How do you spend your time after leaving the office? For many people, after-office hours are spent on watching TV, checking social media, drinking alcohol, playing video games, and so on. But are these activities really doing anything to improve your life and propel you to professional success?
When people think about what they can do to achieve success, their thoughts are usually confined to their strategies, actions and attitude while at work. Very few think about what they do outside work, since they assume it has no bearing on their success at work.
Sorry to break your bubble, but the time you spend outside the office – your evenings, weekends and vacations – has a very significant impact on your professional success.
Many successful people have already realized this, and as a result, they are very careful about how they spend this crucial time. They don’t engage in meaningless activities that do not contribute to their growth and success. Below are some of the common ways in which successful people spend their time after work.
THEY EXPLORE THEIR CREATIVE SIDE
Every person is creative in their own unique way, but many of us allow our creative side to be dimmed by the pressures of daily life. Many successful people, on the other hand, know that maintaining and exploring your creativity is very important. They always find time to let their creative juices flow. They do this in multiple ways.
Some get out brushes and canvas for a painting session, others write a chapter or two, others explore their creativity by blogging, while others choose to practice a music instrument. For instance, former US president Bill Clinton used to play the saxophone despite the demanding nature of his political career, while Virgin billionaire founder Richard Branson finds time to blog.
Taking the time to get in touch with your creative side has a number of benefits. Doing something creative provides an avenue for you to express yourself and refresh your psyche. This in turn makes you more productive and motivated when you go back to your work.
In a literature review of various studies about the connection of art and healing, the researchers concluded that engaging in creative pursuits can lead to a reduction in stress, anxiety and mood disturbance, thereby making you more productive at work.
Another study titled “Everyday Creative Activity as a Path to Flourishing” found that people who engage in creative endeavors at least once a day tend to have a more positive mindset. Another survey conducted by Dr. Kevin Eschleman and his colleagues found that employees who engaged in creative pursuits were more likely to be collaborative and helpful at work.
Therefore, if you want to increase your performance at work, it is a wise move to start exploring your creative side outside the office. Getting in touch with your creative side does not have to be hard.
Simply find an activity that you enjoy and one that allows you to express yourself, such as blogging, playing an instrument, cooking, painting, carving, and so on.
Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. TV personality Oprah Winfrey. NBA star Kobe Bryant. Life coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.
What do all these people have in common?
Apart from being wildly successful, they also find time to meditate as part of their daily routine.
Initially, meditation was perceived to be an unconventional and mysterious activity only practiced by Buddhist monks. Today, more and more Americans are using meditation to bring balance into their lives. Actually, while conducting a research for his book, star podcaster and author Tim Ferris found that about 90% of the 140 top performers he interviewed – successful people from very diverse fields and industries – engage in some type of meditation.
If 90% of top performers are swearing by meditation as a tool for success, there must be some truth behind it. Well, their claims are backed by science. Meditation has a number of benefits that can help you achieve more success at work.
According to a 2012 study, meditation improves your brain function, improving your attention and making your brain better at forming memories, processing information and decision making.
Another 2011 study found that meditation leads to positive, approach-oriented emotional states, which make it easier for you to deal with high-stress, high-performance situations. Meditation also enhances learning, builds your mental capacity and boosts your ability to concentrate and stay focused, even when you are engaged in a task you find boring.
Instead of spending the last hour before bed watching TV or lazily scrolling your Facebook or Twitter feed, why not try some little meditation? Meditation will have a far much bigger impact on your career than watching TV and laughing at cat videos on social media.
THEY NETWORK AND CONNECT
Successful people know that it takes a village to achieve success. You cannot succeed alone. To increase their opportunities and improve their chances of achieving even greater success, successful people spend their time away from the office building and strengthening their networks.
Instead of going home to sit in front of the TV or spending time at the local bar, successful people opt to attend networking events, which are mostly held during after work hours – evening cocktails, weekend breakfasts, after-hour gatherings, and so on.
When they attend these events, the aim is not to close a sale or find a new employee, but rather to meet and talk to people and build genuine relationships. Alternatively, they ask people they want to network with out for coffee or dinner.
Networking is important for a number of reasons. Networking allows people to exchange fresh ideas and stay up to date with trends and happenings within their fields. This makes you more knowledgeable and allows you to adopt new practices and ideas at work. Networking also makes you more visible and opens doors to new opportunities to grow and advance your career.
Networking also helps build your self-confidence and allows you to practice your communication skills. These two things – self-confidence and excellent communication skills – are very crucial if you want to achieve success.
