Marketing Mondays: Working Too Many Hours?

Image from the Internet

Just before my recent bout with back pain, I was working from 9:00 am to 3:00 am, with a few hours out of that total for non-art errands and activities. The rest of my time was some combination of studio practice, blogging, administrative work, and going out to look at art. And it went by fast!  Didn't I just get up to start the day? Oh, wait that was yesterday. My job is interesting but 15 hours a day, seven days a week, is two full-time jobs and and a part-time job. And like most of you, I have no perks like vacation, holidays off or company-paid health insurance.

So recently when the sciatica hit, I was forced to spend the better part of a month semi-drugged on the couch. Talk about a screeching halt.  Let me tell you: Time goes by really slowly when you're just lying there (even if you've gotten hooked on NCIS, which seems to have its own channel).

Now that I'm more or less better and back to work, time has speeded up again. I'm fortunate that my "outside jobs" are art related and that most of what I do can be done from an office in my studio, but I'm back to putting in too many hours. If the sciatica has taught me one thing it's that I have to slow down.

I'm trying.

No, I'm not giving up this blog, and I'm certainly not going to stop painting and exhibiting, and I'm not giving up the painting conference that I founded and run. But I am going to think twice about the other ways I have used my time. I've cut way back on Facebook, for instance. E-mail too. Delete, delete, delete. Do I have to participate in every exhibition that comes along? Noespecially if it requires packing and shipping, paying for the shipping, and has no catalog or web presence. I figured this out a long time ago but, you know, the siren call to show is strong. 

There's more. I've stopped writing letters of reference for friends and colleagues. I wish them well, and I hope they receive the grants and residencies they apply for, but I don't have the time to get pulled into their efforts. (As I wrote in a MM post a while back, Enough with the Reference Letters, I don't apply for any grant that requires letters of reference because they're a time suck for others. Hell, I hardly ever apply for grants, period, because they're a time suck for me.)

And more. Do I have to accept every speaking engagement that offers a "small honorarium"? No. If an institution can't meet my established fee, I can't work for them. I'm sorry to say that I've contributed to your low honorarium by having accepted pittances in the past. (Honorarium = minimum wage for your invaluable professional expertise.)  I have found that the preparation, time and travel involved in a speaking or teaching engagement has sometimes cost me more than what I was being paid. One thing is for sure: the folks who are inviting me or you to speak all have wage-paying jobs with benefits. Let's not let them nickel and dime us.

There are some exceptions.
. If you're early in your career, you're probably trying to get your work out there as much as possible. Go ahead, show. But it's still smart to be discriminating about exhibition opportunities (Coffee shops? Restaurants? Community centers? Be choosy.)
. And even as you progress in your career, you may agree to speak or demo or participate on a panel for free. I have organized and/or participated in a number of blogger panels and events over the past few years, finding that outreach--to work with colleagues I admire, to promote my blog, or just because the topic is interesting--was a worthwhile tradeoff. My colleagues, established artists and bloggers all, must have felt the same, too, because we've all given our time for free.

But back to cutting back on activities. I'm not sure how much my cutbacks will help. I am still a Type A who likes to work. But I'm really, really going to try. My well-being depends on it.

Of course there's a larger point to this post, and it's about you:
. How many hours a week do you work?
. Do you feel it's too much?
. Have you experienced work-related stress or illness?
. Have you been able to cut back?
. Have you accepted too many low-wage jobs?
. Do you still?
. When was the last time you took a vacation?

I'm not asking you to respond specifically to these questions, but as you consider them, please tell us a bit about your work habitsor, more likely, your overwork habits.


Anonymous said...

I teach art online so I know working at home is a big time-suck. Part of my teaching requires me to learn new software and I'm now putting up a *teaching website*. I have to also submit proposals and make my own art so I'm glued to my computer. I try to go to the gym in order to get my heart pumping but that's another 2 hours out of my day - minimum (driving and shower time). I know the feeling, Joanne - Where did my day go? Add another hour for walking my dogs. I rarely have time to cook or clean. I haven't a clue what to cut back on. Looking forward to seeing other responses. As always, good topic!

