Tag Archives: productivity

6 Things You Can Do to Make Time for Daily Creative Practice



I shared in my last blog how I stay productive by not working for hours on end but rather working in structured chunks of focused time.

Before I quit my day job, I thought it was going to be magical having all these hours in a day to do what I love to do.  In a way, it is true.  I do have more time and flexibility to work on my art business.  But it’s also true that time is still limited, and this somewhat false idea of “having all these hours in a day” sets a tricky expectation for me as I settle into my new routine.

Let’s face it.  You’re not just doing “what you love” all the time, either.  For me, what I love the most is actually making something.  But I also manage my social media, write blog posts and newsletter (which I’ve come to love more), take and edit product photos, update my online shops, work on commission, answering emails, doing my finances, ordering supplies etc. etc. etc.  And they actually take up a lot of time!!  In fact, some days I spend most of the day doing those things and spend very little time making art.  Sigh.  That reminds me, I was telling someone when they asked me what I did at my day job that I spent majority of my time responding to emails.  Because that’s what I ended up doing all. the. timeDouble sigh.

When I had a day job, I worked for 10 hours per day, 3 days a week.  I also spent about 1.5 hours per day commuting.  All in all, it was not terrible.  I typically had two weekdays, weekends, and weeknight after work to do my art.  Time seemed much more precious then, and I treated it as such.  It also provided structure and routine in my week, which helped me to function at a higher level.  Oh by the way I read somewhere that moms are the most efficient people.  I totally believe it!!

Since I quit my day job I’ve been shifting my mindset around time a little bit.  Even though I don’t have a day job to go to, which on average took up about 34 hours per week plus all kinds of mental space, I still only have 24 hours a day.

I’m also trying to put some safeguards in place so I won’t burn out.  That means I don’t work late into the night any more, and I’m taking at least one day off a week unless I really have to work.  AND I’m planning on taking every 7th week off to step back from my day-to-day business stuff and recharge.  My first small scale sabbatical will be the week of October 5th!  I’m super excited about it and will share more later!

Anyway, going back to the issue of time management, I developed a daily creative practice when I started my 365 Day Happiness Project in April 2014.  I knew that in order to become a successful artist, I needed to put myself out there every day.  It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece every day.  Just doing the work consistently is what’s most important.  Creative muscles need to be exercised every day.  And just like physical workout, you need to be pushed just enough so you know you are capable of accomplishing something you didn’t think were possible.

The daily art practice added about 1-1.5 hours per day to my already pretty busy life with a day job, managing my art business (all the un-fun things I mentioned above), and other miscellaneous responsibilities (e.g. family time, taking care of pets, maintaining our vegetable gardens, volunteering, chores etc.)  The daily art project also involved taking a photo, editing them in Photoshop, and scheduling a post on Facebook, twitter, and blog.

On my typical work day, my schedule looked like this:

6-7:15pm: Get up, eat breakfast, pet care, grab stuff and go.

7:15-8am: Drive to the pool I used to exercise at.  It was very close to the office.

8-9am: Workout

9-9:30am: Shower, get dressed, go to work.

9:30am – 7:30pm: Work!

7:30-8pm: Commute home.  Fortunately, by this time of the day the traffic is not as bad.

8-9:30pm: Eat dinner (my husband usually cooks dinner, which is super helpful!), watch a show on Netflix, catch up, do the dishes.

9:30-11pm: Art time

11-11:30pm: Get ready for the next day and go to bed!

Here is the thing: In order to commit to having a daily creative practice, you do need to say “NO” to things.

Yes, it sucks.  But unless you have some sort of magical superpower, that is the only way you can create more time to work on your art.  Wishing there was more time won’t help you, but actually stop doing other things will.

Here is a list of things I said “NO” to in order to create time to pursue art:

  1. Paycheck and benefits from having a full-time job since I cut back on my hours at my old day job
  2. Time with my husband
  3. Earlier bedtime
  4. Binge watching shows on Netflix
  5. Following other creative pursuits (e.g. crocheting, sewing, needle-felting etc.)
  6. Seeing friends
  7. I also stopped volunteering for a group I was with for many years at the end of 2014.  It was a very difficult choice but needed to happen.  I’ve said this before, but it’s not just time we’re concerned about.  You need to have enough mind space to do the creative work, too.

Not having a day job allows me more flexibility, but I still say no to a lot of things because I don’t want to go down a slippery slope.  I remind myself that I didn’t quit my day job to relax and have fun (=I’m not retired yet :))  Because I no longer have the external pressure, I need to be even more disciplined about how I spend my time now. 

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, I still have a day job (and/or kids, or any other major responsibilities) and can’t imagine fitting in a daily creative practice!!” don’t worry, I have some suggestions!

1) Identify your big goal and write down how having a daily creative practice is going to help you achieve the goal. 

For many people, it’s difficult to make a commitment or sacrifice something if you’re not connected to the goal or a cause on a personal level.

Start out by exploring why this is important to you.  Find your internal motivation.  Why do you want to do this?  It needs to be your choice.  Not because I’m telling you to do it or everyone else is doing it.

