The Art of Art Time Management or…what the heck did you do all day?

Written by Nathalie Kalbach. Posted in Art Of Living as an Artist



One of the things I struggled with most after I quit my job as a paralegal was to find structure in my daily life as an artist and …the actually find time to make art. I know a lot of people that studied art and then in order to survive and make money kind of gave up making art. Have you ever thought about all those art teachers…most of them don’t even make art anymore but they teach a generation of people to make art…just not how to maintain making art after they are done with school/college/university. To be able to make a living as an artist, have a functioning and good partnership, being healthy and on top actually make art for the art sake is not so easy to balance. I thought I would pick a random week and show you how I plan my artsy week and TRY to make it work.


Let me first show you a week this month and break it down a bit:


6am – 6-30am – reading newspaper, emails, social media

8.30am – 9am packing&traveling to workshop location in NYC

9am – 10am setting up the workshop

10am – 6pm teaching Acrylics Demystified Workshop

6pm – 6.30pm packing up and traveling home



7am – 8am reading newspaper, emails, social media

8am – 9am Breakfast and some housework

9am – 12pm editing photos and writing blog posts

12pm – 12.30pm Lunch

12.30pm – 3.30pm editing photos and writing blog posts

3.30pm leaving for NYC and meeting Julie

4.30pm – 5.30pm Dinner with Julie

6pm – 9 pm Art Class at MoMA



8 am – 9am unpacking/cleaning workshop supplies

9.30am – 10.30am Workout Kickboxing

11 am – 1 pm research , reading art history etc. MoMA Class ( I take this class to learn something…so I make an effort)

1pm – 2 pm Lunch/Errands

2 pm – 7 pm working on new designs for Jan-CHA 🙂

7 pm – 8 pm cleaning workshop supplies



9am – 10am blog posts

11am – 4pm Meeting in Central Jersey – G-Art- Project

4.30 pm – 7pm emails



8am – 9am emails, Social Media, newspaper

9am – 10am Workout VVP

10am – 10.30am phone calls

10.30am – 7.30pm Studio Time



9am – 10am emails

10am – 1pm accounting

1pm- 2pm Skype Meeting with WD

2.30pm – 6.30pm Assignment Work M.




So how do I schedule my week?


At the beginning of each week I sit down and plan out my week in my google calendar. Doing this actually makes me feel I am on top of things – I have my schedule in my hand…most of the time 😉

Whatever you put into the calendar – the most important thing is to stay focused during this time and do exactly what you intended to do!

First, I put in all the things that are given like meetings, my workout times, workshops- things that I can not shuffle around and are fixed times. This includes the Workshop in NYC but also my Class at MoMA and my meetings. In fact – those things are probably already blocked off as I put them in as they arise. And that also helps me to see what not to take on anymore – you have to say NO once in a while. I’d rather do fewer jobs and give 100%, when screwing something up and damaging a relationship or paid opportunity forever.

You might also notice that I put in my Lunch Breaks most of the time in (otherwise I forget to eat lunch)  and I also make an effort to not work in the evenings. Why? Because I have a wonderful husband that I love to cook with, eat with and spend time with and I want to keep it that way 😉 Your free time is important otherwise you start to burn out. As you might have noticed I work mostly 6 days a week- when I travel for workshops there might be 2 weeks straight without a free day, but I usually try to take one day  a week totally off. In the beginning of my artist life I worked a lot till midnight and also every day, and I felt kind of burned out and uninspired after a while. So, for myself I know, I need to get me free time worked in.


I look for the deadlines that are coming up in 2, 3 and 4 weeks and take chunks of my time in the calendar to make sure I am advancing to make those deadlines. I would say that my former work as a paralegal taught me a lot about making sure to work ahead of my deadlines. I have pre-deadlines in my calendar and sometimes pre-pre-deadlines (especially when I am relying on other people…because a lot of people are not planning !)  …yep…that is where I am bit nerdy 😉 Turning in those new licensing designs – that is a deadline and you need a lot of time for this. Doing your tax estimates on time…that is a deadline. These things are essential for my survival as an artist and for my business- there is no way I can fussy around on those ones. So get over it, put it in, plan it out.

Did I mention you have to stay focused?


