4 Tips to Beat Distraction and Get Focused on Your Art

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Artist Distraction Solutions

Are you wrestling with distraction? Do you have a pile of reference material and inspiration you’ve been saving for a decade, waiting to be used to ignite new work?  Here are four tips to get you back to making, instead of procrastinating.

a watercolor sketch of cacti from a garden painting session

1. Read this article (4 minutes) about reigning in your focus and combatting distraction so you can be productive

Negative emotions are regarded as threats by our brain, inhibiting our ability to do other cognitive work.

Elle Kaplan

That quote is from the article linked above, citing a University of Michigan study.  It speaks to a need for awareness and intention to captain our ships around and not through the political vitriol on social media today. This appears to be a noteworthy factor in fighting distraction & planning studio time.

books on an art studio shelf
The power of Audiobooks and Podcasts must be experienced to keep your butt in your studio

2. Listen to podcasts or audiobooks to keep your focus planted firmly in your art-making chair.

Several years ago, I began to notice that if I tuned into an audiobook when I was scattered, I was able to focus and organize…

Suzie Wilde

Audiobooks and Podcasts are Magical

Deborah Jacobs of Forbes magazine has written a great piece (read it here) filled with audiobook anecdotes from Forbes colleagues, and assorted book publishers. Their stories of listening during long drives, cooking, exercise and sharing the experience with grandchildren might inspire you to combat your distraction in the studio (with a book and/or a friend), and give it a try.

If you’ve never listened to a podcast, here is a list of ten must-listen podcasts for artists published by Art Business News.

a quote about focus

3. Make a date night with your art supplies. Ink the time on the calendar, plan your pursuit for that time slot, make some art, and then write down what you liked about it.

As with any goals, they are most effective if they are SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timed. These are all variables we can work out and commit to through writing.

Hannah Braimes
a figurative woodcut of a little girl in a white gown standing outside
Communion – a woodcut in process

In Praise of List-Making

Hannah Braimes listed six ways writing can change your life in this thoughtful essay – read it here. I’m a full fledged Listy-McListerson, and have always relied on list-making and writing to clear my mind and focus my attention.

I’ve written about my studio experiences in this blog for over a decade, and while perusing a thousand posts backwards in time, the insight and trajectory of my artistic journey fills me with inspiration to Keep-Working.

So, seriously, try writing your goals, scheduling your art time, and then writing about it.

4. Share your plans, and then what you made to solicit positive feedback, encouragement, and accountability

making plans in the art studio
Grab a Pencil, and Transform Dreams into Plans

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

When no one is around to say anything about an incomplete task, Lombardo argues, it’s easy to push it to the next day and the next week.

Lisa Evans

This brief essay in FastCompany encourages sharing your to-do’s as well as your accomplishments. Science shows that sharing your goals not only makes you more accountable, but it kicks distraction to the curb by filling a need for social connection.

dark field monotype in process
A dark field monotype in process

Take My Hand

As someone perpetually wooed by distraction (hence those lists I mentioned above), I’m calling you from the steep hill of Focus, to don your boots and climb with me, so we can chat while we navigate together past the seduction of social media, negativity, fear & avoidance (in the form of laundry), and that pesky gremlin, Bruce-the-Excuse. Let’s Make Something. 🙂

I’ll see you in the next post –
P.S. You can subscribe to get these posts as emails by clicking here.

P.P.S. (If you’re really struggling with artist’s block, here’s a link to my most recent newsletter, which has some great links to resources for combatting that too.)

Communion 7×5 inch Woodcut with Watercolor

Art Quote

Entertaining a notion, like entertaining a baby cousin or entertaining a pack of hyenas, is a dangerous thing to refuse to do. If you refuse to entertain a baby cousin, the baby cousin may get bored and entertain itself by wandering off and falling down a well. If you refuse to entertain a pack of hyenas, they may become restless and entertain themselves by devouring you. But if you refuse to entertain a notion – which is just a fancy way of saying that you refuse to think about a certain idea – you have to be much braver than someone who is merely facing some blood-thirsty animals, or some parents who are upset to find their little darling at the bottom of a well, because nobody knows what an idea will do when it goes off to entertain itself.

Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

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6 thoughts on “4 Tips to Beat Distraction and Get Focused on Your Art”

  1. I love the image and the post. You are wonderful. I have found that putting a movie I’ve already seen holds me in the studio — that and my lists about what to do next.

    Wonderful as always.

    XOXOXOXOXO Barbara

  2. Love the article, But I just have to laugh.

    Read your article,.. read the Elle Kaplan article you linked on medium,.. read her source article she linked by Paul Hammerness, MD, and Margaret Moore at Harvard Business Review.

    Had to stop there because they had linked a dozen scientific papers and my coffee was cold.
    That is 45 minutes later… oops…. It was about distractions right?

    1. Hi Jim, Hah! I know, I’m only adding to the problem, right!? Sorry about that! But isn’t this stuff so interesting? Don’t answer that – grab your brushes instead! 🙂 Have a great week.

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