I try hard to actively notice how I spend my time, and make sure that I’m using it to do the things I really want to do. I have always found lists helpful in planning out my time and the tasks to fill it, and love the satisfaction of ticking things off as they’re done.
It is important for me block out periods of time for my practice, and to religiously protect that time from the invasion of friends, family, TV and chores. Perhaps it is selfish, but it’s essential to my happiness!
I remember reading that we all have 24 hours a day, and so if you spend 8 sleeping and 8 working that still leaves 8 waking hours to spend however you choose… I choose drawing!
I have been learning though to look at the larger picture: what are my goals, what is it I am either working toward or supposed to be concentrating on. If what comes ahead of me does not meet my criteria in advancing whatever I am doing it can either wait or not be taken on. Being married with a lively one year old and working out of a home office can also present problems in getting projects done.
What works best for me is working in the evenings when everyone is asleep and turning off the cell phone and shutting down the computer.
I try to remember that the emails will still be there in the morning and it is nothing that important that it can’t wait till the next day. It also helps me to remember that it is what I like to call “the Napoleons of the small things” which are the small distractions – messages that call for your attention and steal your time. These things add up quickly leaving you behind schedule, fast.
If this should fail, my wife is pretty good at keeping me on task and on schedule.
Rob Bridges Illustration
I try to use the hours when my children are at school to the best that I can. Before I fall asleep I think about all the things I’d like to do the next day and sometimes I try to write down some ideas (if I’m not to sleepy!)
I am a compulsive list maker. Supposedly this makes me organised, but mostly it’s just a way of stopping all the things I need to remember from buzzing round my head, so it helps me relax. Sometimes there is too much, and one list won’t do. I divide them into categories: emails to send, commissions to finish, things to change on my website and so on. But even then it can be overwhelming. Then I start making a priority list. I divide the tasks into ‘urgent’, ‘important’ and ‘not immediate’. Usually it’s easy to place things, and then as if by magic I have an instruction sheet that tells me what needs to be done first. And I love the satisfaction of crossing off a job done.
Plus I always try to sneak a bit of downtime, a relaxing bath or a little shopping treat into the ‘urgent’ section.
I print out a couple of fun calendars and have one in the studio and one on the fridge. I write my deadlines on both of them, and I also keep a little moleskine diary and write in that too.
When lots of deadlines are looming at the same time I will look at the calendar and prioritize and schedule certain days/weeks to focus on one project and complete it. When I am feeling overwhelmed I always remind myself that everything is possible!
Amy Cartwright Illustration
I have a “to-do” journal that fits in my bag. I make lists of errands, groceries, art supply needs, tasks to to, artwork ideas and calls I need to make. I like carrying it with me so I can make little notes whenever they pop into my head. I also have a list of things I would like to accomplish each month. I’ve found that a strict agenda strangles my creativity. It is important to allow time for daydreaming in your schedule.
Amy Eileen Koester
As a child I had a horrible time with time management. I would definitely start a project and then stop when I got overwhelmed. As an adult I am surprised at the realization that I still battle this problem daily. I don’t usually make lists because I’m not forgetful of what needs to be accomplished, and lists just make me even more overwhelmed. I’m also poor so I can’t hire anyone! So, I survey the situation and take one small step at a time. It usually works, and I’m too distracted to notice the huge mountain left to climb. Before I know it I’ve conquered and flagged that mountain. So, I guess the secret is to keep moving no matter what it is I’m doing. Sometimes life is just that easy?
List Lists and more Lists. I write down what I need to accomplish and then schedule that time. There’s a need to strategize in our home, and claiming time is helpful. There’s always more to do than I can get done, so I try to go with where my energy, all projects being equal. If I’m in the mood to print, I print. If I have a drawing I want to carve, I make sure my sketch is on paper, in case I really don’t have time to follow through on the carving at that moment.