Ben Stansfield said...

I'm guessing you would not want me to aspire to your levels of workaholic-ness, but I do tend to hold this kind of work ethic in high regard. I don't spend nearly this many hours at work, even adding in all the time I spend looking at art, admin, and sloshing my brain around thinking about pieces or work in general, and what I want to do next.
I don't feel it's too much. Not enough.
I have accepted too many low-wage/no-wage jobs and gigs.
I don't still do these, though.
I last took a vacation in 2009, when my partner and I went back to Vancouver to visit family and friends, and I helped a friend pack for her move.
I haven't tried convincing the people I show with the stop with the coffee shops and restaurants, but I don't do them myself. I've also stopped applying for all but the best local outdoor show, and a well produced local indoor fair.

David A. Clark said...

I'll admit it. I love working. I must say though that working for myself makes it much harder for me to step back and say, "Good Job." And it's almost impossible for me to take a day off. I'm in my studio or office most days by 6am and I work most days until 4pm when I reluctantly have to stop to shower and make dinner. I love having a great work ethic. It has gotten me far in my life as an artist across many disicplines, but it would be nice to allow myself a good afternoon with a book without thinking about what I could be making or that I should somehow be doing something more productive. As I get older I realize that I cannot stand in my studio for 10 or 12 hours at a stretch without paying for it with several motrin so, I imagine I will have to adjust my relentless drive at some point. I often wonder if the drive comes from the fact that because as artists we often do not get much external reenforcement that what we are doing is worthy, and we seldom get lots of positive encouragement from the world at large, so I find myself always thinking about what's next and what I can do to make myself and my work better. How can I push myself and my work to be better. How to stretch and deepen. That all takes work, but it would be nice to occassionally sit back and look at all I have done and say "Good Job. " and believe it.

Anonymous said...

I love working! Simply love it. (by working, I mean art making) When I was younger, I would push myself to exhaustion because, I was enjoying myself and couldn't wait to see what was around the corner. As I've gotten older, I've learned to take better care of myself and try to have a more "rounded" life. Since I quit "working for the man", my husband and I have established "work hours and family hours". This has helped with the overworking thing but...let's be frank. I am thinking about art most of the time. Even when I'm not in the studio.
I've worked a whole slew of low paying jobs for money, and not only did it burn me out but, stressed me out. The end result of that was, there wasn't much energy or juice to be creative.
Something I've learned in the past year is you have to guard your time, lots of folks would like you to work for next to or free. Since I teach on occasion, I've started using that hourly wage as my base fee. It is probably still very cheap but...I'm still new to the scene and getting my name out there. How I choose whether to do something, or not is how much time it is going to take away from the studio, will it distract me from what I am doing, and more importantly...does it make me sad or bummed. If it isn't fun or inspiring, I'm weeding it out as a distraction!
As always..great post Joanne!

warmwinter said...

Joanne--I have been thinking a lot lately about not having enough time to do all of the things i need/want to do. I am an older student in a BFA program--I have classes, homework, my own art making, art business (documenting my art, researching galleries, etc.) and also need to support my fellow students/artists by attending openings, and also want to attend artists talks, and also need to go to museums, galleries, also need time to read art history/theory/criticism as well as art blogs like your own. And then of course there is the need to have time to do absolutely nothing, which is very important....I haven't got it all figured out and usually feel inadequate to all of the tasks i have set for myself. i've gotten pretty good about saying no to distractions (things i don't want to do....interruptions....housework) but there is still a need for time for "selfcare" (showering, etc.) Thanks for posting your work schedule--it is very helpful to learn about what other artists do to make their lives work better. (although I know now that I will never be able to ask for references from instructors without feeling pretty bad about it....) ps. I love your blog--you're a very generous person.

Julia said...

