26 – How do you make time to create?
Finding time to make art

Do you ever feel like you don’t have time to make your creative work? Between other jobs you might have, the business side of an art career, family obligations and just regular daily life… you probably feel like you never have enough time to do the most important thing in your creative business, which is actually making the art. So how do you find that time? In this episode, Laura and Nikki talk about distractions you can eliminate and how can you refocus your priorities to make more time for creating.

LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE ON:

Topics discussed

  • Laura and Nikki share experiences where they disconnected and found tons of free time (1:19)
  • Tips for squeezing time for art in your busy days (4:41)
  • Finding your most productive time (4:54)
  • Scheduling time to create (5:45)
  • Having tools and supplies nearby at all times (7:01)
  • Tracking your time (9:08)
  • Exchanging bad habits for good (9:49)
  • Using commute time (10:34)
  • Learning to say no (12:04)
  • Delegating (12:28)
  • Habit stacking (14:09)
  • Giving yourself personal creative goals and rewards (14:09)
  • Committing to things with external deadlines/accountability (15:25)

Laura

0:01
Nikki, do you ever feel like you don’t have time to make your creative work?

Nikki

0:05
Only every single day. Between client design work, the business side of an art and a design business and just regular daily life… Not to mention attempting the social life?

Laura

0:18
What’s that?

Nikki

0:19
There’s an app for that, Laura, I’ll show you later.

Laura

0:23
Okay, Nikki, let’s get back on track.

Nikki

0:25
Okay, so the biggest complaint that many have is I don’t have enough time.

Laura

0:36
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:37
And this is Nikki with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way,and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:46
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

1:00
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Nikki

1:08
So we pretty much all feel like we never have enough time to do the most important thing in our creative business, which is actually making the art. So how do we find that time?

Laura

1:19
Well, we always think there’s no time to be found. But let me tell you about my trip to Africa about 10 years ago. I went to volunteer in Tanzania for a month and I had no phone, no internet and no TV.

Nikki

1:35
Wow.

Laura

1:36
And let me tell ya, the days seem to last forever. I mean, it was crazy how much free time I had when I eliminated those three things.

Nikki

1:46
And I had a really similar experience…okay, it wasn’t as exotic as Africa. But I was traveling to upstate New York for a workshop and I rented a cabin with no phone, no internet, and I got no cell reception and no TV. And I just went into town once a day to a cafe to check my email. But with only the two CDs I had with me to listen to…

Laura

2:10
Wait, CDs?

Nikki

2:13
Yes, Laura. This was way back in the 2000s when laptops still had the ability to play CDs. But yeah, I found so many hours to read books and draw and do little watercolor paintings. So that’s nice when you can truly unplug. But what about in your regular day to day life? How do you find the time between a day job, family, marketing, all that stuff?

Laura

2:39
Well, I can tell you when I had a full time job, and I was working sometimes 70 hour weeks.

Nikki

2:45
Mm hmm.

Laura

2:45
I still managed to teach classes every month or every other month and do lots of other stuff on the side.

Nikki

2:52
Yeah, it’s like, what is it Parkinson’s Law, that saying that, that your work expands to fill the time that’s available for its completion?

Laura

3:03
Yeah, you’re sort of forced into being productive, but you do go without sleep a lot. And, and it can be both physically and mentally exhausting. I mean, when I came home from work, I often didn’t have the creative energy to sit and work on a big project. I just wanted to binge watch Netflix instead.

Nikki

3:20
Yeah, and I was exactly the same. When I worked for IBM, I had no creative energy left at the end of the day. Sometimes I was working 12 hour days and 90 hour weeks, and the only creative work I got done were the pages and pages of doodles in my notebooks from meetings and trainings. I have this one design that I actually just made into a pair of leggings, which I shared recently on social media that was created during a course I took on negotiation. I took no notes, but I had a beautiful drawing.

Laura

3:55
Well, here’s the thing, you process information by drawing you can like hear people. So it’s not that you were ignoring what people were saying.

Nikki

4:03
Absolutely not. In fact, I cannot pay attention just by sitting there looking at someone. I’ve got to be doodling.

Laura

4:10
Interesting. Anyway.

Nikki

4:12
Anyway, back on track.

Laura

4:13
Well, now I’ve been organizing my own days. And that can be just as difficult and I don’t even have children to worry about.

Nikki

4:20
Well, except Gus.

Laura

4:22
Except Gus.

Nikki

4:23
But he’s really cute.

