Be the Early Bird (Updated)

As an artist, productivity is often on my mind. As in, How can I get more paintings done? or When can I devote regular time to my  blog, or do more plein air painting, or, or, or . . . etc? But, mostly, since I want to earn the bulk of my income from selling paintings, it's "how can I get more paintings done?"

Well, after having a conversation with an artist friend who is very productive despite having a family with young children, I have done ONE thing to significantly change my level of productivity. He told me that on his studio days he's working at 6 am. I've often heard that some of the most productive people are early risers, and, of course, it makes since. It's something I've just told myself is not for me. I'm a night owl. I love those late hours when everyone is in bed and I can really buckle down and get things done. Except, I don't. I have every intention of getting things done. But, I don't. And, I finally had to admit to that to myself. What I'm really doing during that time is pouring over that night's box score and stats from the Ranger game, cruising political websites, watching the latest Arrow or Justified episode, doodling in my sketchbook, . . . etc.  I enjoy that time, but it's not productive. And, I'm tired in the morning. 

The ONE Thing

SO. I've begun getting up early to be sitting at the easel by 5:30 am Monday thru Friday. That gives me an extra 10 hours of painting time per week. At  7:30 I begin getting ready for my day at Gemini, where I teach and get about 20 hrs of studio time. A consequence of getting up by 5:30 am is that I have to get to bed much earlier. So now I'm in bed by 10:30 pm. I lose those great night time hours, but as I said before, they weren't productive anyway. This change in schedule has forced me to be more deliberate overall with the use of my time. I've found myself thinking ahead much more, because I want that work time to be maximized. Paraphrasing Ben Franklin, "Don't put off till tomorrow what can be done today." Before going to bed I make sure my palette is clean and on the taboret, and that my egg cooking skillet is clean and in position on the stove top. 

Further Inspiration . . . 

One person I admire quite a bit in the world is Alex Epstein. He's the founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and the man behind the mic on the podcast "Power Hour" . On the May 9th episode of Power Hour Alex talked about what he's learned about productivity over the years and how he applied those practices to his latest challenge of writing his forthcoming book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels from cover to cover in four months. If you listen to one episode of Power Hour, listen to the May 9th episode!

  Update . . . 

So, since I wrote this original post, a couple of things have changed ( to say the least). First, the school year has ended so I'm no longer required to be somewhere between the hours of 9 and 6. Second - and this is a big one - my daughter was born! Those two things have dramatically changed my schedule. But, anticipating this, I sat down and wrote out a schedule for myself. I know, Duh, right? Well, I've never done that before, and I know I'm not the only one. At least, I've never written myself a schedule and stuck with it. But this time is different. I'm committed, I'm doing it, and I love it. Here's the schedule I wrote out for myself:

7:00 - 9:00 -- Paint

9:00 - 10:00 -- Breakfast/Shower

10:00 - 1:00 -- Paint

1:00 - 2:00 -- Lunch

2:00 - 4:00 -- Read/Answer emails/Write/Sketch/Think

4:00 -- Workout/Shower

5:00 -- Cook Dinner

That's what I wrote out. In practice, it's been modified. I get up between 6:30 and 6:45, make coffee and set up my palette. I grab a couple of Lara bars (Peanut Butter Cookie ONLY) and a fresh mug of coffee and get it on - skipping the 9 to 10 breakfast and shower. Yes, I'm in the clothes I slept in for most of the day. So I start painting at 7, not breaking until around 10:30 or 11 when my wife pokes her head in the studio with my daughter to say Hi. I hug and smooch my daughter for a bit and continue painting till 1. Then lunch till 2, and back in the studio till 4. 

With my newborn daughter, my 10 yr old stepson and my wife all being home right now, it is a challenge to stick to my schedule. I won't say I've been able to totally do it every day, but pretty darn close. The distractions are many, and we all have them. That's why we have to wake up every day resolved to stick to our guns and get things done.