And here is the most important date of the week. My date with myself – Studio Time – to create. You have to make making art a priority and show up to that date. Every week – if you cannot do everyday then at least try half a day. And I mean making art without being it assigned to anything like a deadline and project for someone/-thing. I create my canvases right now in that time. Sometimes I can only schedule in 1/2 an hour  in a week because things are going crazy- but I need it. I actually get up very early every day and do a lot of housework and other things so I won’t get distracted later or find an excuse why I cannot make my Studio Time “How am I supposed to create art if I have to do xyz” ? Ever since I make this art appointment with myself – things are going better in all directions. My art work is important – it is the WHY I do what I do for a living in the first place and if I keep this in mind all other things I do are flowing easier. I am working for this time of the week – for my personal Studio Time.





You might notice the green bar with text on top of the calendar day. These are actually my blog posts. I try to have a  blog post up every second day. Often times things I create in my Studio Time will of course be part of a blog post. Blogging is a lot of work– I won’t lie. Editing photos, writing everything and trying to make sense is quite labor intensive- but I love it and it is a big part of my artist work. I plan several weeks in advance and try to write several blog posts at once and schedule them. Planned blog posts are indicated as red  and those that are already written and scheduled are green. Here you can see how my calendar looks right now:



The  hardest in managing your time as an artist is  to find out how much time you really need. Having an electronic calendar which let’s me move things around and also let’s me keep track of how long I actually needed is key. Meaning if I took longer, I go back in and adjust the times. It makes me refine my estimates. In the beginning I was like “oh two hours for a several blog posts are enough”  and then I found out the hard way that I am the slowest poke ever on doing them…I need way more time when anticipated.  So, just plan this in- there is no reason to lie to yourself and make you feel bad every time you do not make the wrongly estimated time frame. Be realistic!


So, does my Art Time Management Plan work every week? Nope… I am still a perfectly imperfect human being…and that is quite ok 😉 I am still working on it. And of course I know everyone has a different life- some artists I know have kids- that makes it a bit harder- but yet again, the same planning can help. Maybe this helps you to plan your own artsy week, or maybe you really just always wondered what the heck I am doing the whole long day 😉 What tips do you have to manage your art time?

Have a gorgeous one!






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Comments (10)

  • Jackie P Neal


    Great post Nat! Very informative and helpful! “) Thanks for sharing with us-


  • Steph Martel


    I LOVED this post! A behind the scenes peek is so helpful as I try to navigate the world of becoming a full time artist. I know it’s a process, but it’s so helpful to hear how others balance their life + work and stay happy 🙂 Thanks for the insight!


  • Caroline Leplat


    What a great organisation. I should do it too. I love being an artist but I combine it with working full time and commuting daily to work. Soo in the end I end up doing a lot of frustrations about things not getting done and not much sleep as I keep working till 1 or 2 am and I have to get up at 6 for work.
    Formal planning could give me a much efficient time management more creative time.
    I’ll have to investigate this asap.


  • Tricia


    Thanks, Nat! This is so helpful! I’m always wondering where all my time has gone and why there’s never enough time to make art. I’m going to have to find my “nerdy” side and schedule it!


  • Sue Clarke


    Great post Nat. I find that by the end of the night I just don’t have the energy to get my supplies out so I’ve recently started to work in my art journal in the morning and it gives me a good vibe for the rest of the day.
    I would hate to see someone not making art while trying to make a living at being and artist. Sound advice from you.


  • Seth


    Such an important topic and informative post. I have always found it ironic that the longer I have been committed to art…the less time I have to actually make it. Especially for myself. Scheduling it in and making it a priority is definitely a key!


  • Christine


    Thanks for posting this! I need to work on not working too much in the evenings!


  • sherri scott


    What a great blog! It was a lesson for me and I must take the lessons you took the time to share to act upon. Taking time for housework, that’s a biggie, taking time away from the studio to spend time with a partner is also very important. I’m glad you spelled that out


  • PamelaArtsinSF


    Thanks to Seth I found this link to you — loved seeing your week in art. And now I am going to explore the rest of your blog and online classes.


  • Marjie Kemper


    This is really helpful info, Nat… just came over via Seth’s link and it was like a lightbulb going off when you said your art time was personal art time, and not for a project/deadline/etc. TFS!


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