Time Management for Artists: 10 Ways to Set Up your Creative Life


Last Updated on November 18, 2023

Top 10 Tenants of Time Management for Artists and Creative Types

Artists aren’t necessarily known for their time management skills, however, whether working with a full-time artist schedule or as a part-time artist, learning how to organize your time as a creative individual is crucial to your success in being able to live and work as an artist.

There are a few reasons why creative people struggle with time management. For one, creative people tend to have many eclectic interests and their creative minds feed off of variety. Their proclivity to variety presents a challenge to being able to focus on one task at a time.

Another obstacle to time management for artists is the independent nature of their work environment and the lack of structure in their work schedule. For artists to get the upper hand in their creative life, they will need to have or learn the ability to create a clear and consistent structure in their days to control their creative chaos.

Also, artists are generally thought to be more right-brain dominant. However, while the right hemisphere of the brain is known for visualization the left hemisphere is equally required in order to implement those ideas. In other words, time management requires the activation of the left brain to bring artistic ideas to life.

Below are 10 creative time management ideas to help you hack your daily grind.

1. Break your day into Blocks and Plan around those Blocks

One of the most effective and creative time management techniques artists can use is to approach the day in broad blocks rather than individual hours and tasks.

time blocks

Identify your most productive hours of the day. While the majority of people seem to be more productive in the morning, each individual will have different phases of concentration throughout the day. In fact, it seems to be more about rhythm than a fixed time.

I like the idea of rhythm because I know with myself that my ability to concentrate fluctuates throughout the day. For me, my prime periods of productivity tend to be between 10 am to noon and from 5 pm to 7 pm. That means twice a day I have a two-hour block, for heavy creative lifting.

Knowing this, I will schedule my day around those times to keep them free from distraction and ready for production or tasks that require the most concentration. On the other hand, I will make sure to schedule meetings or obligations which pull me away from peak productivity hours, like running errands or doctor appointments, around or in between those times.

In addition to identifying your productivity rhythm, breaking your day into blocks also means blocking out times for different types of work. There are blocks to organize your space and files, blocks to write emails, blocks for social media and marketing, blocks for researching, and blocks for creating art.

Again, I personally like to save high productivity times for creating art and map out mornings for social media and after-lunch lulls for emails and research.

2. Create Daily Rituals to get you in the Creative Mindset

Time management for artists sometimes involves retraining our minds to be able to continually produce and reproduce inspiration.

The habits we set for starting our day and marking the beginning of our working phase help program us to enter into a productive mindset. Rituals you may have to signal to yourself that it is time to work could be as simple as using a specific coffee mug or wearing a particular shirt or outfit when starting your workday.

creative ritual

This type of self-programming through ritual habits can create positive feelings and promote confidence around working tasks. Such rituals can mark the beginning and the end of effective artist routines.

Likewise, if you find yourself in a creative rut, try these techniques to free up artistic space in your mind.

3. Pick the Right Music

Music as a way to structure thought is also a good tool for time management for artists. The right music can set aside blocks of time and focus.

Music that has no lyrics and is repetitive enough to stimulate my need for order, but novel enough to inspire new thinking, helps me focus my creative energy. Certain types of music, such as classical music and binaural beats, are shown to stimulate the brain.

If you get no other takeaways from this article, at least get this video link below. Steve Reich, Music of 18 Musicians, is my go-to to keep my mind on track. Try it and you will either thank me or hate me for it 😉

As Steve Reich puts it, in his short, 1968 writing, Music as a Gradual Process, “While performing and listening to gradual musical processes one can participate in a particular liberating and impersonal kind of ritual. Focusing in on the musical process makes possible that shift of attention away from he and she and you and me outwards towards it.”

4. Start the Day with a List

Creating a list may seem like a no-brainer for those looking for better time management, however, it is not to be overlooked or taken lightly.

Time management for artists begins each day with setting your intentions to ensure that you finish the day better off than the previous day and closer to longer-term goals.

Starting with a list not only gives us an overview of what needs to be done but it helps us to prioritize the key tasks which will help us move ahead in our overall plans. When looking at the list, decide which tasks are the most pressing and which tasks are the easiest, then make both a priority.

