by Miriam Schulman
Since I sell my art online, write a blog, teach online art classes, volunteer within my community, and have two teenagers, I am constantly getting asked, “how do I find time to ‘do it all’?”
First of all, you don’t “find” time.
In fact, I will go further to say this isn’t about “managing” your time. You can’t “manage” time or “find” time or even “make” time. That just isn’t how it works. You manage your activities… and you can manage your focus to be more productive.
This blog post is part of a series on finding focus and being more productive as an artist. In my last post, I shared with you How Mediation Keeps Me Focused in the Art Studio. It is now the first thing I do in the morning, before I even roll out of bed.
My Morning Routine
But I actually have a whole structure around my morning routine with each part pivotal to helping me focus.
Some things are obvious.. Like a hot cup of coffee…but others less so.
For example, I have never, ever..not even once…skipped breakfast.
And there are some things I know I HAVE to do in the morning, because if I don’t, they will never get done.
One of those is exercise.
So even before I start answering emails or checking Facebook which pulls me into an endless stream of “urgent” but not important. I have to exercise.
If I don’t exercise, I am an unfocused mess. Last week, I missed my morning exercise class and I ended up backing my car into a neighbor’s car. (shh… don’t tell my husband.. He says he reads my blog posts. But I don’t think he reads them carefully)
Routines align our actions with our intentions
A consistent routine that includes exercise helps us by setting expectations about availability, aligning our actions with our intentions, and getting our minds into a regular rhythm of creating. I have that time blocked out 5 days a week and I exercise at the same time each day. I no longer choose the “best” instructor or the “best” class but the one I know will make me smile and starts at 8:30 am so I can get on with my day. Exercising my body helps me spend long hours at sedentary work such as creating art or writing blog posts.
Although it “takes time” to exercise, I always get more done when I limit my work hours because it forces me to focus on what’s most important and not what feels urgent.
Set firm boundaries
During the day, I let the phone go to voicemail and there is absolutely no notifications on my phone. I turned off all noises because I used to be like Pavlov’s dog jumping up to check at the slightest buzz. I wait to check my email until 2pm each day and all the subscriptions come to me as a roll up.
This way I can end my day at 5:00 and enjoy the rest of the evening with my family cooking dinner, relaxing and just hanging out.
Getting started is always the hardest part. It’s challenging to start a project from scratch, and it’s also hard each time you enter a project after a break. By working the same kind of work until it’s done, you keep your momentum going because you are “in the mood” to do that kind of work.
You never have time to feel detached from the process but most importantly you don’t waste time getting into “writing mode” or “painting mode.”
I call this process batching. So, one day I will work only on painting, and another day I will focus only on blog post writing.
Don’t context switch
I don’t multi-task and I encourage you not to multi-task either. While it feels easy enough to make one painting, then list it online, then write about it, studies show us that we find it very difficult to “context switch.”
To avoid context switching, I create my art in a series, write a series of blog posts about them and then list them on my website in one sitting. I also schedule (batch) all my social media posts on instagram and facebook.
So there you have it.. In order to “get it all done” (and I rarely do!) I have a strong structured and disciplined morning routine and then I batch my work for the afternoon.
DOWNLOAD the FREEBIE: Morning Focus Checklist
Since I am always fascinated by others morning routines, the freebie for this blog post is a “morning focus checklist.” Please download the checklist and let a perfectly focused morning set you up for the rest of your day!
In case we haven’t met yet…
In case we haven’t met yet, I’m a watercolor and mixed media artist. My art has been featured in numerous publications such as Somerset Studio, and I’m the founder of The Inspiration Place where I give my students stepping stones to create beautiful art as well as the emotional support they need to stay inspired. See the art I create at schulmanArt.com or learn how to paint with me at TheInspirationPlace.net