Have you ever gotten more and more disappointed with yourself as you see days, weeks, even months being consumed by daily obligations, and not having the necessary time to move forward artistically? Do you go through your days feeling completely scattered and oblivious as to how you're supposed to make any significant artistic progress with everything you have going on in life?
``Time is the single most important resource that we have.
Every single minute we lose is never coming back.´´
I'd like to start this post off by saying that I TOTALLY, 100%, feel your pain. Even though today I can call myself a creative entrepreneur, I worked as full-time employee at extremely demanding office jobs and teaching jobs for YEARS before even considering this move. So, even though this article is primarily oriented towards the working artist and you may still be working a day job, most of the tips in this article will be useful for you as you plan for your end-goal.
That said, if you're still transitioning (or looking to start), it's important that you understand what it truly means to be a "full-time artist". In reality, making a living from one's art and artistic skills, entails a HUGE list of tasks that take away a lot of time from actually creating art. At least this is the case for us artists who have no assistance and do everything ourselves.
And this is why it's so, incredibly important to be smart about how we're using our time! Whether you're someone still working a "normal" full-time job and dreaming of becoming an artist, someone working part-time building up the platform (and courage) to finally take the leap, or even if you're already making a living from your art. It's essential for all of us to think about our specific goals, so that we can plan and put our strategies to use.
Effective time-management is an invaluable skill that will allow us consistent progress and, today, I'll be sharing the philosophies and specific methods I live by to stay productive and moving the needle forward every-single-day. By applying these tips and techniques, you'll be able to go to sleep each night knowing that you've made progress towards becoming the person you want to be.
Read my blog post titled Art Business: The Importance of Building Local Relationships and Where to Start to learn more about specific actions I started taking to build my art-business.
10 Tips to Master the Art of Time Management
1. Define your personal, professional and interpersonal goals
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
I like to set general yearly goals that I then break up into monthly goals. I then use these monthly goals to plan out my objectives week by week. By having a weekly objective, it's easier to know what you should be working on any given day.
Think of where you want to be twelve months from now in ALL key areas of life. It's helpful to think about what daily habits you have now that require changing, as well as what things you must prioritize from now on in order to make those goals happen.
It's ESSENTIAL that you set goals for all of the following areas:
a) Personal level:
What changes can you make to be healthier mentally and physically in a year from now?
b) Professional level:
What skills do you feel you should improve to become more successful? Think of both cold AND soft skills.
c) Interpersonal level:
Who are those people you value most in life and what actions do you have to take daily/weekly to ensure that those relationships are kept strong and healthy? And, on that note, what people are not adding anything positive to your life?
Though we are talking about being productive artistically, I ASSURE you, that all of these life aspects are equally important and bleed into each other. If you neglect your health and family, your work will undoubtably suffer as well.
It's important that the goals you set for yourself are measurable, attainable and realistic depending on your current life situation.
Here's an example of my long-term goals for the following twelve months:
*These worksheets can be downloaded for free at the end of this post (in both letter and tabloid size)!
Other examples of long term goals in the "Professional" area could be:
-Complete an online drawing course
-Learn how to draw hands
-Fill an entire sketchbook
-Improve acrylic painting skills and produce ten canvas paintings
You get the picture! :)
Once you've decided where you want to be in a year, it's time to break up goals into smaller, sequential chunks! Think about what specific things have to happen month-to-month so that you can reach that end goal twelve months from now.
In number 2, I'll be explaining what time-blocking is and how to create your weekly schedules using this method.
2. Schedule your weeks using time-blocking
“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once,
whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.”
Time-blocking is a scheduling method in which you break up your day into...well... blocks of time. Within each block, similar tasks are grouped together so that you can focus on that specific type of activity in that specific period of the day. For time-blocking to happen effectively, it's important to know yourself and what times throughout the day would work for YOU in order to best fulfill THAT particular kind of activity.
As artists, it's important to experiment until we have a good idea of when we're most creatively productive throughout the day. Once we figure this out, we can plan the rest of our daily activities around these times. Leave the tasks you can do on autopilot (like clearing your inbox or organizing your studio) for moments of the day in which you find it difficult to focus or are generally mentally exhausted.
Personally, I don't follow the time-blocking method super strictly, as I combine it with daily to-do lists. I like creating my general weekly schedules so that I have a sense of what kind of tasks I should be doing at what times of the day. These schedules allow me to have a routine/consistency in the chaotic world of creative entrepreneurship! However, when it comes to specifics, I like creating daily bullet lists that I can check off and write on as things pop up.
Though the time-blocking method DOES require you to spend time doing initial thinking/planning, once you have your schedule set, it's all a matter of sticking to it and being as consistent as possible. By investing some time in this initial planning phase, you'll end up wasting A LOT less time in the long run!
So, make it happen! Take the goals you have set for each month, think of what you have to achieve by the end of each week to reach those goals, and break your days up into specific tasks.
Set your weekly schedule and do your very best to stick to it for, at least, a month.
All this said, keep in mind that life is unpredictable. Though planning IS super important, things will pop up that you haven't accounted for and we constantly have to deal with situations that are simply beyond our control.
Stay calm! Just remain flexible, be kind to yourself, and keep moving forward.
Here's an example of how my ideal weekly schedule looks like currently.
3. Assess and improve your time management strategies every now and then
“Practice without improvement is meaningless."
As working artists, we generally have to keep up with several different ways of making an income. As opposed to having only one "main" job, we have several smaller jobs that can fluctuate from month to month. It's impossible to know when a new event, commission or opportunity for collaboration will pop up, amongst many other items that may require more attention one month than the next.