Completing the easy tasks will give you the momentum for tackling the most pressing ones, and when the most pressing tasks are done, the relief you feel will boost your creative motivation even more!

5. Have Weekly Goals

In addition to daily to-do lists, weekly goals help us stay directed towards larger and longer-term aims. In making weekly goals, we not only block out our hours, but we block out our days of the week towards certain aspects of our daily work.

As mentioned before, as creatives, our work involves more than only creating works of inspiration, it involves organization, coordination, marketing, research, and keeping up with social media presence. Trying to check all those boxes in one day can make a day seem overwhelming. Try limiting your days to taking on only a couple of these work blocks and set aside days of the week for others.

For example, Mondays are great days for organization and mapping out your social media activity for the week. In my case, I may start the week by writing a blog article on Monday and create social media snippets from that same blog article to be dropped throughout the week. Having completed the blog article early in the week and repurposed that content for social media, I may reserve the mid and end of the week for current photography and exhibition projects.

6. Take Short Breaks – Short being the Keyword

Downtime can be as important as production time, but at the same time, you don’t necessarily want to break your flow. Creativity can involve intense focus, and this level of concentration requires some cooling-off periods for the mind.

The idea, however, is not to cool off completely, but to be able to maintain a high level of creative mental activity for longer periods of time. In other words, when you find yourself completing a large stride in your task or creative process, step away briefly to process what you have accomplished, but don’t walk away altogether.

Take breaks often, put time caps on these breaks, and stay close to your workspace. This will enable you to continue your flow without burning yourself out.

7. Empty your Trash Bin

Another creative time management technique for artists I personally find useful is to give yourself a chance, maybe even a block of time, to binge your way through your procrastination vices.

Trying not to procrastinate can sometimes feel futile. The urge and temptation to waste away time on your computer, phone, or by simply sleeping consistently lingers around those without fixed schedules or someone overseeing their activity.

Time management for creatives and artists

Procrastination is inevitable, and although it is a productivity killer, it could also be a creativity incubator. Time not spent actively trying to solve creative problems can even give the mind a chance to process these mental challenges in the background.

Denying urges can create bigger addictions, and denying yourself a chance to watch cat videos can result in a black hole of time filled with endless meows. Give yourself time in your non-peak productivity periods to get your procrastination vices of choice out of your system so you can free up the rest of your day for work.

8. Remember the 80/20 Rule

In the world of productivity, there is a rule called the Pareto Principle, which suggests that 80% of outcomes stem from only 20% of activity. This means, in a way, that the majority of the fruits of your actions come from a few and a select bundle of tasks.

Applied to time management for artists, 80% of your time can be used for artistic production, but 20% should be used to foster the business side of the endeavor. And therefore, if you divide the work week into 5 days, 1 day a week (or the equivalent) should be set aside for marketing and organization.

As a rule of thumb, it is interesting to consider what would happen to your art life if 80% were put toward business and 20% towards creating artwork. Would you see a temporary improvement in your business while the novelty and creativity of your portfolio overall suffer?

Finding the right balance at the right point in your career can help you move forward in your goals.

9. Always have a Journal Nearby

Another fatal flaw when it comes to time management for artists is the inclination of an artist not finishing what he or she started due to an overabundance of creative ideas and inspiration.

Don’t let inspiration be a distraction.

Creative types have a tendency to be so full of great ideas that they fall in love with each new idea and consequently keep jumping from one to the next, many times out of fear of losing that idea.

But you don’t have to let that great idea pull you away from the task at hand. Keep a journal nearby and let your new idea be the motivation to finish what you are currently working on. In this way, following up with your next great idea becomes your reward and not your distraction.

10. Keep the Back Burner on Display

Similarly to having a journal, keeping your unfinished projects and ideas visually on display will help you in two ways. One, you won’t forget them, and they will either grow slowly or change with time. Two, you outgrow the idea, but it leads ultimately to something new and better.

Keeping sketches of uncompleted works hanging, and keeping a whiteboard up with your mid-and long term goals can help you keep a larger overview of your development. In regards to time management for artists, this serves as a good reminder of where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there.

For additional help with time management for artists and organizing your Creative Work and Life click here.

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