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22 Reasons People with Creative Outlets are More Likely to be Successful

22 Reasons People with Creative Outlets are More Likely to be Successful

Did you know that having fun leads to greater success? Research at San Francisco State University shows that people who have creative outlets outside of work perform better at their jobs. And businesses based on personal pastimes are more likely to turn a profit.

In my workshops I’ve found that expressing ourselves creatively isn’t just about making art. It can also include such hobbies as gardening, fashion, cooking, running, playing hockey…whatever you tend to lose yourself in which brings joy and meaning to your life.

So prepare to be happy and thrive. Here are 22 reasons people with creative outlets are more likely to be successful and you can do it, too.

1. You’re refreshed and more productive

Who can afford to take breaks these days, we’re all so busy, right? But even billionaire Richard Branson, who is responsible for running over 400 companies under the Virgin brand, makes time for kite-boarding. A study shows that taking breaks leads to greater productivity and a higher quality of work. Artistic expressions such as writing and drawing also increase energy and focus. If you want to get more work done in less time, try picking up a surfboard or a paintbrush.

2. You’re happier and more engaged

Having creative outlets lowers stress, increases happiness, and gives us a sense of purpose, which makes us more effective at our jobs. We get better evaluations from managers and customers, and show more helpful behavior at work. That’s a pretty important finding given that only 13% of employees worldwide like their jobs. If you want to experience greater well-being and success in your career, put a date on your calendar to play soccer or practice your drums.

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3. You come up with new ways to do things

In the early years of Microsoft, co-founder Paul Allen picked up his guitar at the end of marathon days of programming. He still plays in a rock band today. “It forces me to look beyond what currently exists and express myself in a new way.” The same is true for you. People with creative pastimes are more likely to come up with creative solutions to work-related problems. If you’re looking for inspiration, try doing something you love to unwind.

4. You make space for breakthroughs

Have you ever noticed how solutions to problems tend to pop into your mind out of nowhere when you’re engaged in your hobby? Albert Einstein is thought to have developed the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. Research at Stanford shows that walking in particular boosts creative thinking. Will Ferrel, who ran marathons while he was part of the cast of Saturday Night Live, noted, “Whenever I’d run, I’d get these great ideas. I love what running does for your mind.” Carve out some space in your day for yoga, swimming, drawing…and watch the creative ideas flow effortlessly.

5. You discover and develop your unique talents

Walt Disney began drawing pictures at the age of four and kept refining his childhood love of doodling until it turned into a multi-billion dollar business that’s still thriving today. Like Walt, you have a unique gift. Sometimes your special abilities are hard to see, though, because they come so easily. How can you compare yourself to others to find out what talents are natural to you? Make a commitment to develop your innate potential and you will excel.

6. You know how to get in the zone

Meryl Streep knits “to clear her head” on set. By putting herself in the moment she’s able to access powerful acting impulses. What puts you in the groove? It could be sewing, dancing, playing sports—whatever makes time disappear for you. When you’re in flow you do your best work, and the positive effects spread to everything you do.

7. You overcome setbacks and obstacles

Having hobbies makes us more resilient in the face of adversity. Oracle founder Larry Ellison says that sailing competitions help him push through his limits and develop a winning mindset. Research shows that simply writing about your difficult experiences heals you physically and mentally and enables you to persevere. When you have a hobby, you’re more likely to find a way around roadblocks and keep going.

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8. You carry your personal accomplishments to work

Side projects boost your self-confidence and give you greater life satisfaction. Whether it be finishing a painting, running a marathon, or finding another piece for your owl collection, you prove to yourself you can reach your goals and that sense of accomplishment carries over to work.

9. You trust your gut and act on it

After Apple founder Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College, he stuck around to study calligraphy. It gave him an aesthetic sense that still distinguishes Apple products today. We all have powerful hunches, but we learn to censor them out of fear and the need to fit in. Following your passion helps you hear your intuition more clearly and act on it.

10. You see the world through fresh eyes

My friend Peggy Monahan, Creative Director at the New York Hall of Science, builds incredibly cool exhibits that draw huge crowds. She attributes her success to being forced to constantly learn new things, dubbing herself “a professional novice.” Next time you feel stuck, try learning something new, like playing guitar or handball. Or see your product or service through your customers’ eyes. You’ll come back to work with a fresh perspective and find new solutions to old problems.

11. You blur the line between work and play

Some of the best ideas come from fusing work and play. Chuck Hebestreit played guitar at night to unwind from his day working at Gore and Associates (best known for producing Gore-Tex). When he noticed finger oil deadened the strings, two coworkers helped him solve the problem by coating the strings with a polyweb (launching Elixir Strings). I’ve given many innovation workshops at high tech companies that initially hired me to do research. What passion would you bring into work if you could?

12. You recognize and seize opportunities

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for the next big idea, your hobby could give you a clue. Jim Jannard noticed the handlebars on his motorcycle got slippery when he sweated and designed a better grip. He founded Oakley, which today produces a wide variety of sports equipment and eyewear. What about you? Is there an everyday problem you encounter in your side project that could turn into a winning book, song, or product? Get deeply, intensely curious and see what you can cook up.

