5 Best ways of easily and effectively manage your time as an artist
Updated: Jun 15
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Many creatives struggle with managing their time. The reason for that is usually because they have learned how to be busy rather than productive.
Before we dive into time management and how to do it better, let’s ask ourselves what time management actually is?
Time management is the process of planning and organizing tasks in order to increase efficiency and improve overall productivity. It is an important skill to learn because it helps us maximize the time we can dedicate to certain tasks.
This way we can get more work done in a shorter amount of time. We can reach our goals faster and more easily. We can develop routines that are conducive to our businesses. We can reduce stress by freeing up time to focus on ourselves and our loved ones.
As artists, our dream is to be our own bosses so we can work whenever we want and on whatever projects, we decide. But usually, that is not the case. Making a living from our artistic skills acquires a huge list of tasks that take away a significant amount of time from actually creating art. Especially if we work alone in our studios.
This is why effective time management is an important skill that every business owner should possess. It allows us to grow consistently and not burn out in the process.
I’ve gathered some tips of time management for you to implement in your day-to-day life with which you’ll be able to go to sleep each night knowing that you were productive today and you are one step closer to reaching your goal.
1. Set your GOALS and assess them now and then
“A dream written down with a date becomes a GOAL. A goal broken down into steps becomes a PLAN. A plan backed by action makes your DREAMS COME TRUE.” -UnexpectedlyDomestic.com
Without setting goals you are basically setting yourself for failure because you don’t have a purpose or direction. So, for starters, a great time management essential is setting general yearly goals.
What do you strive to achieve within a year and then separate those goals into monthly goals? What can you do every month that will bring you closer to achieving your goals?
Further along the way, breaking your monthly goals into smaller weekly tasks and further daily tasks can help tremendously in managing your day-to-day life. It will also help you achieve your yearly goals much easier.
When I talk about your goals, I am also referring to your personal goals, professional goals, and interpersonal goals.
On your personal level, you should focus on how you can improve your mental and physical health. What can you do each day that will help you achieve that?
On your professional level, you should focus on how you can improve your skills, what achievements you wish to accomplish within the year, and so on.
On your interpersonal level, you should focus on how you can maintain good and healthy relationships with the people you love and who love and support you, and also knowing when to cut out of your life the ones that do the opposite.
The goals that you set for yourself need to be measurable, attainable, and realistic depending on your current situation. Don’t set up goals you know you won’t be able to achieve and set yourself to failure before you even start.
It is also very important that at the end of each month you assess set goals. Is the situation when you set your monthly goals and tasks still the same, can you achieve your set goals or do you need to make some changes going into the next month.
As artists our day-to-day lives can change in a second, we get new commissions or opportunities for collaboration, get an unexpected design request, amongst many other things that might require our attention more than the schedule we set.
This is why monthly assessing our planners and goals and being flexible is very important.
2. Use TIME BLOCKING and PLANNERS or CALENDARS
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Paul J. Meyer
When you plan your week or day it is best to break up your day into blocks of time. Plan to do similar tasks together this way you’ll save up time.
As creatives we have our time of most productivity, for me, it’s during the night when there are no other distractions but at that time I’m exhausted as it is and can’t focus on what I’m actually doing, so rescheduling my day and telling my roommates to not disturb me during certain times of the day was crucial for my workflow.
There are some tasks that you do on autopilot, you don’t think about the process of doing them you simply do them. Those tasks are best done when everything else is done beforehand.
A good thing is to keep a calendar or planner to easily group and divide daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. This way you also have a great overview of what you accomplished last month or what you need to do in the next one. There are several apps and programs you can use as planners, or if you’re old school like me use a paper journal planner and write down all the important tasks.
I also use Google Calendar because it’s free and it allows you to easily plan the day, week, month, and you can also color coordinate the tasks that are high priority and low priority.
The most IMPORTANT thing is to INCLUDE in your planning your hobbies, leisure time, workout time, etc.
Before you start to implement your planner into your life go through it and see if you didn’t over plan, you don’t have to overwork yourself. The key point here is to make the time you spend working as much productive as possible so you can also have free time for your personal life.
