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Mastering Time

The beginning of a new year is an excellent time to reflect and take stock of the methods we use to make the most of our creative time. I like to take this time to question how I can improve more, focus on my weaknesses, and push forward through the frustrating moments in my studio. For me, time management is a focal point for the coming year.

I am sure I am not the only one who faces the daily challenge of how to carve out enough time to get everything done. After all, who doesn't want more time? Since we cannot manufacture more time in the day, time management becomes a critical skill. Learning how to manage the time we have can be the key to making the most of our days at the easel, resulting in being more productive and fruitful.

One way to incorporate new habits and rituals is learning from your peers. For this article, I asked several artists I admire to share their thoughts on their time management practices.

Some of my questions were: How do you manage your time? What have you done to modify your habits? What do you feel produced greater productivity in your day? Below are some of their thoughts and insights.

  • Prioritize goals and tasks ranking them in order of importance

  • Maintain a consistent schedule during the week and stick to a stable routine

  • Allow time for setting up, warming up, learning, and regular breaks throughout the day

  • Take care of the business side of art outside of studio time

More specifically, write a list of your top 25 goals and tasks. Do some soul-searching and circle the five highest priority items. Take a good look at the ones you didn't circle. These are lower priority distractions and should be avoided. These activities will eat away at your time and energy and take your attention away from the items that matter the most in your day. Once you have a well-established priority list, plan a realistic schedule that encourages you to maintain your focus on your new set of priorities.

Also, keep your to-do list up to date and track completion of tasks and upcoming deadlines. Writing things down helps you stay focused and accountable. Include reading, sketching, warm-ups, and exercises into your schedule and daily routine. At the end of every day, take the time to plan the next day and how you will use your time. This process helps keep you from getting sidetracked.

Logging in time at the easel should be focused on actually painting. There are many parts of this profession that are not at the easel but should not overtake the actual “easel time.”

Always avoid doing non-easel tasks such as writing emails and articles, publicizing art shows, posting to social media, and updating websites during the time you have set aside for painting.

The top practices that have greatly increased my painting productivity include not answering the phone, checking email, or answering texts when I'm working at my easel. The deeper levels of focus and concentration lead to better decisions about painting.

In the words of Twyla Tharp from her book The Creative Habit, “Creativity is not a gift from the gods, bestowed by some divine and mystical spark. It is the product of preparation and effort, and it's within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. All it takes is the willingness to make creativity a habit, an integral part of your life: In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative.”

Listed below are a few books I would recommend that have helped me.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy

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