Geniuses: What You Can Learn From Their Daily Routines

They are just like us. Artistic geniuses, that is. They don’t produce their masterpieces out of thin air or while they’re dreaming.

No, even artistic geniuses are quite disciplined in ways that might surprise franchise owners looking for inspiration.

While you may lack some of the eccentricities – and this is likely a good thing – of some well-known genius types, when it comes down to productivity, they take a very practical approach.

That’s the conclusion of author Mason Curry’s recent book: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, as analyzed by Harvard Business Review’s Sarah Green.

Curry examined the historic schedules of more than 150 painters, writers, composers and other exceptional thinkers. In four key ways, these geniuses of years past used techniques to keep their work on track that we can all relate to:

No distractions

Writing software comes equipped these days with full screen modes to minimize the background distractions so an author can focus on their work. To those who think this is a new concept, guess again. As Green points out, William Faulkner and Mark Twain devised strategies to prevent anyone from disturbing them in their offices and Graham Greene rented a secret room that only his wife knew about. Even back then, they understood the concept of avoiding distractions to encourage focus.


Another cottage industry — fitness tracking software, has at its core the realization that fresh air and exertion contributes to greater productivity.

Again, the geniuses of the past were well aware of this. Green notes that Curry’s book includes the stories of Charles Dickens and Tchaikovsky, both who regularly took long walks to invigorate them. Beethoven did the same and took a pencil and paper along in case he was inspired along the way.

Strict record keeping

It might surprise franchise owners to know that famous authors and artists were among those who methodically kept track of their productivity because they knew without the discipline, their work might languish.

In business schools, they talk incessantly about “metrics.” For Ernest Hemingway, it meant keeping a chart with daily word counts so he could stay on course. BF Skinner did the same and also set a timer.


Most research will tell you a full night’s rest (seven to eight hours) is important for concentration and overall health. For most business owners, sleeping from about 10 p.m. until 5 or 6 a.m. is probably not uncommon. While it may feel like a grind from time to time, remember you’re in good company with the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Beethoven, Maya Angelou and Victor Hugo. The F. Scott Fitzgerald sleep schedule of 3:30 a.m.-11 a.m., you can imagine, would probably be bad for business.

What does this all mean for franchise owners intent on squeezing every last bit of productivity out of their daily routines?

It tells us that behind the image of a genius beats the heart and mind of a time management nerd who understands that only discipline can harness human tendencies to procrastinate. Even if you aren’t a genius, it is possible to improve your routine and your bottom line.

Andy Roe is the General Manager of SurePayroll, Inc., a Paychex Company. SurePayroll is the trusted provider of easy online payroll services to small businesses nationwide. SurePayroll compiles data from small businesses nationwide through its Small Business Scorecard optimism survey, and exclusively reflects the trends affecting the nation’s “micro businesses” — those with 1-10 employees.

You can follow Andy on Twitter @AndrewSRoe. For more information visit:

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