Being a self-employed artist means that I spend 90% of life in my studio, and most of the time I’m very happy about that. However, lately I’ve decided I need to start paying strict attention to how much of that time is spent actually working.
Over the past few weeks I have been creating some guidelines (a “template” of sorts) to give my working day some structure. I’ve even managed to give myself some well-earned breaks, without beating myself up over taking that time off.
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. I always try to start the day at my board.
Even though I’m a traditional artist, I used to begin my day by switching on the PC, reading and sending emails, seeking out new leads, networking, etc. But inevitably, I’d start to meander through the internet, and before long two hours would pass and the momentum to create art would be gone.
Now, unless it’s urgent, I go straight to my board, working as long as is possible or necessary. I make notes of any items I need to do on the PC, and that way I’m able to relax when I do switch it on, knowing I’ve done the bulk of the day’s work already.
2. I now keep time sheets.
Time sheets are the one thing that I find helps most with time management. Even doing them for just a few days can be enough to re-connect with just how much time is spent seeking out reference, or reading how-to guides. It’s all there in black and white. (Or lilac, if I’m feeling particularly creative.)
Kept on file, they also provide a good reference for estimating my prices, by allowing me to look back at real examples when commissioned for similar jobs.
3. I allow myself to work in different rooms.
Sometimes you just get cabin-fever, and need a change of space.
I’ve found that spreading my books, sketches, and notes out on the floor (or the dining room table with the TV for background) can be more motivating than the formal restraints of the studio.
4. Working outside the house is all right, too.
I enjoy the safety of coffee houses, where I can stare out the window on my own, or sit quietly taking notes. It makes me feel like I’m a part of the world, and as long as I have some work-related reading, or sketches to do, I feel reassured that I’m not slacking.
In the spring I substitute the park or my garden. Any change of scenery even if for an hour, can stimulate the creative flow.
5. Taking time out of work is important.
Going for a walk, meeting a friend or going shopping doesn’t need to make me feel undisciplined. (Unless it becomes a daily habit of course!) What I’ve found is that I usually “miss” my studio, and upon returning home I’m keen to get back into it. With that energy, I soon make up the hours lost.
Taking time out is difficult for me, especially when I don’t have anything current that I’m being paid to work on.
I often feel if I’m not involved in something that has to do with work—whether it’s creating self-promotional work, marketing, or reading—that I’m not earning. What I’ve discovered, by sticking to the guidelines above, is that there are ways I can take time out without being too hard on myself.
Inevitably, appointments, outings, and meetings disrupt my creative routine, but having these guidelines loosely in place does give me a basic framework to base my potential income and ouput on.
Perhaps try a few of the ideas I’ve mentioned above. Work out for yourself what your own rules should be, and use them to your advantage.
You never know. . . you might find that you can take a few more well-deserved breaks than you realized.
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