Thoughts on Tracking Studio Time

by Lisa Call on January 5, 2008

in Art Marketing

Page from my Sketchbook ©2008 Lisa Call

Page From My Sketchbook (click to see larger image)

Tracking Studio Time

Sylvia asked me to talk about how I determine the hours when I posted that I spent 865 hours in the studio last year.

I started doing this when my accountant told me that he thought that it was very important to be able show that I was treating my art as a business should I ever be audited. He felt the number of hours spent engaged in the activity was important information to track.

I’ve tried different formats for tracking this information and the above image from my sketchbook is what I did last year. I like the hand drawn page better than doing it on the computer.

Incorporating it into my sketchbook keeps me connected to the sketchbook on a near daily basis. Good for both keeping the tracking current and for using my sketchbook as I intend for ideas and sketches. I keep the book accessible and open on a table in my studio at all times.

I write down the number of hours spent each day and a brief note about what I was doing.

A few years ago I decided that by setting specific goals for what work I wanted to complete was creating stress when I failed to meet the goal so I decided to switch to setting goals on the number of hours spent in the studio and not worry about what I specifically accomplished. I blogged about this in June of 2006.

For a while I found this to be the solution and it helped me balance my life but last year I found myself right back to the same place being stressed by that magic number of 20 hours in the studio.

No More Ego

In retrospect I realize I did not address the real problem. The real problem is my ego and my judgment of my performance. Last year there were also some additional issues of hiding behind my arbitrary goals to avoid situations I should have dealt with in a healthy manner insteadt of pretending they weren’t a problem.

For 2008 I will continue to track my studio time because not only does it provide useful records for the IRS I find it helps keep me accountable and in my studio. But this year I’m going to approach it in a healthier way. I am not going to set any specific goals for the number of hours to spend each week. Instead I will just write it down and total it up for the month.

I’ll place no judgment on how I did. No more "hurray I made the goal" or frowny faces if I don’t spend time in the studio. Those value calls are unnecessary. I don’t need to label it either good or bad. It is what it is.

I will not keep a running total from month to month and I won’t track the number of hours short or extra I have done. That’s just a recipe to make myself feel bad or boost my ego, which needs no encouragement.

My true desire is to work in my studio and I know that will happen, I trust my intent is enough for it to happen. I know when I spend that time that I am happy. Spending more hours spent does not make the happiness in some way better. It’s just my ego wanting to feel good about itself. I don’t need or want that.

At the end of the year I’ll total up all the hours and irregardless of the outcome I will be content knowing I put in the hours that were right for me.


All this doesn’t mean I’m not going to set goals for my studio. I will continue to do this in a healthy way of setting intent. It keeps me focused and focus is a great thing. Action is good. I’m not going to judge how things go – if I don’t make the goal I’ll just keep working on it. No ego – just pure joy.


Tracy January 6, 2008 at 12:42 am

I agree with you Lisa that it’s not necessary to keep a goal for studio hours, but keeping track is good. I do the same; it gives me a ballpark idea as to how much time spent oin the studios compared to other months. Besides, they say what you keep track of and spend your attention on grows!

cynthia January 6, 2008 at 9:20 am

I love that you keep track of your studio time in your sketch book. I might incorporate that tool myself – because I do think it would connect me to my sketch book just a bit more, which is one of my goals.

Beating yourself up over not making your goals doesn’t seem healthy, but I do think having goals are good. I’m glad to see that you’ve re-assessed yours.

PaMdora January 6, 2008 at 9:52 am

This is a great idea! I love that it’s in your sketchbook. I had been tracking time for all projects on my computer (which in the studio lately has been nil) but if I fall behind even a day, I can’t remember what it was I did. This year I’ll start writing in my sketchbook.

Alyson B. Stanfield January 6, 2008 at 11:28 am

Lisa, this is wonderful. I’m sending my peeps over here tout de suite!

Nikki January 6, 2008 at 12:21 pm

I love the goal to focus on the joy. The “Shoulds” so easily rob the life from us. Remember the joy — the whole reason for your art to begin with.

