He rolled this eyes when I told him that I help artists to get organized. “It must be like herding kittens,” he sniffed.
Apparently, we have a bad reputation!
But time management for artists is a complicated topic.
I understand why. We have a lot going on. We wear lots of hats. Many of us suffer from ADHD too.
So while time management is a critical skill for artists, unfortunately many struggle. Do you?
Do you lose hours following threads of inspiration? Do you procrastinate on the tasks that you don’t like?
Learning how to manage your time is important because when you don’t, you’re more likely to suffer from stress and tension. And those are the two biggest killers of creativity.
Many artists balance other jobs as they build their careers, making time management even more crucial.
By incorporating these simple changes into your daily routine, you’ll be able to produce more creatively while decreasing your stress levels and avoiding burnout.
1. Look procrastination in the eye
I hang my head in shame to admit that sometimes I procrastinate. You’re not the only artist who struggles with time management! But I’m learning to look procrastination in the eye and question it.
The first question I ask myself is “Do I really want to do this?” Because procrastination might be telling you something. It might be pointing you in a better direction.
If you’ve determined that this task is indeed something that you have committed to, ask “What am I afraid of?”
That’s right. A lot of time procrastination is really a cover for fear. And once you see the fear for what it is, you can deal with it a lot more objectively.
You don’t have to label yourself as a procrastinator and live with the shame that label carries. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It means that you have some issues to work through before you can move forward in the way that you want.
2. Start by prioritizing your most pressing tasks
Now, you might find it tempting to focus on smaller, easier tasks first thing in order to feel like you’re gaining momentum, but I recommend doing your biggest, most important tasks first.
Start by writing down a list of everything you need to do in a day. Then assess your list and decide which three tasks absolutely need attention, and tackle those first.
It can be tricky to figure out which tasks are most important and which ones can wait.
Think about it like this: what’s your biggest and most important goal? Is it professional advancement? Then focus first on those tasks that will move the needle for you professionally.
3. Make a list
I love lists! Almost to a fault. But creating a list of things to do at the end of each day has become a ritual. And I love looking at the fresh list when I start my morning.
When I look at my life before I started creating to-do lists and after, I see a huge difference in my accomplishments.
4. Set a timer
This is a tip I swear by! If you struggle to stay focused for long periods of time, set a timer when you start your task.
I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro technique, where you spend 25 minutes of focused attention on a task followed by a short break. I do this one every day.
Figure out what works for you by experimenting. You might even be able to go for a bit longer and set your timer for sixty or even ninety minutes.
If you take anything from this article, give the Pomodoro technique a try and see how much more you can achieve in a day.
5. Turn off all distractions
It’s so easy to start procrastinating when you have your notifications turned on. My Achilles heel is email. If an email comes through while I’m working on a project, I find it almost irresistible. How can I not check it? What if the world’s ending?
The problem with checking your notifications is that it breaks your state of flow.
Turn off your notifications while working. Switch your phone on airplane mode and update your computer settings so that your devices aren’t constantly pinging with their siren songs to take you off course.
6. Use a calendar or planner
Time management for artists is all about creating a realistic schedule that you can stick to. There are plenty of great calendar apps and project management systems that can help you organize your tasks and stay on track.
Personally I love using my Apple Calendar for time blocking my day and keeping track of meetings. When it comes to big projects, I prefer to break them down into smaller tasks on Asana so that I can keep track of everything that needs doing and tick each task off as it gets done. I love to tick!
The system you choose is entirely up to you. Experiment with different methods until you find one that you can stick to.
7. Protect your time
Let’s face it, we love being in the studio. Other people look at our studio time and say “that’s not work.”
Just because our job is more fun that their job, doesn’t mean that it’s not work.
You have to protect your time from other people’s judgments. This is your time. Respect it and others will follow.
The same goes for your marketing, art events, social media, studio visits, museum trips. This is all part of your job. You are allowed to take pleasure in it. You are allowed to protect this time. No apologies.
8. Make time management a daily habit
I understand that building new productivity habits is hard, especially if you’re a chronic procrastinator. But it’s not impossible!
Once you’ve found a system you like, do whatever you can to stay consistent. You might need to set a reminder on your phone every Sunday to spend fifteen minutes creating your schedule for the week.
You might prefer to leave a sticky note on your laptop screen that reminds you to turn your notifications off. Whatever you need to do to make time management a habit, do it.
9. Reward what you do
One of my favorite tips is to celebrate each day. That doesn’t mean I crack open a bottle of champagne. Well… maybe sometimes…
It does mean that I used to stress myself out my looking at all the things I didn’t get to yet, all the things that remained to be done.
But now I take a moment to look at all that I did accomplish. I pat myself on the back. I allow myself to feel good, even if my day took me in a direction I hadn’t planned on.
Life is short. Take every opportunity to celebrate achievements that you can.
Now get to work!
PS: The beginning of the year is a powerful portal for transformation. Learning how to manage time and improve productivity is the best place to start.
Marie Forleo has created an incredible online course called Time Genius and enrollment starts TODAY.
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