The balance between art & biz: A schedule-making process

Sarah Marie Lacy in the studio

Working away at the easel...

I don’t know about the rest of you creative folks out there, but finding a balance between art-making, marketing and admin is sometimes the hardest job of all.

I love making the art, but without the marketing and the admin, it’ll never go out the door. I get torn between love of one thing and respect for the other.

And lately, the balance between art and business has been tipped much further in the business direction. That needs to correct itself.

So I’m working on developing a schedule that honours both the need to deal with the business and also the need to make the art.

I thought I’d share this process, just in case it helps someone else. Feel free to steal my schedule!

Here’s the criteria I need my daily schedule to meet:

1. Art needs to happen during daylight hours 95% of the time, because my work lately is lit by natural light. I’m also most awake and most alert during the day. A night painter, I am not.

2. My writing (blogs, newsletters etc.) needs to happen before I start making art for the day. Once I’ve switched into the visual creative part of my brain, it’s a struggle to go back to my verbal creativity.

3. I need to set aside time for admin tasks, like email, formatting blog posts & newsletters, and bookkeeping. This needs about an hour of love every day for it to be kept manageable and not rage out of control. These kinds of tasks have a strong tendency to rage when neglected.

4. I need time to do client work for my VA & web design clients. This needs a couple of hours a day as well.

5. Somewhere in there, I need time to eat, and probably run errands some days. This means that I need to determine optimal errand running time, so that if I need to run an errand one day, I know when I’m going to do it. It also means I know when I’m going to schedule client appointments as well.

The reason that I’m interested in creating a schedule for myself is that I function better when I chip away at projects rather than trying to do them all in one big rush. (I think this is pretty true for everyone.) But it’s also better for my health, because it’s a form of pacing.

I know myself well and I’m a last-minute-deadline kinda gal if I let myself be, and then I get burnt out. Not a fun cycle. I’d like to change that.

I also know that this schedule is not going to be set in stone and some days, it’s gonna get thrown out the window. Deadlines happen. Surprises happen. Life – it happens.

But by creating a useful, flowing schedule as a jumping off point, most days will see me puttering along at a steady pace, tackling all of the things I need to so that my business and creative life run smoothly.

It also means that the days when I wake up and I don’t really know what I’m doing, I have this schedule to fall back on. Routines and habits can be useful like that.

Making the schedule

Let’s say my usual wake up time is somewhere between 6:30-7am. I always have to get up and make a cup of tea first. That’s mandatory. This is usually when I journal and meditate. This works for me, so I’m going to keep that in my schedule.

So let’s say, from 7-8am is meditation and journaling time.

My studio is east-facing, so the early morning light is variable – not great for painting or lighting my still lifes. I find that by 10am the light has evened out, and I can start working.

So…let’s say from 8am to 10am is writing time. I can quickly check email for emergencies, but everything else can get left till later. This is also a pretty good time for eating breakfast. (Remember, self? Breakfast? That thing that you don’t forget until 11am and then suddenly discover that you’re cranky?)

At 10am, painting starts. I have about 4 hours till the light fades too much for me to be able to see my subject matter properly. (I’m obviously dealing with winter hours. In a couple months, all of this will change.)

So I could schedule my painting hours from 10-2pm. Somewhere around 1pm, there’s a 20 minute break for lunch and tea. Then there’s a good 15-20 minutes clean up time at the end.

Then there needs to be some web design and client work scheduled in. Let’s say from 2:30-4:30 I do web design, run errands or meet with clients (if possible).

Then from 4:30 to 5:30, I answer email, catch up with accounting, format blog posts and newsletters and take care of other general admin tasks, such as packing up paintings to be shipped the next day.

How my days will look:

Wake up – 8am: Journaling and meditation (and if I’m feeling dangerous…yoga.)

8am – 10am: Writing & breakfast

10am – 2pm: Studio time (which means no internet!)

2:30 – 4:30pm: Client work, errands, client meetings, etc.

4:30 – 5:30pm: Email, admin, etc.

5:30pm – Bedtime: Relax. Watch movies. Eat delicious food. Hang out with Jesse and friends. Read trashy romance novels. Y’know – recuperate so you can approach the next day with your best foot forward.

This feels like a good, manageable, steady schedule. I have to juggle so many activities in my day, that I want to make sure I spend time with all of the them. Otherwise, one thing usually comes out on top and the other activities get neglected and then I have to make a mad rush to finish them all.

For some people, a schedule isn’t the solution. But for myself, I find that I need to create containers of space and time for the tasks that I need to do on a regular basis. A schedule helps me stay organized and focused on what’s important (and less likely to get distracted by Facebook.)

And since it’s a schedule created around my optimal functioning times and with eyes wide open – some days, my schedule will get trashed – it won’t be some horrid slave master driving me along with a whip.

Instead, it’s a system put in place to support me in doing my best work, in a way that feels manageable and enjoyable.

What about you?

Do you have a schedule for balancing your business & creativity? Or are you anti-schedule? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!