When I’m outside of the home studio, I have a little bag of tricks with me. My sketch book, pens, fabric & thread are among those items, depending on what I’m currently working on. This bag helps me to utilize the time that can get lost (10 minutes in the pickup line at the preschool, 15 minutes waiting for a meeting). It’s motivation to get to a place early, just to have a few minutes to doodle or sketch.
Over time, I’ve had to change my expectations and set more workable goals for myself, my art, and my business. As our son grows, his needs change and allow me to work a little differently. Thus, a constant need to learn and grow in how I create. I’ve learned how to ask for help. My husband is my greatest advocate and has offered to assist as much as he can, now that the summer break is upon us. A mother’s helper will come into play this summer,
as well as some play dates for our son. Always working on this balancing act!
Suzanne L. Vinson
I keep small check lists in my little journal that I carry on me. It reminds me of what I need to do every time I open my journal. But, when it gets too overwhelming, I make promises to myself. If I’ve got a full day, I tell myself, you can do this, but only so long. Make appearances, but keep it to a certain pre-decided time. Keep in mind time for you and your art. And always remember yourself and your wants. I learned a long time ago, you shouldn’t disregard what you want. Most the time you are the only one that really knows what you want. So, you have to speak up for yourself. The most important thing to remember for me when managing my time is keeping in my head the schedule I want. The more planning that takes place, the better.
Nonna Illustration & Design
I have a set of three informal ‘to-do’ lists that I work from every day (except Sundays).
I have an actual written ‘to do’ list of things that I must accomplish each day… packaging items, going to the post office, answering emails, blogging, chores and so on.
I have a mental ‘to-do’ list of things that I would like to accomplish each day… start a new project, experiment with a new medium, photograph books, organize things, design packaging, and so on… I aim to tackle at least a couple things from this mental list each day, even if it’s just to set it up so it’s easier to get to the next day.
I have a ‘dream list’ as a file saved on my desktop that I check on pretty much each day and see if there’s anything that I should bump up in the queue to add to the written list, or keep idle in my mind to tackle. These are mostly home-related, paint this room, organize bookshelves, things like that… but also include ideas and themes for new artworks, dolls, or even things I would like to research.
It works well for me!
As far as managing my work and time keeping, I prioritise my workload by deadlines (but sometimes what I enjoy doing the most!) I work best under pressure however and usually end up staying up through the night painting or on the Mac!
Keeping in contact with the client is essential as the brief often has minor changes needed and magazine work obviously has strict time constraints.
I have lots of to-do lists littered around my computer and desk and a calender to keep track of where I’m at. Drawing up time lines helps me to with different deadlines highlighted and contact details of clients.
I also keep sketchbooks for each project and label them which helps.
I work full time so it takes a lot of energy and discipline to put time in my design and illustration projects. But what keeps me on point are to-do-lists. As a visual person, it helps me to see what I need to get done. The list helps me to prioritize what is important and what can be put on hold. And the best part about making a list is being able to check things off when you’re done!
I tend to manage my time by having a list of my ongoing projects always on my computer screen or desk, and by making sure I get at least one task done for each every day. For me, it’s all about small steps and making sure everything keeps moving forward. I’ve also learned to set reasonable deadlines when I have that option and don’t try to rush things if I don’t have to. Google Tasks has become my new best friend!
Lauren Denitzio (Black & Red Eye)
I’ve always kept lists of things I need to get done. There’s something about crossing off an item as it is completed and seeing it on paper with that little cross through it, that is satisfying. It must be that it taps into my visual senses as an artist. And lately I have been using a timer to remind me to not overdue my time spent on social networking and blogging.
Lindy Gruger Hanson
I love making to-do lists & checking items off after I complete them. I keep a notebook for writing down big ideas, lists, the steps I need to take to finish something, & information or stuff I want to check out. When I’m working on a big project, it helps me to not be overwhelmed by the amount of work I have if I break it down. I’m a full time graphic design student with a baby, a boyfriend and a dog. It helps that my boyfriend is able to stay at home and parent while I’m at school. When I come home, that’s the time for me to be present in what’s going on with my family, and take a break from thinking about school. This can be hard. The biggest trick I’ve found for getting over the mountain of work is to remind myself that can do it and that I AM doing it – and then just put my head down and get to work.
