Goal Setting for Artists Part 4: How to Spend More Time in the Studio (Case Study)

*This blog post is the third in my Goal Setting for Artist series. 

You can find Part 1 here. 

You can find Part 2 here.

You can find Part 3, with the free goal writing worksheet, here.

In my experience, the most common goal that artists have is some version of “I want to spend more time in the studio” or “I want to spend less time doing _______  and more time making art.” This trend makes a lot of sense because, as I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, there are a lot of components to a successful career as an artist. Most artists essentially run a one person business, where they take care of all of the tasks that need to be done from admin and shipping to marketing and more. Plus, many artists I know either work “day jobs” or work from home where there are many competing demands (see this post for more on this topic).

Competing demands aside, successful artists make time to make art. 

There’s really no way around it. Sales and marketing are pretty important parts of your business, but making art and continuing to develop your artistic practice are crucial.

If you’ve been following along with me this January and your New Year goal has to do with spending more time in the studio, here are some steps that I suggest you follow to get a plan underway. Remember, you want your goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound, Inspiring, Scheduled, and Tracked (for more, see Part 2 of this series)! The steps below will help you to make a SMART-IST goal around spending more time making art.

Step 1: Track your time

Before you go about setting an arbitrary goal for how much more time you are going to spend in the studio, make sure you have a clear picture of how you are currently spending your time. You need to establish a baseline schedule. To do this, track how you spend each hour of each day for about a week. You can do this by writing down what you’ve done in an electronic calendar, or you can use a table like this:

When you do this tracking exercise for a week, I expect there will be two outcomes: 

First, you’ll start making adjustments to how you spend your day just because you’re keeping track. You are only meant to be getting a baseline in this step, but you will be paying so much attention to your time that you will naturally start to make changes. It feels great to see a visual that shows what a productive day you’ve had so you’ll be encouraged to be productive! 

The second outcome is that you’ll start to become aware of how much time you are giving to tasks that are not priorities for you. 

Step 2: Identify your obstacles

Now that you have a picture of your current weekly schedule, identify what is keeping you from spending as much time as you would like in the studio. Some obstacles will be psychological (e.g. you’re afraid of failure, you feel so guilty about not making enough art that you don’t want to get started, you’re afraid of letting your family down by not taking weekends off). Some obstacles will be logistical (e.g. someone’s got to drive the kids to school, I keep taking extra shifts at my day job because I want/need the extra money).

Consider making adjustments to items in your baseline schedule that you tell yourself you “need” to do, and that you like doing, but that aren’t related to your goals. For me, those items are things like cleaning my house and cooking: I like cooking and cleaning (seriously), I tell myself I need to do them, I get a lot of positive feedback when I do them, but they do not help me to complete my writing goal for the day. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do things that are not relevant to your goals—I only suggest that you make adjustments to your schedule so that you’re spending an amount of time on these things that feels good to you.

Some common obstacles for artists:

  • Too much time spent surfing the internet or using social media. You might be doing research or marketing your work online, but these worthwhile tasks have a way of encroaching upon the time needed for more important tasks.
  • Feeling like you need to have long periods of totally uninterrupted time in order to make art. You don’t even go into the studio unless you’ve got three hours.
  • Telling yourself that your studio is too messy or disorganized to make art.
  • Feeling like making art is your passion, but your “real job” is to support others in your household or doing x to pay the bills.
  • Not being able to balance several projects at once (e.g. being overwhelmed by the fact that you need to both paint and write a grant proposal).
  • Health concerns and illnesses.
  • Family and childcare obligations.
  • Sacrificing art time to get extra hours in at a day job.

Some of these obstacles are really going to limit you, while others can be overcome. Your job is to think about what you can change about your lifestyle.

Some common solutions:

  • Talk to the people you live with about how you can reduce the time you spend on household tasks.
  • Calculate how many hours you really need to work at your day job.
  • Say “no” to new projects that don’t support your goals.
  • If you are privileged enough to be able to do so, hire someone to help you with tasks that are not your focus (getting business help, childcare, a cleaning service).
  • Keep a calendar or schedule to help prioritize your time.

While you’re reviewing your baseline week, take a look at what activities you do that support your ability to make art and be a generally happy and functional person. Are you getting enough exercise? Social time? Time in nature? Sleep? Reflective time? If you are skimping in these areas, you may need to focus on the big picture in addition to your studio time.

Step 3: Set a realistic goal (10-20% increase)

Now that you’ve reviewed your baseline schedule and the obstacles that might get in your way, it is time to start making some changes. Calculate how much time you spent in the studio during your baseline week and set a goal that increases that time by 10-20% to start.

If you spent 6 hours of time in your studio during your baseline week, don’t go crazy and try to do 40 hours per week, even if that is your ultimate goal. Binge working is not sustainable and you’ll risk entering a cycle where you alternate over- and under-working. Go for slow and steady change.

Step 4: Write up your schedule

Using your baseline schedule and 10-20% goal as a starting point, create a weekly schedule for yourself that maps out what you are going to do and when. You’ll want to start making small adjustments that will help you to find more time for art-making. Be sure to leave yourself some wiggle room so that you have time to take care of unexpected tasks (in my schedule, these blocks of time appear as “catch up and plan” and I almost always need them)!

Examples of small adjustments include:

  • Wake up one hour earlier in order to get an extra hour of studio time in before my household wakes up.
  • Confine my marketing work to only 6 hours per week, to be completed on Monday mornings.
  • Ask my roommate to cook or order take-out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • Have my groceries delivered so that I can work on Saturdays rather than spending the day shopping.
  • Use those 20 minutes between appointments to work on preparatory sketches.
  • Rotate out of the Chair role of my local art association and consider becoming the Secretary instead. 
  • Teach my well-established landscape painting course again rather than developing a new portrait painting course.

Step 5: Share your schedule

Show your new schedule to those who will be able to support you and help keep you accountable. Let the people around you know how they fit in with the changes you’ll be making and tell them how they can help you.

Step 6: Revise your schedule after one month

After working with your new schedule for a month, set some time aside to think about how it went. Consider what worked for you and what you might want to change. If you can manage, make further small adjustments within the 10-20% range that will help you to make progress towards spending more time in the studio.

Know that you will definitely have days when you will not be able to keep to your schedule. Your schedule is the recipe for your new lifestyle but you may need to improvise once in a while! Be kind to yourself and know that simply being intentional about your time will go a long way! 

Want personalized help with your schedule or goal? Have another art business issue you’d like some help with? Feel free to reach out to me by clicking here.

1 comment


This hits home! Thank you.

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