”
The founding father of the United States was a big fan of structured plans and schedules. He set out some rules for his self-improvement, calling them his “Plan of Conduct.” Thanks to this plan the politician reached great heights in self-discipline. Here is what his daily routine looked like.
Franklin got up at 5 am and spent the next 2 hours on the morning toilet, prayer, planning for the current day and research. From 7 to 8 he had a breakfast, and then he worked until 11 o’clock. From 12 to 14, he was engaged in reading or viewing reports, and also had lunch, and then worked again until 17:00. He dedicated most of his evenings to reading, music, other entertainment, as well as talking with friends and going to bed at 22:00.
The founder of psychoanalytic theory was an extremely hardworking person. “I cannot imagine life without work as really comfortable,” Freud wrote to a friend in 1910.
Freud rose each day by 7:00 a.m., ate breakfast, and had his beard trimmed by a barber who made a daily house call for this purpose. Then he saw analytic patients from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Dinner, the principal meal of the day, was served promptly at 1:00 p.m. After the meal, Freud went for a walk, buying cigars or visiting his publisher on the way. From 3:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., he was seeing next patients. Finally, he spent the remaining time in his office, where he was reading and writing articles for scientific journals. Freud went to bed at 1 a.m.
Vincent van Gogh
Gogh is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life.
In an 1888 letter to his brother, Theo, Gogh wrote:
“Today again from seven o’clock in the morning till six in the evening I worked without stirring except to take some food a step or two away. I have no thought of fatigue, I shall do another picture this very night, and I shall bring it off. Our days pass in working, working all the time, in the evening we are dead beat and go off to the café, and after that, early to bed! Such is our life.”
The daily routine of the greatest scientist of the 20th century was much simpler than his theories. From 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. he had breakfast and read newspapers. Then he went to work — on foot or by car, depending on the weather and his mood. He worked until 1:00 p.m., and had dinner at home at 2:00 p.m. After that, he continued to work in his office until the dinner at 18:30 p.m. After dinner, the scientist continued to work.
An American writer and journalist Ernest Hemingway explains his daily routine and work habits in a 1958 interview with The Paris Review:
“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love.”
Whatever you do, it’s important to find your ideal creative time and stick to it. Do your creative and meaningful work at your peak times, when your energy is high and distractions are minimal.