Why Artists Need To Be Tracking Their Time To Work More Effectively

Make More Time For What You Love Most
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What does an Artist actually do?

You might think that being an artist means sleeping in every day, sketching strangers in Starbucks while sipping over-priced lattes, leisuring around local galleries, and shopping in boutique art-supply stores.

You would be right! 

There’s a lot more to it than that, but these are all some of my favourite things to do that are technically considered a part of my job

But, I also get to do these things because I make time for them.

What you don’t see is somebody sucked into a project that has them up until 3am, spending hours on applications to get your work published, making content for social media, and so many more things go into being an artist and how we spend our time.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Kaboompics.

If you didn’t know, I used to be a scientist.

I worked in a lab, wrote and carried out reports, mixed solvents, tested pH levels, distillated liquids… the works. 

When I was in College and had to write up a term-paper, preform a lab, or begin a test, I would always know where to start.  I would glance around a few questions in, and a lot of the class was struggling — unable to find where to begin.

I also see this phenomenon bleeding over into my adult life during networking events, workshops, seminars, and problem solving situations in general.


So what make some of us more productive than others?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Kaboompics.

People who get more done, don’t have more time than you. Beyonce has 24 hours in her day, just like everyone else on this planet.

I wasn’t finishing my tests first and handing in my assignments early because I was smarter than anyone else, it’s because I was focusing my time on the right things; the material we were actually being marked on! 

That means I would spend most of my time ONLY working on the tasks that got me the most marks.

Only if there was extra time would I go answer every question and flesh out every answer, but in my experience the farther you get into education the more you have to complete in less allotted time.

This strategy got me Deans’ Honours every year I was in college, so it might work for you too.


Back then, I used to describe it as “being picky with my time”.

Now it looks more like declining events outside of my niche to cut losses, only working with people who value my work to the benefit of my mental health, and namely; no longer trying to please everyone who looks at my artwork, reads my writing, or otherwise has an opinion on what I make.

By “being picky with my time”, I was actually accidentally applying the 80/20 Principle by spending 80% of my study/prep time on the most impossible 20% of the material. 

There were times where I would not do tests and quizzes entirely and willingly, and severely stressing out my peers — to increase my efforts on something worth much more, and was lacking the resources for.

Saving time allowed me to put spend my extra time refining every detail for more marks, or to move onto the next thing sooner than anticipated.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Kaboompics.

Are you still unconvinced?

What if I told you that saving time allows me to make more merchandise, shop locally for my supplies, and now even have an office outside of my home — that my business can actually pay for?

All because I have the extra time to dedicate to marketing and diversifying my income. I even have the free time to make all of my own foods from scratch!


I’ve been talking about the 80/20 rule for a while now, but what’ is it and how can we use it to our advantage?

Originally known as The Pareto Principle, The 80/20 rule demonstrates that in most things you do, 20% of your results come from 80% of your efforts. But, that can also mean that 80% of your results can come from 20% of your efforts!

80% of the knowledge of a book is in the right 20% of the pages. Read the introduction, conclusion, and the jump back to any interesting bits. Never read cover-to-cover, unless for pleasure.

the 80/20 Principle: The secret of achieving more with less
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Kaboompics.

You might be wondering now, how to make this happen for you. How can you apply this to your own work-life?

It starts with knowing what you do with your time.

You will need to spend a week or two tracking everything you do with your time. Everything! Binging on YouTube, reading a magazine, riding the bus to the grocery store… all of it!

Here are some of the best free productivity time-tracking apps on the internet:

  • My absolute favourite is Toggl. I’ve been using it for a long time and works across all of my iOS devices — it’s great for individuals, but can also be used for teams as well! It send PDF reports to my inbox every Monday telling me what I accomplished (or didn’t) the past last week.
  • MyHours is another free app that provides free time-tracking for freelancers and teams as well as project tracking, time-editing for Admins, and generating reports that can be exported in PDF or CSV format (for Excel).
  • Harvest is a time-tracking app available for iOS, Android, and Mac and advertises to both individuals and large teams. Individuals are supported for free with a limit of up to two projects, and paid per person for employees. It seems like a limited free resource and expensive option, but if you’re a big enough company I’m sure the built-in invoicing, discounts for larger teams, and other interesting features are worth it.
  • Clockify claims it’s “The only truly free time tracker for teams” and is “free forever”. It appears to have all the usual features (a.k.a. a timer, organizing by project, and exportable reports), but also has a separate feature to mark you time as billable for invoicing purposes twitting the app. With the ability to invite an entire team, it gives you the ability to set your employees hourly rates, see their activity (which is probably how it’s free), and who worked on what (and where, also contributing to the nature of being a free app). It’s compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux; as well as iOS and Android.

Go download one of these apps right now!

Start using it to track you time for the next few days until part 2 of this article is published. Yes, there will be a part 2!


Today we talked about some of the big responsibilities as an art business owner, how the 80/20 rule can be used to your advantage when managing your time, and the importance of time-tracking with a list of the best apps I could gather — just for you!

5 Things You Need To Know About Time-Tracking
Learn about these critical 5 Things You Need To Know About Time-Tracking by reading TheArtistJounral.ca and sharing this on Pinterest!

My 5 Best Tips To Start Time-Tracking Better Now:

  • Your first week of time-tracking I suggest going about your daily life as you normally would and not being too self-aware of your time use.
  • Be as descriptive as possible with your entries.
  • Track what you’re doing as you’re doing it, not at the end of the day. You will vastly overestimate the amount of time you spent on working and assume less for your leisure time.
  • Your second week of time-tracking is when you should be mindful of what your doing by tracking in real-time.
  • Have your weekly reports sent to your email inbox and read them — print them out if necessary, but you have to read them.

Our minds tend to segment things — to break them off into smaller chunks, so they’re easier for our brains to digest. This can naturally make it difficult to accurately track your time. That’s why I stress tracking your time in-the-moment and not after you’re finished, or even worse, guessing at the end of the day.

Why?

Because we sit down and draw for thirty minutes and feels like it’s been an hour. Or in more extreme cases, you’ll be at work checking your emails for an hour and suddenly it’s almost time to go home.

Tracking my time gave me a feeling of more control over my life. It’s forced me to make more deliberate choices.

It’s shown me what I have the ability to accomplish and has pushed me to work harder and smarter.

Come back next week for Part 2 of this post where I talk about using time-tracking in tandem with time-blocking actions in your day planner to get the most out of your time — the method that made me more productive than ever!

Have More Time To Do The Things You Love
Have More Time To Do The Things You Love by reading TheArtistJounral.ca and sharing this on Pinterest!

Until then, I would love it if you checked out my Artist Lifestyle Instagram where I like to get personal and share my life in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I’ve started sharing my favourite vegan gluten-free recipes, thoughts on identity and gender, mental-health stories, artist productivity tips, book recommendations and more!

Until next time, 

-J