“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” – Benjamin Franklin
There are certain days when it feels like even though you were busy all day, you look back and ask yourself, “what did I actually get done today?”
You know the feeling when you send out an invoice to a client and shut your computer for the day? It’s the opposite of that.
Of course, you have a million projects you are in the middle of completing and a thousand more you should start—but, it feels like you are just treading water, not getting anywhere.
It’s most likely because your time management skills are a little out of whack.
When we build habits that burn up our time, it can seem like we are endlessly busy, but not incredibly efficient. What would you do with an extra five or ten hours a week? Take off early on a Friday for a long weekend? Carve out a whole extra day for experimental projects that keep you passionate about your path?
Ten extra hours can rejuvenate your art practice and life and keep you productive on the other days. It’s important to take some time for yourself. So, how can you make sure you get everything done, avoid the busy trap and regain a few extra hours?
Here are five things you should be doing to regain those extra hours a week.
Work to get things done, not to be busy
Not all tasks are created equal. Just because you are busy, doesn’t mean you are moving toward your goals.
If you find that you are endlessly working, you might be spending too much time on small or menial tasks.
In fact, our brains trick us into prioritizing smaller, less important tasks on a daily basis. A study from February in the Journal of Consumer Research found that “people may choose to perform urgent tasks with short completion windows, instead of important tasks with larger outcomes.”
We are wired to get the boost of gratification from the smaller tasks, even though that means we are deprioritizing the tasks that will get us further ahead because larger tasks delay our satisfaction.
Starting the day by getting a bunch of small tasks done isn’t hard, but that is what most of us do. We will answer emails, respond to messages on social, pay bills, etc. Being busy is easy. Being effective is more difficult.
Ask yourself in the morning: what are the tasks that I have today that are going to make an impact on my larger goals?
Then, make sure you are setting aside a concentrated amount of time to focus on those tasks. Don’t out-busy yourself and put it off under the guise that you already accomplished a lot. In fact, focus on the bigger task first when you have the brain power to do so, and then save the smaller stuff for later in the day when your energy has waned.
Stay organized so you don’t waste time getting started
How many hours have you wasted digging through files on your desktop to find the images that you are supposed to send to a client? Or to find the latest version of your resume? How quickly can you find how much was that painting from Fall of 2016 is priced?
When you spend time looking for the information and files, you use the time that could be used for something more productive—or for simply relaxing.
If you are always on the go, it can seem like getting things organized is a major buzz-kill. However, organizing your images, shows, and sales will save you hours for the minutes it takes to put them in the right place the first time. Using a platform like Artwork Archive allows you to easily and efficiently manage all the details of your artwork in a dynamic database where you can both track your artwork and present yourself professionally online and in the real world.
Think about the last time you threw your keys down when you got home in a hurry and didn’t take the extra two seconds to place them on the key hook. How much time did you waste looking around frantically for your keys? Probably more than you had budgeted for getting out the door.
Reprogram your automatic habits
Small habits can take up a large cut of our time. Have you ever absentmindedly opened your computer and automatically started typing Facebook into the browser? We have. How about picking up your phone when your mind wanders only to find yourself five minutes deep into an Instagram scroll.
Break your automatic habits to regain your time. You have trained yourself for a certain behavior and reward. One way to de-program yourself from these habits is to track the time you spend on sites like Facebook or Instagram and take note of how much time you are putting into idle behaviors vs. active behaviors.
With this information in front of you with time-tracking software such as RescueTime, Toggl or Timely, you can get a full picture of where you are spending your time on the web and how quickly those quick Twitter check-ins or dog video breaks on Facebook take up.
If you can’t seem to break the habit on your own, you might have to go cold-turkey for a while until you reset your itchy fingers.
Blocking a website that you compulsively or routinely check can help you be more aware of your unconscious habits. With distractions looming in our pockets and just a few keystrokes away, it is sometimes best to not even give yourself the chance to get distracted in the first place.
Using a plugin like Blocksite, you can enter the name of the website or phrase that you want to block. You can also reroute the site to something more productive. So, if you want to spend less time scrolling through your Facebook feed, but more time researching new art grants, you can reroute all facebook searches to your favorite call-for-entry site.
Schedule, but don’t over-schedule
The great thing about writing down your goals is that you can then make an action plan.
Look over your to-do list in the morning to check in with your goals. Committing these small to-do’s to paper allows you to attack your day with intention. There’s no time lost wondering what you should start.
We talked earlier about starting the day with your bigger tasks. Why? You’ll make progress on that larger, important project before your energy or excitement wanes. Track your progress, mark tasks complete and get an overview of your upcoming show schedule in Artwork Archive's scheduling feature.
But, don’t put so many things on your schedule that you overwhelm yourself into a state of inaction. Be realistic with your timelines and how much you can accomplish in a day without burning out. Then, reward yourself for your accomplishments by taking a break or turning off for the day. You will be most productive when you have set times to work and set times to relax and practice self-care.
In general, our bodies and minds function best when we develop rhythms for activity and leisure. This applies to eating, sleeping, and creating. Your schedule doesn’t need to be robotic, but consistency is important to establish boundaries between productivity and leisure.
Know when you are finished
Perfectionism is one of those traits that people often try to disguise as a strength. However, perfectionism can stunt your productivity and harm your growth as an artist.
Remember: it is better to finish a good project than to endlessly obsess over the details of a "perfect" one—and, never finish it.
This fear can be crippling, especially in a creative field that requires us to constantly be producing and putting our whole selves on the line. It’s difficult to make progress and be productive when you are coming from a place of self-doubt, anxiety or worry of failure.
Embrace a growth-mindset instead of coming from a place of perfectionism. Set things out in the world and if it isn’t perfect, take your feedback or what you learned and apply it to the next project.
Try out Artwork Archive for free to stay organized as an artist.
Then, each morning, make it a goal to keep the business side of your art up-to-date.
Ben Franklin also started each morning asking himself “what good shall I do today?” Ask yourself each morning what good you shall do for your art career and for your goals.
Look over your inventory, schedule, and sales and see what customers you need to catch up with, what invoices still need to be sent, what business expenses need to be recorded, what gallery you need to ship work to and where you need to pick up your pieces. Then, easily print out pre-formatted PDF reports, inventory lists and keep track of your goals by looking at your business insights.
The rest of the day can be spent in the right frame of mind to create.