How would your life be different if you made art every day?  How could your daily practice get you closer to your dream?  Write them down and read it whenever you feel discouraged!

2) Review your daily routine and identify “time wasters.” 

How much time do you spend scrolling through your social media feeds?  Or watching endless funny cat videos on YouTube? I know they want you to spend as long as you can on there.  Or binge watching shows on Netflix every night because some of the shows are SO addictive?  (Hello, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!)  I’m not immune to it myself, nor am I saying you can’t have any of it.

I’m just saying be mindful of how much time you’re spending on things that do not get you closer to achieving your goal.  You might need to be your own parents sometimes and say things like, “No Facebook until your daily practice is done!”

The way I manage it is: I check my email and all of my social media after breakfast and respond to everything I can then.  Then throughout the day, I post things or respond to things as I take my mini breaks between my focused work time.  I take about 15-30 minutes each time to do so depending on what I need to do and how long I’ve been working.  Once my break is over, I close all the unnecessary tabs on browser, put my phone on airplane mode, and get back to work.  Before Dinner, I check everything again for the last time that day.

We watch one episode of a show we like on Netflix during dinner, and one episode is about 40 minutes.  If I have more work to do after dinner, then I’ll do that after one episode and may resume watching more after my work is done if it’s not too late (remember I try to go to bed by 10 nowadays…)  If I had a super productive day before dinner or it’s my day off, then we splurge and binge watch something or watch a movie.

3) Think before saying “YES”

Do you like to help people?  Do you have skills other people value?  Or are you just so awesome that people want to do things with you all the time?  These are not bad things!

But saying “YES” to everything you’re invited to will definitely not help you have more time for a daily creative practice.  When someone asks you to ______ (e.g. volunteer, attend a charity event, go see a movie, babysit etc.), know it’s OK to think before giving them an answer.

“NO” is always an option.  That’s why people ask, not command.  (Note: If your friend is demanding you to do something for them, well, then it’s time to evaluate your relationship… )  People are resourceful.  They will find another solution if you can’t help them.

If you feel selfish prioritizing your needs before others’, imagine one of your closest friends saying no to one of your events because they’re working hard to make their dream come true.  Yes you might feel disappointed, but you also want to understand and support them.  You can always appreciate their invitation and let them know that it’s not a “NO” forever.

4) Schedule time and stick to it. 

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know this is my mantra.  If there is a regular time that works for you, even better.

What about getting up a little bit earlier before your family wakes up?  Or later in the evening after they go to bed?  Lunch time at the office?  Or doodle during your meetings?  If you can’t take a chunk of time, even 15 minutes would work to do a quick sketch of whatever you have.  If it takes too much time to decide what to draw every day, draw the same thing every day but from a different angle or use a different medium.  Try a different color pallet.  Draw it in different styles or proportions.  Enjoy the process!

5) Focus your goal around consistency and not how perfect it is.

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again.  Your success should be measured by the act of creating something every day and not by how perfect it is.  Oftentimes people get discouraged and quit because they have a vision of what their creation should look like, and what they make isn’t perfect.  Make it your goal to show up every day even if your work isn’t a masterpiece.  Keep showing up and practice, and you will produce higher quality work more consistently!

6) Know what works for you and your situation.

Be creative in your problem solving.  You know your situation and what works for you the best.  I’m a big fan of structure, daily routine, and public accountability, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone.  Some people prefer having more flexible tools or having a one-on-one accountability, like having a coach, to stay motivated.

I mostly share tools that work for me not because they’re better than other methods – I want to demonstrate to you that when you stick to things that work for you, you can achieve higher results.

I hope these tips were helpful!  What can you do today to get closer to your dream goal?  I’ll be back with more tools for motivation next week 🙂

Talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko




My productivity tip? Hit the pause button.

pause-button_loresHi friend,

I originally wrote this piece for my September Newsletter and got very positive feedbacks.  So I wanted to share this with you, my awesome blog reader, with some added contents!  Enjoy!

It’s already mid-September and is kind of crazy that more than one month has passed since I quit my day job!  It totally doesn’t feel like it.

I thought not having a regular routine would make my days feel a lot longer, but nope.  In fact, they feel a lot shorter than when I was juggling a day job and art.  Which is an interesting phenomenon.  Is it because I’m having fun??  Maybe.

I feel busier than ever.  My calendar is filled with back-to-back tasks.  Some days, I can only accomplish one of those to-dos and feel bad.  Days and weeks pass by, and I wonder where all of my “extra” time has gone?

Although I’m excited and motivated every day, to be completely honest, I’ve been pretty overwhelmed, too.

I dreamed of becoming a full-time artist for a long time.  And now that I finally have the life I wanted so much, I want to make everything I do count towards my success.  I push myself every day to accomplish as much as I can.  And then only a few weeks into my new artist life, I started noticing signs of burnout.

It was a day after a craft show in August. I felt so exhausted physically and mentally.  My body was aching from carrying my show supplies, too.  I didn’t want to do or think about anything.  I didn’t care about anything.  I was running on empty.