Laura

4:24
He’s so cute. Now, the same culprits can show up. But often I feel, I feel overwhelmed by all the choices of how I could spend time and what I could be working on, that it’s actually hard to get focused and get things accomplished.

Nikki

4:41
All right, so we can’t solve all the problems that arise about getting shit done. But let’s share some specific tips that we’ve each found that help us squeeze time for our art in our busy days.

Laura

4:54
All right.

Nikki

4:54
So one way that a lot of people recommend is to do your creative work before you do anything else. And I noticed this has worked for me at times, because once I start on client work or other tasks, it’s really hard for me to get back to my own work.

Laura

5:10
Okay, I’m a bit opposite. I’m a night owl, not a morning person. In fact, if you’re like super chipper around at 7am, I might just punch you in the face.

Nikki

5:20
I’m not saying I’m a morning person, my quote creating first thing might be starting at 11am.

LAURA

5:28
Well, I find my most productive and creative hours are often between 11pm and 3am. It’s just kind of how I roll.

NIKKI

5:36
You might consider actually rolling into bed occasionally.

Laura

5:41
Well, I certainly don’t get up early, so that kind of helps.

Nikki

5:45
Alright, so another thing you can do is to schedule your creative time in your calendar.

Laura

5:50
Okay.

Nikki

5:51
Time block or theme your days. So maybe it’s every morning from 9 to 12, or every Thursday and Friday that you dedicate to studio time.

Laura

6:02
Yeah, and look at time blocking tasks like email together, instead of feeling like you have to respond to each one individually, which I’m horrible at doing. And you’ll be surprised at how much time can free up when you focus on one group of tasks at a time. And that assumes that you don’t just ignore your calendar, once you actually put something in it.

Nikki

6:24
Oh, I didn’t say that I’m great at this. It’s just a good idea.

Laura

6:29
Okay, so another thing you can do is sign up for a class in something that you’ve wanted to learn, but you haven’t taken the time to. And I find that if I sign up for a workshop, especially if it’s an in person one, and something I’ve spent money on, I’m going to make the time for it. And while you’re in that class, you don’t have the disruptions, you have that dedicated time, to your own creative energy so you can build that back up by being in a group of like-minded people where you can really focus on that creative process.

Nikki

7:01
100%. And I love doing this whenever and wherever I can afford the time and money for a class. But another thing I do is I carry a small sketchbook with me wherever I go. And when you’re waiting for a latte, or your favorite cocktail, mine is obviously anything with bourbon. Pull out that little sketchbook and just start scribbling notes or sketches or ideas.

Laura

7:28
Yeah, that’s your little idea book you can keep with you. You could also look at joining an urban sketching or a figure drawing group that has a set meeting scheduled weekly or monthly.

Nikki

7:39
Right. And another thing that I do when I’m at my computer working, which is the majority of the time, I keep either a sketchbook or these days, my iPad is right next to my computer, in fact, it’s charging from my computer. And that makes it super easy to just pick it up whenever you find little bits of time here and there. Or whenever you are finding something that’s difficult to work on and you want to avoid it, you can just say, just gonna draw for a minute.

Laura

8:08
Procrastidrawing.

Nikki

8:10
Bonus points if you have an ongoing project that you can continue working on. This helps so much. So I have this, I mentioned it before my state flower and insect project that I’ve been working on, I think this is the third year. What I do to help myself is if I finish one, I’ll at least start a basic sketch for the next drawing before I quit. So it’s easier the next time I have just a couple minutes to pick up with something that’s already started rather than facing a blank page or canvas or screen.

Laura

8:43
I like that because yes, that whole sort of intimidation you get when you’re staring at something blank and you’re like, oh, where do I even start?

Nikki

8:50
Definitely.

Laura

8:50
If you already have something started, then it’s much easier to pick it up. Even if you only have those small increments of time.

Nikki

8:56
Yeah, I tried to do that in my studio too. I try to leave something almost finished instead of finished or just started so that it’s easy to just continue.

Laura

9:08
Yeah. We also don’t realize all the time that we lose in our day on non-essential things. One great tool to try is to track how you spend your time for a few days or a week so you can really see where your time sucks are. You know, are you spending an hour and a half scrolling mindlessly through Instagram every day?

Nikki

9:31
Oh, we know you are. ‘Cuz we are too.

Laura

9:34
Of course we are. And are you moving things around in your inbox?

Nikki

9:41
Always.

