By far, the most common reason people give me for why their painting has fallen to the wayside is that they are too busy or have no time. Totally understandable; I’m busy too. And the reasons are often perfectly legitimate: wife is pregnant, kid has the flu, working two jobs, etcetera.
To help you get back in the studio more, I’d like to offer one killer time-saving method, so you can get the daily grind over with faster and get back to painting sooner.
Enter Task Batching. I learned this from Tim Ferriss’ classic book The Four Hour Workweek. I’d be willing to bet there’s already one task that you batch without realizing it. That task is laundry.
Imagine if, every time you changed your clothes, you walked down the stairs, threw the old outfit in the washing machine, tossed in some soap, and ran the load. Later, you would rotate the clothes to the dryer, pull them out, fold them and put them away.
Naturally, by that point, you would need to change again, so you’d take that set off, walk down the stairs, open the machine….etcetera etcetera. The problem? If you did the laundry every single time you changed your clothes, you would never do anything but laundry!
The obvious thing that we all do, therefore, is wait until the laundry basket reaches critical mass, and then wash all the clothes at once. When you do that, you’re saving on all of the setup and cleanup time by doing everything in one go instead of splitting it up. This is task batching – grouping similar tasks together and completing them all at once to save on setup time.
We do this instinctively with our wardrobes – where else can we apply it to save time? Here are a few things I’ve played around with:
Emails. I have a different inbox for each area of my life, and I check each one once a day. Checking your emails a fifty times a day wastes precious minutes.
Cooking. Health and fitness nuts are known for cooking a week’s worth of meals all at once, often on Sunday night, and stashing it all in tupperware. That way, they’re never frantically trying to cook a healthy dish every night – it’s already made. If you don’t want your food sitting around all week, you can do this every three or four days instead.
Cleaning. Get all of your supplies out, put everything away, and clean everything at once. It’s usually possible to cover your entire space in half a day or less, while doing a better job than most people do.
What are some ways to batch tasks in the studio?
Paper. Try stretching your paper on various boards all at the same time, so you only have to pull out the stapler and go through the process once.
Practice. Instead of doing a drawing or two, then maybe goofing around with some paint – focus for half an hour at a time on just one skill you’re trying to improve. If you want to get better at drawing hands, sketch a hundred hands in quick succession.
Painting. In watercolor, you often have to lay down a wash, then wait a while for it to dry before returning to put down the next layer. Why not have two paintings going at once? That way, you can work on the second painting while the first is drying. Failing that, it’s often possible to tidy up your studio space while waiting for a big wash to dry.
Try this: write down a list of everything you do in your life, big and small. Group tasks together that require the same set of tools. Take one of your groups and knock it all out at once, striving to take as little time as possible. Time is precious: a minute here and a minute there, multiplied over the course of months and years, will add up to massive time savings.
Thanks for reading! Are you a time-management guru yourself? If so, leave your best productivity tip in the comments, so we can all benefit. Let’s get better together!