During the busy season, it can seem impossible to get everything done, let alone set aside the time to practice self-care.
When you make most of your money during a few months of the year, it can be tempting to go into overdrive to get every last drop out of the holidays, summer art fairs, or wherever you really clean up.
But this will not only leave you drained, lead to burnout, and take the joy out of your job, it also encourages less productive work.
Here are five counterintuitive self-care habits artists should commit to during the busy season.
When you think you are too busy to take a break, that's when to take a break
Here is something that may seem counterintuitive when it seems like you don’t have enough time already: take a break.
Commit to slowing your days down. Work more intentionally and step away from your work with intention. Walk to the coffee shop and chat with the barista for a few minutes. Cook your dinner instead of getting take out. Turn your email alerts off during lunch. If you can, walk to your errands instead of driving.
Give yourself permission to fully turn off from whatever you are working on by giving yourself a time limit. Set a timer for twenty minutes and take that time to practice some self-care.
Of course, as an artist, you have to work even on the days when you don’t feel inspired. But, if you take care of yourself during times of stress, you will notice that not only will you feel better, you will make better work and better business connections.
When you are tired, drink more water than coffee and eat before you are hangry
When things get busy, it’s easy to ignore all the things your body and mind need to function at full capacity when you are working.
When we de-prioritize sleep, eating healthy meals, moving our bodies, and socializing, we tend to trudge through the process and go through the motions — leaving us feeling uninspired and empty. This comes through in our work and we quickly burn out or break down.
Get a large 32 oz or 64 oz water bottle and make a habit of filling it in the morning with the goal of drinking the whole thing during the day (we love adding a little lemon juice). Dehydration is the most common cause of brain fog, grogginess, and irritability. Balance your water intake with your caffeine intake. Make sure you aren’t just downing coffee …. we are looking at you!
Don’t wait until it’s an emergency to eat food. Alleviate yourself of the common mistake of waiting until 2 pm for lunch by doing a little meal prep on Sunday. Have healthy, protein-packed options on hand for meals. That way, you avoid the crash and avoid eating the first available (usually unhealthy) option.
Increase your prices
You need to have your work at competitive market prices and charge at your skill level, but working endless hours for an unfair wage will only lead to massive stress. The best part? You are in charge of the wages you make.
Treat yourself with the respect you would treat a hardworking employee.
Many artists use a formula of materials + time at desired hourly wage = price of the artwork. However, consider the value and demand for your work as well. If you quickly and continually sell out of your $250 dollar works, it’s time to increase prices.
Consider sleeping a part of your long-term success strategy
This one is obvious: get enough sleep. We are talking at least 7 hours here. Set a sleep timer for an hour before you want to go to sleep and start winding down. Don’t try and squeeze extra emails in right before bed. Shut down your computer and devices, get a real, live paper book.
Remind yourself that there is only so much you can realistically accomplish in one day and don’t worry about the rest until the morning. If you have trouble shutting your mind off, remind yourself of what you did accomplish that day—even if it’s as small as eating lunch!
Celebrate your little victories.
Embrace your short attention span by moving more
We really only have a concentrated attention span of 90 minutes max. Often, it is shorter than that. Think of your concentration cycles as little sprints. Then, when you feel like you are drifting off and starting to open a tab for Facebook, get up and stretch instead.
Make sure you are moving throughout the day.
Getting your blood flowing will get your creativity flowing and increase your mood. You don’t all of a sudden need to start training like an Olympic athlete, but do a few down dogs or arm circles between sets of intense concentration.
Starting your day with a short jog or a few sun salutations will set you on a path of achievement for the rest of the day. Bodies in motion and minds in motion go hand-in-hand. The time you spend on physical activity will actually be made up in the time that you find yourself not procrastinating or getting distracted.
Prioritize and foster personal relationships
Being an artist and business owner often means you are going at it solo for many hours of the day. By default, art making is often a process done in solitude and we often veer toward isolation. Don’t forget about the relationships you have with your friends and family.
These relationships will not only enrich your life, they will help you get through some hard times. But, you can’t expect your support network to always be giving. Taking time to write a note thanking your friends or cooking a little extra and inviting friends over to share will help you refocus on what is important.
Even more importantly, seek out time to connect with other artists. Bounce ideas off each other, commiserate about a lousy show, talk about business strategies that are working. The fastest way to ditching the whole dream altogether is to feel like you are the only one feeling a certain way.
Too often it is easy to let these relationships be the first thing to go when we are in the middle of a busy season. When it’s hard to even remember to eat, socializing is often first on the chopping block.
Doing small acts of kindness for your friends or family not only improves social bonds but reminds you that it isn’t all about you. While the stress of owning a small business puts a ton of pressure on yourself, it’s a relief to focus on something that is outside of you.
Set low expectations & over-communicate, even if something goes wrong
If you have taken on a bunch of holiday orders, you are probably feeling the pressure. Make sure you are clear about the deadline for the last day for orders and make it even earlier than you feel comfortable with.
If you need three weeks to make and ship orders, make that deadline for the holidays six weeks prior to Christmas for custom orders (it can be shorter for pre-made objects).
You want to avoid working in survival mode.
Take the panic out of your business by budgeting for things to go wrong. Mistakes seem less dire when they aren’t attached to angry or disappointed customers.
Let customers who have placed orders know where you are in the process. Keep it upbeat, anticipate their questions, and let them know when the expected shipping window. Most people know very little about all the details that go into making an artwork and hearing about the process lets them in on the timeline as well as the process.
The more a customer knows about the process, the more they trust you. By informing and educating your buyers, you take some of the risk out of their purchase and allow them to feel secure in spending more money on your future artwork.
Even if something doesn’t go quite as planned during the process (and it always does), letting your customers know you had a kiln failure etc. keeps them in the loop and lets them in on the blood, sweat, and tears that went into your artwork. Customers are real people, after all.
Carve out time early on to get organized
If you’re scrambling to make last-minute price lists, invoices, or to find important details about artworks, you are causing yourself unnecessary stress and wasting time.
The more organized you are, the less stressed out you become.
Artists often get a bad rap for being disorganized, type B, head-in-the-clouds type of people. However, even if this might be slightly true for you, living in a constant state of scrambling will only leave you burnt out and dreading your own business process.
If you are trying to make a business out of your art, you want to actually enjoy that part of the process if you can.
Setting aside a half day a week for administrative tasks like updating your website, making sure you have communicated with your customers and packing and shipping work streamlines the process so you can spend the rest of the week making work.
Blocking out this time allows you to work efficiently and not context switch every day between the business work and the making work.