3. What is WASTING YOUR TIME – cut distractions and delegate tasks
“It is not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau
Throughout the day there are several activities that are bound to waste your time. These are usually checking on social media on our phones or watching YouTube when you should be doing research. And before you know it 3 hours have gone by, and you’ve done nothing productive.
Now also think about all the activities that take up your time and if they are actually helping you get closer to achieving your goals or not. If not, STOP DOING THEM!
You need time for fun and relaxation, yes, but one thing is consciously doing it and a totally other thing is subconsciously doing it. When you consciously decide and put it into your schedule, for example: “I’m going to dedicate this amount of time for watching a specific series this times per week.” You are making a statement that your time is valuable, and you are the boss of it.
But when you don’t have a certain plan but just a “free time” and just say “I’ll watch just one episode of this series,” but end up bench watching the whole season you’ve found yourself in a pickle of several wasted hours of not being productive at all. At this point not just, a few hours were wasted but an entire day. Which you can not get back. Trust me, I’ve been there. Since I’m a hard K-drama fan. It is so difficult to stop watching.
When there are things that you REALLY enjoy doing or need to do, SCHEDULE THEM.
And also, whoever said they are a great multitasker they were lying their ass off. When you multitask your brain is actually working on autopilot and you’re not really paying attention to what you’re doing.
So, I would advise you to multitask when you are planning to do tasks that do not require your full attention. But when you have planned tasks that are highly important plug everything else off.
4. Don’t say “YES” to everything
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Winston Churchill
Time is definite and every single minute that goes by is a minute you won’t get back. Because of this, we need to make sure we are spending our valuable time doing activities that will get us closer to our goals.
As a beginner artist you feel compelled to accept every business offer that comes your way, but that is actually wasteful. Just because you are a beginner you don’t have to accept every commission, collab, a sponsorship that is thrown at you. As a matter of fact, you should learn to comb through the proposals and only pick the ones that will help you achieve your goals faster.
Yes, you are allowed to say “NO”.
This also involves your friends and family. You are not obligated to attend every social gathering, coffee meet-up, family dinner if that means you’ll be wasting your time and moving away from your set goals.
I’m not saying to completely lock yourself away from people and only focus on work, but you should know when you have the time to go out and when not.
If your friends and family support your career and understand why you’re like this, they will support you and not be offended when you refuse to go out and party your brains out and be a complete slug the next day and unable to work.
5. Keep your workspace ORGANIZED
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” Benjamin Franklin
The last way of great time management is the most important one. Keeping your work area, either your studio or your computer, CLEAN.
When you keep your work area, art supplies, finished art pieces, and un-finished art pieces organized you’ll be able to find whatever you need the next day faster, you’ll avoid losing artwork or supplies and spending money repurchasing the same art supplies just because you can’t find the original ones.
When you work solely digitally like me you have a lot of digital files, from projects to reference material, unfinished pieces, finished pieces, commissions, collaborations, etc. If I didn’t have them neatly placed in separate files and folders on separate drives, I would go insane.
The most important thing – BACKUP files.
From the projects and art pieces that are very important make sure you have a backup somewhere that is not on your computer. Technology is great but it doesn’t last forever, it breaks, malfunctions, glitch, and wear out through time.
Since you’re self-employed you are responsible for project management, inventory, and accounting. Unless you can afford to hire someone to do these things for you. But most beginners can’t, therefore you need to be on top of those things. Which means keeping your files neat and categorized saves you time and down the line also money.
It is good to go through all your files once a week or month and delete the things that you know for sure you don’t need anymore or you won’t be needing them ever again. Delete projects you started but never finished and you won’t finish them any time soon. Those files are just occupying space on your drive for no reason.
If you work mostly traditionally and you have a studio filled with pieces that you haven’t finished or will never finish, try reusing them differently. Or if you have finished pieces but they have never sold or you never put them for sale, try selling them again, if not give them away as presents to family and friends.
At this point, they are just cluttering your studio.
“Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.” Miles Davis
Be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small they are. You are doing what most are only dreaming of.
It is important to look back and see the path you’ve walked so far. What lays ahead is not set in stone and anything can change at any time.
Keep walking, keep working, keep learning, and don’t forget to have fun doing it. You don’t have to be all business and no fun.
We are creatives, we create our own paths. Sometimes we just need some time management assistance to get toward our destination faster and with more ease.