Time Management for Artists

People often roll their eyes when I tell them I help artists to get organized. “It must be like herding kittens,” they sniff.

time management for artists

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 juggle lots of different hats. Many of us suffer from ADHD and learning disabilities too. So while time management for artists is a critical skill, unfortunately many struggle.

We sometimes tend to lose hours following threads of inspiration. We have an inclination to procrastinate on the tasks that we don’t like, such as those that will move our art careers forward (I’m looking at you, marketing).

But learning how to manage your time as an artist 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 working other jobs as they build their careers, making time management even more crucial. That’s why today I’m sharing these tips for mastering time management as an artist.

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.

What is time management, and why is it so important for artists?

Time management is the simple act of organizing and scheduling your daily tasks so that you can increase your efficiency and productivity. By managing your time effectively, you’ll be able to achieve your creative and career goals faster, ensuring that you stay on top of your workload.

Some artists tell me that they struggle to find the time to even make art. But by mastering the art of time management, you’ll guarantee that creative time is scheduled on your calendar regularly, along with the other tasks that need to get done.

Here’s why time management is so important for artists:

● More creative output in a shorter amount of time
● Develop routines that will help accelerate your career as an artist
● Reduce stress and resentment by scheduling time to play and create

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 it “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.

Start by prioritizing your most pressing tasks

Time management for artists is about prioritizing your most important tasks. Now, you might find it tempting to focus on smaller, easier tasks first 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.

By accomplishing your most important tasks first, anything else that gets done is a bonus.

It can be tricky to figure out which tasks are most important and which ones can wait. Think about it like this, which tasks will move the needle for you professionally? Which have real deadlines? Focus on those first.

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 for me. And I love looking at the fresh list when I start my morning.

A lot of programs that talk about time management for artists, and others for that matter, recommend a to-do list. And with good reason. When I look at my life before I started creating lists and after, I see a huge difference in my accomplishments.

Set a timer

This is a time management 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.

This technique works well because the timer instills a sense of urgency and forces you to get on with the job at hand. And knowing that the timer will go off and you’ll be rewarded with a break works wonders for motivation.

If you take anything from this article, give the Pomodoro technique a try and see how much more you can achieve in a day.

Turn off all distractions

It’s so easy to start procrastinating when you have your notifications turned on. For me, 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 is ending?

The problem with checking your notifications as soon as they come through is that it breaks your state of flow.

They say that it takes roughly twenty minutes to achieve a state of flow when working on a difficult task. So if you’re getting constantly interrupted by notifications, a task that might only take one hour could end up taking three hours to complete.

The solution?

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 tempting pings to take you off course.

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. You might prefer a paper method or color coding system to help you keep track of different types of tasks. Experiment with different methods until you find one that you can stick to.

Protect your time

Let’s face it, we love being in the studio. It’s fun! Other people look at our studio time, see us enjoying ourselves, 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.

And 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.

Make time management a daily habit

These tips won’t make much of a difference to your professional practice if you don’t turn them into 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 with it. 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.

Reward what you do

One of my favorite tips in regard to time management for artists 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.

Wrapping it up

Time management is a crucial skill for artists to learn. It may not come naturally at first, but over time you can develop it into a daily habit.

By managing your time effectively, you’ll feel less stressed each day, achieve more creatively, and accelerate your professional career as an artist.

Now get to work!


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Working in the international world of contemporary art, Crista Cloutier has spent her career selling art and marketing art to art galleries, museums and private collections. 

Using her professional experiences, Crista has created The Working Artist Masterclass, where she’s developed a global reputation as an artist’s coach. Crista can teach you how to be an artist; including how to sell your art, how to sell art online, how to sell photographs, how to price your art, how to succeed at art fairs, and even how to find your art style. 

Crista has worked with established, blue-chip artists to raise their profile and attract greater opportunities. And she’s also helped thousands of emerging artists to build a professional art practice. To learn more, visit https://theworkingartist.com

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