An Art Student’s Guide to Time Management

An Art Student’s Guide to Time Management

In general, all art projects take on the same basic developmental structure. Professors may ask for different types of documentation from these stages but regardless if they ask for proof or not, creating an effective project will include allocating time appropriately. And, of course, finding the time to accomplish these goals.

The Role of the Creative Process

Creativity is a process, not a talent that you either have or do not have.

As explained in the video, the creative process can be broken down into 4 essential stages. In the first stage (Preparation) you research or learn material that relates to your idea or assignment, in the second (Incubation), you allow your mind to wander and do other things while your idea mingles with others. In the third stage (Illumination) something magical happens – connections collide and surface in your conscious mind so that you can grasp them and work through them. This is the often referred to “light bulb” moment.

Many students mistakenly feel like this is the last step – that once the insight occurs the rest of the project will just fall into place. But, there’s one final stage (Verification) left! In the last stage of a well executed creative process you have to apply your creative thinking skills and all kinds of stuff you’ve learned about how to communicate your ideas effectively in order to ensure that the message you’ve decided on is presented in a way that is clear and relatable.

The cognitive stages of the creative process can easily be rushed or even skipped in an effort to expedite the completion of a project that’s been put off to the last minute.

When students fail to accommodate time for the creative process, projects lack significant substance and feel less meaningful and less intentional regardless of how technically proficient they may be executed. While less experienced eyes may not recognize differences between these works and others, professors, portfolio reviewers, and admissions advisors will immediately discern what is missing.

“Crafting your Message”

In the Verification stage you are tasked with defining your message and developing the way in which you communicate your idea to the viewer. This begins with clearly identifying what you’re trying to say so that you can then relate all of your decisions back to whether or not the choice supports (or doesn’t support) the original intent (or message).

Muddling through and making it up as you go can lead to disjointed work that is chaotic or unresolved.

Becoming skilled in composition and the language of design (and exploring your ideas through thumbnails and preliminary investigation) is an essential part of becoming more fluent in the visual language of art. While foundations course introduces these concepts early on in your academic path, it is up to you to continue to apply and explore these ideas in each and every project you encounter.

Hard work and practice is the only way that you’ll begin to feel more confident in your capability to judge how effective your decisions truly are.

Anticipating A Timeline for Completion

Once you’ve investigated options about how best to communicate your concept you have to get to work and execute your actual work of art. Fortunately, while many times it is easy to feel anxiety about starting a work, you will likely find this much easier once you have fully applied yourself to the first 3 stages of the creative process.

Creating a personal timeline that fits within the perimeters of your class assignment is an helpful strategy to ensure the successful completion of your work on time. This helps you avoid unnecessary loss of points and also makes sure that the time you do spend is not in vain.

At the start of each new assignment identify your key class deadlines. In general, your time will likely be split up into some variant of the following percentages:

  • 20%     Preparation: research
  • 10%     Incubation: thinking
  • 20%     Illumination: pulling it all together
  • 50%     Verification: crafting your message (20%) and doing the work (30%)

Create a timeline that reflects the basic percentage allocation listed above and start by dividing your timeline in half. If you have 2 weeks until the due date, you’ll be giving yourself a full week for the first 3 stages of the creative process and the other week for the last.

What is critical here is that you provide yourself some flexibility and that you take into consideration your other obligations in the process of planning your timeline.

Evaluating Your Available Time

So the question is – where do you fit that time in? In an average 7 day week you have 168 hours available to you. Because getting enough rest is important in order for you to maintain focus, on average you’ll be sleeping (ideally) at least 7 hours per night. This provides you 119 hours of waking time available for all of your obligations.

Evaluate how you spend the remainder of this time based on 7 days of your schedule. As a student, it is likely that your MW and TR are relatively similar so you can save time by combining these days. However, you can also evaluate each day individually to determine where your time goes more accurately.

How much time is devoted to essential and unavoidable tasks first and foremost? In addition to the work, class schedule, and the commute that you are currently obligated to fulfill, sleep, eating meals, personal hygiene (shower, getting ready, etc.), and exercise should be immediately evaluated. These tasks are critical to your overall health and well-being and are important responsibilities to maintain if you wish to achieve your personal goals.

The remaining time is what is open to you for tasks that are equally important but less regimented – i.e. flexible obligations. While completing homework and studying are the most obvious uses of this time, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, cleaning, running errands (like going to the bank, getting gas, etc.), getting your hair cut, going to the doctor, etc., are also uses of time that are considered expected components of a healthy life style.

The extra time is what is generally spent fulfilling personal pursuits and entertainment. It is not unusual as a college student to have little – if any – remaining time for this. Frequently students make the mistake of prioritizing free time at the expense of critical objectives such as studying for a test, cooking a healthy meal, or getting sleep. While this feels like a good decision at the time, the result is heightened stress and anxiety, a possibly inability to meet deadlines or complete goals as expected, or even poor physical health.

Using a planner works for some people but not for everyone. The rigid and limited structure of some student planners can feel constricting for some students. Like sketchbooks, planners are a deeply personal space and an individual’s preferences and aesthetics will influence your choices. What works for one person may not work for everyone so it’s important to experiment until you find a structure that works for you.

While some people may work well with a detailed hourly schedule of time this practice may not be sustainable for everyone. It’s important to make manageable changes that can be maintained over a longer period of time and to set goals that are achievable but still meaningful enough to make a difference.

A few suggestions to explore:

Try to track your time with free printable templates. While Word programs provide plenty of calendar templates for you, individuals who love to plan have also created their own helpful formats that can give you the edge you need.

Bullet journals are a helpful way of tracking a huge variety of tasks or objectives in your life. It’s essentially an extension of list-making and a good way to manage a chaotic set of personal goals or expectations.

You can also check out more technology friendly methods of keeping track and putting things in order with a variety of apps and websites to make you more productive.

Avoiding Distractions

Personal pleasures are a good way to maintain your mental health and motivation when working through stressful objectives but when you are aware of how much time is spent on less important tasks you can begin to make choices that reflect your real priorities and eliminate “wasted” time that doesn’t support your goals.

It is very critical to find ways to minimize distractions while you journey to your destination. Sometimes it is simply a matter of making more conscientious decisions about the distribution of your priorities in the time you have available.

For example, if you find yourself with 3 hours of free time one evening, spend 2 hours fulfilling your obligations and 1 hour doing something completely fun – like playing your favorite video game. Perhaps you’ll enjoy your game time even more without the burden of some of your responsibilities weighing on you.

The choice to pursue a higher education is not an easy one. If you choose to work while in school, you will understandably have less time to devote to your studies. The thing to remember is that your education is a temporary time in your life that will hopefully lead to a better career and more options for your future. But it is just that – temporary.

Maintaining Perspective

If you find yourself struggling one semester the best thing to do is to determine what isn’t working well and trouble shoot possible solutions as well as you can. Next semester you can make different choices that will hopefully be more effective.

Adaption is the key to success in college – be open and flexible while keeping your eyes on the prize. You’ll get there faster than you think.

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