Not enough hours in the day! About setting priorities.

One of the fun things that many artists experience is that they`re having new ideas all the time. Not every artist is like that, we all work and create differently, but I hear this a lot and I certainly recognize it. You`re sipping tea somewhere, something caughts your eye and before you know it you have thought of a complete short story in under three minutes. Fun stuff.

priorities

I`m in love with ideas and new stuff. However, I`m also someone who naturally wants to dive right in and wants to act on those ideas (every.single.one of them) and that`s where things get chaotic really fast. Deciding which project should get priority over others is not always clear.

This week it dawned on me: I blog every week and I can write pretty fast, but then I spend a huge amount of extra time on making images, coming up with titles, sharing links and making the newsletter. It takes a bunch of hours out of my work time every week and I realize that it`s a constant priority in my planner. I do not have a buffer of posts, even though I have written outlines for a few. The writing isn`t the problem, it`s just that for some posts I need screenshots or new drawings, or a compilation of sketches. And that all takes time.

This is not a shocking discovery. Everything you want to do well takes time. The thing is: when blogging takes time away from making art and making my comic, and said art and comic work is suffering because of it, is that what I want? In other words: do I consider myself to be a blogger or a comic artist first?

Of course this immediately creates conflict. I love both. I want to blog because I`d love to help people clear out the obstacles they might find in their art journey, provide helpful tips, or just show some fun behind the scenes stuff. But I also want to tell the story I have in mind. And there`s other stories as well, as are one shot illustrations, sketches and short stories. On top of that I`d like to improve as an artist and do studies and courses. I also have a day job that requires attention, preparation and sometimes new education as well. And I`m not even talking about having a social life and a clean house and good health.

There is simply not enough time in the day to do everything, so choices have to be made. I have thought of some questions I can ask myself to decide where my priorities are, maybe they help you too:

1 What are the things you can`t negotiate about when it comes to time? 
For example: things like work, health and your social life.  There`s no projects to make if you are broke, worn out or if your relationships suffer. Your priorities will be made for you, rather than you having control over them. How much time do you reasonably need to keep these up well?

I do not believe in “one solution fits all” when it comes to this. Day jobs differ. One person needs more interaction with their friends than others, other people will have a family which requires more time, some people have a stronger constitution or just have a job that keeps them more fit than people who sit behind a computer all day. Look at your own situation and list the things you need to do.

There`s also some bad, or even harmful advice going around when it comes to these things. I sometimes hear things like: “you can sleep and make friends when you have reached your goal of becoming the best in your art class.”  or “you need to be willing to get up at 5 am every day to work on your projects or you are not passionate enough.” How can anyone say that? Maybe *you* don`t need any friends, maybe *you* can survive on five hours of sleep every day and maybe *you* are a morning person, but that doesn`t mean everyone else is. This drives me crazy. Find something that works for you. And figure out what you need to do to get there without sacrificing what is truly important. (You might need to make other sacrifices though, but I`ll leave that up to you) It can be done, it`s hard, but it`s possible.

2 What are your long term goals?

List them all, but try and not have too many in the first place. When it comes to projects for example, I only have long term goals for things I’m actually working on, not for all the ideas I have.

Now add to this list the priorities you wrote down for the first question. (I got to seven priorities in total)
Next, and I know it`s hard, give them a number from 1 to whatever number of priorities you have, based on how important they are to you. As in: if you had to choose one over the other, which stands above what?

For me this always results in some things that are less fun ending up in the top three. Things like “money making” or “health” (I do not like to exercise or cook for example) Still, these things make sure I can be there for others and do my personal projects, so they need to be cared for first.

3 Assess the amount of time you put into each priority now. Is it appropriate to the ranking you gave it? 
A higher priority doesn`t mean you need to give it more time than others. For example: I`ll probably put more time into comic making than into my health, even though “health” stands above “comic” in my ranking. Assess how much time you spend on something now, and if you`d like to increase or decrease that, based on what number you gave it. This means, in some cases, that you need to adjust what you are used to doing.

In case of my blogging vs comic making issue, I realized my comic is slightly more important to me now than the blogging, because actually finishing a project instead of only writing about it would make me happier at the moment. It also fits with my long term goal of having multiple stories online eventually.

When I first started blogging seriously in 2012 I set myself the weekly post goal to practise discipline and to get more of my art and ideas out into the world. Over the years the blogposts evolved, growing more complex, with more focus on getting an idea across, on sharing and layout. They take way more time  to do now, but I still hold on to the weekly posting. Even though I gave myself that goal in a different context. Realizing this, and knowing I want to put more time into comic making, this means that I might decrease the time I put into it, so I might  start blogging every month instead of every week. This provides me with more time to make a good post and still helps me to focus more on my other priorities.

So my last bit of advice would be to review your priorities every so often to see if they still fit your current situation.

Of course there`s TONS of good insights written on this subject. For example, David Allen`s book ” Getting Things Done” features one example of how to choose your priorities on different levels (long and short term).
These authors explain it way better than me and have thought about it way longer, so I`d advise you to do some research if you want to know more about the subject. There`s probably one or two books that`ll fit your style and your specific goals.

Thanks for reading! Do you have experience in having to choose one thing or project over another? How did you decide and were you happy with it in the end? Let us know in the comments!

8 comments

  1. Gea says:

    It is hard indeed to prioritize all things you need and want to do. I tend to put more time in my website (renewing, thinking how to improve etc.) than in actually editing photo’s. And then suddenly I have set myself a deadline to deliver the photo’s to my clients and I am in a huge rush. So yeah, prioritizing is very important!

    • Yeah, I feel like it’s sometimes a form of procrastination as well. You’ll work or focus on something that feels “easier” so you don’t have to tackle a specific problem in another area, like drawing. It’s both important, but at this moment not equally so.

  2. Tiffany says:

    Preach Woman!

    I had the concept of priorities punched me in the face while I wasn’t looking. I didn’t know what to do when I had my son. The one thing you didn’t mention was asking for help. This is a lesson that I learned when I had my baby. You can’t do it all. I know you like blogging but have you asked for guest post? Maybe others can share their advice through your blog platform? Or or show your process or a challenge that you faced while creating a comic page. You could do screenshots of a work in progress for that comic page update and discuss how you solved the problem.

    I also wrote about my struggles with priorities here.
    https://medium.com/@Tiffany_McLeod/how-i-made-time-for-art-27f6b4ac0776

    • No I hadn’t thought about that! That’s a really great idea! I’ll think about that further, thanks for sharing your wisdom Tiffany. I loved reading your article, I have so much respect for parents and how they can still manage other projects on the side. I can imagine it was hard deciding not to pursue certain interests or to close accounts. But I’m sure your dedication will pay off!

  3. Hey Henrike! Great article, just when I needed it most! I’ve recently had to revisit my lists and start to actually schedule things in order to get them done as well as nix some things that weren’t high priority in this moment in time. Just getting ready to write a blog post myself about my own findings and how it’s started to affect me, but then I discovered this amazing gem. 🙂 I like the idea of seeing more of your progress on your personal project as blog entries as well and maybe one really high quality blog article a month rather than a weekly endeavor that may even be rushed at times depending on the circumstances. Thanks for reminding me of the missing piece of the puzzle (priorities)! Definitely going to try out your exercise when I get home to make more room for creativity. “Good and done!” Right?

    • Absolutely Jessica! Thanks for sharing and I’m glad this was helpful to you. 🙂 Sometimes it’s hard to really cut into everything we want to do, but I’m sure this helps us in the long run. Good luck with prioritizing!

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