Robie is an artist who loves sharing what she has learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.
How to Become More Productive, Artistically
Even the most imaginative people occasionally struggle to express their inner creativity. Artists usually like to create as much as possible, but everyone seems to complain about how life gets in the way, and how hard it is to make time for being creative.
The following ten strategies can help you boost your creativity.
- Keep your supplies organized and readily available.
- Minimize computer time and spend as much time as you can working on your projects.
- Plan your activities in advance.
- Analyze your habits and determine priorities, then cut off the biggest time wasters.
- Do things when it works for you.
- Consider everything an experiment.
- Work, work, work!
- Take a break when you feel burned out.
- Keep all rules flexible.
- Love what you do, do what you love.
Each tip is explained in detail below.
1. Keep Your Supplies Organized and Readily Available
The time you get to be in your studio and create is precious. You need to treat it as such.
Finding all the supplies organized and available saves a lot of time and distraction, and allows you to get straight to work on your project, without losing the inspiration.
Save some time at the end of every session to put things back where they belong, clean up brushes and tools, store hazardous material. It will speed up your process next time you are in the studio.
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
— Stephen King
2. Minimize Computer Time; Spend As Much Time As You Can Working on Your Projects
Create a schedule and set a time limit for how long you spend on the computer. It’s unbelievable how much time social networks, emails, and computer activities, in general, can eat up. If I'm not careful, I spend more time in front of a screen than in front of a canvas every day.
Set a timer. Before you start doing anything on the computer, decide how much time you want to allow yourself, set a timer, then stop when the timer goes off.
Another way to make sure I only do that one thing I need to do (i.e. checking my email) and don’t get sucked into the web tentacles is to be in an uncomfortable position. Like standing at a low table, or laying on the couch with my legs up. Yeah, sometimes I say “I can only be on my phone as long as I am burning some abs calories keeping my legs up. Then I have to quit,”
Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.
— Peter Drucker
3. Plan Your Activities in Advance
Another big waste of energy in the studio is when you have a slot of time to be creative, and you find yourself scrambling to get things started.
For example, if I know I have time to paint in the morning, it helps a lot if the night before I have already decided what subject I am going to paint, on what size canvas, and I have my supplies ready to go.
If I wait until I wake up to plan my activity, I find myself wasting a lot of time deciding which reference photo to use, or setting up a still life (that alone can take hours!), finding a canvas of the right dimensions, getting my paint out—oops, my palette is a mess, I need to clean it before I start—let’s set my easel up, etc.
If I do all of that before going to bed, I wake up with a stronger motivation because I know all I need to do is go to the studio and start painting.
Make a plan, get organized, and stick to the plan. It helps to write down a list of things that you are planning to do, shows that you want to enter, deadlines, etc., and keep it in sight.
4. Analyze Your Habits and Determine Priorities
Take a good look at how you use your time every day. How much do you spend on each activity? This may require some note-taking.
Reading the news, social networking, exercising, eating, watching TV, taking care of family, everything.
Look at every single thing you do, and determine if it is a good habit or a bad habit. What’s more important, what is a waste of your time and should be kept at a minimum?
Knowing your low priority and highly distracting activities will help you recognize them and limit them, hence using your time more efficiently.
Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.
— Peter Drucker
5. Do Things at a Time That Works for You
Match the right activities with the physical and mental energy that you have at different times of the day.
I am not a morning person. I have the social skills of a grizzly bear for about an hour after I wake up, no matter what time that is. In the afternoon I perk up and could do all kinds of things.
I learned to keep my high-energy activities for later in the day. I am most productive creatively after 10 am, up to very late at night.
A friend of mine wakes up at 4 o’clock am to train for the marathon before her kids get up and her workday starts. Waking up before sunrise and go running? Not in my book. But it works for her. The trick is to find what works for you.
Follow Your Inspiration. Be Creative. Take Chances. Make Mistakes.
6. Consider Everything an Experiment
Nothing is a mistake: There is no right or wrong idea, only creativity.
Don’t worry about what the final results will be. If someone will like it or if you’ll even hate it, follow your inspiration, be creative, take chances, make mistakes; it will get you going. Be creative. Keep fun on, and boredom off.
If it's not perfect, do it again. That's why having time available is so important. You don't need to feel like that's your only chance to get something done, so it better be perfect. We all make mistakes, and they are our best teachers.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
— Stephen Covey
7. Nothing Beats Practice and Hard Work
Show up in the studio and get busy, even on days you don’t feel like it. It’s not about making the best artwork of the century, it’s about creating as much as possible, learning from mistakes, trying new things. Do a lot, create a lot, work a lot, and you’ll become better and faster at it, whatever your discipline is.
There is no substitute for hard work.
— Thomas Edison
8. Take a Break When You Feel Burned Out
Ultimately you are the only one that really knows how your creative juices flow.
