Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates may be the two richest men on the planet, but that doesn’t mean they’re above doing the dishes. Both billionaires say they take care of their family’s dirty plates and glasses every night. In a 2014 interview with Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget, Bezos said that doing the dishes is a part of his daily routine. “I do the dishes every night,” said Bezos, who’s currently worth almost $95 billion. “I’m pretty convinced it’s the sexiest thing I do,” he joked. Gates, who is currently the world’s second-richest man, not only does the dishes every night, he enjoys it. When asked in a 2014 Reddit Ask Me Anything, “What is something you enjoy doing that you think no one would expect from you?” Gates, who is now worth $89.2 billion, replied, “I do the dishes every night — other people volunteer, but I like the way I do it.” While both businessmen have their own individual reasons for doing the daily chore, science suggests they may be on to something. Multiple independent studies have found that doing the dishes can reduce stress and boost creativity.
A Florida State University study found that students who were primed to be mindful while washing dishes (i.e. focus on breathing and the touch, smell and feel of the task) saw a decrease in their stress levels and a boost in inspiration. Concentrating on the feeling of the warm water or the smell of the soap stimulated the brain. Another study by the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that doing mindless tasks allows the brain to wander and engage in creative problem-solving. For instance, people who first completed a “boring” task, like copying numbers from a phone directory, were able to think more creatively afterward, according to a study by the University of Central Lancashire.
Think about it: When do you get your best ideas? Is it when you’re at your desk willing them to come? Or is it when you’re mindlessly taking a shower or working out that a brilliant thought suddenly pops into your head? The less-than-thrilling process of doing the dishes could provide the same opportunity. So the next time you see a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, follow these billionaires’ lead and dive in. The task could help you feel calmer and more creative.