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Visualizing the Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

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Visualizing the Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

Visualizing the Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

Creative people have a reputation for circumventing convention.

After all, if creatives always did things the same way as everyone else, how could they ever produce anything original and truly unique?

While it’s not always easy to do things differently, the most famous creative people throughout history have almost always followed their own paths. The end result, thankfully for us, is a wealth of original art that has served to inspire generation upon generation.

Time Well Spent

Today’s chart comes to us from Podio and it breaks down the daily routines of famous creative people, such as Pablo Picasso, Mozart, Maya Angelou, or Benjamin Franklin.

We highly recommend the interactive version which allows you to highlight segments of the chart to see more specific details on the routines of each creative person.

It’s also worth noting that the routines listed don’t necessarily represent the exact everyday activities for the listed creatives – instead, they are representations of what’s been recorded in diaries, journals, letters, or other literature by these greats themselves.

Finally, most of the data comes from the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.

Unconventional Habits of Creative Geniuses

Here are some of the creatives that had some of the most unusual and eccentric routines:

Ludwig van Beethoven
The famous German composer and pianist was a coffee addict, and would count exactly 60 beans for each cup of joe he consumed.

Franz Kafka
The novelist would have strong bouts of insomnia and often hallucinated. This condition shaped his creative process, and he stated in his journal that he only knew the type of writing in which “fear [kept him] from sleeping”.

Honoré de Balzac
The French novelist and playwright “[went] to bed at six or seven in the evening, like the chickens” and started working just after midnight. When he worked, he wore “Moroccan slippers” and a “notorious white monkish robe with a belt of Venetian gold”. In his defense, with this type of routine, he was able to write 85 novels in 20 years.

W.H. Auden
The English-American poet took Benzedrine – an amphetamine – every morning for 20 years as a systematic part of his routine and creative process. He balanced its use with the barbiturate Seconal, for when he wanted to sleep. He called amphetamines a “labor-saving device” that gave direct energy to his work.

Victor Hugo
The French poet, novelist, and dramatist, best known for penning Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, had very busy and eclectic days.

His breakfast would include coffee and two raw eggs, and after working for a few hours in the morning, he would take an ice bath on the roof. In the afternoon, he would try to fit in a quick visit with his barber, a date with his mistress, and also some strenuous exercise. In the evening, he would write some more, and then play cards and go out with friends.

The Reputation Lives On

Rightfully or wrongfully deserved, the reputation of creative geniuses for doing things differently is something that will likely continue to live on – and the rest of the world will likely pass judgement so long as they continue to receive the fruits of their labors.

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Chart of the Week

Can a Shorter Workweek Make People Happier?

The idea of a shorter workweek sounds enticing to most, but would it actually lead to a happier population? We look at the data so far.

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Can A Shorter Workweek Make People Happier?

For many people, the concept of a shorter workweek is enticing. After all, it can be difficult to find enough time for the things we love.

Is it reasonable then, in our quest for happiness, to begin working less? Advocates of a shorter workweek would agree, but these policies have yet to be widely-adopted.

Today’s chart plots data from the World Happiness Report 2019 and the OECD to determine if there’s any correlation between a country’s happiness and average hours worked per person.

What Happens When We Work Too Much?

The unhealthy side effects of working long hours are well established. In extreme cases, however, symptoms can extend beyond the usual stress and fatigue.

For example, the American Heart Association found that people under the age of 50 had a higher risk of stroke when working over 10 hours a day for a decade or more. Another study, conducted across 14 countries, concluded that people who worked long hours were 12% more likely to become excessive drinkers.

If working longer days is so harmful to our well-being, what happens if we work fewer hours instead?

Comparing the Numbers

The tables below list the happiest countries as well as the unhappiest countries in the OECD; happiness scores range from 0 to 10, with a 10 representing the best life possible.

Based on the data, there appears to be some degree of correlation between a person’s happiness and the amount of hours they work.

