Success is the result of will power. Through History, many exceptional persons have used the power of the will to excel in what they do. No matter what the obstacles were, they were able to jump over them and reach their goals. Beethoven was deaf, Franklin D. Roosevelt was an invalid, Milton was blind, Helen Keller was deaf-blind; yet all of them exercised great courage and determination to reach their goals. They made things happen.
This post is about organizing our working days by adding value to the daily routines practiced by outstanding figures of the past. Here we go.
- Don’t work long hours. Being a “workaholic” is not a good working practice. Philosopher Michel Foucault would only work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Beethoven only worked from sunrise until the early afternoon.
- Take breaks. Socrates would sometimes stop and remain completely still for several minutes. Beethoven was known to punctuate his mornings by running outside and walking around—he called it “working while walking”.
- Take even longer breaks. The notables all spent a single long period away from their desks every day to give their minds time to recover and regain its creative poise. Beethoven started work at daybreak, but call it quits by two or three in the afternoon which left him a good 14 hours away from work. Victor Hugo wrote in the mornings and took afternoons off entirely. Churchill would do nothing work-related between noon and around 11 at night.
- Stop work and sit down for meals. Churchill would even have a bath and dress formally for meals. For us common mortals, this injunction could simply mean sitting down with your sandwich away from your desk, on a bench in the park or somewhere else. Or resolving to chew and taste your food properly.
- Don’t work in the afternoons. There are some exceptions, but very few notables did any serious work in the afternoon. Victor Hugo spent his afternoons riding around Paris in double decker buses, watching his countrymen about their work.
- Mix it up. The days of the celebrities contain a surprising variety of activities. It seems that we don’t have to focus on a small range of things to succeed. Even the grim German philosopher, Immanuel Kant went for afternoon walks and sat down for lunch with friends each day. Gandhi walked, spun, had a long bath and massage. Churchill painted, fed his fish, played card games and constructed buildings all over Chartwell Farm. He claimed that our minds don’t need rest as much as they need variety.
- Aim low. Don’t schedule every minute of your day. Leo at Zenhabits suggests that we have morning and evening routines, and leave the middle of the day open for completing key tasks and other things that come up. Micro managing every minute of your day is a No, No.
- Take time to relax. They all blocked out time to do nothing at all. Gandhi would often spend time just staring at the horizon. Churchill would sit down to smoke a cigar after lunch and Beethoven would stop off for a few beers after his afternoon walk. In his recent autobiography, Alan Greenspan mentions that he too makes time to reflect each day.
- Get up early. This is a controversial work routine. Samuel Johnson, Churchill and Dylan Thomas got up late. Gandhi, Franklin and Mandela all got up early. But whether they were early birds or night owls, the illustrious all made sure they had long periods of uninterrupted quiet time; whether late at night or early in the morning.
- Exercise. Emerson, Beethoven, Nietzsche, Victor Hugo and Gandhi all went for walks. Nietzsche said that he “scribbled” notes while he took his walk and claims that some of his best thoughts came in this way.
That’s it folks. Ten tips to increase your probability of success. How about adding them gradually to your daily routines? Who knows, you might be the next President of your country.