April 20, 2024

144: Making Time for Art

I recently asked my newsletter subscribers what was the biggest obstacle to their creativity and many people said: time.

Nobody has “free time.”  But we all can make time for art.  Even though my job is art-related, it doesn’t mean that I get to make art all day.  I try to set aside at least 10 minutes a day to do some personal work just for me. 

Let me help you figure out how to make time for art in your life. There are two stages of this process: identify the problems and make the art habit easier.


Identify your priorities.  

This is where you have to have a real talk with yourself.  Would you rather scroll TikTok in bed or go make some art?  It’s fine to scroll TikTok, but then don’t beat yourself up about it.  Ask yourself what are your priorities?  What would you sacrifice for time to make art? Is making art a goal or an aspiration?

Log your time to see what you really do in a day.

Keep a detailed log of your activities throughout the day. This can be done manually with a pen and paper or by using time-tracking apps or tools. Be sure to record everything you do, even small tasks or breaks.

Pay attention to what distracts you during the day. This could include notifications on your phone, social media, emails, or interruptions from colleagues or family members.

Review your time log at the end of the day/week.

Based on your analysis, pinpoint specific activities or behaviors that are wasting your time. This could be excessive time spent on social media, unnecessary meetings, procrastination, multitasking, or inefficient processes.

Make a Plan.

Once you’ve identified your time-wasters, take proactive steps to reclaim that time. Set boundaries around activities that consume too much time or are not essential to your goals. For example, limit your social media usage to specific times of the day or disable notifications.

You can also experiment with different time management techniques to improve your productivity and minimize time-wasting habits. Techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique.

  1. Get a to-do list and a timer.
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and focus on a single task until the timer rings.
  3. When your session ends, mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed.
  4. Then enjoy a five-minute break.
  5. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break.

The 25-minute work sprints are the core of the method, but a Pomodoro practice also includes three rules for getting the most out of each interval:

  1. Break down complex projects. If a task requires more than four pomodoros, it needs to be divided into smaller, actionable steps. Sticking to this rule will help ensure you make clear progress on your projects.
  2. Small tasks go together. Any tasks that will take less than one Pomodoro should be combined with other simple tasks. For example, “write rent check,” “set vet appointment,” and “read Pomodoro article” could go together in one session.
  3. Once a pomodoro is set, it must ring. The pomodoro is an indivisible unit of time and can not be broken, especially not to check incoming emails, team chats, or text messages. Any ideas, tasks, or requests that come up should be noted to return to later.

I use a variation of this method with a timer and art time.  Just 10 minutes of truly focused time – usually in my art journal or sketchbook.  My class “Art Journaling: 10 Minutes a Day for 30 Days” is based on this idea.


Do it early in the day.

Every day starts with the best intentions, but it doesn’t always end the way I expect it to.  I’ve learned that it’s best if I start my day with whatever art project I want to get done in order to ensure that it happens.  The later in the day I wait for those ten minutes, the less likely they are to happen.

Truth be told, I’m most creative at night.  But waiting until then has too many negative life consequences.  So I make an effort to make art in the morning before I can start to feel guilty about the dishes in the sink or the phone starts ringing or I get sucked into a vortex of e-mail.

It’s not dissimilar from the theory of exercising in the morning.  You have to do it before you have time to make excuses for why you’re not doing it!

Don’t try to create great art.

Pressure can be good.  After all, they say that necessity is the mother of invention.  But pressure can also be paralyzing.  Don’t let yourself stare at that blank page, canvas, wall, whatever.  Just plunge in and try something.  If it doesn’t work, great!  That means that you’ve learned something.  This is where an art journal, a studio notebook, a sketchbook, or a bullet journal can be a great companion — a place for experimentation and risk taking, not a place to create beautiful finished art.  Keep the focus on play.

Leave your art supplies out, if you can.

I recently rented space in a print shop with a press and it took me thirty minutes to set up and almost 45 minutes to clean up.  Out of a four hour block of time, that’s significant.  Taking things out and putting them away is super time consuming.  If there’s any way you can find to leave a project out do it.  If you don’t have a dedicated space, these are some solutions:

  • Baking rack and baking sheets – or even a tray that can be placed on a shelf or under a couch/bed
  • A rolling cart or desk.
  • A closet that becomes a workspace.

Do it in fits and starts.

Remember, ten minutes of art doesn’t all have to be in one block — two minutes here, five minutes there, it all adds up!  And you don’t have to be in your art studio to make art.  Car rides, waiting in lines, at a meeting, etc.  The trick is to have projects ready for when you’re standing around:

  • What can you do on your phone or tablet?  Analyze art?
  • Carry a notebook. 
  • Have project bags packed and stashed.
  • Turn on artist mindset.
  • Take photos and use the notes app on your phone.

Give yourself accountability.

Join a challenge, grab an art buddy, come to Group Coaching with me.  Find a way to create a deadline for yourself.


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