I feel your pain...well, not quite your pain. My health has been good although the dark circles under my eyes and the "Boy, you look tired!" comments seem to tell me another story. I am fortunate (maybe) to have one of those Corporate jobs in an unrelated field that pays me a salary with benefits. (Yes, I am thankful to have a job.) However, the 40 to 50 hours is turning into 50 - 60 (+overnight travel)because of downsizing, but increasing responsibilities labeled as opportunities. I am trying to make it as an artist too. In addition to entering art shows I am in a year-long artist residency with four other artists. (3 co-coordinated shows for the year) I'm still wondering if this was a good thing because of the stress-level of collaboration.(10+ hours a week meeting, emailing, talking on the phone.) Oh and making the art...what? I try to get in a 10 hours every week. And pump it up to 20+ when deadlines get close. Plus, I teach improv classes a few nights a month and take on an outside consulting client as I try and build my Plan B job (consulting business) while working on my Plan A (art) job while working my Plan C (pay the bills and keep the cats fed job.) Oh yes, the clean/repair the house (I caulked the tub this weekend!), be a loving and active partner...and have a little fun. I started a Uke club.

Your post is timely. I have been thinking about what activities are furthering my happiness and Plan A goal. I haven't had a giant light bulb go off with the answer, but I did start a no technology day so my precious hours don't get sucked up in email and facebook. Computer off, phone off, engine off. Two Saturdays in a row free and I feel a little more grounded. Also, I have shed somenegative people in my life either by stepping away from the relationship or setting clear "you will not suck my life energy out of me" boundaries. Both good first steps for me. Thanks for the post Joanne.

LXV said...

How many hours a week do you work? It's hard to tell, because I've never been able to differentiate between work for myself and work for my freelance clients. My own work is sometimes a bit unfocused, but it never stops because of the guilt (oh, that!)
Do you feel it's too much? No, but I have at times felt that way.
Have you experienced work-related stress or illness? Yes, I am less than one year post-op a hip replacement. The past two years have been a huge wake-up call about what I can expect to accomplish in this life.
.Have you been able to cut back? I've been forced to cut back. Against my will and I barely recognize the person I am now, so limited, with so little stamina, but with an entirely new orientation.
Have you accepted too many low-wage jobs? Yes, all my life and I don't know if the fault lies with me for accepting them, or if it's just all there is out there for me. I'm to weird to fit anyone's job description.
Do you still? Well, I can get a good hourly rate now for freelance work and I am a bit more choosy.
When was the last time you took a vacation? What is that? Never took one in my life.

With all that said, I have to confess that I am more of an artist than ever, and it is the only thing I have ever really been. My gallery folded up on me, but I am making more and better art than ever. And I don't give a F-F if I ever sell any of it. I used to preach "process, process, process" and now I am living it for real. But the 60th birthday looms and everything is falling into place.

Donna Dodson said...

How many hours a week do you work? 30h for my day job and another 85 in my studio.
. Do you feel it's too much? Yes and No. I love to work but in some ways it seems anti-social.
. Have you experienced work-related stress or illness? Thank goodness, not in a long time.
. Have you been able to cut back? I've had to cut back on seeing art, traveling to see shows, and exercise time in order to keep up with my exhibition schedule.
. Have you accepted too many low-wage jobs? I never apply to shows, grants, exhibitions with a fee and I always try to get paid for my time, but even with that, I had over 20 shows, residencies, collaborative works this year.
. Do you still? No. I continue to build on the relationships I have and try to create new ones. The challenges for me are more like, I wanted to be more busy and successful, what do I think that looks like? (I'm also working alot harder but making more money)
. When was the last time you took a vacation? This summer, & last Christmas, but before that in 1998! Being in a relationship/ partnership helps in so many ways but it can also add stress and new challenges.

Kesha Bruce said...

How many hours a week do you work?
I only work about 50-60 hours a week. Please catch hint of sarcasm on "only".

Do you feel it's too much?
Not as long as I have my afternoon nap at least 3 times a week. I manage just fine.

Have you experienced work-related stress or illness?
Definitely! Exhaustion, back pain, laryngitis, repetitive motion injuries---you name it.

Have you been able to cut back? I've cut back from 70 hours a week and my entire life has improved.

Have you accepted too many low-wage jobs? Nope.I'm very lazy.

When was the last time you took a vacation? I take a 1-week Greek island luxury resort vacation every year--complete with a private swimming pool.It costs more than my first car---but it's my reward for working hard all year.

