The Simple Secret To Finding More Time To Make Art

photography by dan james
photography by dan james

“If only I had more time, I’d be far more creative” is a comment I hear over and over again as a Creativity Coach.

So how do we find that elusive art time, once everything else is taken care of?

The secret is simple –

What we prioritise, gets done. The rest falls by the wayside.

Here’s an exercise that will help reveal what you’re prioritising.

For the next week, keep note of how you spend your time. Let’s call it your Priority Journal.

This is not about judging how you’re choosing to spend time, but simply observing, and noting down.

You don’t need to come up with a complicated system, a pen and notebook will suffice. Just write down what you do, and roughly how long you do it for. Be honest.

After a few days, then a week, you’ll begin to become more aware of your relationship with your time, and more importantly how you’re choosing to use it.

Time, like money, and energy, is something we all have a limited amount of. So we need to be mindful and purposeful in how we choose to use it.

The word “choose” is crucial in that previous sentence.

If you realise that “making art” is only appearing in your Priority Journal (PJ) occasionally, and in far smaller chunks than other things like “researching online”, “watching TV” or “reorganising wardrobe” that’s because you’re giving those other activities greater priority.

What’s so effective about this exercise is that it’s a snapshot of the reality – how things actually are.

It’s not the same as saying “Making art is one of the most important things in my life”, even if you believe that to be true. Because if the reality of your PJ shows that you only chose to put aside ten minutes in a whole week for creative work, that doesn’t show it as a priority in your life.

Here’s another of those snapshots of reality.

Spending 15 minutes a day creating equates to a fraction over one percent of the total time you have available.

In other words, even if you spent 15 minutes a day, every single day, making art, you’d still be spending 23 hours and 45 minutes doing other things every day.

Or, for every little chunk of time creating, you then go and spend 99 little chunks of time doing other things, before you come back to creating again.

Though spending 15 minutes a day might be a great way to start prioritising your creativity, and building a powerful daily creative habit, it still doesn’t really suggest it’s a high priority to you.

And if you’re questioning how important creating really is, just think about how you are, and how your life is, when you don’t create for a week, a fortnight, a month.

How does your mood change, what emotions do you feel?

I know for me, if I don’t at least pick up a camera and look through the viewfinder every day I start to feel twitchy, restless, anxious even.

Heading out for an hour or two or three to explore, with nothing but camera in hand, is one of the most restorative and rewarding experiences I know. So I make it enough of a priority in my life to do it regularly. To me, there simply isn’t another option, I have to do it.

As with so many things in life, we can use a simple, straightforward approach to help us focus, prioritise and use our time wisely.

To recap, if you’d like more time to make art, here’s what you need to do –

1. Keep a Priority Journal or list of what you do, and how long you do it for. Be honest, observe without judgement.

2. At the end of a week or two, notice what you’re choosing to make the priorities in your life. These are the tasks you’re spending most time on, most often. Notice how much time you’re actually spending creating.

3. Start to make changes. Reduce the time you spend on tasks less important than making art. (There are infinitely many!) Start to give some of that time back to your creative life, back to the artist within you.

In a couple of weeks, if not less, this exercise will give you far greater awareness of what you’re making important in your life.

And if creative time is not in the top handful of activities, it gives you chance to restore it up there in its rightful place.

Join the conversation to tell us about how you make time for making art (or struggle to).


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