I manage my time in a monthly/weekly sort of way. On Sundays I think about the larger picture for the entire week, based around my monthly commitments. I block in time for my drawing, thinking and executing artwork. This way if I have say 5 hours for my own artwork execution, five days a week, I know my date is set and less likely to break it for other things trying to crowd in. I also set time in for sketching each and every day which includes time for simply thinking about the direction my art is taking. It sounds regimented, but actually it works for me and gives me flexibility for all the other parts of my work and life. Without this framework, nothing would get done!
Sometimes the time set aside for thinking includes framing, photographing, listing, and blogging as well as taking walks, gardening,spending time with other artists or my family and reviewing older artwork or sketches I had ideas for. The great thing about working for myself has been and always will be – the freedom to move things around in my day depending on what my family’s needs are and how I am feeling about my work.
Moving things around has to be closely guarded though as if you delay time for your own work on one day, you have to make an extra effort to put it into another slot elsewhere in the week. Having a Sunday ritual of setting that time up keeps it in check. I can look at my family’s schedule and know from experience what things during the week are going to drain my time and emotion the most and plan to be good to myself those days and not expect much from my artwork.
Work like laundry is never really “done” so keeping a fresh attitude about swimming forward each day committed to always making a line keeps my work somewhere in the forefront of my mind while enjoying other aspects of my day as well. I think it is so very important to have something set in “stone” so to speak each and everyday for your work in an established fashion.
I’m a very hands-on mom with 2 kids and I never seem to have enough time to get everything done despite having help from a nanny. I try to make lists and stick to them, as well as make reminders for appointments and such for myself on my PDA. With so many things happening at the same time, I know I’m never going to remember everything that needs to get done without some sort of list.
I always have a pen and paper in my bag, so that whenever I’m waiting in line or at the doctor’s office, I can make my grocery lists or lists for gift ideas for upcoming birthdays.
It always gives me a great sense of accomplishment to see the items being ticked off one by one!
I am a list girl, I couldn’t live without them. I have a little blank book that I write lists of things to do in most days and I love the feeling of crossing them off. I usually do my work when my youngest (3) has gone to bed, sometimes when I do it when he is still up but he wants to do some too which is very sweet but not very productive. I have this thing, ‘the more I do today will make the Katherine of tomorrow very happy’ silly but often if gets me fitting in a bit more each day to make it easier for me tomorrow. I also try and do something each day that is art-based, even if it is just a small thing, at least it is something. I try and keep the weekends free for family, but if there is a lull in family life and everyone is busy doing their own thing I will do a bit in the weekend.
I’m lucky in the sense that I have fewer distractions than most. But for time management, I am a huge list person. I actually draw out schedules for each week and tape them to the wall above by desk. I also know what times of the day and week I will be most focused and inspired, and when I will be most distracted, and I tend to organize things around that. Early afternoons are generally when I take a walk, run errands, or otherwise step away from my work, and I find that breaking my day up that way helps a lot. That way, when I am working I am fully working, and when I’m taking a walk or running errands I often draw inspiration and new energy for my work.
How do you manage your time?
I work with the plan “First in First out”. As soon as I get some urgent job I put it on my priority level and do it immediately.
Do you keep a tight to-do-list, or hire a nanny for help? I have a network of Assistants and Colleges. When I get to much work I do plan project work and we fulfill the work together. If needed I also hire a nanny for my dog.
What’s your secret to tackling the mountain of work that never seems to end? I never have free time. Always something to do. Even when I do not have direct work I do not panic but am happy I can do some office work and acquisition work. I am never afraid of having to many working contacts.
