Brighten Youth Education Centre



The daily habits of great minds


Today we’re looking at the daily routines of some of history’s most innovative people and recognising which characteristics might be helpful for your own schedule. It’s true, not all creative people have helpful habits. Beethoven was said to start the day by counting the sixty coffee beans he felt were necessary to make the perfect brew. Engagingly eccentric perhaps, but not necessarily helpful to productivity.

When Mozart was without a wealthy patron, he gave piano lessons to elite clients in order to make ends meet. Mixed with his usual social life, rehearsals and recitals, this schedule meant that he would often arrive home in the late evening. Yet he still composed every night before bed, allowing for only a few hours a night. It’s OK to work whenever you can, but still make sure you work every day. Working every day seems the key to success but how much your work might not be as important. Benjamin Franklin maintained a tight schedule and tinkered with it throughout his lift, usually in order to achieve whatever personal virtues he was hoping to cultivate. However, when seized with an idea he would abandon the schedule and dive into the project. Voltaire wrote for up to twenty consecutive hours while Thomas Mann viciously protected the time between 9am and noon, permitting no distractions. Only then did he feel free to deal with the other business of the day. Many writers, Martin Amis included, admit to less than a couple of productive hours a day. It may not be much time, but a little time each day soon adds up.

While avoiding distractions is ideal, it is not always necessary. Jane Austen lived in a large house with her family and had little private time for thinking and writing. She often wrote in company, scribbling notes of bits of paper while others were distracted. What is vital is keeping track of your output and not kidding yourself about it. When he was done for the day Earnest Hemmingway reviewed his word count and kept track of it on his manuscripts. If he’d only managed fifty words that day, there is was in black and white. If anything this will give you a more realistic understanding of what you’re capable of in a day.

Also, if you need to keep a day job while you chase your dream don’t moan about it. Time constraints sharpen creativity. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his first novel in the army. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mikhail Bulgakov were doctors. Jack Kerouac washed dishes when required. The all leaned to hustle. So, work whenever and wherever you can (as long as you work every day), keep track of your output for more realistic goals, don’t sweat the day job, and count coffee beans if it pleases you.


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