Making a living as an artist invites a certain degree of unpredictability, so being busy can often seem like a blessing.

But, it’s a fine line to walk between busyness and burnout.

You can become so focused on running a successful art business that stress starts to drive you instead of passion—and that’s no good. Didn’t you become an artist because you love that act of creating?

Busyness becomes especially bad when you use up all your time on work and abandon other important areas of your life. And, the sad truth is that being busy with work doesn’t always equate to being productive.

Don’t fall into this “busy trap.”

We’ll show you how to be less busy but more productive at work, so you can have both a thriving studio practice and life outside the art business. Take a look:

Choose smart work

Of course, being the boss of your own art business will require lots of work and dedication, especially when you are first trying to make a name for yourself in the art world. But, as you probably know, there is a difference between hard work and smart work.

Smart work, while it still involves working hard, means you are getting more done and in less time. Whether it’s the way you approach a problem or putting a system in place to be more effective, working smarter will help you get more hours back in the day for activities other than work.

Can you hire an intern from the local art program to help update Artwork Archive? Are you using batch processing to allocate your time better? Are you focusing on the quality over quantity on your social media and blog posts?

You’ll be amazed at how much more efficient you can be with these systems in place.

Balance work with life

Again, it’s okay to be busy with work — unless you are neglecting everything else in your life. You can only put your health, family, and friends on the back burner for so long before it catches up with you. So how do you find better work-life balance?

If your busy art business is taking over your life, consider getting a separate studio space. Then you can physically go home after the end of the day, creating a distinction in your mind between when you should be working and when you should be relaxing.

Another tip?

Try setting “office hours” from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and only answer emails, post on social media, or plan out your next piece during that time. Clients will respect the fact that you have a life outside of work. You wouldn’t expect them to work all evening, right?

Simply put, you need to go home. See friends and family. Eat a real meal. Get some sleep, relax, and have some fun.

And, if you’re still worried about your art business, remember that you can’t create the best art possible unless you are happy and healthy.

Just say no

What is the point of being successful? We would argue that it’s to be happy.

In fact, no matter how well your art business is doing, you probably won’t feel successful if you are too busy, miserable, or exhausted to enjoy it. Think of this when you are adding new art projects to your already hectic schedule.

Are you taking on more work because you love what you do or because you fear you might fail as an artist if you don't? Will your art career come crashing down if you miss one social media post? Take a step back and reflect on your answers.

We’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s okay to say no — to that commission, to that deadline, whatever it may be that’s causing you to neglect your own well-being or your relationships with family and friends.

Aim to have a successful life, not just an art career.

Round up a routine

This goes back to working smarter, not harder.

When an artist is constantly switching from one task to the next, it can be difficult to get anything finished as you have to reorganize your thoughts each time. But, a routine can help you focus on the right tasks at the right time, so you can do better work in less time.

Your routine could include something as simple as scheduling posts on the first Thursday of the month or following these steps after you’ve finished your latest piece.

Need more direction? Try this morning routine for artists or this guide for being a productive artist at night.

Then, take a look at our tips for staying productive when you're the boss of your studio.

Take a break

Let’s face it, artists can’t be “on” all the time — actually, no one can! Creativity comes and goes. But, it probably won’t come by forcing it and overworking. Sometimes what you really need is a little break to get a fresh perspective.

What can you do? Leave the studio. Go out for lunch with friends. Clear your mind with a short vacation. Turn on your favorite TED Talk or documentary. Take a hike. Take a nap. Do some exercises recommended for artists. Or, try some of these creative thinking activities to get the creative juices flowing again.

You aren’t avoiding work, so don’t feel guilty. Guilt isn’t a productive emotion. By giving your brain and body a necessary boost of happiness and energy,  you can be more productive when you are working.

Now you can avoid the busy trap.

Remember these words from creative business mentor Peleg Top: “People don't burn out. Machines burn out. It’s only when we treat ourselves as machines by overworking, eating poorly, and not getting enough rest that we feel burn out. It’s time we stopped treating ourselves and our businesses with machine-like attitude.”

Start by taking these 5 steps to avoid the busy trap, and you’ll find time for a happier, more productive life.

Want to save time and keep your art business organized? Try Artwork Archive free for 30 days.