To make it happen, I write it down

by Lisa Call on January 14, 2014

in Goals and Intention

Planning and Goals - Lisa Call - 2014 - Artist - Denver, Colorado
Studio Time

Why do I track it?

Here’s the reality of my life:  If I don’t pay attention I find myself in the weeds.

Or maybe on netflix or hulu tooling about as if I have no cares in the world, although inside I’m secretly panicking and am pretty sure I’m going to miss a bunch of deadlines and opportunities.

Neither state is particularly a desirable.

So how do I pay attention?

I write it down.  I track it.  I count it.  I report on it.

It’s really pretty simple.  If there is something in my life that is important and I want to make sure I’m doing it, I just write down if I’m doing it and suddenly, I’m doing it.

I know – seems rather simple and like there should be a bigger trick.  But there isn’t.  Track it and I do it.

It’s magical.  It works.

What do I track?

This year I’m tracking a lot of things, because I have a lot of balls in the air and I want to make sure they stay there.  This is what I’m tracking this year:

  • studio time
  • completion of art biz systems like blogging, writing newsletters, etc
  • my health – calories in vs calories out,  movement (am I walking? doing yoga? etc), etc
  • money
  • how many books I’ve read

How do I track?

For my studio time I use a 2 page spread in my sketchbook for each month.  Last year I had a dismal year in the studio racking up fewer than 350 hours.  This year I’m aiming for 780 – which is 15 hours a week.

Last year I had months I never even bothered to create the 2 page spread.  I’m not sure what happened but it wasn’t really much of a priority.

This year I am making that habit, the habit of creating my studio tracking spreadsheet on the first of the monthly, my #1 priority.

This simple act of hand drawing a page to be filled in as the month goes by is a powerful reminder to get to the studio and DO IT.

Again – it’s magic.  I works.

I use a geeky spreadsheet to track the completion of my biz systems.  I have to admit I love excel.  Conditional formatting is fun stuff.  Excel is my tool for tracking my money and budget also.

Fitbit is my go to tool for tracking my health.  In addition to all they offer, you can create custom trackers.

And goodreads is the standard for tracking books I’ve read.  I don’t often write reviews but it’s quick and easy to add in a book I’ve read.  I’ve been using it for 4 or 5 years and find it works well.  I love their yearly challenge – it helps me stay on track!


What do you track?  How do you track it?  How does tracking help you?


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PS – Enrollment is now open for my 2013 online workshops.  There are 7 classes to choose from:  Course catalog.



cindy January 15, 2014 at 8:19 am

Thank you for this. I always, always, always love when you post this sort of thing and are transparent about how you go about what you do. I so appreciate it. I rebel against too much structure, but this simple tracking idea is really good. I’m pulling out my notebook now.

Lisa Call January 15, 2014 at 8:24 am

Cindy – very cool. Let me know if it works for you!


Roxane Lessa January 15, 2014 at 8:47 am

Lisa, I will read and study as you are one of the most efficient, prolific people I know!! Thanks for sharing your secrets!

Lisa Call January 15, 2014 at 9:00 am

Roxane – you are most welcome. :) Now it’s time to go be efficient at my day job!


Angeline-Marie January 16, 2014 at 4:25 am

I might need to copy your sketchbook page, LOL.

My goals have to be a little more flexible, just because…one of my values is Freedom. I am finding that the guidance you gave in Systems about how much time per week is helping in HUGE ways to crossing off items on my list. Hmm. Maybe I will give the page a shot for a month’s time or two or three.

Thank you for sharing. I echo Roxane!!!

Lisa Call January 16, 2014 at 9:05 am

Angie – copy away! Although I know that as artists – we all really do things with our own spin. :):) Add in as much flexibility as you need!


Isabel Forbes January 16, 2014 at 9:13 am

Always enjoy your posts. 2013 was a year full of travel painting with fewer hours in my studio with not much organization… and now 2014 has appeared. Things do work better with a plan. I use a ruled notebook with handwritten calendars. Thanks for reminding me to plan my work & work my plan.

Lisa Call January 16, 2014 at 9:26 pm


Wonderful to hear from you.

ruled notebooks and handwritten calendars sound right up my alley!

Enjoy the planning!


Helen Conway January 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I track:
(A) studio hours in a week with notes page diary in my studio A5 filofax, black pen for production, green for learning and general design, red for studio business
(B) exercise in a monthly personal filofax diary just noting times spent doing yoga, cardio and strenght training.
(C) in another one page yearly planner in the same filofax I use symbols to track when I do some of the nice things I like that tend to get crowded out, just to make sure I get a balance of work and play – R for reading, J for journalling, NR for trying a new recipe and B for baking bread.

The tracking both keeps me inspired moving forward and lets me see patterns looking backwards as to where things went well less well. Comparing that to my diary I can see patterns like where i tend to get overoptimistic or where I can better use my time to achieve my goal.

Lisa Call January 16, 2014 at 9:28 pm


Excellent – I like C – those misc things we want to do but can easily loose sight of. Great idea!

And patterns – yes – finding patterns is super helpful!


carolyn January 25, 2014 at 11:57 am

Hi Lisa–
I found you through your post on Hugh MacLeod’s site…and I’m glad I did. Sharing your thoughts as a working artist and human being with a life : ) reminds me that it can be done! It’s all too easy to put aside certain aspects of our lives in favor of others, but it can be equally simple to use a basic tracking method or scheduler to make sure we fit in the important things.
Thanks for the reminder!

Lisa Call January 27, 2014 at 6:53 am


Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Yes! It can be done – we just need to decide we get to pick how we spend our time.


Karen Rand Anderson February 16, 2014 at 8:23 am

What a “timely” post.. (pun intended). I’m grateful I discovered you and your work, Lisa. I am confounded by how certain artists (like YOU) are able to handle studio commitment, serious blogging, family, home, organizing, teaching online & off, and maintaining an organized artbiz. I am dumbfounded, really. Anyway, thanks for this great advice. Looking forward to more!!

Lisa Call February 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Thanks Karen!

My secret is accountability! Check out my master class – that is where I help artists make it all happen.


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