As an artist, something I constantly struggle with is making the most of my time. How much time should I spend in the studio vs. working on business stuff? How do I balance my professional and personal lives? Even with large blocks of free time, it can be difficult to prioritize the many things on my to-do list (and it’s big).
Dee Boyle-Clapp recently presented on Time Management for Creatives for the Vermont Arts Council. She started by talking about the many time traps that people fall into. Several of them were technology-related – Email, texting, and social media. I don’t know about you, but it’s way too easy for me to fall down that Facebook rabbit hole.
In addition, she mentioned other time traps that I could easily identify with – attempting too much, inadequate planning, and the inability to say no. As I said before, my to-do list is huge and the aforementioned time traps aren’t helping me any.
I think that many artists share my struggle. We try to be everything to everyone. If we work from home, we don’t value our time or space enough to postpone or refuse other responsibilities. For me, it’s really hard to ignore my home life when I’m working because my studio is in my home. Time to walk the dog, answer the phone, did I empty the dishwasher?
Dee offered some great suggestions on how to best manage your time. Start the day early. Check your Email once a day at a specified time. Set time limits for tasks – know how long it takes to do something and when time is up, you stop doing it.
Do the most important stuff first. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the task will be the fastest or the easiest. In addition, figure out when your most productive time is – it may be first thing in the morning or later in the day. Whenever that period of time is, that’s when you do the important stuff. I know that I function best in the morning, so that’s when I try to schedule my studio time. If I have a deadline for something, then I work on it in the morning.
Another tip – use your calendar. If you have things that need to get done, block out time in your date book and make an appointment for yourself – take yourself and your time seriously. Your studio time is just as important as getting to a medical appointment.
Use a timer. This can be especially useful for those tasks you’ve been putting off. If you need to clean your studio, set a timer for ½ hour chunks and when the timer goes off, you’re done for the day. It’s much easier to tackle ½ hour cleanup sessions than to look at cleaning your studio as a whole.
Create systems for tackling tasks you perform on a regular basis. If you sell items online, create a process for how you ship – keep shipping supplies in one place so you never have to waste time looking for them. Choose specific days for shipping so that you can process sales in batches.
Most importantly – take time off. You can’t go on endlessly without recharging your batteries. This can be as easy as having coffee with a friend or taking a class (it doesn’t have to be craft-related). I try to take attend at least one bookbinding workshop per year, just to keep my brain churning. Usually these involve travel, which is another great way to recharge.
I heard something recently that rang true for me – you can’t find time, you have time. Make the most of the time you have by employing strategies to help you manage it.
What strategies to you find helpful with time management? We’d love to hear your experiences!