5 Ways to Boost your Creative Productivity – Skinny Artist

5 Ways to Boost your Creative Productivity

An Artist at Work

One of the biggest challenges many creative artists have is simply finding the time to be creative. We really do enjoy creating our art (most of the time) but there never seems to be quite enough hours in the day.  We know that we just need to sit down and do it, but we always tend to get distracted and before we know it, another day is gone.

I still deal with this problem every day.  If only I could find a way to stop being so distracted when I’m trying to write.  If only I didn’t have to get up every five minutes to get something that I needed.  If only the phone would stop ringing.  If only there weren’t ten thousand other things I had to do that day.  Maybe, just maybe, I could get some real work done.

Over the years I’ve tried schedules, to-do lists, and even elaborate time management systems that ended up taking me more time to fill out then I was saving.  Sure, some of these systems worked better than others, but in the end, they were all just one more thing for me to do (or avoid doing).

While I certainly don’t have all the answers here, after many years of trial and error, I have discovered a few techniques that seem to work for me.  If you’re having trouble finding the time to get creative, you may want to give them a try.

1.) Honor your creative time

What time of day do you tend to do your best work?

Do you seem to work best in the morning, afternoon, or evening?

For example, I know from experience that I always seem to do my best writing in the morning from about 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Part of the reason is that by two o’clock I have thought of so many other things that I should be doing that I find it hard to continue focusing on what I am currently writing.

Whatever time it is that you do your best work, use that time to create your art, and save more routine tasks (like answering e-mail or connecting on Facebook) for later.  One of my biggest issues was that first thing in the morning when I would sit down at my computer to write,  I would immediately start pulling up my e-mail and checking my favorite websites just to see if anything exciting happened while I was sleeping.  The problem was that before I knew it, an hour or two of my creative time had suddenly disappeared. This leads me to my second rule. . .

2.) Avoid distractions

Maybe you are the exception to the rule, but I have found that multi-tasking is the enemy of inspired creative work.  When you are actively creating your art/music, do yourself a favor and turn off your e-mail program, cell phone, television, Twitter or Facebook feed, and anything else that could potentially interrupt your creative flow.  Yes, it’s possible that you might be missing out on that one e-mail message that could change your life, but chances are it’s just another YouTube video from Uncle Phil.

3.) Organize your space

Make sure that you have all the tools (including coffee) you might need nearby.  Those efficiency experts tell us that everytime we get up to go to the kichen to get some food or answer the phone, you not only lose the time that you spend staring blankly into the refrigerator, but you also lose the time that it takes to get back into the flow of things once you finally get back to work.  This is why it’s important to not only remove any potential distractions, but to also make sure that you have everything you’ll need in your workspace before you start.

4.) Focus your effort

Some artists have told me that they have found it worthwhile to set a timer in order to force themselves to work for a certain period of time. Personally I find that having a timer ticking nearby (even silently) distracts me even more because I always find myself sneaking a glance to see how much time is left which of course interrupts my flow.  I also feel like it somehow subconsciously limits me to a certain amount of time because once the timer goes off, I feel like I’m done (or at least should be done) with whatever I was working on.

Now having said that, I do like using a timer for routine tasks like checking e-mail, surfing the web, and connecting on Twitter because it does limit me to a certain amount of time.  Once the timer goes off, I force myself to either log-off or move on to a different task.  If you haven’t seen it already, I would really recommend checking out the Pomodoro Technique which is a completely free time management system that involves a fairly foolproof system and a snazzy plastic tomato.

5.) Get out!

Finally, once you are done with your creative process, make it a point to leave your workspace for a little while before you start doing other routine tasks like checking e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, surfing the web, etc… Go to the kitchen and get some food, or better yet go outside and get some exercise you pasty stereotypical artist you!

What other tips or techniques do you use to help get more stuff done?
Do you believe listening to music while you work is inspiring or distracting?

Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Photo courtesy of


About the Author

Drew is a writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist creative community. You can also find him online at OutmatchFitness.com where he writes about fitness, nutrition, and his continuing battle with father time.

What other tips or techniques do you use to help get more stuff done?

I had used the Pomodoro Technique before and while I was using it, it worked great. But I find opening the app, repositioning it out of my desktop workspace, fiddling with the specific time because it just doesn’t remember… All that could be avoided by just setting up a dedicated time to draw. I also find Ustreaming my illustration of the day (as long as it’s not protected by NDA) helps me to focus because I don’t want to browse in front of an audience or while I’m recording! Sometimes pressure from others forces me to stay on schedule because otherwise I guilt trip myself. Maybe not be 100% healthy, but I wake up at 8am or else I disappoint my dogs by not taking them out for a walk ;)

One thing I just found yesterday that I’m trying is https://www.rescuetime.com. It’s a site that actively monitors your programme usage while browsing, using Tweetie, Photoshop, IM’ing… It just records the time you spend in each and makes charts for you to check out. I’m not changing my work patterns until I review a week of my habits and see where I can help myself recover some lost time spent browsing unproductive websites, tweeting or chatting too much. Hopefully it helps!

Do you believe listening to music while you work is inspiring or distracting?

