7 Easy Productivity Tips for Artists

By John Thatcher in Art Business Advice > Motivation

Psychologists tell us that there are 2 main motivators in life—the fear of loss and the wish for gain.

Depending on your socioeconomic past, one of those things will be the dominant driver for every action you take. Generally people who have seen true hardship do not need productivity tricks because they have already seen the worst that can happen. The rest of us, however need to get creative.


Today I’m going to share 7 productivity tips that I use to increase my creative output:

1.Think small

The anxiety of taking up a big project can often crush your spirit before you even start.

For example, assume you want to paint a 12-piece series of famous women. You know that women sell (and you know that famous women sell even better) but if you start thinking about all the work that really goes into creating it you will quickly feel overwhelmed and postpone it.

Hence, think small, and reframe the series into smaller bites. Today I will draw the outlines, tomorrow I will color it, and so on.

This is also great tip for those of us who suffer from severe depression. Make your task a microtask. Lift brush, place brush on canvas. Stop. Tomorrow you can do more.

2. Follow a routine

Routine is great if you don’t have a lot of time. The positive constraints of a routine free up willpower, attention and most importantly, time.

The simplest things in life can benefit from routine. I always try to get 8 hours of sleep in a 65-degree room. This ensures that I get plenty of deep sleep. I also eat a slow carb diet and I prepare my meals in advance. These routines give me an optimal sense of well being, no matter what else happens during my day. I can also count on having energy to get work done, and I generally don’t experience mood swings unless I intentionally or accidentally jeopardise my routine.

(For more on sleep temperature, visit https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/touch.php.)

3. Get an accountability partner

A 2015 study by Partners in Leadership focuses on the simple fact that people will work harder if they feel that they are accountable to someone.

Do you have someone you respect and who you don’t want to let down? Tell that person that tomorrow by 7pm you will have x amount of work to show.

If you still feel like you aren’t doing as much as you want, try betting some of your hard earned money. Studies show that people will work much harder to avoid the feeling of loss than they will to feel gain.

Ready to get accountable? Let the behavioural experts at Yale help. Try the tool they created at www.stickk.com. And for more info on loss aversion, read this article.

4. Tap into your emotions

Tony Robbins, the famous performance coach, tells us that knowledge is worthless without emotion. This is the reason people tell us to pursue our passion. We know that we should save money, we know we should eat healthy and exercise but without true emotional incentive we just won’t do it.

Tony tells us to remind ourselves of the reasons why we do it and what are the benefits of doing it. Don’t try to rationalise your reasons but try to tap into whatever emotions you can muster. It’s easier to start exercising when you think about the great ass you will have then it is to think about the strong heart that running will give you.

I personally listen to the cheesiest love songs when I sketch. A friend of mine only draws when she’s sad or angry. Coincidence? I think not.

If you’re like me, you’ll like this cheesy love song. Find what works, and use it.

5. Stay focused

If you are in an unproductive routine then that is probably because you’re surrounded by possibilities to slack off. Remove your distractions, and think about what your procrastination looks like.

Does it involve binging on YouTube? Do you crawl into bed for a quick nap? Then the solution may be to remove YouTube from websites you can access and going to the library to sketch instead of doing it at home.

I only use Facebook for texting friends, and for months now I’ve used the app “Kill News Feed” Which removes the news feed from your Facebook. There’s also a Chrome add-on called StayFocusd which I use to limit or remove the time I spend on certain sites while I work.

Another way to stay focused is to meditate. Meditation helps you look at your thought patterns/behaviour like a more objective 3rd party, and can improve your focus on tasks. Not convinced? Check out this study on meditation and productivity. (The abstract section near the front boils down the results for quick reading.)

6. Notice the words you use

According to a 2007 psychology study, differentiating certain shades of blue is easier for Russians because culturally they have 2 blue primary colors. Light blue (goluboy) and dark blue (siniy).

As an artist, this matters. So when talking about colors, really try to define them. Say “navy blue” not just “blue.” This will lead to faster recognition between colors and by extension will make you a more efficient artist.

7. Start a to-do list

It’s easier to get distracted when you don’t have a plan, or a list, to work from. The ideal to-do list is detailed, with several tasks to accomplish. (For example, I couldn’t write this productivity article with 7 tips without first researching the subject.)

So in the artist’s world you would first think of a subject, then google some reference material and decide on the medium and tools you’d use to create your artwork. Write down all the possible problems you might have and preemptively deal with them. This way you won’t be stuck in limbo trying to decide what you should be doing.

Bonus tip: take notes!

I have a small black notebook where I note down how I feel, what I ate, what made me feel really good, what made me feel depressed.

You can only keep approximately 7 things in your short term memory, but there are a lot more things in life that are important. By taking notes you will be reminded of a discovery or an observation you made about yourself 2 weeks ago that you forgot.

Do this long enough and you will understand yourself better and by extension become really productive.

Final thoughts

You don’t have to dramatically change your life to become more productive. Just make an incremental change (from the list above) and see if it helps you somehow. If it doesn’t, try something new.

Some of the ideas I shared might seem like a lot of work, but just like the first tip suggests don’t think about the long term implication. Start small, only think about the present moment, and do it.

Good luck!

Special thanks to John from Artfixed for this post! To get more tools, guides, and help navigating the world of art (both selling and creating it) visit Artfixed.com


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