In today’s podcast we are talking about how to stay focused on your art.
According to a study conducted by Northwest University, highly creative people are generally more easily distracted than the average person!
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And yes, creative people really do seem to have a gift for welcoming distractions with open arms… It’s a way of procrastinating I think. Maybe there’s a bit of fear involved… maybe it’s a way of avoiding failure! Or maybe it’s just in your nature to be flakey, like me.
I am the most easily distracted person by nature and I find it so easy to get distracted from doing my art. And it’s not always procrastination for the sake of procrastination. I think it’s something I’m prone to in all aspects of my daily life. I’m one of those people who will look for something I’ve lost and then find something I lost previously and and that I’d forgotten about, and then I’ll forget about the thing I was looking for in the first place!
Write down your todo list and block out times to work on your art
So for someone like me I think it takes a lot of self discipline and some organisational skills to get past that and to get things done. Writing down exactly what I intend to do and when I intend to do it is one of the best solutions for me.
And it’s something I so often neglect to do, but when I do, do it, I am so much more productive!
I find it best when I block out specific times on my calendar to work on my art.
Better still, take the time to plan the whole week ahead. If it’s there in black-and-white and blocked out of your calendar, you’ll be far more likely to actually get on with it and get things done than you would if you were just trying to fit it in between everything else when you get a chance.
Build in regularity to your art
So I am a big culprit of getting distracted so I am trying to remind myself as well as share my thoughts. My biggest downfall is Twitter
I think regularity is one of the keys to avoid distraction. If you can schedule your art in for regular times and let the people around you know your working time.
I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but I like to have certain days that I keep to be creative. If I know I wlll definitely put aside time on those days then I can use some of the other days for admin and other stuff I need to get done.
Use self-discipline and make art first
Once you have booked out the time you need for your art, don’t make the mistake of turning on your computer, or checking your texts or emails. They have to wait. The chances are if you do go down that route, you will find yourself down a rabbit hole which is very hard to come out of. This is where some self-discipline comes in.
And when you are about to start, don’t pick up an art book, or an art magazine, or anything related. You might think that should be okay because it is about Art, after all, but there is a time for all of that. If you start looking at those things at this point, it will only hinder your progress. It will not help you! Save those things for when you are done. Think of them as your reward.
I actually did just what you said recently. I wouldn’t let myself look at Twitter until I had made some art. I know I can easily lose an hour or two marketing my work on Twitter. But if I don’t make more at, there will be nothing to sell.
Prepare reference in advance
If you use reference prepare it in advance, I have a folder full of faces I can use. I will also often choose one the night before I paint. Otherwise I will spend as long finding a face as I will painting it
Chores can wait!
Chores can wait. Funnily enough, when I worked at home on my own I would always wait and empy the dishwasher at lunchtime after I had done a morning’s work. Now Kevin is at home, sometimes I feel guilty if I leave it as he will do it as he is Mr Tidy.
Get up an hour earlier
It’s really easy to get distracted when you have kids living at home. And sometimes when you have young children it’s just not possible to get away from that. But when my kids were at home, I found a great way to get over this was to get up and hour earlier than than they did, and I used that ‘alone time’ to work without any distractions. But I do think it’s harder if you’re trying to work on a serious piece, because if you’re anything like me you tend to need a decent chunk of time, but if you just want to brush up on your sketching skills, then it’s an ideal time to get that done.
Try and manage visitors
Visitors can also be a distraction. I mean obviously you want to make time for them, but ask them to come once you are done. Don’t allow it to break up your day, because the chances are, once you have walked away from your art, you won’t get back to it.
Actually I’m really guilty of that. If someone says they want to pop over, I find that if they come in the middle of the day, I automatically decide that there’s no point in starting anything before they get here, because it doesn’t give me enough time… But then by the time they’ve left I then don’t feel like I have enough time to get into something afterwards.
So I end up doing nothing at all!
