3 Ways to be More Productive

Would you like to know how to be more productive in less time? I’m going to give you 3 things that are slowing down your progress both in your art and your art business progress.

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This is something that I struggled with as an aspiring and emerging artist, and something I witness in a lot of the artists that I work with today.

Understanding the 3 things I’m going to share with you today will be of massive value to your productivity.

The number one thing is just taking too long to complete something. Whether it’s a painting or a business task. There is a really interesting law called The Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available to its completion”. Now I know y’all have experienced this, just like I have.

Maybe you want to reorganize your closet. If you don’t set a time limit on that task, you might actually take all day to get it done. Versus if you said I’m going to give myself two hours to clean out this closet, reorganize it, and get everything where I want it to be. It’s really amazing how it works where you will be able to get the job done in those two hours instead of taking all day if you didn’t set a timeline for it.

I don’t know about you guys, but I know for me, I want to make the most of the time that I have. I want to get as much accomplished as I can in the time that I have. So many artists often ask me, how do you do all of this? How do you do podcasts, teach, run an online art business, and then have time to paint? For me, the Parkinson’s Law principle is so fundamental to being efficient and getting more done in less time. Therefore, being more successful as an artist, and that is what we’re aiming for. Applying this principle in your art life is really going to help you no matter where you’re at. 

I inadvertently stumbled on this when I was in my fourth year of art school. We had a big senior thesis exhibition coming up, and I knew that I was going to be entering the real world right outside of art school. I knew that I needed to have high-quality paintings available for purchase as well as available to enter exhibitions and submit to galleries.

So at the time, I was feeling like I was investing a ton of time into paintings when at the end of the day, or the end of three days, these paintings would just drag on and on and on. It seemed like I could never quite get anything finished. I recognized I was investing too much time in these paintings, only to not be satisfied with the painting. So I came up with some experiments for myself, which really involve this Parkinson’s Law. I decided it’s not beneficial for me to not have any time limit whatsoever and invest 10 -30 hours into one painting. I learned firsthand how crucial setting time limits is whether I was painting a mini 5×7 that was an hour time limit or larger painting saying hey, this painting has to be completed today.

So the number one way to be productive is to give yourself a specific time limit and a shorter time limit.

This basically leads right into the next problem we can face, which is allowing yourself too much time. So, again, it’s critical for your art and art business that you set time constraints. And I know for artists, this can be a sticky topic because a lot of us artists are more on that creative, spontaneous, lifetime to wander and explore schedule, and that’s totally fine. What I would say is you need to actually have a specific amount of time for that sort of thing too. For example, saying to yourself, “today is my day of spontaneity. Today I have two hours of just allowing my mind to wander, think creatively, daydream, or come up with ideas.”

Another issue we can run into is endless preparation. I think this shows up for artists both in their painting life as well as in their business life. I do end up seeing this a lot more on the business side for artists, and I know I experienced this as well. I have seen a lot of artists struggle with endless preparation. Never really starting the thing, let alone setting a time for when they will start and when they will complete it by.

What ends up happening is they get stuck in this place of endless preparation. For example, one can want to re-do their website but spend weeks or months endlessly preparing, and a lot of times just preparing in their mind by doing endless research online, trying to figure out all of the options and all the possibilities, and what ends up happening is they never take action and that website that they have been endlessly preparing for, which could have taken them less than a week to get accomplished, gets drawn out to be months or even a year.

I do find that there is just this problem of just not setting a time constraint or setting a deadline of how much time to give to this task, and that could be anywhere from how much time are you going to give yourself to write an email to send to your email list or your newsletter. I hear often a complaint from artists like, “oh, it takes so long”. Really it doesn’t, it’s just you are allowing yourself to take so long.

Give yourself time constraints for doing that task, like the newsletter task once a week, and I’m giving myself one hour once a week to get it done by this on this date. What ends up happening is your brain will go to work if you are really in integrity with your commitment to completing that task in an hour’s time or less. If you are really committed to that and you really believe yourself and trust yourself that you are going to cut yourself off at that hour, you will get it done in an hour. Your brain starts to come up with more efficient ways of doing things, and the next time you go to do that task, it’ll take even less time.

Another issue we run into is endless perfectionism. Not accepting the nature or the state that something is in and accepting the completion of it.  For example, never sending that newsletter because you don’t think it’s quite good enough. So that gets into endlessly perfecting that task until you feel like it is perfect. Nothing is ever perfect. Yes, there’s always room for improvement, and where I see the improvement coming from is in the consistency. You learn from each email that you send out, each subject line that you write, and you learn from the feedback and from the results of those things. You don’t get to do one perfect painting, one perfect email, and you’ve learned all there is to learn about that thing. That’s just not the way that it works.

Just to recap, be sure that you are setting a time limit time constraint, avoid those traps of endless preparation, lists, perfectionism, and just assign a time, assign a time to test things out.

Make it a game make it fun. For example, how can I complete this painting in two hours when it used to take me six hours? How can I structure that painting time to really be focused? Get your work done, do it with the highest quality, you can possibly do it in that amount of time, accept the results, then go relax and chill.

The added benefit is you get to feel great that you accomplished more in less time. There’s no greater confidence booster than that. 

Okay, artists wishing you all so much happiness, success, and creativity. Remember that your art does matter and makes a difference in this world. We need your voice. We need your art.

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2 thoughts on “3 Ways to be More Productive

  1. Good points and reminders on making good use of our precious time. Setting a time limit on each painting is one I most certainly need to impliment, I have gotten so I just keep on, keeping on! And most times make the painting into a tight , picky mess! So… now will have time limits!

    1. woohoo Jean! So happy to hear you will implement the time limits into your painting routine, it will be a game changer!

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