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13. You see the bigger picture

Mistakes sometimes turn into popular products when we see the bigger picture. Spencer Silver tried to make a stronger glue at 3M but failed because his adhesive was weak. Four years later his colleague, Arthur Fry, had an “a-ha” moment while singing in church. Frustrated that the marker kept falling out of his hymnal, he realized his friend’s weak glue would solve the issue. Together they created Post-it Notes. Initially, penicillin and chocolate chip cookies were accidents, too. How does your life outside of work help you see possibilities that others don’t?

14. You believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

When you live in two worlds, you can bring them together in ways that spark cool ideas that are greater than the sum of its parts. Beto Perez was a fitness instructor in Columbia who forgot his aerobics music for class one day and ran back to his car to grab whatever music he could find from his personal collection, which was mostly merengue and salsa. This started the fitness craze we now know as Zumba. How can you merge your passion with your job to create a synergistic effect?

15. You become a solid team player

Many skills cross over from your creative outlets to your job. For example, according to Judd Hollas, CEO of EquityNet, “A football player and his fellow teammates sacrifice for each other for the common good of the team. Business is the same way. Teamwork and camaraderie are what drive success in business.” If you play on a sports team in your off-hours, you’ll naturally be a better team player at work.

16. You develop a good sense of timing

When you develop the ability to do things at exactly the right moment from your creative outlets, it transfers to your work. Scott Picken, CEO of Wealth Migrate, says kitesurfing is just like running a business because it gives you good timing. “You have to wait for the right time to launch. When you’re riding the waves, you must also be on a constant lookout for changes in the environment.” How does your passion project (e.g., fishing, playing bass, performing standup comedy) help you fine-tune your timing?

17. You learn to think on your feet

In my improv classes I learned to trust the first thoughts that pop into my mind and run with them, which makes me be a better speaker, performer and author. Peter Diamond, author of Amplify Your Career, says tennis helps you “to be fully present, able to think on your feet, and change tactics if needed. These same skills are necessary for running a successful business.” What about you? How does your side project help you improvise in other parts of your life and work when necessary?

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18. You keep your mind sharp

Business magnate Warren Buffet stays sharp at age 84 by playing ukulele and online bridge. Research shows that having hobbies bolsters cognitive functioning, stems the advance of dementia, and allows us to live more vibrant lives by increasing our brain connectivity. What hobby can you engage in to keep you on top of your game? If you don’t have one yet, no worries. Constantly learning new things improves your brain health.

19. You are more vital, healthier, and live longer

Many successful people stay fit through physical activities such as swimming (Beyonce) and kitesurfing (Richard Branson). But artistic hobbies like writing and painting are also good for your physical health because they boost your immune system, reduce the symptoms of diseases, and increase longevity. You take fewer sick days and are more vital at work. So next time you’re too tired to play tennis or practice your violin, remember that not only will you feel better afterwards, but you’ll live a healthier and more successful life.

20. You inspire and support others

Oprah loves to read books because they inspire and challenge her, and then shares the books that make a difference to her with her audience. It’s a simple and powerful way to give back. Whenever I learn something new about innovation I always try to include that little tidbit in my next talk, workshop, or blog. What creative outlets do you have that could help others? Spreading joy is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your life.

21. You discover catalyzing career clues

If you’re ho-hum about your career, your hobby may provide clues about what you really want to do with your life. Terry Finley felt unfulfilled selling life insurance, but loved horses. In 1991 he bought his first horse, Sunbelt, for $5,000. He later attracted investors and eventually ended up with 55 horses and a revenue of $6.5 million annually. How can you turn your hobby into a job? Perhaps you can teach what you love to do, speak or write about your hobby, or repair cherished items.

22. You do it for the love

Businesses based on hobbies are more likely to turn a profit because these entrepreneurs don’t do it for the money. They persevere during tough times, even if they don’t make money initially, because they love what they do. Today more people are entrepreneurs than ever before. If that lifestyle also appeals to you, ask yourself how you can you turn your hobby into a business you love.

Don’t worry. Your hobby can stay a hobby. No matter whether you work a 9-to-5 job or you’re an entrepreneur, having a creative outlet feeds your soul and helps you stay fresh and inspired. When you do something you love you’re energized, happy, and focused, and it rolls back positively into your work and all aspects of your life, including your relationships. So the next time you’re afraid to take some time off to have fun and express your unique self because you think it’ll hurt your career, remember that the opposite is true. Start writing or running again, or learn something new. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more successful as a result.

Featured photo credit: smiling young woman using a camera to take photo outdoors at the park/michaeljung via shutterstock.com

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Michelle Millis Chappel

Princeton Ph.D. in psychology, world-acclaimed singer-songwriter, speaker, coach, and author

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Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

Why is multitasking a myth?

The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

Your brain on multi-tasking

Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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But I can juggle multiple tasks!

You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

Why multitasking is failing you

Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

Multitasking wastes your time.

You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

It makes you dumber.

A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

This is an emotional response.

There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

It’ll wear you out.

When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

How to stop multitasking and work productively

Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

1. Consciously change gears

Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

3. Set aside distractions

Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

4. Take care of yourself

We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

5. Take a break

People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

6. Make technology your ally

Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

The key to productivity: Focus

Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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