Not enough time for art?

Updated: Apr 11


Do you feel like you don’t have enough time for art? I’ll share some tips on how to manage your time to become an artist with a full-time job or other time-consuming commitments:


  1. How to master your time.

  2. Prioritisation.

  3. Do what's important first not what's urgent

  4. Why should I schedule?

  5. Start strategizing your time

  6. Getting practical

  7. Bonus Tip


I’ll discuss these in detail below.

It can be tough as an artist to find the time to create or practice our artform. Not all of us have the luxury of a supporting benefactor or patron to fund our artist lifestyle, and so it is of utmost importance to organise our lives in a way that allows us to create.


Now we've just got to figure out how exactly to make the time for art. If you’re busy you’ll need to shuffle things around to find the time. You may have a full-time job, kids, or other responsibilities, the key is to slot in the time daily to work on your passion.


For me personally, this is usually in the late evening till the early hours of the morning as it's when it’s quietest, and I’m naturally more inclined to burn those sweet night-owl oils. I have a few friends that prefer the early mornings to work on their art or their business before everyone else is awake, how they can wake up before 6 am is beyond me though! But do definitely do what naturally works best for you.


How to master your time.


This is probably the most important thing we'll ever learn in relation to mastering our art, and our mind in the long run, so we're gonna get into some detail on this topic. We're also going to talk about the philosophy of mastering your time and how to position yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally and develop a work ethic that will give you the strength to pull something from nothing.


I’m going to start with the hard truth. You’ll probably need to sacrifice a lot of your free time to be able to make your art. This means cutting out a lot of the time watching Netflix and playing video games. It will be tough at first until you build up a solid routine, but you’re setting out to carve time for the things that make you tick. It’s well worth the small sacrifice. If you love what you're doing this will feel less like sacrifice as you move away from these activities anyway.


Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any downtime! You still need to rest & recharge after a long day of being active, and inspiration can often be found in these times, you just need to prioritise being creative if you truly want to be an artist.


Prioritisation.


You’ll need to learn how to prioritise the most important tasks so that you don't waste time doing the things that don't matter. This can be difficult to discern initially, as most things seem important until they’re done, then they lose all sense of importance. We’ll talk more about this in the next point.


Learning to prioritise has been a major factor in the increase of my own productivity, and has been one of the main reasons I've been able to work as an artist freelancing from home this year. By prioritising tasks of most importance first you make sure that you always complete the things that need to be done this should include your art.


By choosing to make your art career you need to to make a conscious effort to create art every day, work on your skills as an artist, practice, read, watch movies, or anything that inspires you. Make time for it by keeping to a schedule with art at the centre around your other duties.


Do what's important first not what's urgent


If we’re inspired to create art and we have to work, raise a family, care for an ageing parent, pick the kids up, maintain a loving relationship with a friend or partner, pay the bills etc. How can we expect to do it all? How do we manage to carve out the time for creativity when every other obligation seems to pull us away from it


The trick is to stop filling your days with what's urgent and do what's important first.

Generally, you'll find most of the tasks you plan that you tell yourself matter, shortly after you've completed quickly lose their importance.


You can tell which tasks are truly meaningful because after you complete them you'll feel better when you're done working on them, sometimes for days at a time. Make time for these tasks. You’ll begin to notice what these areas you begin to pay more attention to your creative practice.


Why should I schedule?


Scheduling will help you organise your time in a way that lets you work at your best consistently. It allows you to make time for the things that matter and to postpone the ones that don't. You can slot in periods of deep creative work for when you’re naturally more energised, in the morning or the evening depending on your chronotype, or when you know you’ll be able to concentrate, I.E when everyone else is asleep.


If you find that some of your tasks are pushed back more than a few days it probably means and they are worth doing and so you can save your time by simply not doing them. This saves you an incredible amount of time and energy in the long run and will be saving grace in the practice that will become your artform.


How do I schedule?


Personally I've used a planner or a notebook, keeping lists can be useful too, prioritise by numbering from 1-5 how important task is and then doing them in in order of importance. This will be subjective and is entirely up to you, find what works best for you.

Example schedule: Fit in whatever time you have spare in blocks.

Most people are more productive in the morning after a full night of rest, so it can be useful to get the bigger/ more daunting tasks out of the way first thing. Anything that causes you the most resistance or anxiety should be completed first also, so you can focus for the rest of the day without this dreaded task looming overhead. Get it done and out of the way.


