This week we uncover a few productivity tips that I have learnt that have helped me and hopefully will help you as well. I have tried to distil all my most valuable learnings into one short post to help you stay creative and flourishing as an artist.
Are you creative or are you productive? Wait, don’t you need to be both? There lies the challenge! And this can lead to major stress. Being creative is messy, convoluted and non-linear while productivity requires discipline and perseverance.
Creative productivity can be daunting for any artist. But a few simple tips for productivity will keep you creative while giving you that much needed boost. Believe me, it gets easier with practice. Here are a few things I have learnt along the way.
1. Decide what you want to focus on
This is the difficult bit. Flowers or animals, landscapes or seascapes, traditional art or modern art? There goes your morning, right? A simple way to master something is to begin at the beginning. What is it that you are good at? Start there.
Make a list of your artistic goals. You do not need to be great at drawing and mastering everything else as well. That would be so overwhelming! For example, as an animal artist my current goals are to learn anatomy, shapes and gestures. While I master these three key principles, I will not be trying to also learn cubist painting because it does not work my current goals as an artist.
Draw what interests you. If you enjoy drawing anime or human anatomy or cars and locomotives don’t let others push you off your track. We are bombarded with so many different ideals of what an artist should be. Do what you love, despite the criticism. It just becomes so much easier when you listen to the voice inside you that knows what makes you happy.
2. Find that creative spot
Near the window or in a quiet corner? It is something you should think about carefully. Each of you will find what works best for you. This needs to be a space in which you are inspired and motivated. Hang a poster on the wall, put a potted plant or a photo frame with loved ones on your table, or listen to soothing music. It is one way to train and stimulate your brain. As soon as you are here, your mind should automatically start to eliminate the distractions. The magic is in the space you create.
Make a ritual of getting into this space. Maybe that would mean putting your phone away in another room or having a shower so you feel refreshed and awake to get creative. Find your zone.
3. Free yourself from distractions
This is your daily productive time. So make sure you protect your creative space. That is your first step in focusing. Close the door, if you can. Leave your phone outside this space or turn off notifications. Use noise cancelling headphones, if you are listening to music. Mentally leave all problems outside your door on the mat, to pick up after your creative time. Drop everything that is not art. If you find you are too distracted, take a break and come back to it but don’t leave it too long. Keep your goals in mind.
4. Have a plan
Spend some time during the day planning what you want to get done once you are in your creative space. Set deadlines for these projects, maybe rope in a friend to keep you on track. Make a list or a brain dump of ideas, then prioritise it in terms of importance or urgency. Set a time within which to reach your goal or at least a point at which you can stop and start again the next day. Remember that it is only human for our minds to wander sometimes, but get back to it as soon as you notice your mind stray.
While sticking to an idea is great, knowing when to quit to move on to other things is also important. Perhaps you need to switch ideas or move on to something better. Don’t get stuck. Have a Plan B. It will actually help you readjust to make you more productive.
5. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso
Don’t wait for a motivational talk to strike a fire in you. Don’t wait for an inspiring painting to push you to create. While you can’t force creativity, you can sit down to draw something at a certain time daily. Often it’s just the act of getting to your work space that is the hardest part. What is the minimal effort you can commit to? Can you commit to drawing something within just 5 minutes?
Once you set out to work, grab your materials and sit down; you will find that the hardest part is over. It’s okay for your sketches and doodles to be incomplete or imperfect. Regular practice will help you find your voice and what you want to say with your artwork. You don’t second guess having a shower each morning; likewise, you don’t want to rethink the time you dedicate to your work. Practice makes progress, and in the process we might get to that feeling of perfection we desire from our work. The aim is practice, not perfection.
6. Indulge yourself
Creative tools can be expensive and sometimes hard to find. Many artists hesitate to create beautiful art because of how much it will cost or the bother of getting the right products. That is a mistake you cannot afford to make. A junky tool can damage your art or maybe not allow you to create in the first place. It helps to not have to worry about your tools falling apart while you create. Your unique art is certainly worth the expense.
7. Keep a workflow chart handy
Trying to figure out where to begin can be a daunting task. A workflow chart will help you start right away. It will also help you assess the work you have been doing and the progress you are making. Add even the small bits that seem unimportant. Another benefit of this is that you can see areas that you might have become hyper-focused on. Being productive means being able to move on. Sometimes, we get consumed with things that can be omitted. A workflow chart helps to keep you focused as well as creative.
8. Take that break
Feeling brain dead and slightly woolly in the head? Take a break. A good way to do this is to set a timer. Perhaps work steadily for about 30 minutes and then take a 5-10 minute break. This is called the ‘Pomodoro Method’. Schedule breaks on a regular basis as suits your timetable so you don’t burn out. Enjoy a cup of your favourite beverage or a walk. Rest and recovery are often an undervalued tool in creativity. Your brain needs to figure out where you are going with your creation and this is best done by allowing it to rest and take the time to make the necessary connections.
9. Fix your work hours
Working longer hours doesn’t really lead to creative productivity. Once it tires, your brain tends to fill the time with distraction in an effort to conserve energy. So choose a time of day and how many hours you would like to spend on your art and stick to it. This will give you more time to relax and spend time with your family as well as do other things that need your attention.
10. You need your approval
We don’t always give ourselves credit for how great our work is. Acknowledge your strengths and capabilities. Self-approval helps nurture your inner creative self. Let go of perfectionism. Your perfect art piece is in the making if you know that it is okay to make mistakes. Be your own best friend and silence that critical voice. Enjoy the process of creating and take in only constructive criticism. Remember you don’t have to listen to all your critics. So last but not least, pat yourself on the back. That was a great job, well done!
How will you carve out the time and space in your life to achieve your creative goals? What will you create today? While success as an artist is elusive it is important to enjoy the journey and have fun with it.
Which productivity tip did you find most useful?
Consider visiting my shop, it helps me keep creating valuable content for those who want to build a career in art.
Pin this guide to your Pinterest boards so you can return to it when in doubt. Follow Drawing with Pri on Pinterest for daily tips and tricks on nature inspired art.
And as always, if you loved this tutorial and found it useful, please share it on your favourite social media and tag anyone who would like it too.