If you want to become successful, instead of going out for drinks at your local bar this coming Friday, find and attend a networking event or invite someone you want to network with for coffee or dinner.
THEY PLAN FOR THE NEXT DAY
Successful people understand the importance of planning ahead. They don’t waste the hour before bed Facebook or Netflix. Instead, they use that time to plan ahead for the following day.
They go through their calendars to ensure they know what needs to be done, or create a to-do list of things they need to accomplish the next day. Either way, they know before they sleep how they are going to spend the following day.
Why do most successful people do this? Planning their day the night before has a number of benefits. Without a plan of what you need to accomplish, you might find most of your day getting wasted on simple things that make you busy without necessarily being productive.
For instance, a survey by Attentiv found that the average employee spends 13 hours reading and replying to emails every week. In an 8 hour, five day work week, that is more than one and a half days being spent on emails alone.
By planning their day in advance, successful people are able to spend much of their time on important things rather than on what seems urgent. They have a clear idea of what they can and cannot achieve during the day. This makes their days a lot less stressful. Having a plan also keeps them on track.
Without a plan, you are more likely to get distracted. Planning also allows them to predict any obstacles that they might face during the day and to come up with contingency plans for these obstacles.
Finally, planning ahead also acts as a tool for successful people to evaluate themselves. Since they had a plan for the day, they can check against the plan at the end of the day to evaluate whether they achieved what they needed to do for the day.
THEY TAKE CLASSES
The most important thing to invest in is in yourself. No one knows this better than successful people. They know that education is a lifelong thing and that it is the key to growing personally and succeeding in life.
They know it does not stop at college, nor is it restricted to institutions. Regardless of what they have achieved, successful people never stop increasing their knowledge and skills. For instance, when Emma Watson starred in the Harry Potter movies, she made enough money to live comfortably for the rest of her life.
She also got other great opportunities after starring on Harry Potter. She was in a position where she could live a great life without going to college. Despite having already achieved success, she still decided to enroll in college.
To keep improving their lives, successful people will incorporate some type of class in their after work routine. This could be joining graduate school, enrolling in a life coaching class, attending group workshops, joining short certification classes or simply taking free online courses. It does not matter if the subject of the class is related to their current industry.
They simply find something they like and learn about it. The good thing is that getting new knowledge is never a waste of time. You never know when it will come in handy. For instance, when he took calligraphy classes in college, Steve Jobs never knew this knowledge would come in handy after he had founded Apple.
The lesson here is that instead of spending your after work hours on useless activities, you should find an online course, a workshop, a certification program, and so on and use that time to improve your skills. Your resume will thank you for it.
Richard Branson. Mark Cuban. Tim Cook. Warren Buffet. Barack Obama. Mark Zuckerberg. There is no shortage of successful people who make time to exercise each day.
In fact, according to Change Your Habits, Change Your Life author Tom Corley, 76% of highly successful people get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
Sometimes, after a long and tiring day in the office, exercising might be the last thing on your mind. You might be tempted to throw yourself down on the couch and grab something to eat or drink. If you want to improve your life, however, it might be wise to resist this temptation and head out to the gym.
Working out has a number of benefits. Exercising gets your blood pumping and releases endorphins and neurotransmitters like dopamine. This revitalizes your spirit, keeps you alert and helps relieve any stress you might be feeling after a long day at work.
It oxygenates your brain and burns calories, helping you regain energy that you might have lost throughout the course of the day. This makes you more focused and productive at work the next day, which is important as you work towards your career goals.
Working out is also good for your mind. According to this research from the Harvard Medical School, exercising regularly can help improve your concentration, memory and mental sharpness. Exercising also teaches you how to set and pursue goals. Most people who exercise regularly do so with a certain goal in mind – to lose weight, qualify for a certain event, run a certain distance, and so on.
Achieving these goals requires discipline, commitment and persistence. These values, even if they are cultivated in the gym, can cross over into the office and give you the discipline and commitment to set and achieve your career goals. Finally, exercising makes you look and feel better, thereby boosting your self-confidence.
A huge percentage of highly successful people spend a lot of time reading. Warren buffet spends about five to six hours every day reading, and claims to read 500 pages every day. Microsoft founder Bill Gates reads about 50 books every year, or a book every week. He always carries a book with him. Tesla and Space founder and CEO Elon Musk taught himself how to build rockets by reading.
Mark Cuban dedicates about 3 hours every day to reading. Star life coach Tony Robins taught himself how to build a better life by reading.
