February 22, 2018


Practical Matters:
Practical Matters

By Colleen Doran

Here are some time management tips for pros and aspiring pros:


Donít be on time, be early: 

On time is NEVER good enough. On time almost always means that you will be late. Schedule every project as if you have days and, if possible, weeks less time than you actually have. Create a sense of urgency about the project. You never know what distractions will arise or how much time a page of art takes to draw. Itís not something you can block out into eight hours or ten hours. Every page is different. You could have a family emergency or financial crises that will distract you. Pages could get lost. The cat could drop a hairball on your script. You never know. Last month I was bitten by a brown recluse spider on my drawing arm. There was no way to prepare for that!

So, I work several days a week for extra long hours, often 14 hours a day. Then I work several days a week at a lighter pace: about eight hours. (Thatís actual drawing time, not time spent on the phone or shuffling papers.) A few days a week at extra hours helps me to get a little bit ahead each week. If I have managed to botch something and get behind, it helps me to catch back up. I donít recommend working every day at all out speed. You will burn out. Set up a simple reward system for goals that you have met, like a movie or an afternoon with friends. Record your progress on a calendar. Have a minimum daily goal you would like to meet and then strive to exceed it at least a couple of days a week. Do that for a few months, and you will find that you may have been able to get as much as one issue ahead of schedule.


Save time with others: 

When it comes to managing your time, your best friends can be your worst enemies. Establish boundaries. Set strict limits for who, what, where and when will enter your studio and take up your time. I once had a very good professional friend who would call several times a week and spend as much as four hours a whack on the phone. This woman was a writer. She was a constant deadline problem for her editors and it was no wonder since her entire life seemed to be spent on the phone. Even begging her to restrict her calls to an hour a week had no effect. Everyone marveled at why this smart and talented woman couldnít seem to get any work done. However, I knew that her endlessly chatty phone habits were the real problem. This woman didnít need friends. She needed therapy. And what was worse, everyone in her orbit found that their own work suffered, too. For hours a week, she called to discuss her problems and stories that never got written.

Consequently, no one else she knew could get any work done either. Her demands for attention were endless and if she heard my pen or pencil moving across the paper while she was talking to me, she became furious that I wasnít paying close attention to her every utterance. Frankly, I couldnít afford to lose the hours of time a week she demanded. A monster of neurosis, she finally found herself unwelcome at nearly every publisher and her career floundered. 

She wasnít the only person I knew who didnít have a clue when to get lost. Many friends and acquaintances used to show up without invitation, wanting to have lunch, get coffee, or go to a movie. Itís not so easy to say no to someone who is standing at your door telling you that you work too much and you need to take time to smell the roses. As someone with a rose garden, I found that hilarious. I also found it disrespectful. Finally, I had to get tough. I simply stopped returning the calls of people who didnít hear me say no the first time. I put a large fish eye lens eyehole on my front door and anyone uninvited no longer gets in. I even resorted to hanging a big ďGo Away!Ē sign on the front door in real deadline crises. Extreme? Not if you know the freelancer life and how people often fail to respect your wishes for solitude so the work can get done. Itís not likely that you could go to your friendís offices and hang out there for hours at a time, sipping coffee and watching the television while they work. They shouldnít be doing it at your workplace either.


Clean up that clutter! 

Letís face it. Most creative people are disorganized slobs. I am usually horrified by what I see when I go to other peopleís studios. I once apprenticed to a world-famous artist. His studio was the most horrific thing I have ever seen, a mass of books and art and files and boxes and piles and piles of art supplies and manuscripts that filled every single room of the six bedroom house. Nothing was ever thrown away. There were six or seven tubes of every kind of paint or a half dozen of each kind of varnish because he kept losing them in the bottomless pit of his workplace and buying more. The waste of money was appalling. The waste of time was worse. 

I used to be a clutterbug myself, but compared to most artists, I am an ascetic. However, a few years ago, I resorted to hiring a professional organizer service to come into my home and studio and help me get it together. It was some of the best money I ever spent. I learned some great tricks for controlling papers and keeping them under control. I will probably write a separate column about that later. But the most important and simplest thing I ever learned was to simply learn to throw things I donít use out. Learn to get rid of what you are not using or have not used in a twelve- month period. Clothes, comics, books, you-name-it, if it isnít useful or beautiful to you, then you should dump it. That doesnít mean you have to throw it away. You can give them to charity, sell them, or give them to friends, but get it out. 

Clutter is a kind of visual noise. It is distracting and demoralizing. It will impede your ability to work. An inability to find important documents or file effectively will eat into your work time. Think of that seven hours a week that you are probably wasting struggling with your clutter right now. You can either use that seven hours to create more art or you can have more time to play. Itís your choice. Clean it up or live with it and live less well. Thatís all there is to it. However, donít try to clean up the whole pile all at once. Start small, with a small corner and work your way out from there. Stay on top of incoming paperwork while committing a little time every day to eat away at the old. (Your trashcan is your friend. Open the mail over the trashcan. Throw away anything you do not need, immediately!) When I finished my household/studio purge, it took several Salvation Army trucks as well as dozens of hefty bags of trash to get rid of everything I wanted to get rid of. When I was done, I had so much room in my home that I was able to move my studio back into my house and now I donít have to pay studio rent anymore. 

One very poor friend got much of my old furniture and I found so many valuable books and art that I made a small fortunes selling some goodies I didnít want to collectors, enabling me to get new living room furniture and put some money into investments. De-cluttering can be very good for your spirit, but it can also be very good for your wallet.

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