If you feel like you need a break, take one. Do something relaxing, possibly an outdoor activity like a walk in the neighborhood, some gardening, or a jog at the park.
Walking away from your artwork will also serve you to see it with fresh eyes when you come back, and see exactly what the next steps need to be.
9. Keep All Rules Flexible
These tips come from my personal experience, and I can tell you they sound like simple things to do, but I get caught in the trap of disregarding them time and time again, and my creativity drops. I have to be constantly checking if the bad habits are sneaking in.
The most important things to bring into the studio are motivation and discipline. When you have a strong motivation to create, everything else becomes less important. But you need to discipline yourself and avoid temptations. Create a schedule, and stick to it.
Of course, the schedule needs to be flexible, and adapt to your changing needs or special events on your agenda.
Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.
— Franz Kafka
10. Love What You Do; Do What You Love
When you do something for which you have a true passion, it's easier to find motivation and discipline.
Do what makes you happy, follow your true passions, taking full advantage of the time you have for creating, making every minute count. Your passion for what you do is ultimately the fuel that lets you work hard at it and be successful.
Keep Your Motivation High
The most important thing to bring into the studio is probably your motivation, but you also need a good dose of discipline.
Feeling strongly motivated to create makes everything else become less important.
When you have the urge to work on a project, it's easier to put down the phone, show up in the studio, and get busy.
However, life has a tendency to get in the way, and you may need to work a little harder to keep up with the promises that you make to yourself.
Especially if you are approaching a challenging and somehow intimidating project, be on alert for your mind trying to come up with all kinds of reasons to procrastinate.
Often the hardest part is to show up and get busy. The rest come naturally.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Robie Benve
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on June 04, 2020:
Hello Lynsey, thanks a lot for your comment. I wrote the article and yet I still catch myself falling for the "posting my art and commenting on social media is a job-related activity", until, two hours later, I realize my time is up and I missed the opportunity to paint, ugh! It's an ongoing battle, but on most days I can take control and actually create, it takes lots of will power and changing some habits. Happy creations!
Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on June 03, 2020:
I needed to read this. I come into my craft room then end up wasting most of my time on facebook or instagram or something like that. Pretending to myself that posting a creative photo is as good as actually creating something physically as I intended to do. Great read. Thanks for the tips.
Jane Tuttle on April 12, 2019:
For me the hurdle to me productivity is all the time I waste on the interned, like right now lol!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 14, 2016:
Oh Litany, perfectionism can be quite a stopper for artists! The important thing is that you continue creating, even if you don't let other people see you work (yet).
I am not a perfectionist, but as all artists I am my worse critic. I found that many times I don't like the final result, so I set that work aside. When I go back to the "hidden" portfolio after months or years, I surprisingly discover that some pieces were not bad at all! : )
It takes some detachment to truly critique your own work.
The same way things that I thought were brilliant may look meh after a while. It's a risk worth taking. :)
Litany Notch from South UK on March 10, 2016:
My main problem with productivity is perfectionism! Although I mainly create digital art and crafts rather than paintings, I never think that my work is good enough to allow other people to see it.
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on September 04, 2015:
I used to create doodles when I was young. For some reason I stopped doing that. Maybe because I turned towards writing instead.
Nevertheless, I became interested in your hub's title because of my prior artistic activities. As I read your hub, I realize that your list of strategies can apply to any creative endeavor... Drawing, writing, designing, even working out the solution to one's problems.
No matter what it is, I find myself most productive when I plan my activities in advance, which was one of your strategies.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 25, 2015:
Hi CherylsArt, yes I found that getting my supplies (and the idea of what to paint) ready the night before makes me much more productive in the studio. Thanks and have a great and creative day!
CherylsArt on March 23, 2015:
You've mentioned some useful and helpful tips here. I like the idea of getting some of the supplies together the night before, to encourage motivation. : )
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on October 09, 2014:
I hear you Dbro: let me check facebook just one more time" got me in trouble many times! lol
Thanks a lot for you kind and interesting feedback. Cheers to many wonderful days of creative productivity to come! :)
Dbro from Texas, USA on October 02, 2014:
Robie! I LOVE this hub! This is all such good advice. As an artist, I recognize myself in so many of these time wasting habits. I truly love what I do, so I can overcome them most of the time, but your tips on motivation and self-discipline are so helpful and spot-on. My biggest time waster these days is too much "screen time." I think it's a temptation for most people to "check Face Book one more time..."
Thanks for this inspiring hub. I'm sure it will help me be more prolific as an artist and just plain have more fun!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on September 30, 2014:
Very true, billybuc it applies to writers too. In fact writers are artists of words. Happy writing! :)
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 30, 2014:
The same rules apply for writers. Very good synopsis of what it takes, besides talent of course, to be successful in the Arts.