But, wait a minute.  I can’t be burned out.  I’m living my dream!  Right?

I was confused and frustrated.  Am I not cut out for this?  Do I not have what it takes to have a successful business?  Why would following a passion make me burn out?

What do I do when I feel overwhelmed and lost?  Well, I decided to follow my own advice: slow down and be kind to yourself. 

So I hit the pause button.  

Let’s think about this.  I left my day job, where I created my community and my identity for the last 14+ years, only a month ago.  It’s one of the biggest life transitions I’ve ever experienced.  No matter how exciting it is, it is also massively stressful.  Working on my business and making art non-stop, though exhilarating, would of course result in burnout if I don’t take care of myself intentionally.

I realized putting in a safeguard from burnout is probably one of the best things I could do for my long-term success.

So here are things I’ve been doing to take care of myself and be productive.  As you can see, these are small things you can incorporate into your daily life, too, if you’re looking for different tools to try!

  • I try not to multi-task.  Instead, I try to tackle one thing at a time in a very focused way.  My focused time looks like this: turning my cell phone on airplane mode, setting an alarm (anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour depending on how I’m feeling and what I’m working on), closing social media and email tabs on my browser, and letting my husband/office mate know that I’m not available (we share our home office when he’s not traveling for work).  Then I’ll just start working on one task on my agenda.  I might work on a blog post.  I might work on a new art piece.  Until the alarm goes off, I’m not checking my email or social media.  Or talk to anyone (ok, occasionally I pet my kitty if he insists).  When the alarm goes off, if I’m at a good stopping point, I’ll stop and take a break (e.g. get up and stretch, grab snacks, check my social media, email etc.).  If I’m on a roll, I’ll just keep working on it until I’m done or at a good stopping point.  After taking a break, I repeat the process to continue working on the same project or work on something else.  This method helps me avoid wasting my mental energy from switching from one thing to another.  My ability to focus has improved by following this process, and sometimes I can go for a couple of hours without taking a break!
  • I try to eat healthy meals rich with protein and good fats.  Fortunately, I never forget to eat 🙂  I get hungry every few hours and am not functional if I’m hungry.  As hard as it is, I try to minimize my sugar intake to maintain stable energy level throughout the day.  It’s easier said than done, though, because I LOVE chocolate.  I allow myself to have small amount of sugar after having a meal.  My go-to snacks lately are: pistachios, dark-dark chocolate with some coconut butter (meet Coconut Manna, my favorite coconut butter), and LÄRABAR ÜBER™!
  • I don’t check my email after dinner.  When I had a day job, my boundaries were a lot clearer because my “work” email was not on my phone.  I wouldn’t know if people had questions or needed something from me on my off days unless I go out of my way to check it from home (which I hardly ever did.)  Now things are different because my “work” and personal email come to the same inbox.  Yes, I could just read it and not respond until next business day, but it would still take up mental space if I knew those emails were waiting for me.
  • I try to go to bed by 10pm so I can get up rested and early the next morning.  I usually get up between 6 and 6:30am and go to the gym or start my day early.  It’s a nice feeling to get a couple of things done before lunch.  I have more mental energy in the morning as well and feel more ready to tackle things I don’t like, like doing my finances, in the morning rather than later in the day.  7 to 8 hour sleep is my ideal.
  • No screen time one hour before bed.  I’ve read several articles that suggest blue light from your electric devices keep your brains from producing sleepy hormone called melatonin.  My naturopath once suggested no screen time two hours before bedtime, but I find one hour to be more do-able.  It helps clam my mind and makes the transition to bedtime easier.
  • No work on Sundays.  It didn’t help that my husband was away for work most of August.  I could’ve literally kept working during all of my waking hours if I wanted to.  But it’s not healthy for me or for our relationship if I focus on my business all the time.  As a person who thrive in structure, I decided to take at least one day off per week.  Sunday seems the most convenient as the rest of the world takes the day off too, but you can designate any other days that work for you and your family.  If you don’t need structure as much as I do, taking a few hours off here and there may work although your brain still has to work on switching from work to non-work mode, and you might not get as much rest that way.  And, of course, schedule your day off on your calendar.  Otherwise, you’ll just find more things to do and keep working!

I’m not perfect and don’t always follow my own advice, but it’s been helping me feel more spacious and less drained.

It’s a fact: there will always be things to do, and you can’t always get to everything.  My learning is to be OK with not getting everything done and knowing it’s going to be fine.

Although it may feel counter-intuitive, by setting boundaries around how much I “work,” I’ve become more productive and happy.  My dream life feels more sustainable now!

As we move into the new seasons, there will be more things to do and transitions to manage.  Put your self-care plan in place before things get too stressful.  Just like everything else, daily practice will help you form a habit!  Your future self will thank you later 🙂

Thank you for hanging out with me and looking forward to seeing you next week!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. If you’re in Seattle next Saturday, September 19th, come by the Summer Parkways Event in Ballard!  I will be joining their craft fair from 10am to 6 pm.