Studio vs. Business Time

Nanci Hersh. Y not.
Nanci Hersh, Y not. Wire, pulp, encaustic, mixed media collage, 26x7x1.5 inches. ©The Artist

Do you find it hard transitioning between studio and business/office time?
What kind of downtime do you need in between?
What rituals make it easier for you?
What tools do you need to help you do a better job of it?

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31 thoughts on “Studio vs. Business Time”

  1. Sure, I find it difficult sometimes to make that transition. But my tactics for handling it differ depending on the workload.
    If I have a lot of admin/business stuff to handle, I may actually decide to not even venture into the studio for a day or two, and make every effort to go ahead and clear all of the business stuff off my desk, freeing up a larger, more concentrated block of hours for the studio later.
    If I’ve got an average to small stack of things on my desk, I’ll try and keep a more steady schedule of studio time vs desk time, allocating time every day to each.
    The thing that I use for my transition is music. I always listen to music when in the studio and I can use it to break me out of that admin/business mold that was in before (although, if I can, I much prefer to hit the studio first and get my painting/drawing finished and then move to the desk and the computer).

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Robert: Music! Good one. I imagine that could be helpful. I often turn on different music (livelier) or NPR when I leave the office to cook dinner.

  2. I’m like Robert — if I have a lot of business tasks, I stay in the office and get them done. It’s expensive to heat the studio enough to work out there for just a couple of hours, and I work better in large blocks of time no matter what I’m doing.
    If I’ve been away from the studio for a few days, I ease back in with a series of short collage exercises. If it’s been a longer break because of teaching or a big writing project, I transition by cleaning the studio first to put a sense of order back in my world.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      I like that, Donna, and hadn’t heard of it previously, but it makes sense to do “warm up” exercises.

  3. I do much better sticking to my schedule of Business days and Studio days. If one goes off the rails, I just go back to the next regularly scheduled day.
    When a deadline disrupts that, I switch whole days rather than try to break them up. The moving back and forth in a day is harder.
    Like Donna, getting starting on either kind of day is easier by a bit of tidying up to set up the right frame of mind.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Monette: The friend who brought this question to my attention says she needs DAYS in between. That moving from biz mind to studio mind is huge for her. I imagine she’s not alone, but I don’t know what the answer is.

  4. For me the split is less about dividing my time between studio and office and more dividing my time between caregiving, studio, office, and adjunct teaching (which is mostly grading it sometimes seems like). I only have difficulty transitioning if I take time off from creating in order to work on the last two things. Then, because they are less enjoyable than creating, I begin to look at creating as a reward and therefore force myself away from it until I either A) catch up (not likely) or B) realize that since I’m not going to catch up and creating is the foundation for even needing office time and caregiving isn’t going to “get finished,” (and as long as the department chair is happy with my work I can fall a little behind in grading), I might as well do what I love and create!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Patricia: I’m not sure about creating as a reward. Because it should be work. I know, however, that your circumstances require studio time to take a back seat. I wonder what others here think about making art as a reward.

    2. I’ve been thinking about this and I guess the best thing to do is to give myself permission to enjoy my work. I should accept that just because my work is so enjoyable to me doesn’t mean I can’t both reward myself by working and accept my work as my endeavor at making a livelihood.
      Just because most people don’t feel this way about their work and society seems to expect that work be something we suffer through doesn’t mean I can’t break that mold for me.
      Ok, I have it intellectually. Let’s see if I can’t assimilate it emotionally. 🙂

  5. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the office lately getting ready for the website launch. I hate being cooped up inside for long periods of time so getting out in the field and taking photographs is no difficulty.
    I usually take sunset photos, so I always check sunset times and the weather at my planned destination. This way I can plan what time to leave home and I have the right clothing not to get too cold/wet/etc.
    Sometimes I may feel like taking photographs on a whim, so I always make sure my camera bag is ready, the camera is charged, the memory card is inserted. Then I can just pick up my bag and run!

    1. No, not really. I usually want to see the photographs I’ve taken out in the field on the computer straight away (I use digital). So the transition is quite easy in that sense.
      I usually like to edit the photos and then work on some other aspect of the business. I purposely try to forget what the photos look like exactly, then I look at them again and reevaluate the photos.

