Overwhelmed in the Studio? Check Your Work Habits!

Having just returned from a wonderful tropical vacation in the Virgin Islands after leaving snowy, gray Idaho for two weeks.  After a trip like that I should be recharged and ready to tackle the work I left behind – right?  Wrong.  In fact, I am feeling blue.

I am overwhelmed by the work ahead; I don’t know where to start!  Before I left town I was on such ‘a roll’…what happened?  Obviously, I have gotten out of the habit of working in my studio, dealing with household chores and paying bills.  So, to help myself get motivated I thought I’d give you and myself some good sound advice.

HABIT: (from Wikipedia) an acquired pattern of behavior that often occurs automatically.

Typically, many artists think of a habit as being negative.  We like to be free thinkers and often fight against structure and rules. But, just like with winning entrepreneurs, we must have good working habits in order to be effective and successful artists.


Below motivational speaker and business coach, John Di Lemme explains a HABIT:

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me,
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great men.
And, alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine.
Plus, the intelligence of a man.
You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet.
Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.
Who am I?

I am a HABIT!

John Di Lemme was a 24 year-old stutterer who worked in his family art gallery.  He dreamed of becoming a world famous motivational speaker.  During 7 years of hardships and challenges, John remained focused on his dream.  He now runs a marketing team of over 25,000 representatives in 10 countries.  He knew with the right habits one could see progression to a higher state.

We all have different ways of doing things – there is no right or wrong way, but there can be better ways.  Artists are self-starters and without good habits we can float off and lose our focus. Good habits produce good results.  Our effectiveness requires the integrity to act on our priorities.

Here are a few broad ideas that help us form good working habits and keep us from feeling overwhelmed:

  • Focus on top priorities (get bills, etc. out of the way)
  • Eliminate the unimportant (time-wasters, busy work)
  • Be proactive
  • Plan weekly goals (write a ‘to do’ list and get the big picture)
  • Plan daily goals (outline the day)
  • Begin with the end in mind


  • Get into the studio with your morning cup of coffee
  • Train yourself to be regular and workmanlike
  • Slow down & focus
  • Don’t take on too much work at once
  • Don’t be lazy
  • Balance work, rest and exercise into your day
  • Build your business relationships, and learn how to build your art brand on Twitter!
  • Cut down on trivia, busywork, time-wasters, TV, escape activities (including too much Twitter or Facebook!)
  • Leave your studio organized and ready for the next day!

The good news is that the more you practice a new behavior, the more it will become a habit.  Psychologists say that it takes approximately 21 days to condition ourselves to make a habit automatic.  A month is a good block of time to work on forming better work habits because it easily fits in your calendar.  Tool your habits towards your goals and the things that motivate you.  Imagine the benefits of increased organization and productivity, fewer crises, more life balance and peace of mind.  And remember, where you are headed is more important than how fast you are getting there.

Now I just need to practice what I preach…


PS. Let’s meet on Facebook and Twitter! ~Lori

You might like these other articles:

5 Unique Ways to Brainstorm Out of a Creative Rut

6 Ways to Keep Your Goals to Yourself to Achieve Them

Take Time to Unplug: Disconnect to Reconnect

The Best of 2010: Articles on Art, Marketing & Social Media

5 Common Traits of Successful Artists


  1. Jason Weaver March 30, 2009 at 7:37 am

    This is very timely, Lori. I’ve just had to immerse myself in a brief, intense project and am finding it hard to get back on the roll I was on before. I’ve come across the idea that it takes 21 days to condition a habit in a number of places. The thing is, I don’t find it to be true. I’m capable of working with something for months at a time and then, one day, I just wake up and stop doing it. The habit doesn’t seem to stick. I wondered if you or any other readers have experienced the same thing? But, as I said, this is a timely post for me. I might add that getting enough sleep helps for a good, strong start to the day!

  2. Theresa March 30, 2009 at 7:51 am

    very true. I get overwhelmed so easily with things, then you just give up, when it would be much better to keep plugging. and the worst is when you go from a busy time, get into good habits, and then let it drop for some reason. I know I will have trouble with this in the next month. kids birthday planning will take away from creating time, and then I’ll feel like I am starting over. Oh well… Its all part of life as a wahm, I guess.

