Are your artist routines mind-numbing, exhausting or even non-existent? I’ll show you how to update and improve your creative routines so they’ll work for you.
What are your artist routines?
Most of us have a set of tasks we unconsciously repeat regularly. That’s because we’ve worked out what works for us. So chances are, you have a morning routine of things you do to prepare for the day e.g. shower, groom yourself, walk the dog and eat breakfast. Chances are you also have routines that you fall into in your creative work. So you might paint during afternoon weekdays or dance in the early evenings. But did you fall into them haphazardly and are they working for you? Time to take a look at a week and identify what all your routines are. Notice any patterns?
The rhythm and flow of creative routines
The best way to work with your creative routine is to know when your mind is going to be ready to work on each kind of task you do. So getting up before everyone else to write works well for many – before the phones start ringing and urgent emails pour in. The air feels less ‘full’ of the thoughts of others. On the other hand, another person might find that they need to read contracts first thing, because their mind is fresh. Or that their best creative ideas come in the evening. We each have a certain rhythm and flow to our lives that we’ve settled on for various reasons. Family commitments, resources, time and personal preferences tend to influence our routines – and those are all important factors to bear in mind.
Can you improve your artist routines?
Routines are always a work in progress. There’s always room for improvement on time, quality and efficiency. However artists need to recognise that what equals efficiency for the average middle manager, does not always spell efficiency for them. That’s because artists need to come up with the ‘big ideas’ and sometimes that requires dreamtime. So beware of making your routine over-efficient. It will keep you ploughing your furrow and never taking an overview.
Use observation to update your creative routines
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a routine and note what makes you work smarter. But it should always be flexible and take second place to your instinct. Start with the basics by noting what works for you. Were you more productive in an afternoon drawing session today because you had a pressing commitment after? Perhaps pressure causes you to perform better. Do you play trumpet better after physical exercise? Are you more confident with your weekly promotional work after spending 30 minutes interacting with your fans on social media? Do you work better if you have a full hour off and meet a friend for lunch? Pay attention and use these details to improve your routines.
Artist routines should never be set in stone
One of the joys of being an artist is that we set our own agendas. And we need to, because otherwise we’d spend time doing ‘grunt work’ and not developing our creative vision. So although you may have a set creative routine, check in with your body and emotions regularly throughout the day. This will stop you working when stressed or tired or when you should be attending to bodily needs - such as hunger which has sneaked up on you.
And you should also pay attention to ‘impetus’ – that is, your inclination to work. Is working like walking through treacle? Is that because you’re doing a task you don’t like much, or is it unusual? When it’s unusual, pay attention. It may be your creative brain telling you that something’s up – that you need more information or support or resources, or that you need dreamtime to think things through. Pay attention to your gut all day.
A bit of spontaneity and excitement freshen things up as well. Change your computer wallpaper or themes to give that quick visual change. Bring in new techniques, new toys or take things away and become minimal. Change things seasonally. Move your stretching routine outside in summer. Put your desk near the window in autumn. Have longer showers in winter. Put fresh flowers in your workspace in spring. Don’t underestimate the way simple and subtle changes can refresh your spirit.
Troubleshoot your artist routines
If you dread your weekly routine of working for three hours on business spreadsheets, then a change of location might help. Try taking your laptop to the local coffee house to change the scenery, and bribing yourself to work with hot chocolate or any favourite treat. Other variables could be listening to classical music while you work on the spreadsheets or timing it so that a nice afternoon tea is your reward once you finish. Or invite a friend into your workspace for moral support when you have to cold call. Some artists share workspaces or rent out parts of their workspaces precisely because it’s so much easier to work when others are working around you.
Review your artist routines
Check in with how you feel about your artist routines regularly. You’ll know something is off if you feel overwhelmed by a routine or bored by it. Creating routines full of things you are struggling to do is not only not fun – it’s detrimental to your productivity. Your routines should help you to work efficiently. That means they need to be a balance of ‘exciting’ and ‘challenging’. Don’t get stuck in a creative routine that doesn’t serve you. Always ask yourself why you are doing something. If you answer “because I’ve always done it this way” then you know it’s time to review that routine.
Have you tried working with a creative coach? I can help you improve your routines and change your career trajectory. Email for a free 30 minute consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org