  6. Switching between anything on the computer and painting is very difficult. Once I get started on a project, I the other stuff melts away into oblivion. We’re all different… so whatever I begin working on first thing the in morning, I’m likely to stay with for the entire day.
    Yes, I tend to work on my marketing when I have several free hours to do so. However, I have a running list for marketing ideas.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      I think that’s how I’d have to do it, Lori. Although I imagine I could put in some studio time in the afternoon when I don’t feel like writing.

  7. I started out trying to do all my computer /business work on Mondays. That didn’t work because there was always things left to be done. So what I do now is when I get up in the morning, usually around 8-9am I get my coffee and breakfast, read the paper and do some computer work until about 10-10:30. Then exercise (3-4 days a week) and get to the studio at around noon. I work there until 6:30pm. My computer is always on and I do check emails and get hooked on facebook & twitter when not in the studio. I often go back to the studio at night (midnight or so) and work until 2-3am. It’s very quiet and peaceful.

    1. I just realized that I don’t get too much downtime. It is now 2:35am, I have been in the studio since about 11pm. I was thinking about this while working and I feel like I’m always doing something computer/studio…I haven’t had any time to read…which I would consider downtime. I listen to music or books while painting…but downtime???

    2. Alyson Stanfield

      Dora: Do you feel like it’s missing? Like you would be better off if you had some downtime?
      Your walks probably provide a good transition and may be a form of downtime.

  8. “Do you find it hard transitioning between studio and business/office time?” So glad to see this question, it gives me hope that it is something others will consider is a difficulty for others. I have a terrible time transitioning between studio and business/office/care-giving/other responsibilities.
    “What kind of downtime do you need in between?”
    For me downtime is not as important(but I do take breaks of resting, reading and relaxing between) to me as finding the time to do it all! For me I have to keep it all separate or my mind is continually focusing on what else needs to be done which leaves me not really getting anything really done or even enjoying my time, esp in the studio. That is why all business and everything else is downstairs and art & exercise are up in the studio.
    “What rituals make it easier for you?” Rituals for transitioning, have to think about that some, right now I’d say doing the art first thing when I finish waking up and have my devotional time(my bedroom is part of the studio area) then the rest of everything else gets my day, sometimes I’ll go up and do a bit more if I have a project that needs completion soon, for that transition to go back up to the studio I have to really focus on I’ve got to get up there to finish and try to block out all the distractions downstairs(which I don’t always succeed in doing).
    “What tools do you need to help you do a better job of it?” The tools I need to be a better job would be for the business side, I get so overwhelmed with what to start on first because I see too easily all that needs to be done that I shut down. I guess I need a tool to figure out how to break it all down into bit size peices and know I’ll get to all the rest in time but it not be the whole thing there in my mind(even though I’ve used a step by step book I end up wanting to get it all done all at once & again I shut down). This is something I need to think more about and reread some of your materials and books you written that I have, if you have written about this already I must have missed this tool. Rereading is a weakness of mine, which I have reread your materials a few times but I know I need it more so I will do it again.
    Loved the other comments so far too. I think I also do the clearing up and organizing my studio too when I haven’t had time to be there. As for transitioning to the business side I need more help.
    Great questions! thanks Alyson!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Victoria: Sounds to me like you don’t need to reread anything. You already know what you need: to break down the jobs in to bite-sized pieces. You probably need to add planning time to your weekly schedule. This can be a game-changer.

    2. Thanks Alyson, yes I already do break down the jobs into bite-sized pieces(maybe not small enough or maybe too small?) and I still feel so overwhelmed when I see all those bites because I still am envisioning the whole thing all at one all at the same time esp in the business side of the art. Those bites add up to a lot of bites so then the list of bites is so long that I get overwhelmed even more.
      Also I do a planning time weekly(learned this artwise from you years ago when I was in your first on-line time management class). May be it is that I have not focused enough on planning in the business part of it as well as I could, that is why I need to reread your book and your Blast offs! lessons.
      It may be also I am missing what would be a good form of transitioning for me from art to business and everything else . These transitions that others are sharing are really good things that I can learn from. Again Alyson thank you for responding so encouragingly to my comment. I love how you get straight to the point.

  9. I actually don’t have a hard time transitioning, but I’ve been running circles to get all that I want/need done. It’s not the studio/office dilemma, but it’s the fact that I still have a full-time day job and I’m trying very hard to transition to full-time artist.
    What is this “downtime” that you speak of? It sounds interesting? 🙂
    I don’t really have any rituals at the moment, but this question helps me think about what ritual(s) I can institute so that I can enjoy this process and not get burnt out.
    The biggest tool that I needed was to have a separate space for all my art stuff. I was painting in my kitchen and my office was in my living room. I ran a project to help finish building my studio in my backyard and now I’ve got a dedicated space to make my art. The office is still in my living room at the moment, but I’ll eventually move it out in the studio. It’s an awesome feeling to know that when I’m in the studio I’m going to be making art and not cooking my supper!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Will: That’s a huge issue. Having a separate space can help make the transition easier.
      When I started my business, I sold or gave away a ton of stuff from my 3-room house. I lived in a 2-room apartment and decided to give my office it’s own room. The bedroom, dining room, living room and kitchen–as they were–were all in a single tiny room. It was great! I had an office and felt official.

  10. Downtime. What is this? When was it invented? I’m serious. If the meaning is “rest” then it’s when one sleeps. But of course the modern meaning is time away from work when one “recharges one’s batteries,” as it were. Is downtime necessary if one gets enough sleep? And who of us does?
    I have begun going to a monthly caregivers support group meeting at a nearby VNA office. Is this downtime? Last month we were led through a sort of directed mediation. At one point I burst into tears and could not stop. Possibly it was cathartic (once I recovered) and I think the group meeting is indeed supportive. But is it downtime?
    I am honestly confused by this concept.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Patricia: I’m so glad you have that group.
      I think of downtime as time just for you: what you need to be whole and to rejuvenate. Did the meeting do that for you?
      I get enough sleep. I cannot function without it. On the rare occasion that I get less than 7 hours sleep, I feel it. I know what my body needs and that I do better work when I sleep 8 hours (at least!).

    2. I’ve gone to my second Family Caregivers Support group meeting. It is not downtime so much as catharsis time. It’s helpful to me because I feel less isolated and I learn more about family caregiving as an unsung and unpaid vocation. Did you – or anyone here – know that November was National Family Caregiver Month? But I am also learning to ask for and accept help. I have arranged for my brother to come over for a couple hours on Monday morning (he puts his NLS books for the blind audio-file on speaker and they “read” funny books together) and those two hours are going to by my down time. Time that I go out for a coffee and do some reading, or researching, or sketching, or writing – without worrying about my mother, without worrying about interruptions. I am so very excited!
      As for sleep… Sadly, I’m one of those people who needs a minimum of nine hours to function optimally. It will be a long time coming, but I am working harder at relaxing my mind to go to sleep earlier, after I get my mom to bed.

  11. I work in the morning – usually the office stuff which is the majority of what I do – and then transition with lunch and a dog walk to clear my mind and get ready for the rest of my day, which is all household stuff. I always let myself shoot when the mood strikes me, as it seems a bit compulsive to me and I of course don’t want to let light or conditions go to waste if I can photograph them.
    There are times when work and home bleed into each other, and I am glad that I work from home and can be flexible. But when something big is going on – a project or deadline – it is impossible to extricate the two.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Victoria: I think it’s okay to have work/personal life bleed together. Chris Guillebeau talks about this. If you love what you do, it’s impossible to separate life and art.

  12. No, I don’t usually find it difficult to make the transition. I have a full time day job in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. After work I’ll drive back to the city where I live. I find this drive to be a good separation from the day job and my art.
    For the last 4+ years my studio has been seperate from my living space in an art studio building. Having that creative space set up at all times has been great for me. Also, being able to have regular contact and feedback from other artists has helped keep me motivated. Even if I’ve worked 9 hours and commuted an hour back to the city, I find as soon as I walk in the building and my studio space that I get a second wind.
    I’m also a night person so I’m definitely more creative later in the day/evening. After 2-3 hours of painting I sometimes still have energy to go back home and work on the business stuff, update my website, blog, etc. For me, it mostly comes down to managing my time well and not wasting hours every night watching tv (although that still happens sometimes!)

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Kevin: Driving is another good transition! As much as I’m grateful for not having a commute, I sometimes miss driving each day and listening to the radio or a teleseminar on the iPod. Although, my last job was a less-than-5-minute drive through a neighborhood. Not much listening going on during that short time.

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