Devote 15 Minutes a Day to . . .

I wrote my book in 15 minutes a day. Honest! When I felt disconnected with the content, my coach advised me to “check in” with my book every day. I promised just 15 minutes a day. It worked! In a minute I'm going to show you how you can use the 15-minute trick for yourself. But first, a little background.

“How am I supposed to make art, promote it, take care of my family, exercise, and stay sane?!”

I hear this complaint—and it is a complaint—a lot. In other words, I’m being asked how to juggle all of the tasks in one’s life—or at least all of the tasks that someone WISHES they could fit in.

John Sartin jewelry
John Sartin, Pendant. Sterling /copper Mokume Gane, Sterling silver, 14k gold Akoya pearl. ©The Artist

Here’s the fact: You can’t do it all.
You will never be able to get everything done that you want to do. Get that straight and get on with things. Give up whining about not having enough time and, instead, spend your time getting stuff done.
What is most alarming to me are the artists who want to build careers but are struggling to find time to work in their studios. Here’s another fact: You cannot be a serious artist without regular studio time! You must find a way to make art on a consistent basis.
If you are one of the artists wrestling with a commitment to your studio, I have a solution: Spend just 15 minutes a day checking in with your art. This is all you need to promise yourself at this point. If you go longer, great! If it’s just 15 minutes, well, that’s okay, too.
You could spend your 15 minutes making art. This is fine if you work quickly or on a small scale, but what if you have to haul out oil paints, lots of tools, or heavy machinery? In these cases, consider spending your 15 minutes doing any of the following.

  • Sketching or going through previous sketches
  • Taking photographs for inspiration
  • Preparing to make art (sharpening tools, priming canvases, cutting paper)
  • Reading about art
  • Writing about your art
  • Studying and analyzing a piece of your art
  • Studying someone else’s art in relation to your own

However you decide to spend your 15 minutes, I suggest that it be done IN your studio or, if that’s not possible, at least surrounded by lots of your art.
Of course you cannot build a career as a professional artist by spending only 15 minutes a day in the studio, but you can use your 15 minutes to work toward a larger goal. Or, the 15 minutes can help you move past a creative block.
The point of the 15 minutes is not to try to create a masterpiece within that short time frame. The point is to stay connected with your art every day. This connection will feed you. It will make you a happier person and a less frustrated artist.
FINAL WORD: If you’re in a slump or need to reconnect with your art, devote 15 minutes a day to the studio. It shouldn’t be the last thing you do! Studio hours should be scheduled for your peak creativity time. When you procrastinate studio time, you procrastinate your career. You’re telling yourself and everyone in your life that making art is your lowest priority.


The podcast is an audio version of this article.

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28 thoughts on “Devote 15 Minutes a Day to . . .”

  1. It’s amazing! I’ve just been thinking about all this and then i read your post- and I’m still on track even though I’m experiencing a bit of a block. Thanks Alyson.

  2. Many years ago, while I was concentrating on raising kids more than my art, I did a lot of nonfiction reading. I wanted to learn about various self-improvement subjects like time management and organizational skills and the like. But I felt there wasn’t enough time in the day to read. Someone suggested to me that I read ten pages a day. Only ten. I could read more if I wanted to but ten pages was a minimum number. So I tried it. I read at the end of my day, once I got into bed. Some days, I was so tired, I fell asleep with the book in my hands. Other days, I read and read and read. After a year went by, I looked back at all the books that I had read; I was amazed! It really is true that small but consistent effort can produce major changes!

  3. Wow, this is great advice, and no doubt it works. As soon as I get into my studio, I usually end up spending a few hours there, but find I can take breaks and do a few things in between. The key for me has been to get everything set up and ready to go – then I can return to work on and off throughout the day.

  4. Great points, Alyson. The most interesting thing about 15 minutes a day is that after a couple of weeks, that 15 minutes will become a habit; and then 15 minutes will grow to 30, 45 and longer, and you’ll hardly be able to wait to get into the studio!
    On a side and unrelated note — I read thru the “tweet replies” to your great post, to find that NONE were anything more than an “auto response” type of msg, which to me is a waste of time. Still trying to figure out whether “social media” is really anything more than a short-term narcissistic fad, whether it will last and what is the truly best use. Keep up your great writing, Alyson! Laurie

  5. Alyson Stanfield

    Ann: So hopefully you went straight to the studio. 😉
    Jeanne: That’s another good one. 10 pages a day!
    Lori: Yes, have everything set up. But doing the actual walking TO the studio is the biggest step.
    Laurie: Not sure what you’re talking about when you say “tweet replies”.

  6. As a mom of three small children, I have been living by this “15 minutes a day” principle for EVERYTHING I do, including art! Fifteen minutes is about as long as my children’s attention spans, and it is amazing what you can get done in fifteen minutes. I must note that if you can’t keep your art supplies out and accessible, those fifteen minutes are spent in setup and cleanup, and nothing else gets done – so having a workspace to retreat to is essential.

  7. I originally heard of this as “You must at least touch your work daily.” But 15/20 minutes is what gets things begun. ( I use the 20 minute assignment most for my office/ promo / phone calls work)

  8. This is a principle that has served me well today. Worked on my collections which always get put on the back burner due to custom design demands. It was nice to re-introduce myself to my own creativity, so to speak.

  9. I have to say, yu speak the truth Alyson! I am teaching elementary art full time while painting and marketing my work. The essence of your post is the FINAL WORD:
    “If you’re in a slump or need to reconnect with your art, devote 15 minutes a day to the studio. It shouldn’t be the last thing you do! Studio hours should be scheduled for your peak creativity time. When you procrastinate studio time, you procrastinate your career. You’re telling yourself and everyone in your life that making art is your lowest priority.”
    Very motivating! Thank yoiu again Alyson!