Sheila January 6, 2008 at 7:43 pm

For years now I’ve been noting what I do each session in an engagement calendar that sits next to my sewing machine. But it never occured to me to document the actual time I spent each day, except back in the days when I hand quilted some bed-size quilts and was curious about how many hours that took.

Actually, now that I think about it, I did track my time when I was a co-owner in a hand-dyed fabric business. It was important that we were equally sharing the number of hours put in, regardless of our roles. Frankly, I found it a pain to track it, but as your accountant noted, where the IRS is concerned, documentation never hurts.

I agree it is easy to set yourself up for bashing with certain types of goals. It sounds to me that you’ve hit upon a healthy attitude about it all. Good luck with your growth and outlook in 2008.

Amy Crawley January 6, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Boy can I relate, Lisa. For the past couple of years I also tracked my hours in the studio; both creative hours and business specific (e.g. marketing, accounting) hours. And I found it was making me feel worse because somedays I didn’t spend what I felt was enough time creating. Perhaps my approach was taking the joy out of simply creating.

I completely forgot about the IRS rationale for tracking hours (thanks for the reminder!) So now I’m thinking I should continue to track my hours with a less stressful system. And remember to keep the joy and fun in what I do.

Good luck with your goals and intentions for the year!

Judy Dunn January 6, 2008 at 9:46 pm

I just found your blog through Alyson Stanfield’s blog, and “wow!” I have enjoyed reading through many different posts about authenticity, goals, no goals, etc. Every post seems to have a zinger of truth that lights it up. Thanks for sharing your experiences….and I will be sure to be back again.

Tina Mammoser January 7, 2008 at 6:38 am

Just popped over from Alyson’s site. :)
I’ve done this sometimes, usually when I’m feeling guilty about my productivity. But I tend to write down all hours (not just studio hours but paperwork, deliveries, etc) to reassure myself that actually my works are full of work. Sometimes that work just isn’t the stuff I really want to be doing. (Which reminds me of Alyson’s book title!)

Rather than log studio hours I just try to get into the studio 5 days a week. Even if it’s for an hour. Usually though the simple act of prioritising the studio for any amount of time each day means I spend longer in there actually painting and the “other” work still gets done too – I just spend less time worrying and more time doing.

Part of my new year business plan is production goals (specific sales value quantities per month) so hopefully that along will actually translate into more studio time.

I’m off to read more of your blog now! :)

jafabrit January 7, 2008 at 6:55 am

I have a studio log book but it isn’t for setting goals or for rereading. I just log in what time I went into the studio and what I did, art supply receipt info (any receipts for supplies etc goes into an envelope in the back). The key for me is that I go in everyday and my log book shows that :)

I think sometime we put terrible pressure on ourselves and rather than help us fly it stunts our creative energies. All the best with your new plan.

melissa lanitis gregory January 7, 2008 at 10:52 am

This is making me think, although I just set studio hours for myself. I think I need to keep that in place, because I’m a homeschooling mom, and the limits are not just for myself, but also for my kids. Also, I’m finding that one of the benefits for having set studio time is that I know when to quit, and somehow that helps me. Seems counter-productive, and I suppose if I’m in the middle of a creative moment, I would keep going. But just knowing that I’m going to be in the studio at a certain time frees me up to do other things during the other hours of the day, without that constant pull of the studio calling to me. I did relate to what’s been said about the “shoulds” vs. keeping it joyful and I hope there’s a way to do that, even within the boundaries of keeping set hours!

Lisa Call January 7, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Everyone had great comments. Many of you have some very healthy studio practices – hurray for you. For those on the same path as me – I know you can do it! A year for relaxing and delighting in our studios with no pressure.

Another thing I noticed yesterday that I will put a stop to. I wrote little justifications on days I didn’t work in my studio, noting what I did instead. I don’t need to do that – it implies I need an excuse to let myself off the hook. No more. It is what it is.

cher January 9, 2008 at 7:19 am

I like this change of mind set- so much more empowering in the long run. I too have adopted a similar attitude- it is good to share this with fellow artists…

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: