Creative Insights: Lesley Riley

Take Your Time

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say ‘take your time?’ Slow down, right? Good advice for sure. There’s nothing to gain by rushing through your work or your day. But that’s not what I’m referring to here. Here’s what I’m talkin’ about:

Know the true value of time! Snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no procrastination. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
—Philip Chesterfield

Take your time, don’t throw it or waste it away. It’s yours for the taking, yet we treat time as if it is out of our control. The #1 problem I hear from artists is that they don’t have enough time for their art. You are not alone in that feeling. It’s the top problem on everyone’s list—there’s never enough time for all the things you want to do.

We are all allotted the same 24 hours, the same 1440 minutes that everyone else has each day. What it all boils down to is how we choose to use the time we are given. Cherie Carter-Scott, in her book, If Success is a Game, These Are the Rules, says that, “Using your time well is a skill that is developed with practice.” To that I want to add discipline—practice + discipline.

One of the perks of growing up and being on your own is that your free time is yours to do whatever you wish. There are always obligations: family, friends, the job you do for money, a home to tend to, etc. All those “must-dos” make you feel even more possessive of your free time. Unfortunately, by the time the “free-time” rolls around you are usually exhausted and stressed out and the thought of being creative feels more like work than fun. “Tomorrow,” you say. “I’ll get to my art tomorrow.” And tomorrow never comes. So what’s the solution?

Artists in particular like to think of themselves as free-spirits, wanting to never be confined to a box or a clock. I know, I was like that too. You can’t schedule creativity or inspiration. . . or can you? I’ll let you in on one of my secrets. Scheduling your creative time (and sticking to it) is one of the biggest creativity boosters I’ve ever known.

Here’s WHY it works:

1. It sets up a routine and a routine creates a habit. To learn more about the benefit of habit, read Twyla Tharp’s invaluable book The Creative Habit.

2. By designating a specific time you make a commitment. Commitment leads to success.

3. Humans like schedules and appointments. It takes the guesswork out of having to decide what to do. If nothing is planned, then we plan to do nothing – surf the net, check Facebook to see what other people are doing, TV, etc. We have been conditioned over the years to keep appointments. You also know you will feel bad when you break one.

4. Showing up in the same place at the same time on a regular basis is a form of conditioning. Remember Pavlov’s dog? He started salivating when the bell rang indicating it was time to eat. Pavlov called them psychic secretions. In your case, your creative juices will start flowing when you sit down to create on a regular basis.

5. Being creative on a regular basis eases stress, overcomes fatigue and stimulates all those juicy endorphins that make you a happy camper—even late at night, after a hard day’s work. You’ll feel satisfied, happy and proud that you have kept a commitment to yourself.

Here’s HOW you do it:

1, Get ye, or make ye a calendar, the kind that breaks each day into hours.
2. Fill it in with all of your activities. The more detailed you are the better. You can’t see where your available time is unless you fill in all of your committed time.
3. Schedule daily art time. If daily is too extreme, make time for it at least 3 days a week so that #s 1, 4 and 5 above will kick in.
4. Review your calendar each morning.

Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.

—Jim Rohn
5. Most importantly, stick to it. Most artists, writers and creatives you admire know this secret.

The angel doesn’t sit on your shoulder unless the pencil’s in your hand.

—Mary Oliver

I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence.

—Charles Dickens

If creativity is a habit, then the best creativity is the result of good work habits. They are the nuts and bolts of dreaming.

Twyla Tharp

Here’s another favorite quote of mine from Dawson Trotman: The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started. So what are you waiting for? START NOW

Lesley Riley is an internationally known artist, teacher and author with a passion for spreading the magic of art. Though her company, Artist Success, Lesley provides resources, coaching and mentoring to artists, enabling them to achieve their vision of success. For more information and resources, visit


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3 Responses to Creative Insights: Lesley Riley

  1. jacquerose says:

    Excellent article! I am guilty of wasting lots of time just trying to decide what to do next, but scheduling time for creating is a good idea. I always do better when I take the time to make lists and put things on my calendar. Thank you for the inspiration.

  2. rehabGeorge says:

    Very well written Lesley and great content. I know that my day HAS to include a time for meditation and is a scheduled part of my successful day. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Janine says:

    Wonderful article! I agree wholeheartedly. I was so organized for the last 20 years as I homeschooled my 3 boys. But they have grown up and now I have all this free time and it gets away from me! I have lately been thinking that I need to bring out the scheduling again. This article just reinforced those thoughts. Thank you!