Music while drawing helps me focus and get in the zone. Music while typing totally is distracting. So if I’m trying to type up an email or a blog post, I turn off the tunes. I think music with words are more distracting, I find myself typing what I’m listening to at times :)


First of all, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. :) I love the idea of Ustreaming your working process in order to keep you on task. After all, you never know if your next customer is watching.

It also reminded me of a newspaper article I read a few months back about an artist named Megan Burkholder who rented out an abandoned bank in downtown Columbus, Ohio and lived there full-time for a month. She painted and lived on full display in front of this glass storefront for twelve hours a day. Talk about being held accountable. Come to think of it, I may try and get ahold of her at some point and ask if she would mind sharing a few more details with us about this experience.

At the time I was thinking that this was simply a great PR move and a unique way to get her name out there as an artist, but now that you brought up the whole accountability and productivity aspect to it, it got me thinking that she could really be on to something. If there’s anyone else out there in the Skinny Universe who has used video to document their working process, we would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences using it.

By the way, if any of you are interested in reading the original newspaper article that I’m talking about, you can find it here.

Not to drag out this comment any longer, but I am also interested in hearing more about your experience using RescueTime. I’ve heard some good things about the program, but I haven’t tried it out. After you get a chance to work with it for awhile, I would really like to hear your thoughts about using it and if you think that it’s really worthwhile.

    I live very close to Columbus Ohio and the project of Megan painting in the storefront window was very cool indeed. I think she did plan a show and sale of the work she created during that time. I agree that would be great if she shared here. Hope you get to chat with her.
    Music is distracting to me when I write (I like it very quiet) although I love to play tribal music when I work on large canvas paintings. I used to whine to myself about needing large amounts of time to create but once I decided to work ten minutes here or twenty minutes there I found I got more done that way then if I had an entire day staring me in the face. I know I may only have an hour so I jump right on it. When I have an entire day I tend to get distracted with emails, dishes, etc. I also set a timer when I check emails, etc. otherwise I can lose 2 to 4 hours posting, uploading, chatting, etc.
    BY the way…great articles!

[…] and then find a way to get the word out.  For example, one artist that I talked about in the comment section of an earlier post rented out an abandoned bank building and lived there for a month, living and working in plain […]

[…] or tool they can use.  Things such as how-to tutorials, interviews, and other website tools and resources.  Also keep in mind that the many of your visitors will find you for the first time through search […]

What other tips or techniques do you use to help get more stuff done?

Sometimes I just find myself struggling to get into focus and draw, it’s a painful moment and I have to force myself to it knowing it will soon be delightful. It’s like that dreadful waking up moment when the last thing you want to is force yourself up, but once you do, you start getting things done real quick and feel really into the flow. Once I’m focused, I have to ignore everything that is unrelated to my work, or if it’s impossible (like someone entering the room to ask something important) I don’t even move my eyes from what I’m doing. My work is the only thing in the world at those moments.

Warming up is essential. Not only musicians and actors need this kind of prep. The painters and tattooers and the ones who draw need time to get their bodies and minds into the specific project they’re working.

If I get stuck or lose track of what I’m doing, the quality, or the next thing to add, because I’ve been staring at it for so long (it happens), I go get some water or coffee or talk to someone nearby. Longer pauses than that (ex. going to the grocery’s) shifts the attention completely and when that happens, the working process hits another stage where I know getting back will be like starting over (sort of). A good night’s sleep is wonderful to get the mind cleared up about what to edit as well, and prevents from just doodling aimlessly out of tiredness.

Do you believe listening to music while you work is inspiring or distracting?

It depends. Slow, beautiful and slightly dark or depressing music is really good, because it creates mood without being unsettling. Like classical music, trip hop, instrumental stuff, soundtracks. Drawing listening to those things is really inspiring! I like screening a movie I’ve seen before in the background too and just listen to the dialogs. It gives a comfortable familiarity and is not too distracting (because I know what happens etc). But as a tattoo artist I also like energetic music when I’m working on other people’s skin. It helps to keep the mood cheerful and rhythmic and distracts the person from the pain!

I’ve started posting/scheduling Studio Hours on my calendar. http://whatadreamihad.com/studio-hours/ it’s really been helping me focus and reminding me to devote time to working on my art. I believe that we make time by prioritizing our lives. There’s never enough time until we make time.

When your tooth hurts bad enough, you make time to go to the dentist – no matter what else was on your schedule.

    Good point Carlos, and I think actually blocking out time on your daily calendar sends the message (even if it’s only to yourself) that your creative work is a priority in your life. You’re absolutely right that even though we never have “enough” time, we will always make time for what’s truly important to us.

Ola Rybacka

Hello Drew
I’m happy to inform you that this post is featured in the recent part of TimeCamp’s weekly Productivity Articles roundup! Find “Start The Week With Best Productivity Articles! 20/8/17” on https://www.timecamp.com/blog/.
Thank you for sharing these excellent productivity and time management tips!
Ola Rybacka, SM Manager at TimeCamp

    Thanks so much Ola for sharing the post with your community. I really appreciate it and hope that you found it useful!

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