One of the questions I get asked the most is “how do you manage to get so much done – do you ever sleep?” I always chuckle at this question because I do managed to get my seven or eight hours a night in, so really I am working within the same amount of waking time as everyone else, give or take an hour or two. But I do think I manage to accomplish quite a bit and I so thought I’d share my “secret” of how I am able to develop and teach my online classes, create art, teach live classes a couple of days a week, blog, take care of all the dogs, cook dinner every night and get out every so often to restock the refrigerator. So here it is here’s how I do it:
I keep a notebook: In the notebook I keep a list. One running list of all the things that need doing and when they are due. Every day I turn to my trusty cheap notebook and look at the list. Cross things off and add things. When the page gets messy I turn to a new one put the date at the top and move the open items onto the new page. Also in this notebook are ideas, things that I want to do and pages of doodles and sketches. Mostly doodles because I’m not much of a sketcher. I keep this notebook right by the spot that I drink my coffee at in the morning and I open it and review it for what needs attention.
I keep a folder for each project: I keep a folder for each large ongoing project that I have going on. I have folders for my online and live classes and ones for ideas for art projects and techniques I want to develop. I tear out things from magazines and catalogs that I like the colors or patterns in and I stuff them into the folder that they relate to.
I schedule my time wisely: I know that my most creative time is the morning hours up until lunch so I make sure that I don’t schedule any appointments or errands during that time. I wait until I have several things to do outside the house and then schedule an errand afternoon and do all my errands while I’m out. I take care of most of my computer work either in the morning while I’m having coffee or in the afternoon after lunch.
And that’s it, that’s how I stay organized and focused, which I think in turn enables me to juggle so many different things. So the next time you’re sitting and drinking your favorite beverage, grab a pen and a notebook and make yourself a couple of lists. Start with what you need to do and then add a list of what you want to do. Never underestimate the power of keeping a list and how it can help keep you focused and increase your productivity.
As a dreamy creatively unstructured artist, I find it’s always a challenge to manage my time properly. One way to gather some focus is to always remember that this is a business. Of course a passion for what you do is the foundation for success. However, without framing that passion in a structured business mindset, you will never be able to attain enough success to continue in the long run. First and foremost, I work in a very small space. I feel it always helps to manage time more efficiently if that space is very organized. It helps to give the mind a freer feeling that I’m on top of things and less overwhelmed. I find simplifying anything always brings a more positive result. Also, it helps me find what I’m looking for at a much faster rate! Another way I manage time is to brain storm about tackling the following day before I fall asleep. It seems to embed a guideline of how to make more happen in less time upon waking for a fresh new day. Lastly, I read others advice, and discuss with others as much as I can to solve a problem. Learning from others, as well as venting and sorting things out is always a real plus!
We all need to remember that we can only do so much within a day’s time. As long as you’re continually learning, growing, and trying, you’re gaining steps towards a greater success;)!
Jen Lambein / Studio Petite
I wish I knew the secret to perfectly balanced time so that my house stayed sparkly clean, my son had things to do besides watch movies, and I was making new prints on a regular basis. I think a lot of us wish we knew that secret. The trouble is, there are only so many hours during the day and I give a lot of them to my full time “office” job in the city. A lot of us do, and our art is a part-time side hobby when time allows.
Something that has helped me (mentally and emotionally) tackle that mountain of never-ending work is to just ACCEPT it. I used to fret when the laundry piled up or the hamster cage went dirty another day and I didn’t get to list my new stationery in the shop, but once I realized I was being way too hard on myself it all became easier. I am only one person. I accept that I can’t get everything done in one day. I know that I want to be with my son after work and make playdough and put my personal art off until he is in bed for the night. I understand that because the dishes didn’t get done that night they will still (unfortunately) be waiting for me the next day, and that I can do them then. When stuff gets to you and you worry about what is and isn’t happening during your free time, that is when it turns into a challenge.
I have heard of people making a schedule; certain tasks for certain days during the week. It works for some, but I have to just go with the flow or I worry about missing Thursday’s vacuuming and then I feel behind and start to stress.