Nonetheless, it's important to assess our strategies every now and then in order to pinpoint any improvements we can make. I usually like doing this at the end of each month, especially now that my business is growing and more responsibilities/opportunities are popping up. It's imperative to create at least some level of routine to stay sane and healthy! We must avoid burnout at all costs.
I recommend doing a general weekly schedule assessment every month to two months, so you can create any changes and improve your productivity even more. Think about tasks that would perhaps work better in different time blocks, or maybe activities that need longer blocks than initially planned. I know I personally tend to underestimate the amount of time I need to complete certain tasks, especially when it comes to creating art and planning new projects!
Assessing your systems regularly will allow you to keep improving your productivity levels over time. Improvement is the name of the game when you are building a business!
4. Identify personal time-wasters and cut down on distractions
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks."
In this world of constant distraction, it's imperative to think about whether those activities that take up so much of our time are actually helping us move closer to our goals or not. Don't get me wrong, it's very important to have time for fun and relaxation, and I think these times should be scheduled in as well so that we MAKE SURE we're enjoying our lives to the max!
However, we should be honest with ourselves! If you find you're wasting hours on end stalking people on social media, constantly engaging in negative small-talk with others, or spending valuable time on activities that bring nothing positive to your life, cut them out!
I'm personally completely unapologetic about cutting activities and even negative people out of my life at this point. I'd much rather be resting in order to be as productive as possible the following day, instead of staying up late and partying constantly. If you find this too hard, at least avoid doing these things at all costs during times that you should be productive. And also protect the time you should be resting because this will affect your productivity levels the following day!
I find it very important to be able to focus and diminish distractions at all costs when I'm in creative mode. Personally, I like shutting off my phone or leaving it in another room when I'm drawing or painting. I also try to diminish multitasking throughout the day as much as I can (studies have found that what we do when we multitask is mediocre at best).
I really recommend giving some thought to what YOUR personal time-wasters are and try to identify when it is that you find yourself getting sucked into them. If there's anything you REALLY enjoy or NEED to do, schedule it!
5. Learn to say NO
“We must say "no" to what, in our heart, we don't want. We must say "no"
to doing things out of obligation, thereby cheating those important to us
of the purest expression of our love. We must say "no" to treating ourselves,
our health, our needs as not as important as someone else's. We must say “no.”
-Suzette R. Hinton
Remember, time is finite resource and every single minute that goes by is a minute you will not get back. Life is short and we have to make sure we're spending our valuable time doing activities that will get us closer to our goals and overall happiness.
Set your non-negotiables from the start and account for that time EVERY day/week. For me, non-negotiables include time to work out, enjoy home cooked meals, and to get decent rest every-single-day. I also like having time to spend with my husband at the end of each work day. If an "urgent" project pops up from out of nowhere, it has to REALLY be something that will get me closer to my goals in order for me to take it. I rarely say yes to projects brought up by people that give me the impression of not respecting my time. I respect other peoples' time immensely, and expect them to do the same for me.
Similarly, I avoid saying 'yes' to every single social gathering I'm invited to. Needs for social time vary from person to person, and as an introvert, I know that I have a limit. Though it's important to have social time, I also need to rest and take care of myself. Any true friend will understand and respect that.
Another thing I like to do, is letting my loved ones know what I'm currently up to and how my schedule is looking. This way, they are aware of when you'll be available and there's less of a chance you'll have to say 'no' to those you really care about.
6. Make time for organization
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned."
A lot of time is wasted when we have to look for things. By keeping your work area, supplies and artwork organized you'll not only be able to find whatever you need faster, but you'll also avoid lost/damaged work, accidents and a lot of anxiety. At the end of each workday, I like to spend a few minutes organizing my studio/office so that the next morning I am inspired to start right away.
As artists, our computers, phones and other devices collect a lot of reference image files, scanned artwork, etc. I recommend keeping these digital files organized and labelled appropriately. Create back-ups every now and then!
Being organized is especially important because, being self-employed, you will have to stay on top of client projects, inventory, and accounting! Set systems in place for each of these that will allow you to waste less time doing admin work and more time actually creating.
7. Consider delegating tasks or investing in time-saving tools
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do."
Like a lot of other work-a-holics, I'm guilty of burning myself out after thinking I'm perfectly capable of doing everything on my own. The fact of the matter is that there are only 24 hours in a day and there's a lot going on that we have no control over. The sooner we accept that nothing will ever be perfect and that we're not superheroes capable of doing everything by ourselves, the better.
Whether it's house chores or business tasks, think of people that may be able to help you out. What do you REALLY have to do yourself, and what can be done by someone else in your current life situation? Is it possible for you to invest in hiring an assistant or in tools that can automize tasks that are taking away time you could be spending creating art?
Once your business takes off and/or you have the resources to get help, I suggest you do it. You can delegate the tasks that don't excite you as much like maintaining your website, cleaning your studio/office, scanning and organizing artwork, etc. This will allow you more time and energy to focus on producing artwork and improving your skills.
Do your best when you can, and learn to let go of what you can't control.
8. Keep pushing and DON'T FORGET to celebrate your accomplishments
“Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best."
-Theodore Isaac Rubin
We usually tend to focus on everything that we have yet to do and don't ever take a moment to realize how far we have come since we started. Just like it's essential to keep moving forward, it's important to look back and take note of everything we've been able to accomplish.
Milestones, no matter how small, are important and acknowledging them will encourage us to keep working hard towards achieving our goals. Do your best daily and stay focused on what is important to you. Be proud of yourself for acknowledging your passions and working towards them!
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