Recently I've started using Google calendar instead to schedule my time and it's been a great help in visually demonstrating how long each task takes and how do I spend on something which is a great record of how much will I come back to the completed during the week. I highly recommend creating some kind of calendar schedule because of this. For example, I know I can draw or paint for a solid 2-3 hours before I need a break, I usually write for 1-2 hours as I tend to lose focus much quicker. Find what works for you and leave room to adapt, you’ll find that you’ll have good and bad days for different things so it’s good to leave a small element of flexibility in your plans.


Start strategising your time


We all have 24 hours to achieve the things that we need to, so it's up to you to carve out the time that you need to create. No one else will do it for you. There's a common saying; “beating the room” meaning to overcome all the stupid urgent things that call out to us when it's time to make our art, that pretend that to be urgent and stand in the way of doing what's important. Our creative work.

Some call this ‘resistance’. Resistance is the enemy. It can take all you have to fight against it, sometimes every ounce of your being. It is the force that stops you from becoming the creative superpower that you can be. Realise this, make resistance your enemy, know it.

Giving this negative force a tangible ‘face’ will aid in the fight against it.


You also need to change your approach to time. For example, you could set aside Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. to become your sacred creative time, make sure you use this time. You don't make any other plans and you limit all interruptions, this is your time. Personally, when I work on my art I like to set 2 to 3 hours to fully dive into a piece 5 to 6 times a week when I can and if I miss one day I owe it to myself to catch up the next. Find what works for you and what your schedule will allow. It's incredible how much you can do with this incremental use of your time and there's no one stopping you but yourself.


Getting practical


I’ll list here a few tips to go back to again & again when you're struggling to start. Take these daily with a pinch of salt, we all have our own approach to our practice. Use what works for you, and edit the rest until you perfect your practice.


  • Set aside reasonable time to create and slot it in your calendar. Don't make any other plans during this time. Keep it sacred.

  • Don't answer the phone during this time. This means no texting, no emails and no social media at least 10 minutes beforehand. This will help limit distractions and maintain your focus throughout.

  • Turn off all alarms and notifications (except for emergencies)

  • Decide what you want to create and the amount of time it will take to complete it, then divide this into about a third. This will give you a lot more breathing room.

  • Take it slow and steady. Just because you’re timing yourself doesn’t mean you should rush. These consistently timed slots can be powerful when done regularly, so make the most of the time you’re giving yourself.

  • Small regular work hours get much more completed in the long run than the 5 to 6-hour manic burst every now and then. Use this to your advantage during a busy work week to stay consistent.

  • Remind yourself that everything will take 3 to 4 times longer than you anticipated it would. It's unusual to accurately gauge how long something will take unless you regularly practice it.

  • Remove any expectations of outcome and focus on the craft.

  • Enjoy the act of creating. It won’t always be fun, sometimes it might even be a little painful, but overall the practice should be both engaging & fulfilling.

  • Trust the process.

  • Live, work & share your art at a normal healthy pace. Working steadily will keep your spirits high and your mind strong. Don’t overwork yourself for the sake of your art because this will inevitably lead to creative burnout.


Bonus Tip: Mental, Physical, and Emotional Preparation


I'd also like to recommend a focus on your health as a method of increasing your time creating your artwork. It may seem counterintuitive to spend a few hours a week working out to increase your physical health, or meditating for ten or fifteen minutes each day, but in my experience, this has improved my productivity tenfold.


By sharpening your body and your mind you’ll find you have more consistent energy levels and concentration. It’s also great for your mental and emotional health and essential for a good work-life balance.


Linking in with this, make time for the things that make you happy. Working yourself like a machine will drain you eventually if you’re not restocking your motivation by resting and recharging your creative batteries. Do this in moderation though, as it can be easy to slip back into binge-watching shows on Netflix and can really deteriorate your built-up discipline.


To Review: If you want to save time and make sure you cover everything that needs to be covered during the day and highly recommend starting a schedule or planner immediately. Take care of yourself & build your discipline and you’ll be squeezing the most out of each of your days.


Hope this helps & good luck!


Dan O’Connell

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Portrait Artist & Illustrator, London

For further details and enquiries, please email me at ophanap@gmail.com

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