I have to ask myself “what’s the hurry?” sometimes quite often. I would love to have constant sales in my shop and I know that if you dedicate energy to your art and work hard you will see results, but I guess it is not essential for me right now. That’s ok. If I just let it be and nurture it when I can I feel alright. Luckily we live with my boyfriend now and he is a huge help; playing ball with my son and taking turns with chores. Having him help cuts me some slack, and my son loves his company.
I suppose the way I manage my time is to take things as they come. Just live each day and see what happens, never worrying about what didn’t get done. T-Ball, grocery shopping, photographing new cards, housework, cooking dinner, painting, seeing friends or going out, it all unfolds as it may. It is life; it happens every day and there is always next Thursday for vacuuming.
Candace Jean Andersen
Having a to do list is important for me and not having to do everything at the same time, otherwise you’ll be completely swamped, lose track and freak out! Prioritize what you have to do first and not to worry about the other things you have to finish.
You also need a break from work. Tea and biscuits or a walk to the park for 20 minutes helps me to clear my head. Or a nice dinner makes me happy too!
I manage my time by waking up early, right as the sun is coming up. When the rest of the world is asleep I can do actual work because there are no distractions – everything and everyone is still and quiet. I am able to tackle all the left over work on my to-do-list, as well as all the little things that I would like to get done for myself (like exercising and gardening). If I am unable to finish, I just make another list for the following morning or put things off until the weekend. Giving myself the extra time to complete all the things that I need to do in the morning allows me to stay focused for the rest of the day, which in turn allows me to get more work done. Ever since I began forcing myself to wake up early in the mornings, all the stress in the world just began to fade away. I love it!
Somehow I enjoy scheduling. It’s like putting all your works in to the nice boxes and drawers.It’s brings a feeling of freshness. And then you just have to enjoy your work, without thoughts or bothers about basic things. Planning gives pleasure in daily works. Then everything flows.
I work full time as a teacher and keep my elderly Dad company and have a partner. I have a Etsy shop (as well as a Made it store and I sell also on ebay).
What I find works best is to be incredibly disciplined regarding sending out orders and writing emails, blogging, etc. for 6 out of 7 days a week. On Saturday I have a “me” day and I never look at the clock and just potter around the house drawing, etc. This one day makes all the difference! One totally unstructured day a week is my tonic.
Having said that I send off orders the same day or the next. That way I know they’re done and gone and I don’t have to think about them again.
Now that I am in the end of my thirties and I have to say that I still am not able to do this very well. Ahem, I would say I am still failing totally.
The one and only thing which works is a deadline!
I hate myself for this, but I am afraid that after working for more than 20 years like this, I do not see much change in how I deal with it in the future.
Of course this includes no or poor meals, messy home, nanny hours, too much coffee – and very often the feeling that I could have done better – IF I had more time…
So not very recommendable!
It may seem counter-intuitive, but I keep a very short to-do list. It has just the essentials. I find this is the most effective way to stay on top of things. The other number one thing I do to stay on top of things is I absolutely never, ever stay up too late. I never work past 10 pm. Sure, I’m a mom and my toddler keeps my busy all day. I only have a few hours during the day to work and a few each night, but because I don’t allow myself to work well into the night, I find I spend less time procrastinating and am more efficient. Plus, I’m (relatively) well-rested the next day so I can tackle all the day’s tasks.
Like everyone else, I deal with a schedule that is hectic at times. There’s plenty of things to be done everyday as I grapple with holding down several projects at a time. I’m also a part-time corporate copywriter!
I plan out my week in advance and prefer my lists to be written out in a format where I can see and schedule my projects across the week. Like many others in this issue, I like the feeling of crossing off an item on the list as it gives me a lot of satisfaction!
I make it a point to sleep earlier during the weekdays and to allow some time in the weekends for play and relaxation with my husband. So keeping my schedule is important as if I don’t, he’ll be the first to suffer!
I’m also beginning to find freelance helpers to help out with certain aspects of running Pikaland, as I have come to the realization that I can’t do it all alone. I also need to allocate some time to my family, dogs, cooking, and to keeping the house clean and being burned out is not something I’d like to experience ever again.