Here’s how the five happiest countries stack up:

CountryHappiness Score (0-10)5-Yr Average Annual
Hours Worked
Difference in Hours Worked
from OECD Average (1,682 hrs) 
🇫🇮 Finland7.7691,559 hrs-123 hrs
🇩🇰 Denmark7.6001,406 hrs-276 hrs
🇳🇴 Norway7.5541,422 hrs-260 hrs
🇮🇸 Iceland7.4941,491 hrs-191 hrs
🇳🇱 Netherlands7.4881,432 hrs-250 hrs

The five happiest countries each work over 100 hours less than the OECD average. Compare this to the five least happiest countries:

CountryHappiness Score (0-10)5-Yr Average Annual
Hours Worked
Difference in Hours Worked
from OECD Average (1,682 hrs) 
🇬🇷 Greece5.2871,946 hrs+264 hrs
🇹🇷 Turkey5.3731,832 hrs+150 hrs
🇵🇹 Portugal5.6931,722 hrs+40 hrs
🇭🇺 Hungary5.7581,749 hrs+67 hrs
🇯🇵 Japan5.8861,710 hrs*+28 hrs

*OECD data includes full- and part-time workers. While this affects the entire data set, Japan’s high share of part-time workers (37% as of 2017) suggests it is particularly vulnerable to underestimation.

Coincidentally, all five of the least happiest countries work more hours than the OECD average, up to over 264 hours in the case of Greece.

Happiness is multifaceted, though, and we should avoid drawing conclusions from a single variable. For instance, the World Happiness Report 2019 calculates happiness scores based on eight distinct metrics:

 MetricDescription
#1Positive AffectThe average of 3 measures: happiness, laughter, and enjoyment
#2Negative AffectThe average of 3 measures: worry, sadness, and anger
#3Social SupportHaving someone to count on in times of trouble
#4FreedomThe ability to make life choices
#5CorruptionThe perception of corruption throughout business and government
#6GenerosityBased on survey results about charity donations
#7GDP per Capita (Log Scale)Economic output per person
#8Healthy Life ExpectancyYears spent in good health

With these in mind, we can make a few additional observations.

Four of the five happiest OECD countries are located in the Nordics, a region known for low corruption rates and robust social safety nets. On the other end of the scale, economic hardship is a recurring theme among the OECD’s least happiest countries. The falling Turkish lira and Greece’s debt crisis are two significant examples.

To properly measure the happiness-boosting potential of a shortened workweek, it seems we need to isolate its effects.

Challenging the Status Quo

Employers are now experimenting with shorter work schedules to see if happier employees are in fact better employees.

Case 1: Successful Trial

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based estate planning firm, trialed a four-day workweek for two months with no changes to compensation.

The trial was hailed as a success. Employee stress levels fell by 7 percentage points while overall life satisfaction rose by 5 percentage points. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that productivity remained the same.

Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner.

– Helen Delaney, University of Auckland

Following the trial, the firm’s founder expressed interest in implementing the four-day workweek on a permanent basis.

Case 2: Successful Trial with Trade-offs

Filimundus, a Sweden-based software studio, trialed a six-hour workday in 2014. Staff reception was positive, and the company has since adopted it permanently.

There were trade-offs, however. While staff enjoyed more time for their private lives, productivity across different departments saw mixed results.

We did see some decrease in production for some staff, mostly our artists, but an increase in production for our programmers. So money-wise, in costs, it evened out.

– Linus Feldt, CEO

Interestingly, the studio also trialed a seven-hour workday, and saw no positive effects.

Case 3: An Unsustainable Solution

Public healthcare workers in Gothenburg, Sweden, trialed a six-hour workday for two years. Similar to the first case, compensation was unchanged.

While the trial achieved good results—staff experienced lower stress levels and patients received a higher level of care—the policy was unsustainable.

It’s far too expensive to carry out a general shortening of working hours within a reasonable time frame.

– Daniel Bernmar

17 additional staff were hired to compensate for the shorter workdays, increasing the local government’s payroll by $738,000. The city council did note, however, that lower unemployment costs offset this increase by approximately 10%.

Picking Up Momentum

These experiments are garnering attention from around the world.

Even Japan, a country known for its “overtime culture”, is getting in on the action. Microsoft offices in the East Asian country tested a four-day workweek in August 2019, and reported happier staff, as well as an impressive 40% boost in productivity.

While the results of these early experiments are indeed promising, they’ve exposed the nuances that exist between industries and job types, and the need for further trials. One thing is certain though—shorter workweek policies should not be interpreted as a “one size fits all” solution for happier lives.

