Once upon a time as a young, optimistic art school graduate, I assumed I would spend all my time making art and everything else would just fall into place. Sound familiar? Many days came and went. I worked. I got married. Moved. Bought a house. Some days I made art, some days–well there’s always tomorrow right? It wasn’t until after my son was born that I realized time is limited. Like really limited. Like 2 hours until mother’s morning out is over and no more time until Thursday. That’s when I started to get disciplined. I read First Things First. It helped.
A few years after that, I attended a presentation on marketing by local artist Carmella Jarvi. She made a suggestion that resonated with me: Keep track of how you spend your time for two weeks. I strongly recommend doing this. I guarantee you’ll find some time-wasting activities that you can reduce to make room for your creative work.
Needless to say this was right up my alley and I followed her advice, continuing beyond the two weeks. At that point I was working part time and handling a major volunteer commitment, in addition to raising a small child and managing a household. I became somewhat obsessed with the idea of constructing the “ideal” week to balance all of these demands with enough time left over to make art.
Although I have yet to construct such a week, the act of tracking my time became not only a helpful analysis tool but a major accountability tool. It’s hard to blame your lack of creative output on anything but yourself if you spent 15 hours binge watching The West Wing on Netflix last week . (I would never do that.)
And then I discovered a fabulous tool. It’s an app called aTimelogger. (Disclaimer: I have no connection to the producers of this app. There may be others that do the same thing. I just like this one.) ATimelogger allows you to set up any number of activities. When you start one, just press start. Then press stop when you’re done. The app produces stats like how many hours in a month you spent on an activity, and will even make a pie chart showing the percentage of your overall time you spend on it. Just the kind of feedback I love.
At some point during this whole “ideal week” period I started trying budget a certain number of hours a week for art. It may have been 10 hours, I can’t remember. Here’s the problem with that approach, at least for me. Once you have a week, or two, when you fail to meet that goal, IT’S ALL RUINED and the black and white thinkers among us will just give up. It’s the same dynamic that causes dieters to give up after one slip.
For me, that’s the magic of setting a yearly goal. You have a second chance, and a third, fourth, etc. If you have a bad week you can make up for it slowly by adding a few hours to the next few. You can bank hours ahead of time so you can go on vacation.You can look back and see measurable progress. That progress will motivate you to continue.
So if you have a creative pursuit that you would like to nurture, here is my advice to begin. (I assume you know what you want to do-if you don’t, read First Things First-it helps!)
1. Track how you use your time for two weeks or more. Yes, it’s a pain, and yes it’s totally obsessive but you will end up with invaluable information about yourself and how you can find time to pursue your passion even if you have work, a family, etc. You can post your stats in the comments below!
2. Look at your analysis and decide on a realistic weekly average. Is it 50 hours (approximately 1 hour/ week) this year? That’s better than nothing! Maybe you can do 100 or 500 or more. That’s up to you, but don’t set yourself up for failure. You can always increase your goal mid-year or next year. Post your goals below too.
Start thinking about your 2015 goals. If you found this post helpful, please share it with the buttons below!