Studio and Time Management Tips

Over the last year, we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to get more things done.  For the last few years, we’ve had to accept that we can’t work the way we did in our early twenties.  Back then, it wasn’t an issue to work a full time job and stay up until 3am drawing or writing.  That isn’t working anymore, and it’s been tricky figuring out how to keep up a reasonable level of productivity while staying on top of our other priorities like health, day jobs and relationships. I’ll go over a few things that have helped in terms of general organization and life management here, and will be following up with a second post about specific work processes soon.

Studio Tips

  • Keep all of your art stuff organized. The more you practice this, the easier it gets. Initially it may seem like a time sink, but if you plan properly, maintenance becomes a much easier task over time. I spent 3 days renovating and reorganizing our studio storage spaces this past winter.  Now it only takes about 5-10 minutes to restore it to a clean and organized state, and we can find everything we need in a minute, which makes us much more productive.
  • Even if you don’t have the luxury of a separate workspace, you can still organize creatively to work better. When we lived in a very small apartment and worked out of my bedroom, I used a large butcher’s rack as a computer desk, which allowed me to keep most of our supplies in one space. Didn’t do anything for the screen tone bits in my hair, but we could always find the pen nibs.
  • Just having everything labeled has helped immensely.  We don’t need to ask where things are, and we don’t waste time trying to figure out what to do with something while cleaning. If you do nothing else, label everything. Use labels that you can change or replace easily to suit your needs as things change so you keep up with your system.
  • Keep things near where they’ll be used as much as possible. Try to sort like with like.  There will probably be a bit of resorting as you try things out to come up with the most useful categories.
  • We’ve arranged it so that all of our frequently used tools are in arm’s reach at our work stations, and there’s room for drinks, etc. This keeps us in place so that we aren’t disrupted while we’re working.
  • I’ve found it useful to keep some basic cleaning supplies in the studio so that I don’t have to go digging through other rooms when a spill happens. (It also keeps me from being lazy and letting it go entirely.) Some rags or paper towels and cleaners that work for your mediums should suffice.
  • I also keep a small bin for things that don’t belong there so that I can keep things tidy without breaking my flow to put things away.
  • Since you will be spending a lot of time there, make sure you work areas are set up to avoid work related injuries.  Get a good chair, or if you stand, get a pressure relieving mat.  Make sure you can work with proper posture.  (I’ve spent the last 6 months dealing with a painful spinal condition partly caused by poor ergonomics. Take this one seriously!) Remember to take breaks.

Time Management

Automate necessary tasks as much as possible. You want to cut down on decision fatigue and get back as many hours as possible for art making and business work. Also, I’ve found that mundane worries tend to draw me out of the headspace for art, so having things taken care of keeps me in the studio and makes a state of flow easier to achieve.

  •  If it works with your finances, set up bills to be paid automatically.  If not, get a reminder set up whatever way works best for you and try to pick a specific day or two each month that you will pay bills. If you pay bills offline, keep your checkbook, stamps, pens & bills in the same place.  If you do it online, try to consolidate as much as possible, or keep a special bookmark list so that you can just go down the line and get everything taken care of at once.  The idea is to do as little dithering about as possible, so that you spend no more time than necessary at the task while still getting it done on time.
  • Come up with a quick cleaning routine that works for you.  This varies for each person and household, so you will need to do a bit of research yourself. You don’t need to be able to scrub down the house entirely in a day, but you want to be able to stay on top of things so that you’re not tripping over garbage or finding uninvited houseguests. If you have a plan, it’s easier to run through the house and make it presentable enough that you’re not wandering away from your work because of the nagging at the back of your mind that the dishes HAVE to get done.
  • Figure out ways to cut down on necessary housework-this may require compromise.  We recently started using paper plates, because staying on top of the dishes was taking too much time. It’s not the most eco-friendly option, and we resisted it for years, but we’re running the dishwasher about half as much now, so it probably evens out.  It’s given us back a healthy chunk of weekday evenings.
  • Look into freezer and crockpot cooking.  It’s important to eat healthy to stay at your best, and we’ve found that having meals ready to go when we get home or that we don’t have to stand over and monitor keeps us from opting for fast food when we’re busy.  It also saves work on weekday evenings when time is at a premium. An easy way to start is by doubling recipes and packing the second half up for later.  Check out my pinterest for some good recipes to get started.  I can also recommend Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook as a good starter cookbook.  I found most of the once-a-month cookbooks a little overwhelming and geared towards kind of bland recipes, so I wouldn’t suggest those to a beginner, unless you are also feeding a horde of picky children.
  • Boundaries are probably most important part of managing your time.  You need to vigorously defend your time and space for making art. If possible, schedule a time for art at least weekly and don’t drop it without scheduling a makeup session. The only reasons for canceling without immediate plans for makeup should be emergencies.  Real emergencies are when someone is bleeding or something is on fire.  It may take a while to train friends and loved ones that art time is sacred, but it’s worth it.  Be prepared to be stern-for some reason people really hate the concept that you are unavailable to them.  (They may ignore you at any other time, but tell them you aren’t available at a particular time every week and they will call like clockwork.) Turn off the phone if you have to.  On a personal note, if an adult repeatedly violates your art time when you’ve made it clear that you need to be left alone, recognize that red flag.  There is something deeply wrong with that relationship and it needs to be fixed or the relationship ended.  If someone doesn’t respect your artwork and your need to produce it (even if they don’t personally like it), they don’t respect you, and you should never maintain a relationship with someone who holds you in that sort of contempt.

I hope this post gives you some ideas you can use. Obviously, it’s not entirely art related, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your art is clear everything that isn’t part of it away. The less your mundane worries intrude, the more you can apply yourself to your art and business needs and become successful.

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