I have a busy life. My wife is a veterinarian who averages 60 hours per week. We have 5 children. Our two oldest are in high school and both play sports. We have 3 younger ones who we make sure we make time for. I work from home half of my time and am out in public the other half. I split my time between ministry with Youth For Christ and my art business. On top of all of that, we have 6 pets, 2000 square feet of household chores, and a yard that needs some attention. Did I mention we also have extended family, church, fitness, etc. etc. etc.???
As busy as it is, I truly enjoy it! I wouldn’t want it any other way. However, the busy-ness of everyday life does make it challenging to get my artistic ideas down on the canvas as fast as I might otherwise like. I have about 50 paintings planned and other ideas, but it feels so hard to get to them. So, I did something recently to try and resolve this tension.
What did I do? I made a more effective schedule with specific start and stop times. I used to try to just squeeze things in on certain days and only schedule the things that needed to be carved in stone. The only problem was that when the flexible time showed up, I had to make a decision on how to use it. I wouldn’t always choose to make art even though that’s probably what I should have done with the time.
When I worked for other companies, my schedule each day was built around routines. These routines were built around the priorities of running the business model. Every minute was accounted for, and there were specific start and stop times for each activity. There was a little bit of flexibility inherent in the systems, but not much. You had a good idea what was going to happen well before you started your day. This is what helps businesses be productive.
When you work for yourself, you have to decide how to spend your time. You just don’t have the established system or anyone managing your performance. You have to create the system and manage your own performance. Being an artist seems like you should be able to do whatever you want whenever you want. That’s the mental image we have of artists, right? Out in a field somewhere painting or deep in thought about how best to frame the composition of the still life they set up. Where’s the hustle? Where’s the work ethic? The image we have of artists are these free spirits who have no real schedule to keep. It may even be true of many artists, but I don’t see how they can be productive that way.
I think the only real way to be productive is to schedule your studio time in advance and then stick to the schedule the same way you would if you worked for someone else. Then do the best you can while you’re in front of your canvas and don’t worry about it when you aren’t. There are plenty of other things to focus on instead.
As I looked at my planner, I realized that we’re on the second half of September. The year 2019 is almost over! We have another 3.5 months before we usher in the New Year! What am I going to do with the time?
According to my plan, I have about 6 hours per week planned and 15 weeks until 2020. That gives me 90 hours of studio time. Realistically, I should be able to produce about 18 more pieces in that time period. Three of these pieces I am planning to donate, one is going to a grieving mother, and the other 14 paintings will most likely come from my idea list. That’s if nothing changes! If I end up doing larger pieces, we may have to cut that number in half. At least I know what my plan is now that I took the time to be specific. This frees my mind up to not worry about the ideas I know I won’t get to until 2020.
What are some of the tips that you use to be more productive with your time? Share in the comments below.