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Chart of the Week

Ranked: The Most Valuable Nation Brands

A country’s national image can have a big impact on its economic fortunes. See which countries have the highest ranked nation brands.

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nation brands 2019

Ranked: The Most Valuable Nation Brands

Talent and capital are increasingly mobile, so a country’s image and reputation — its brand — can have a big impact on the country’s economic fortunes.

This is particularly true in smaller nations such as Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates, which have all cultivated an investment and tourism-friendly image. Whether it’s attracting talent or wooing investment dollars, highly ranked nation brands can often outperform their rivals in the global marketplace.

The effect of a country’s image on the brands based there and the economy as a whole makes a nation brand the most important asset of any state.

– David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance

Today’s Chart of the Week uses data from Brand Finance’s Nation Brands report, which attempts to quantify the reputations of various countries around the world.

Quantifying Perception

The report breaks down the methodology in more detail, but here how the scoring system works. Brand Finance uses three pillars to calculate a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score:

  1. Goods & Services: Includes factors such as openness to tourism, market size, and trade rules
  2. Society: Includes factors such as quality of life, corruption, and cultural image
  3. Investment: Includes items such as talent retention, use of technology, R&D, taxation, and regulation

The BSI score is then used to calculate a hypothetical royalty rate, and to forecast revenues to ultimately derive a brand value (post-tax revenues discounted to calculate a net present value). This calculation produces the “Brand Value” of a country.

The Most Valuable Nation Brands

One of most impressive gains came from second-ranked China, which is rapidly closing the gap separating them from the United States. China’s brand value surged over 40% to $19.4 trillion — more than the cumulative brand value of the next five countries.

Not to be outdone, the United States also posted impressive numbers. Despite being a mature economy, the country’s brand value grew by 7.2% over the last year.

Here is the full top 10 list:

RankCountryNation Brand ValueChange vs 2018
1🇺🇸 United States$27.8T+7.2%
2🇨🇳 China$19.5T+40.5%
3🇩🇪 Germany$4.9T-5.7%
4🇯🇵 Japan$4.5T+26.0%
5🇬🇧 United Kingdom$3.9T+2.7%
6🇫🇷 France$3.1T-4.0%
7🇮🇳 India$2.6T+18.7%
8🇨🇦 Canada$2.2T-1.8%
9🇰🇷 South Korea$2.1T+6.7%
10🇮🇹 Italy$2.1T-4.7%

Top Countries by Brand Strength

One characteristic of the brand value score is that it’s heavily weighted towards the world’s larger economies. The BSI score, by contrast, may be a more accurate reflection of a government’s guidance of its nation brand as it eliminates the inherent GDP advantage that these bigger economies have.

Using the BSI scoring method, Singapore comes out on top — as it has every year since it supplanted Germany in 2015. The highly prosperous city-state serves as the business hub of Southeast Asia and is renowned for its world-class education, healthcare, transport, and low crime levels. These factors, paired with the nation’s unwavering political stability and commitment to its ‘Future Economy’ strategy, makes the island a very strong and stable nation on the global stage.

The top 10 strongest nation brands:

RankCountryBrand Strength Index (BSI) ScoreChange vs 2018BSI Rating
1🇸🇬 Singapore90.5-1.9AAA+
2🇨🇭 Switzerland89.9-0.3AAA+
3🇳🇱 Netherlands89.6+1.9AAA+
4🇩🇪 Germany88.2+3.5AAA
5🇱🇺 Luxembourg86.9+2.1AAA
6🇦🇪 U.A.E.86.6-1.9AAA
7🇫🇮 Finland86.4-1.0AAA
8🇯🇵 Japan85.8+1.9AAA
9🇺🇸 United States85.7+0.1AAA
10🇩🇰 Denmark85.6+2.6AAA

The United States makes the top 10, but has fallen in the rankings since sitting at fourth place in 2014. That isn’t necessarily an indictment of the U.S. though — the country’s rating has improved somewhat, moving from AA+ to AAA over that same time period.

Turkey was one of the success stories of 2019. The country’s BSI score rebounded by nearly 50% after experiencing a large drop in 2018.

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