Scheduling time for art

How do you find time for making art?

If you find your creative output grinds to a stop as domestic life takes over, you are not the only one. Finding time can be hard to do, but this is my solution…. hope it helps.

Last week was the usual round of preparations for a new term which holds such promise; replacing outgrown uniform, replenishing pencil cases. Even once we are past school age, September still has the power to wave this magic of new beginnings into the air so it’s a good time to take stock.

The summer has been glorious in many ways and those of you who have seen my posts on the Facebook page will know I managed to squeeze in a lot of sketchbook work. But this week I can already see how larger chunks of potential work time in the studio could be slowly eroded away and eaten into.

I don’t ‘work’, my children are both at school – I should have all the free time in the world, right? Yet somehow it often doesn’t work out that way; morning domestic chores tackled first to ‘get them out of the way’ stretch into the afternoon, one-off jobs and projects happen on a far from one-off basis making them another thing to be squeezed into the precious short hours between drop-off and pick-up.

If my promise to myself is to create more work I need to be decisive about how I am going to do it. So I created a very non-creative spreadsheet to help me. I simply started adding in the fixed parts of my week to see what I had left to play with. You could do this with a pencil but I found putting it on a spreadsheet helped me see where the small gaps were and adjust my new term ‘timetable’ accordingly. For example if I have lunch at twelve o’clock instead of one I get a longer stretch of time in the afternoon.

6 Key realisations that helped:

Family & domestic tasks are potentially endless –  set a limit

I will never reach an ‘end point’. Instead I have allowed a set period of time. I have a master list and each day I star any jobs that simply have to be done that day or that I choose to do. Once the time’s up, that’s it – stop! Monday mornings is a morning of admin, Tuesday is nothing bar essential food preparation, Wednesday whatever gets done by 10am, Thursday an extra hour for admin tasks, Friday is website and blog stuff. I may have to adjust this, I’ll see how it goes but I think that giving myself a restricted period of time will spur me on if I know what doesn’t happen now will just have to wait!

If it’s in the diary it will get done – book it in!

Printmaking on Tuesday happens because it’s booked and paid for. Likewise my Pilates class has been Thursday mornings for as long as I can remember. Turning activities into ‘no-brainer’ habits like this is so helpful for getting things done. The least effort involved in starting something, the more likely you are to do it. One thing you can do is simply to take the decision in advance about when you will be doing it – make a commitment and you are more likely to follw through with some action.

Multi-tasking doesn’t work – do one thing at a time

It’s frustrating, it makes me cross and it makes me think I should always be doing more or doing something else. I can’t solve a web glitch and cook supper and help with homework in a calm manner. Maybe some people can but it brings out the devil in me so no more! Instead I will have clear focus for parts of the day so I can enjoy each as part of the whole.

My children are getting older – adapt accordingly

My childcare day used to end at 7pm with a warm bottle of milk (them, not me). Now it drifts on well past 9pm giving a huge chunk of the day when I have to (want to) be around for them but not glued to a screen myself. I can’t be painting in this time so I have to shift my pattern to adapt theirs – eg, I can be sorting laundry at this point, I could read (wishful thinking perhaps but good example to set!) I can certainly be unpacking food shopping now instead of at 10am and be chatting to them and listening to their day while I do it.

There is always a one-off project on the go – allow time for what you need

House maintenance is my role too, which means there is always a long list of ‘stuff’ to be done: I’m keeping a running list and I’ll get done what needs to get done on Thursday afternoons. Unless the house is falling down I know this slow and steady approach gets things done on a manageable level – just a step at a time. Anything longer than a 3hr job is big enough to wait until a weekend or ‘get a man in’.

Stuff happens – be flexible within limits

Coffee with friends or an hour soaking up spilt coffee from the gap between the microwave and the oven, the oven door, inside the drawers… (honestly husband, no grudges…!) Unplanned vet visits, sick children, leaking fridge – all this happens and will continue to happen.

My new plan allows for 12 hours of studio time at home. This is what I’m aiming for, I even have a Studio sign-in sheet for myself! However I know there will be weeks when this doesn’t happen. Perhaps a concentrated 8 hours will feel enough, maybe I will be spurred on to work in the evenings. Whatever happens creatively within this time is flexible. I know that getting started can be the hardest part so I’m trying to create a ‘no-brainer’ habit for myself.

This is my way to structure my week. I was amazed to see how the hours were played out and that actually I didn’t have endless ‘free’ time even in a day that starts at 6:40am with no telly watching! It actually reassured me that whatever I was doing with my time was right for me. You will have different limits on your time; work, small children. Your creative goals may be different but the same question applies:

How can you adapt your time so that you can achieve what you’d like to?

What is your creative promise to yourself and what could you change in your schedule to help you make it happen? Let me know in the comments below or come over to the Facebook page and set some intentions!

3 replies
  1. Suzie
    Suzie says:

    I fell down a rabbit hole this morning and ended up at this blogpost! I’m in the middle of an online course that cost me money, in the hopes I would get guidance and clarity regarding how to bring some structure in and actually get my art career kicked into touch. In this post you’ve given me better advice than my course has! Thank you so much for this, I’m going to print it out, stick it in my organiser and start working through your suggestions, starting with a spreadsheet! Brilliant!

  2. Niki
    Niki says:

    Yay for being so organised! It’s wiser to juggle the order if it’s written down. I’m a list queen & will it everything if I know it’s going to be a crazy day otherwise I keep it simple. I have turned into my grandmother clearing up in the evenings, prepping the coffee for breakfast. I’ve made so much of the everyday stuff routine that it just happens without me thinking. It really is the only way. Like you my gym time is same thing each week at a set time & that way I know I actually get to go. Otherwise time is absorbed, I achieve nothing & then I berate myself. Like through the entire summer hols. Achieved zilch creatively but did have a laugh with the family & made many memories. That’s very important. Difficult to remember in the hubbub sometimes. Good luck with your time table! X

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