One of the things I do at the end of each year is lay out a plan for the year so that I have some kind of road map for my goals. I break up my plan into three areas: professional (art), financial, and personal. I make list of everything I want to do, from how much money I hope to make, to the cities I hope to visit, to how many pieces I want to create and topics I want to explore in my art, to getting more disciplined around my body (yoga and healthy eating).
I then break up my lists into timelines for the year and charts, so that I have some kind of numerical indicator of how my goals will apply to my real life. At times, my close peeps look at my plan and think I'm crazy neurotic, and a bit excessive (control freak), but I have found that when I write things down and create a map for myself, I live a more intentional life. I am one of those people that does not have a routine, don't have a 9-5 job, no children - a life where I'm in different cities in different parts of the month - the chaos needs order.
Being an artist, or any creative person for that matter, is also one of the most erratic and unpredictable careers one can choose. So I am a believer in applying processes to everything we do as artists, essentially, to view ourselves as entrepreneurs and treat our art like its a business - a business in the sense that we have to invest the time and resources into it so that it can become something sustainable in the future. I used to think that somehow I would magically be discovered, or that my work would speak for itself - but these are all myths - the reality is that having a successful art career means being incredibly disciplined, around how you spend your time, to how you reinvest in yourself. Especially for me as a woman of color that is not formally trained - I KNOW for a fact that the art-world is white male dominated so I do not have expectations that opportunities will magically come to me. I have go out and get that sh*t.
In this entry I will focus on one area - which is - sustainability. As artists, I believe we need to have multiple revenue streams that sustain our practice. That means generating income from a different sources. In my case, those sources are art sales, commissions, grants, royalties & licensing, and speaking gigs. What I did this year is take my target income for the year and break it down according to each area. That helps me then determine how I need to spend my non-studio time. So for example, if I need to get a grant or grants worth $50,000 - then I know that I need to be consistent with appyling to grants. It has to be something I spend 2-3 hours per week, so that I can apply to various grants (considering I may only get 1-2 out of the 20 I apply to).
How does this help me in the day to day? Well, when I know that I need 2-3 hours per week to do grant research, then I plan for that time. Instead of going out to dinner and the club at 8 PM, I can stay at home, do some research, and go out, say at 11 PM. Maybe 3 less hours of fun time, but 3 more hours I invested into myself. Discipline is key.
Planning goes a long way. Setting goals is something everyone should do - even if its a list you do on a napkin, do that for yourself.
Here is another thing I do which perhaps is a bit excessive, but I will share anyway - I count the hours in a day and do the math. There are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. That's 168 hours in a week. I need 9 hours of sleep cause I just do and I deserve my beauty rest- that means that I have 105 left to do other things. If I factor in 3 hours per day for meals, 1 daily hour exercising, 1/2 hour walking my dogs, 1 daily hour I spend in the car - that adds up to another 40 hours in the week. So I now have about 65 hours left. Substract my other jobs (30 hrs per week) and I have 35 hours left. I try to spend at least 30 hours a week on my art (people say I work too much - I know). So that leaves 5 hours in the week to do other things, like grocery shop, watch movies, go out on dates! WTF!? I am not in a relationship but if I was, my honey would not be too happy, that's for sure.
Do you see what is wrong with this picture? Its not very sustainable to have a life like this, so when I do the math, I realize I have to make choices if my art is a priority. I have to figure out how my art can become my full time job, and I have to overall, be picky about my time. This is why 2010 will be the last year I have another 30 hour job that is not my art. I have planned out my previous years enough so that I am now able to make that leap. I was not able to do this in 2006 but I can do it now. It took 4 years of planning to get to a point where I could do my art full time, but its worth it. Good things take a long time.
I would encourage all of you artsy heads to do the math, and see how much time you really have to do what you love. You may need to cut stuff out of your life, but at least by doing the math, you make an informed decision. You can do small things to increase your productivity hours, like taking public transit instead of driving so that you can work on a drawing, or a poem. Or you can do things like eat at home, so you don't waste time eating out, and you save money and probably eat better.
People ask me all the time how I learned how to do this stuff. Well, I have always liked making lists and charts, but I did not understand how I could apply this to my art until I took some workshop for artists. I read a lot of books designed for artists, and my favorite are shown in this blog
This evening, I took a Professional Development Workshop with Jaime Brunson at Kala, where I share a studio with other printmakers. I always try to take specific classes around these things because I enjoy learning new things, new approaches. One thing that Jaime really has down is web resources. I'm more of a book type of person but when she showed us some online resources, I thought they were so good I wanted to share them. Here are two that stood out, you can learn loads by reading these.
It's 2 am and I need to get to sleep. I was hoping to write this blog in 1/2 hour but its taken me about 1 hour. That means I will sleep 8.5 hours instead of 9. Tee hee hee. Just kidding...
BOOKS I RECOMMEND
- The Artist Guide by Jackie Battenfield, to purchase from independent book seller click here
- Eat That Frog -21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, click here
- Art/Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) as You Pursue Your Art Career click here
Some other things I do to stay focused and not waste time
- Do the most daunting task first. The one that you is the most important and the one that will require the most time.
- Make a to do list every day
- Make a weekly to do list every week
- Prioritize your to do list and put the most important stuff on top
- Assess which are the time killers for you? For me its Facebook, chatting, and certain times of the night when I'm highly unproductive
- Set time limits to your tasks
- Create and value your personal space and which you don't get interrupted. This means that you need alone time to focus on stuff and not be distracted. If you are in an office, ask to not be interrupted during certain times.
- Document how you are spending your time and be aware of it. For example, I know that I need about 2 hours on cooking nights to cook, wash, and eat. I need 9 hours of sleep. Plus 1 hour to get ready each morning. That's already 12 hours, 1/2 of the day right there.
- Remember that as artists, time is our most valuable asset.