Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Staying Motivated and Focused

I have been asked frequently by fellow artists and creative entrepreneurs how I stay motivated and find the time to make art while raising our young children. While I am flattered many people think I am accomplishing a lot, I sometimes feel like I am not doing enough. There is always more that could be done but I constantly remind myself that I am only one person with many responsibilities, just like everyone else. It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination! But I make my art practice and business a priority while still putting the needs of my family first. Below are some the strategies and systems I have found helpful in my art business practice that keep me motivated and focused.

There is no better way to keep me motivated and on track than a list of what I need or want to get done. I often joke that my lists have lists, which in all reality, they do.  I like to start my week by creating a "brain dump" list of all things I need or want to accomplish in the week. These things include household chores, errands, creative benchmarks, business items, and more.

Then, I organize my week by assigning my to do's to each day of the week. I try to group similar tasks on the same day or on days that I know I will have the time to successful accomplish those tasks. For example, if I know it's going to rain one day coming up, I'll schedule cleaning or paperwork for that day. If it's going to be a beautiful day, I'll run errands. You get the idea. I try to set myself up to be the most productive so I can check tasks off when completed.

This year I decided to combine my yearly business notebook (where I brainstorm ideas) with my planner. I purchased the Big Happy Planner in vertical format and it has been a game changer! Each week has space for my "brain dump" session and each day of the week has a section so I can designate which day I do certain tasks. I love that I can take the pages out and pop them back in place when I am done. You can view the planner I am using this year by clicking here.

I know it seems counterintuitive to add another thing onto a never ending to do list, but exercise is a necessity for me. When I started to add in regular exercise to my day, it greatly impacted my ability to get more done and stay focused. By taking time for myself and moving my body, it makes me feel better about myself while providing more energy and motivation to get more done.

I also equate my exercise time to my once long commute when I was a tenured art teacher. I would drive 50+ miles one way to work and it provided me an opportunity to reflect and think. My drive was the best time to prepare for my teaching day by mentally going through all that I needed to accomplish when I arrived. I also had time to think of ways to improve my teaching and dream up projects. Now that I am a full time mom and business owner, my exercise time provides me with that same mental space to think and reflect about what I need to do or want to create.

Working Time
Another way that I stay motivated is by setting regular studio working time. Being a full time mom, it's hard to find the time, so I make it! I carve out nonnegotiable time to paint around my family's needs. For example, I wake up early to get an hour or two in the studio before my kids get up for the day. I also work after they go the bed. Even if I am exhausted after a long day, I make myself work to take advantage of the studio time. It's definitely not easy but it's easier to stick to a designated work schedule to keep myself focused.

Finding the Best Time
Another productivity tip I have discovered is to find the best time that I can successfully do a particular task. For example, I tried to exercise first thing in the morning. However, I quickly found out that it wasn't the best time for me do so. I performed better in the afternoon and could exercise while my kids played. That in turn freed up my early morning to paint in the studio before everyone else woke up.

I also categorize tasks by what I can do with my kids and what is best done with my full attention (i.e. painting). I usually run errands or clean the house with the kids. I save emails or other business related tasks for when they are sleeping or playing independently.

As my family grows and changes, I try to adapt to their needs while still striving to accomplish what I need creatively. It's definitely a work in progress that constantly needs balancing. I find it fun trying to figure out how to fit everything in. If you are an artist or business owner, how do you stay motivated and focused?

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