Laura

9:41
Do you have ad notifications going off on your phone every hour that you feel compelled to immediately respond to?

Nikki

9:48
Yes.

Laura

9:49
What if you could substitute one of these bad habits for a creative one, when you pick up your phone and open Instagram maybe a goal is to set it down and pick up a pencil instead.

Nikki

10:01
That is such a good idea and I’m gonna really try that because I pick up my phone and I either scroll through Instagram or Facebook. Or I gotta admit, there’s a really silly game about popping bubbles that I’ll pick up when I just need a mental break from what I’m doing for just a minute. But I’m gonna really try to set that aside and draw during that time. I mean, if I’m going to spend five minutes playing a game, I might as well spend five minutes drawing a praying mantis, right?

Laura

10:33
Right.

Nikki

10:34
Right. So another one this and this applies less during a pandemic, and hasn’t applied to me since 2003 when I moved from Atlanta to Paducah. But if you have a commute to work, use that time that you’re driving to dream up creative projects and make plans to implement them, right? Use the voice recording feature on your phone to capture those ideas and do that anytime you have a thought and don’t have your sketchbook with you?

Laura

11:04
Yes. And don’t get in a car wreck while you’re doing it.

Nikki

11:07
That’s why you’re using the voice record, instead of like drawing while you’re driving.

Laura

11:13
Yes, yes, yes. Well, I’m also a huge fan of creative audio books, especially nonfiction audiobooks. I love listening to them in the car for a dose of inspiration. Especially something like Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic, which is so phenomenal. Or I just finished Jen Sincero’s Badass Habits, which is a great book on creating new habits for yourself, or replacing ones that you don’t want to have anymore.

Nikki

11:41
Or I think we’d be remiss in saying that during that commute time, you could listen to a creative podcast.

Laura

11:49
True.

Nikki

11:50
We can recommend one.

Laura

11:51
Yes, we can.

Nikki

11:54
All right. So this one is good for every aspect of your life. But in this case, we’re finding more time for your art. I’m going to pause for effect here, ready?

Nikki

12:04
Learn how to say no to things that are not absolutely essential and that take you away from your creative work.

Laura

12:12
Yes. As we quoted in Episode 23, about business books, from the book of Essentialism. If it isn’t a clear, yes, it’s a clear no.

Nikki

12:23
A-men and we really all need to learn that, don’t we?

Laura

12:26
Yes, we do.

Nikki

12:28
Alright, so another thing. And I’m only really learning to embrace this. But delegate the things that you don’t absolutely have to do yourself. Even if you don’t really have a business yet where you can hire people, you can outsource things like cleaning your house, shopping for groceries, even a bit of child or pet care in our situation, so that you can have more time for your creative work. I know it’s hard to think, Oh my gosh, I don’t make enough money to be able to afford to pay somebody to clean my house. But think about the time you spend cleaning it or avoiding cleaning it. And what could you do if you really spent that time making new art, right?

Laura

13:15
Yeah, and potentially creating new income for yourself.

Nikki

13:18
Absolutely. Okay. So here’s a funny story. I just hired someone to organize my studio, because it is a ridiculous mess, with no horizontal surface that I can actually work in. So I hired somebody to organize my studio. And the sole purpose was to buy myself time to make art. But I had this idea, I would just draw a really quick floor plan and say, Okay, here’s how I want you to organize things, encaustic stuff here, drawing and watercolor stuff here, etc. I got sucked down this rabbit hole, and spent like two or three hours drawing this really detailed floorplan of my entire house. I mean, like even to the point of drawing my cat who sleeps in an Amazon box on my kitchen island.

Laura

14:09
Too funny, but you know, we can all get carried away with illustrating our pets right? Well, another thing you can do is give yourself personal creative goals and make them as important as the external ones. And we’re both learning how to do this ourselves. So this could look like committing to a 30 or 100 day project, as we’ve talked about a million times; committing to drawing in your sketchbook every day, even if it’s just for five minutes and put it on your calendar. And we’ve talked about habit stacking as well. And I think that you can add a creative habit on top of a non-creative one to sort of reward yourself for getting something done that might not be as fun so maybe it’s a batch of difficult emails that you need to send out and then once that’s done you allow yourself to have 15 minutes of play time?

Nikki

15:02
Yeah. So we’ve been talking about wanting and needing to do some live video, right? Hmm, I think I need to reward myself with some creative time after we actually do this live video, and probably some bourbon before.