These are not the only successful people who have a strong reading habit. Steve Siebold, who interviewed more than 1200 wealthy people, discovered one common thing across all of them. They spend some of their leisure time reading.
Successful people are also careful about what they read. Even though they might read a novel once or twice, most of their reading time is spent on educational books and publications that help them improve their lives.
Highly successful people spend their time after work reading for a number of reasons. Reading gives them a better understanding of the world they live in. Through books, they get to know about new ideas, new cultures, new environments and new philosophies. Reading helps them build new skills, helps them improve their communication skills and gives them fodder for small talk when they find themselves in awkward conversations.
If you want to increase your knowledge, improve your life and increase your chances of achieving success, you should make reading a part of your daily routine after you leave the office.
Reading right before bed is particularly a good habit. Research shows that reading right before bed allows you to absorb more information. It also makes it easier to fall asleep.
THEY PURSUE THEIR HOBBIES
Most people think that focusing exclusively on work is the key to success. After all, without other pursuits to distract you, you can channel all your energy on your job and achieve extraordinary results. Unfortunately, this strategy does not work, and highly successful people know this.
Instead of helping you achieve extraordinary results, spending all your time and energy on work related pursuits stresses you and leaves you burnt out, reducing your productivity.
Because of this, highly successful people know the importance of pursuing their hobbies. Richard Branson loves playing chess and spends several of his afternoons on the beach in Necker Island, playing chess with his kids. Jack Dorsey of Twitter spends his Saturdays hiking. Bill Gates is an avid bridge player, together with Warren Buffet. Steve Wozniak plays Segway polo. All these people are highly successful, yet they find time for their hobbies.
Finding and pursuing a hobby has a number of benefits. Engaging in your hobby gives you a breath of fresh air and helps you relieve the stress of a long day or week at work. Pursuing your hobbies can also be good for your entrepreneurial and leadership skills.
Hobbies in most cases go hand in hand with creativity. Engaging in your hobby can unlock your creativity and help you transfer it to your work. Hobbies also help you build your confidence. Knowing that you are good at something is a great confidence booster.
Many hobbies also provide you an avenue to continually learn something new. They keep you sharp and inquisitive. This inquisitiveness can also be transferred to other areas of your life. Finally, hobbies also make you more interesting – you have more to talk about aside from your work – and provide you with an opportunity to network by interacting with people who share the same hobby.
Successful people are charitable with both their money and their time. They spend some of their money and free time volunteering in pursuits that improve the community around them.
For example, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has several charitable pursuits, and spends some of his time bringing smiles to disadvantaged groups. While filming the movie Jungle Cruise, he found time to spend with Make-A-Wish kids.
American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift volunteers in institutions like the Wounded Warrior Project, Children in Need and Red Cross, and has even been named the Most Charitable Celebrity twice. Actress Angeline Jolie has volunteered in more than 20 countries, including Cambodia, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, and Ecuador. They are not alone. According to Tom Corley, 72% of wealthy people volunteer more than five hours to local non-profits every month, in addition to donating their money to charity.
Volunteering has a number of benefits. In addition to giving back to the community and making the community better, volunteering provides you with an opportunity to widen your network.
Through volunteering, you can meet business leaders and influencers within your community. Volunteering also takes your focus off work, which is good for your mental health.
Volunteering also provides you with an opportunity to learn new skills that you would not learn in your normal day-to-day work, and gives you a different perspective and approach to things.
THEY SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Many successful people also understand that their job is not everything. They know the importance of their family and friends, and schedule the time after work to nurture and strengthen their relationships with these important people in their lives.
They use this time to take their spouses on dates, visit their parents, take their kids to their favorite parks, and so on. For example, despite his busy schedule running two companies, Elon Musk dedicates his weekends to his five young sons.
Mark Cuban uses his Saturday nights to hang out with his family. Bill Gates takes his daughter horse riding. Former president Barack Obama spends a lot of his free time with his two daughters.
There is more to life than your achievements, your job and your material success. If you neglect your friends and family, your success will not be fulfilling. Many successful people understand this and dedicate some of their free time to their families. You should do the same.
Successful people know that the activities they engage in after work have an impact on their success, and therefore they carefully and intentionally choose what to do in their free time.
The ten activities discussed above are some of the common ways that successful people spend their time after work. If you want to replicate their levels of success in your life, you should think about incorporating some of these activities in your free time.
Of course, this does not mean that you have no chance of achieving success if you do not spend your free time like them. You can achieve success without doing any of this in your free time.
However, incorporating these activities into your free time will greatly increase your chances of success. Give it a try and watch your life change.