I like to label myself as a weekend artist because being an illustrator is not my full-time job and I don’t ever want it to be. I work as a UX designer in a fintech company and I love it as much as I love drawing. In my case, these two roles complement each other and it is refreshing to switch from the digital and functional design world to the analogue and artistic universe. Moreover, my daily job supports me in nurturing my passion for illustration without compromising it. When it comes to creating new artwork, I have no deadlines or clients’ expectations to meet. Sure, time to time I commit to commission work, but it is not regularly and I can always be very picky about my clients. On the other hand, keeping drawing as a hobby brings also downsides. The major one is lack of time and below I will describe how I deal with this.
Working at night doesn’t work
During university years, I loved to study over the night. Later, earning money as a freelance webdesigner, I continued being most effective in the dark hours, too. Although I was aware that my rhythm had significantly changed after starting full-time contracts, I still thought that drawing till late evening was the best way to enjoy my hobby. And while I still find the idea of working in the silent night hours magical, the morning after a sleepless night steals all the romantic imaginations. What is worse, it is like a hangover — with the age short nights are even more painful. Also and perhaps it is related to my student times, a late-night work makes me feel that I am behind, I need to push and therefore I feel stressed. To sum up, the night shift is not for me anymore — at least, when I want to be a valuable colleague or a partner on the next morning. Once a month, I allow myself to work over a late weekend night, however, I always make sure that I have a restful day afterwards. I don’t do it more often because I don’t want to mess with my inner clock and mainly with my morning routine.
The power of a morning routine
I always believed that I am not an early bird. I remember times when I was able to stay in the bed till noon and was completely fine with that. Among my colleagues, I used to be known as the person who arrives last in the morning. Actually, this fact still hasn’t changed, however, I am waking up at 6 am now. And I wouldn’t be successful in doing so without an in-detail planned morning routine that helps me to stay out of the bed. The first 10 minutes are dedicated to brushing my teeth. The mechanical movements help me to get over the state when the mind still sleeps and the body needs a couple of minutes for booting. The next 25 minutes, I listen to a daily newsletter while stretching my spine and only then I am awake enough to sit for the next 10 minutes quietly and mindfully to prepare my head for the rest of the day. The last 15 minutes belong to breakfast preparation for me and my wife and eating it. It is crucial that during these 60 minutes, I don’t enter our bedroom otherwise I could easily fail and lay down just for “a moment”. But if everything goes well and I manage to resist, at 7 am I can become an artist and draw for the next 75 minutes before I start preparing for leaving to the office. I hear you saying that it doesn’t sound like a lot of time?
Short time slots matter
When it comes to doing a hobby activity, every minute counts. I rarely find an empty 2–3h block in my week when I can fully focus on illustrating. There are always a lot of must-do things or activities that are more important at that moment. From this perspective, 75 minutes almost every morning are like a jackpot. It makes 6 hours a week and at least 20 hours a month. And if I add all available slots from weekends and holidays, I can easily be an illustrator for 30 hours a month.
Seanwes in his book Overlapping quoted Bill Gates who allegedly said: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” And I don’t see a reason why not to apply the same logic to short 20–45 minute blocks. I know that I can hardly do all work in these small slots but when I sum them up, that is going to be a huge difference.
Apart from the benefits of drawing in the morning that I mentioned above, there is one more and it is no less important. In the evenings, I don’t rush things and I don’t have any doubts about my productivity. Knowing that I’ve already added a small chunk to my monthly 30 hours drawing quota, I can easily spend good quality time with my closest ones and also go to bed early enough.
Maybe I will soon find other hacks to make time for my hobby. I’ve already experimented with doing some work commuting or flying. But not only don’t I like feeling that people might look over my shoulder, but it is also difficult to keep the lines straight as it is always shaky. On the other hand, I enjoy drawing at the airports while waiting at a gate. And what about you? Where do you find time to do your side-career?