Otherwise....what's the point? said...

I am up at sunrise and I work until sunset. Darkness is the limit to my day. Painting takes up most of the working hours with record keeping, emails and general organizational tasks taking up the remainder. I have to do some walking and yoga to keep physically up with painting on my feet.

I apply for very few juried shows because I no longer will do online submissions. I no longer teach. I do only one demo a year.

In another job , far away, I did experience stress and learned from that how to pace myself and prioritize.
I have found the time that I put into painting is the time that gives me back the largest return both financially and
emotionally. As they say at MIT - there is no Hocus Pocus that takes the place of focus.

Fleta Monaghan said...

This year a family illness forced me to step back from all my activities at the studio - administrative, teaching, painting, promoting, all of it. I had been working myself so hard and it was showing. during this period of forced temorariy retirement I was able to reevaluate just what it was I really wanted to do and to make a committment to focus on the important things for me. These are painting first, running the studios and gallery, teaching/mentoring advanced professional painters and more painting. No more drop in critiques for just anyone allowed, and no more teaching beginning classes. Someone will show up to fill those gaps, and someone did!! I am back to work, and still working too hard, and sometimes slipping into things I would prefer not to do, but my boundaries are clearly visible and easy to see now. And, if I'm tired there is nothing like watching an episode of NCIS, I am hooked now too.

Anonymous said...

For myself it comes down to time management and how to balance all things in life in a well-rounded way: making art, earning a living, socializing, traveling, reading, family and so on. I work 35 hours per week at a decent-paying job with benefits. At this job I am surrounded by inspiring, hardworking people who are not involved in the arts at all. I get to observe how they work and are successful in their chosen fields and I try to apply this to my life's work. For my painting I work in the morning before I leave for the office, after I arrive home and on weekends. Before an exhibit I use vacation days to dedicate more time to completing projects. This strategy has been working for me and I have enough shows and sales to keep me busy , engaged and interested in growing. For sure there are times when I wish I had more time for the art and I am considering reducing my hours at my job. I do enjoy the stability of a steady paycheck so I can afford a nice place to live in a great neighborhood near my job. The health benefits have been a godsend as the inevitable woes increase with age. But I try to live a frugal live and exercise regularly (it helps when you do not own a car). I think that I exhibit the same if not more than my other artists friends who are in varying situations. It comes back to time management and working consistently. Paintings get finished, find homes while I try to keep my life and interests well-rounded. Thanks Joanne - it's interesting to read how we all "go about it"!

Anonymous said...

I work full time (which these days is only about 38h/week) and do my best to get studio time every day. Right now I'm preparing to move my mom in with me so I can take more care of her than the one day/week she's been getting. I understand the temptation to work until you can't work any more but it's really a losing proposition. If I didn't meditate every day, walk, read, and try to get a decent night's sleep, my work would suffer more than it does already.

LXV said...

Joanne, by the way, I'm sorry about your back problem. Sounds as though you're beginning to get past it. These physical setbacks are a real comeuppance for a person as actively engaged as you are in so many vital pursuits. It feels like such an insult to be laid low, but it offers lessons about what really matters. Feel better!

Mead McLean said...

This is a great question.

My work schedule varies like the seasons and tides. I find that I'll work in my studio non-stop for about 3-6 months, then I'll stop almost completely to read, hang out, look at art, write, draw, make art casually, do some small works and studies, learn a new skill, put time into guitar and dance, etc.

Since I tend to only sell between $1-3k in work each year, I have to work full time, which isn't bad. Pays the massive student loans from grad school, at least.

I get off work at around 5, exercise, make some food to-go or eat at home, then work to a stopping point. I tend to have default goals for the day that tend to be determined by drying time or the number of clamps I have or how much I have ready to sand, etc. I feel satisfied if I get to that stopping point each day. I've tried to rush my processes in the past, but it always ends up with terrible results.

I always listen when my mind and body say, "No studio tonight." I try not to force it.

I guess I don't have a very intense exhibition schedule, being unrepresented, but I make sure to have something new each month for my monthly open studio.