But I’ve toughened up on myself these days and now if someone wants to come over I always ask him to come either first thing in the morning or later on in the day and that way it doesn’t eat into my creative time. There is an element of being an artist that forces you to be selfish and there is no getting away from that if you want to take it seriously.
Turn off your phone
Phones are a massive distraction. Turn them on to do not disturb while you work.
Call anyone you need to call before you start painting, that way they are less likely to interrupt you. I often paint on a Friday morning and always try to phone my Mum first as otherwise I know she will probably ring me when I am covered in paint and charcoal
Use social media blocking apps
You might also want to use apps for blocking ocial media blocking apps. I have used them before to stop me looking at Twitter and Facebook.
Use triggers for starting your art
Try creating a ‘trigger’ for your creativity. Mine, is switching on my fairy lights. Yours might be lighting a scented candle, or putting on that painting shirt. Something that will trigger your mind into knowing its ‘art time.’ After you’ve been doing it for long enough, they will come a point where the moment you smell the scent of that candle, you will get into the creative zone automatically.
Listen to your favourite music, or podcasts
Also, listen to your favourite music, or podcasts as you work. This will not only help you get in the zone, but will likely keep you in it for longer.
So we’ve talked about how important it is to get in the art studio but don’t forget to take regular, scheduled breaks. I don’t mean to have a cup of tea with someone else, but just to step back from your piece of art and give yourself some room to reset.
It’s always good to look at something with fresh eyes and if you work on something for too long without taking a break you can easily over work a piece before you know it.
Besides that, we need to move! It’s surprising once you’re in the zone how easy it can be to sit in one position for a few hours without really moving. That’s not healthy practice so we do need to remember to move about sometimes. Actually, my watch always gives me a nudge if I’ve been sitting down too long. I’ve got one of those apple watches and every now and then it tells me it’s time to stand. It’s pretty cool but if you don’t have one of those then you could just set yourself an alarm. Otherwise there are apps you can use like focus… these are apps that you can schedule times to work and time to take a break.
I actually can’t actually listen to music or podcasts anymore. I always used to . But now I need quite so I can get absorbed in my work. So test things out and see what works for you.
Schedule social media posts
Preparing social media posts can distract you from what’s most important. It’s easy to spend the first hour of your ‘painting’ time, setting up a camera to create a social media post. A good way around this, is to set aside a specific amount of time each week, to create and schedule all of your posts, stories ad reels once a week. I actually did this on Monday, theonly slightly annoying thing is you can’t schedule reels, but you can prepare them and save them as drafts ready to post.
Also if you have the space and can leave a tripod in place ready to film your work that saves time too.
Have materials laid out ready (if you can)
I’m really lucky to have an art studio which is a dedicated space. But I realise not everyone has a space like that. But if you can just have a small area, even if it’s just a desk in the corner of your living room or kitchen, where you can have your materials laid out ready to use, it will make a massive difference to your productivity. It means you can cut out that time where you’ve got to get everything out and set up.
Even if that is just leaving a sketchbook and pens near the sofa.
Figure out when you are most creative
If possible, figure out your most creative time of the day. This way, you will likely be more focused than you might otherwise. I think I am more creative in the morning.
Set goals for yourself
It’s a really good idea to set goals for yourself, or at least set yourself a list of weekly tasks that you want to get done. And don’t divert from it. Prioritise what’s most important and finish each thing before you start the next.
It’s far better to get one thing done, than lots of things half done.
So now you’ve listened to this episode, why not go and write yourself a list of all the things you want to get done next week and then block out the times you’re going to work on them.
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This week’s creative question
Q. If your art could talk, what would it say?
The best answers will be read out on a future podcast.
You can Tweet us your answers @KickCreatives or let us know in the Facebook Group, which by the way if you haven’t already joined, I highly recommend that you do! We will put the question up there and also on the Facebook page… and of course, on our Instagram page @kickinthecreatives.
If you have any suggestions for the podcast or our challenges please feel free to get in touch.