WAKE UP EARLY
I love being a morning person, it took some time to train myself to be, but I'm even waking up early on weekends now. What time I wake up sets my tone for the whole day. If I'm up early I feel like I've gotten a head start on the day, and want to keep up that productive feeling. When I sleep in, it's easy to find excuses to be slow or take it easy.
While rest time is important, productivity is often what makes me feel more relaxed at the end of the day. Ending a day feeling accomplished starts with getting up with a purpose. I also start out slowly, with my first tasks being things that are easy and sort of mindless, like uploading new prints. Once the coffee kicks in, I'll get to answering emails and messages. Personally if I knew my first task of the day was answering emails I'd probably never get out of bed!
Everyone talks about the idea of being self-employed as “being your own boss”, but think about what a boss or manager's role actually is in the workplace. They're usually the ones delegating tasks, assigning deadlines and making sure you're staying on course. Being your own boss means doing this for yourself.
Personally, I like to keep a handwritten planner, one page is my weekly schedule, and the other is my longer term goals, projects and to-do lists. Seeing my long term projects in my schedule allows me to set daily and weekly tasks that need to be completed to hit my goals. Since being a freelancer means your workload changes often, it also allows me to fit in my high priority tasks, without forgetting the lower priority ones once my schedule opens up again. If things are written down it also means I don't have to juggle it all in my head, where I'm bound to feel stressed or overwhelmed and forget something.
Also having things written down clearly gives me motivation to check off those items, and allows me to see what I've accomplished at the end of the day or week so I can take a break knowing there's nothing important I forgot.
MAKE A ROUTINE
Having a routine not only helps with productivity but also mental health. It's important to establish the boundaries of work time and and rest time when you work from home. It's essential for me to know I have time allocated in my day to getting my work tasks done and also time for things I do for enjoyment or self care, like working out, reading, and sitting down for dinner with my partner.
I like having both daily and weekly routines, setting a certain time in the day to run errands or finish chores, and certain days in the week where I take my work out of my home and find a coffee shop to sketch in.
Doing what you love for a living sounds wonderful... and it is! But what most people don't realize is that most of the time this means “ doing what you love” when you don't want to be doing it. If making art is your profession, you will and should be drawing and painting every day. This means you can't afford to sit and wait for inspiration to strike, you need creativity on demand.
A habit I've been doing long before I even attended art school is keeping stock piles of inspiration and ideas. Creative plans can hit at any time, and often not at the ideal time when you're sitting at your desk with a blank piece of paper. For this I create resources of images, sketches and lists of ideas that I refer to when I need to get my creative juices flowing
Pinterest and bookmarked Instagram images are great visuals, but don't forget you can also use the more traditional sources like magazines and books. I also keep a notebook of lists of ideas for artwork, which has been incredibly effective at preventing artist's block.
The best tip is to keep a sketch book. When I'm really passionate about an idea, I often get restless and need to drop everything to make it. Keeping a sketchbook allows me to scribble things out quickly when the inspiration strikes so I don't take much time away from my priority tasks, but I have a visual reference to turn back to that will re-excite me when I have the time to make it.
STOP SECOND GUESSING
The internet is a never ending resource of strategies, tips and ideas for helping you run your creative business. This free access to helpful information is certainly amazing, but it can also contribute to some serious procrastination. You can spend hours reading articles and watching YouTube videos of people sharing how they achieved their success (realizing that this blog post is exactly that... oops! haha), and you'll start spinning in circles revising your strategy over and over again based on what new tips you're reading.
At some point you have to stop searching for the magic answer that will bring success and just literally sit down and do the work. It's a hard thing to master, because I know a day of working and drawing often leaves me feeling much less accomplished than if I read a bunch of articles that left me feeling motivated and inspired. But it's a false sense of accomplishment, inspiration is the fun part, the work is the hard part.
Success is based on those days where you're just slowly working away, one step at a time, and not based on some secret tip that leads to over night success. Research, read the articles, watch the videos, but at some point STOP. Try out the tips that you think will work for you, and don't revise your plan until at least a few months when you can really objectively see what is and isn't working. (If you stop reading this post here and get to work, I won't take it personally!)
Never underestimate the positive benefits of having supportive and inspiring people around you. When I'm feeling burnt out nothing brings me up more than going out for a drink with some girlfriends or a dinner date with hubby. I love talking about work with them. Sharing your plans, ideas and troubles with those who believe in you helps to keep away self doubt and allows you to reflect on what you have accomplished so far. I also find saying things out loud shifts your perspective and gets you out of those thought patterns you were stuck in.
Having people in your circle that are also fellow freelancers or creative professionals is also a huge help. They can relate to you on a professional level, and knowing you're not the only one experiencing the hardships of self employment is very comforting. It also gives you a boost of motivation when you share your latest creative idea and they share the same enthusiasm for it. Don't isolate yourself to working alone, community can make all the difference!
Productivity and discipline is different for everyone, try out other people's tips and then figure out what works best for you. Find a balance of pushing yourself hard and then allowing yourself time to rest and recover. Most of all be patient and consistent because nothing happens overnight.
Have any strategies for productivity you like to do? Share with me in the comments below!