Laura

15:18
When it comes to Nikki and rewards, it’s always about bourbon.

Nikki

15:21
It is Laura, it really is.

Laura

15:25
Alright, another thing that I frequently do is to commit to something with an external deadline. So I just recently read Gretchen Rubin’s, The Four Tendencies. Have you read that, Laura?

Laura

15:38
Um, I read an article about it before but I haven’t actually read the book yet.

Nikki

15:42
Well, so the idea is that there are four different ways that people get things done. And I learned that, with no surprise, really, that I’m an Obliger.

Laura

15:53
Okay, so what does that mean?

Nikki

15:55
So what that means is that I need external accountability to get anything done. It means I tend to not treat my own projects and deadlines as important as those that others set for me. So I will never let a client down. But I’ll let myself down. For example, if I sign up for an art festival or a gallery exhibition, I will finish that body of work in time for that event.

Laura

16:23
But not if left to your own devices without one.

Nikki

16:27
If I just say, you know, I need to make?..Well, here’s an example. I mean, I have probably four or five or 20 different art projects, bodies of work that I want to create for myself that I think are really great ideas.

Laura

16:43
But you just haven’t finished them yet.

Nikki

16:45
Well, there’s no deadline. So there’s no… if I had a show that I promised to do them for I would get it done, right?

Laura

16:52
Yeah.

Nikki

16:52
But it’s just something I want to do for myself. So a client or a deadline with you or a gallery is always going to come first.

Laura

17:01
It’s always going to take priority.

Nikki

17:03
Absolutely.

Laura

17:04
So speaking of I think having a podcast co-host probably works well for you.

Nikki

17:09
Oh, yeah. If we weren’t doing this together, it would never have gotten past the idea stage. In fact, when I brought up the idea of a podcast to you, what did you say? You’ve been thinking of doing a podcast for several years, but hadn’t done it, right?

Laura

17:26
Oh, I even had created my intro.

Nikki

17:28
I know, but we needed each other to be accountable to, to get it done.

Laura

17:34
And I find that I need to give myself deadlines, as well.

Nikki

17:39
Mm hmm.

Laura

17:40
I mean, I work quite well under pressure. When I say something has to be done externally by a certain time. For example, we’ve discussed it briefly before, but I joined a Skillshare teach challenge back in February that had a strict deadline. And if I hadn’t joined that, I would probably still be tweaking my videos and wouldn’t have a class out there yet.

Nikki

18:00
Oh, absolutely. I believe that. But if you don’t have a specific goal with a deadline, but you still know that you need that kind of external accountability to get things done, you can find an accountability group to join like the one that we met in or you can just meet somebody and say, Hey, you want to be an accountability partner? You know, like you and I, Laura, we would never dream of letting each other down.

Laura

18:25
Yes, and if you struggle with perfectionism, like we do…

Nikki

18:29
Just drink more bourbon?

Laura

18:31
No, Nikki. Deadlines can force you to find the time to just get started.

Nikki

18:38
Right, right. I thought it was bourbon. But no, it’s deadlines.

Laura

18:43
She’s making up for the past few episodes that haven’t had bourbon in them, just so you know.

Nikki

18:50
Shhh… don’t tell our secrets.

Laura

18:53
Alright, so what are our key takeaways Nikki?

Nikki

18:56
Well, one big takeaway is that it’s good to track what you’re doing for a few days or a week, so you can see where your time is being spent. And you’ll most likely find pockets of time that you can use to create.

Laura

19:09
Right use time blocking, both for your creative tasks and for those that take you away from creativity.

Nikki

19:15
Right, and finally, I’ll give myself some advice that I always need to hear. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just because you don’t have days on end to create doesn’t mean you can’t make great things happen when you add up all the little blocks of time that you found.

Laura

19:31
Now it’s your turn. Do you struggle to find the time to create? Or do you have any great suggestions that we may not have thought of? Share them inside the Startist Society Facebook group, or with us on Instagram @startistsociety.

Nikki

19:46
To access resources for this episode, go to startistsociety.com/findingtime.

Laura

19:53
Love listening, be sure to follow Startist Society and leave us a five star rating and review.

Nikki

19:59
Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

When you purchase something using the links in our resources section, we may earn a small commission with no additional cost to you.
We only promote products and online shops that we use and love!

pinktop

Join Our Facebook Group

Join the Startist Society in our Facebook group where we go deeper into the topics from each episode, share more about what we are working on in our creative businesses and help keep each other accountable.

pinkbottom