Saturday, January 22, 2011


Two weeks ago I drafted a timetable for myself.
My days are now broken into sections on somewhat of an hourly basis. For example in the photo at the top of the page, I had allocated about an hour in the morning to do administrative work; then I spent the next hour and a half on commercial work; I had a conference call with a client at 1pm, after which I headed into Manhattan for an appointment later that afternoon; following this I went to the gym for about an hour; returned to my studio in Brooklyn to work on commercial work until about 8pm. It seems somewhat militant, I know, but for so long now I've wanted to breathe life into some projects that have existed on the margins of my career; however, I haven't understood how to incorporate them into my daily routines. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been reading some books which have helped me organize myself better throughout the day. It's very common sense: the authors describe the need to organize and prioritize one's tasks in order to be productive. I've believed for a very long time that I was a very organized person, but somewhere in the root of my brain, I knew that this wasn't entirely true. I have always worked hard, but now I realize that I have never worked smartly.

I am very good with deadlines, and in the past nine years, I think that I have only missed one , which was during a sketch stage. In retrospect, I understand why this happened (which was near the end of last year) because I had spread myself too thin; I took on too many tasks, worked on too many projects, and as a result I could feel myself edging towards the brink of a burn-out. I'm familiar with this feeling, where I've pushed myself to my limits, having taken on so much work partly out of the fact that I wanted to, but also because of my own psychoses. To beat a dead horse, 2009 and part of 2010 were not great years for me financially, and so in essence I felt fearful that if I didn't take on nearly every project that came my way, that I would regret it.

This time I'm trying a different course of action. Whether or not it works, who can say? But in the meantime, things are going very well. As freelancers, we are not bound to any kind of structure. We can be as free as we would like, choosing to work at home, or in a separate studio, alone, or with our friends and peers. There are no hard and fast rules to help us succeed because the products that we create - our pictures - are made up of an aesthetic and vocabulary that is primarily shaped by who we are, our own tastes, which appeal, or don't appeal, to whoever our audience happens to be (sidenote, I understand that an illustration is dependent on other things such as a story, or article, but my focus here is on the elements of the style of a picture, those superficial qualities that help set it apart from other illustrations). Of course crossovers exist such that genres of illustrations, or styles done by several Illustrators appear similar to one another; however, despite the visual similarities, the work methods that one illustrator might employ towards his/her business of promotion and advertising, might not work for another. Yes, there are some basic methods that a young illustrator can use in order to get his/her first... or second... and then third job... but then what's next? I think that I've finally realized that I have lacked a kind of accountability within my profession. Although meeting deadlines, and paying taxes are only 2 forms of that; still, throughout the day, much of my time is oftentimes wasted on things that lay outside of whatever the focus of my tasks should be. It's human nature, I know.
But also I have the tendency to spend too much time on one thing or another, which is not only time wasted, but energy as well.
This idea of accountability means that I can keep track of what I do throughout the day. Weeding out those tasks that might be extraneous, while spending quality time on each of the projects that I have in front of me, means that I can leave the studio at a reasonable time. Of course there are moments when my timetable needs to flex for whatever reason, but more or less, this hourly to-do list is working so far, and is giving me the kind of structure that I believe is working for now.

*The photos above are of my U/V light table that Mikee built for me so that I can silkscreen. I put it on hiatus since the summer, but I'm using it again. Heads up for some new silkscreened projects. To be continued...


MJC *-* said...

Hey Marcos, very nice blogpost! I'm very interested in timemanagement and balancing your life because i think it's very important for your business.

I've got a book that you are going to LOVE. I want to read it like 3 times. It's called: "The business brain book" by Jan willem van den Brandhoff. I googled it for the English version but it's not available on Ebay. Hmmm...:(
The book really got you motivated about lifegoals, balancing your business and personal life, mindmaps, scientific tests about the brain. The book is really creative and fun.

Anyway. What really helped me with my workflow is keeping a little book with me. And every month i write down my month targets. Every week I write down my week targets (based on the month targets). And every evening i write my "to do list" for the next morning.
It's based on this idea:
If i didn't finish a task it will move to the next day. It's sooo helpfull for me...really!

But what about your new plan? Do you want to break your projects into little pieces because you can focuss better for one hour? That sounds like a nice plan! Write more about it on how you keep it up!If you have nice tips, let them know, because it's nice to mix it up wih things i'm allready doing.

MJC *-* said...

Ohmy god. I write so much. 0-0

blissful chick said...

this all sounds very reasonable :)


I would absolutely love to know what books you are reading! I'm still in school for Illustration and soon, Painting but I'm having the same problem with my projects. I need a schedule because rather than work one hour on this and one hour on that like you're doing, I work one day on this and one day on that and etc. It was working well at first but now I can see that I could be getting a lot more done while feeling less burnt out.

And if this is what it's like while I'm still in school, I'm scared to know what it's going to be like when I'm in the real world!