Monday, November 27, 2017

The Power of Routine: Part 1

This year has been full of adventure and change. We moved across the country (from California to Florida), got married and for the first time in my career I have had the opportunity to pursue art full time!

All of this really began last fall. We had been talking about my art career for months. I love to tell stories with pictures, but it never seemed to go anywhere. I was ready to give up and relegate it to the “hobby slot” in my life. To have a solid opportunity to not only pursue art, but to do it full time seemed like a faraway dream!

After multiple conversations my husband and I came to an agreement: move across the country to Florida and spend a full year dedicated to making art. It was a devastating but necessary change. I felt I needed to take that leap of faith and go all in or I would regret it in the long run.

Scoot forward a couple of months and here I am, suddenly a full time, freelance artist! Change is exciting, but it is also SO scary! Here’s what I realized after the first week on the job:

  1. I LOVE making art every day. It’s AMAZING!
  2. I need to be consistent in order to attract clients and work
  3. I need a consistent portfolio that I feel confident showing potential clients

In many ways, I was starting from scratch. I was making a lot of new work, but I often felt that I was running in circles with no clear vision of what I needed. Although I was putting in 12 - 14 hours daily, I still wasn’t feeling satisfied with what I was accomplishing. So I started doing some research to solve this problem.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. You really can’t go on an adventure without a map - Big picture goals are the guides that get you to your destination

  1. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step - Breaking big picture goals into bite-sized tasks is necessary to keep from getting overwhelmed

  1. Plan your tour before you go - Prioritizing your goals helps define your daily routine

  1. It’s okay to get off the beaten path - It’s great to have a daily routine, but if something isn’t working don’t be afraid to be flexible or take a break!

First I needed a map. What are my goals as a freelancer? Do I want to focus solely children’s illustration or do I want to branch out more? If I branch out, what other types of work should I add to my portfolio? Do I want to work with companies who are known nationally/internationally or do I want to appeal to the local community as well?

Once I had those questions answered I needed a way to break things down into bite-sized pieces. First, I tried bullet journaling thinking it would be fun to create goals and lists that broke down each step. Unfortunately, that method didn’t work for me. I spent more time making pretty pages than I did actually organizing my goals and time. I then tried going straight to a calendar planner. I tried to break down every hour with what I thought I should be doing. This left no room for flexibility and added unnecessary stress to stay on schedule. In the end, a good ole’ Google Spreadsheet saved the day.

I broke my big picture goals into categories such as (Marketing, Portfolio, etc.). Then I created smaller goals/projects that fit into each category. For example “Update Website” was a project listed under “Marketing”. Then I took the time to break each project into tasks.
Once I had a list of tasks for each project I began working to create a daily routine. I have discovered it’s important to keep my routine simple so that I can still have flexibility throughout the week. Right now my routine has manifested into two “To Do” lists.

The first is my Weekly List. At the beginning of each week I look carefully at all of the outstanding projects and their deadlines. Then I decide how to best tackle each one so I can move forward and meet deadlines efficiently with (hopefully) no stress. I ask myself questions like “Which of these projects is going to take me the longest?” “Is there any project or piece of a project I am struggling with?” “What am I excited about working on right now?”  The answers to these questions help define what will go into the Weekly List.

I try to take a variety of things and space them out so I am not doing a ton of things I am not excited about all week or really spoiling myself by only doing the things I am excited about and neglecting other projects that will be helpful to me later.

After all of those decisions are made, I take all of the tasks and divide them into 5 smaller lists. Each of those lists becomes a Daily List. I try to keep Daily Lists between 8-10 tasks (depending on how long I think each task will take). This becomes my road map for each day so that I have clear goals, but it also allows me to look ahead so that I can still be flexible enough to take breaks or seize other opportunities that pop up.

There are definitely days that I don’t feel motivated or productive, but I have noticed that giving myself structure and clear goals has helped me be more productive and a lot less stressed on this new adventure!

What are some things that you do that help you feel more productive or give you structure each day?

 ~Jeslyn Kate
Jeslyn Kate writes/illustrates for children and teaches art.
You can find her work at 
these different locations:
Twitter: @jeslynkate

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