  10. Wonderful post Alyson! I love the practice of doing something IN your studio everyday. I have been making a conscious effort to do that for the last 4 months. I find that it helps me to stay connected and familiar with my work. It also means that I can do any needed prep on a project so I can really hit the ground running on the days where I do have a larger chunk of time

  11. I love this post, too! Just 15 minutes before you jet off to work if that’s all the time you can find. And, it always puts a skip in your step if you can sneak in some art.
    This technique worked to get us into an exercise ritual, too! Why is the hardest part putting on the shoes?
    – Jennifer

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  13. This is such an important post and one of the most helpful ideas. I read somewhere else that you can do just about anything 15 minutes at a time. For me, inspiration comes when I go to the studio just to straighten up, suddenly I find myself painting and hours have passed. I can do 15 minutes a day!

  14. For anyone reading this that is creatively blocked or is a serious procrastinator… THIS TECHNIQUE WORKS! For years I was stuck in my tracks with my art career and kept making excuses for why I wasn’t painting. I had a studio. I had the materials. I had a life to attend to. I had a full time job… and like the rest of the world, I was so tired after working all day. I kept telling myself, ” I don’t have enough time.” But in reality, I just DIDN’T MAKE THE TIME.
    It started with the mentality of spending just 5 minutes in my studio doing ANYTHING related to my art… before I new it I was spending 15, and eventually it turned into committing to drawing a little self portrait of myself in my journal everyday.
    A year later I quit my day job! Now I am a full time contemporary landscape painter making a healthy 5 figure salary while being my own boss. A total dream!
    Looking back, I wonder what took me so long, but I am grateful for being introduced to the concept of breaking things down in to smaller achievable parts… Today I spend over 8 hours in my studio five to six days a week – Imagine the possibilities!
    I am also a serious procrastinator… an addiction I can’t seem to shake – so when I know I have a gigantic challenge with getting something accomplished (like a big commission) I remind myself to use the 15 minute technique to work through it.
    My best advice which is easier said than done… Stop thinking about it and Just do it.

  15. Angela: I really don’t know how you moms do it. You’re superwomen!
    Patrick: I hadn’t heard the “touch” thing. That’s an interesting corollary.
    Juliet: Yea! Time for the important stuff.
    Beth: Yeah, that procrastination thing is a killer.
    Jeffrey: Doesn’t it make a difference to be IN the studio? Studios should be inspirational. And as I said on my Facebook page, a studio doesn’t have to be outside of your home or a separate structure. It should, though, be a defined space–even if it’s a corner.
    Jennifer: I love “sneak in some art.” Love it! As for the exercise shoes, don’t think, just do. (She says sitting here in her walking paints without having yet gone for her daily walk.)
    Dora: That’s interesting. You’re tricking yourself to get into the studio by saying that you’re cleaning up. Most people would do the opposite!
    Jennifer P: Thanks for sharing your experience and your successes. Always nice to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

  16. Help! trying to get this social networking down to 15 minutes a day? “TweetDeck” helps but then there are all the newsletters and emails and interactions with the websites of the resalers in order to get my name somewhere in the first 1,000 images…..ohhhh myyyy feeling overwhelmed

  17. Mary,
    Believe me, I know exactly how you feel! You want to learn it all and do all the required social media stuff, which takes time, yet you need to make great art, which takes time,… then there’s all that other stuff in your life, which takes time too! (In my case, one of any number of kid-related, or other, emergencies that arise!)
    Back in October of last year. I wrote a blog post when I was feeling very overwhelmed.I coined the term for my condition: Twitteritis. I couldn’t seem to shorten my time on Facebook, twitter, etc… Here’s the link to that post if you care to read it:
    Whenever there is something new to learn, there is always a learning curve, which translates into more online learning time, but, I think eventually we can figure out how to nip it in the bud. It just takes some discipline, self-forgiveness and patience. Or maybe you can use a reverse rule of fifteen. . . Tell yourself, you’re allowed ONLY fifteen minutes day for5 facebook, newsletters, etc…., and ONLY AFTER you have spent that fifteen minutes in the studio! Set that egg timer! (Or, I guess, more contemporary advice might be to set that cell phone alarm!)
    I hope that helps!

  18. Alyson Stanfield

    Mary: I like Jeanne’s last line. Studio needs to come first. But give yourself a break when you’re learning or really using it effectively. There’s a difference between frittering away time and really getting a big boost for your time invested. (Hey, that’s a good idea for a new post.)
    Jeanne: Heading to check out your post right now. Thanks!

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  22. I’ve been in 5 shows and sold one little watercolor so I’ve given the marketing thing up for a while and I’m just creating, painting, and developing ideas. It’s a lot more fun than the mystery of marketing artwork in the dead of winter. I figure by spring I’m going to be
    able to show a mix of oils, watercolors, pastels, some abstracts and
    a few big landscapes. For now getting in the studio is super easy as I have
    lots of ideas, getting out to sell starts in June and boy I tell ya the buyers
    at any price are few and far between in Idaho.

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  25. Wow…very powerful podcast. I love the end so much….When you procrastinate studio time, you procrastinate your career. You’re telling yourself and everyone in your life that making art is your lowest priority.”
    This is so true. I had a friend in my life (she still is) that use to say alot when I told her I went to work on pottery today, “Oh your pottery thing.” I would also hang out with her and blow off pot making. But anyway…DON’T DO IT FOR ANYONE (well unless you have death in the family or some HUGE emergency). If you do this, you WILL feel horrible. Art is your sanity and if you blow it off to make other ppl happy, they will be happy and you will be miserable! I don’t blow it off anymore unless I want too now!!!

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