  3. Joanne Hall April 11, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Great article. I have been having a hard time getting disciplined to “work” on a regular basis. Thanks for the tips

  4. mark April 15, 2009 at 7:35 am

    thanks !! very helpful post!

  5. Nithya Swaminathan April 24, 2009 at 1:36 am

    Great article, very useful tips. Your last tip of leaving the studio ready for the next day is priceless for me. More often than not, I find myself cleaning up the previous day’s mess for the first 15 mins. And that really puts you off! Thank you.

  6. Lauren B Wilson May 13, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Such a great topic and article. Something most of us can relate to! One idea I like to keep in the forefront of my mind is that a large part of the battle, or process, – or whatever you want to call it for yourself – is just showing up. Showing up, everyday to face that to-do list, that blank canvas, that enigma in the corner of our studio, what have you!

  7. Julie Caves May 14, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Thanks Lori, a good reminder.
    And good timing for me as I have just moved to a new studio and am out of sorts trying to set up a working method for the new space which is very different to my old studio. I also need to figure out a way to do just enough of the Twitter type stuff so it is still productive and not time wasting. It is easier for me to not do it at all than to try to do it a little.
    And the Habits poem is inspirational, to think of developing a good habit so that is does good work for you, is really great.
    Thanks again!

  8. Naware May 14, 2009 at 7:23 am

    I wholeheartedly agree this is a very well timed article as I was just reviewing my “shop to do” and feeling overwhelmed 🙁 Persistence and steady movement are very important and it’s wise not to get caught up in overloading yourself – which lends to feeling to need to “hurry up” and rush things to get them done.

    Something else to note, sometimes you just have to say , “No.” (Even if it’s to yourself!)

  9. Barb Trimble June 19, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the post! It was very timely for me as well. Good to know I am not alone with the overwhelming feeling after a vacation.

  10. Melissa June 19, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks so much for this! I’m a writer returning from vacation tomorrow and I’ve been thinking myself about getting back into the groove (and staying there)! Perfect reminders. 🙂

  11. Melissa June 19, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Thank you so much for this!! I needed it today. I’m returning from vacation tomorrow and needed to get back into (and stay) in the groove. These tips work for writers, too!

  12. Amy Crawley June 22, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Great post, Lori. I often feel the same way when I return from vacation or have been away from the studio for an extended period. It usually takes me a couple of days to get back into the groove. I’m sure you’ll find your rhythm again. And the quote from John Di Lemme is wonderful. That makes “habit” seem much more personal.


  13. sandra filippi June 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Hi Lori…my english is very bad…I like your comments about the habit…
    and I like your paints!…I will try to keep it…entendisté lo que quise decir?
    Buena suerte.

    • admin June 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

      Thank you Sandra for taking time to read and comment on my post. Did you use the translator on the side bar? I hope it helped you. Keep in touch 🙂 Lori

  14. A Forest Frolic July 5, 2009 at 8:39 am

    What a lovely post! I love it, and need to start forming ‘good’ habits in the studio too…I’ve gotten rather slack lately. Thank you for some inspiration Lori!

    Jamie 🙂

  15. Linda Walton aka bobbysgirlforever August 14, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Lori, this was SO perfect for me to find on Twitter this morning as I have just come back from two weeks away from the computer!

    I sit here in my computer chair feeling a bit overwhelmed with not only coming back to the computer, but to a new home office environment as well! LOL! I am not complaining about that, just need to settle in a bit!

    I am a list maker, however, sort of fell out of the habit in the midst of chaos and reading your post this morning has given me the CHARGE I needed to put myself back to work and to become increasingly better at handling my daily workload! MWAH!

    Have a GLORIOUS weekend!

    Linda 😀

    • admin August 15, 2009 at 8:27 am

      Hi Linda- thanks for the thoughtful comment! I wrote that blog post because artists struggle with feeling overwhelmed from time to time and it is useful to me, lol! Thanks again for sharing your personal story. Best- Lori 🙂

  16. Miranda September 25, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Hey Lori! These are great tips! I know exactly how you felt coming back from holidays. This summer I went to England for a few weeks. During the entire trip I would have killed for my paints, but as soon as I got back I couldn’t find the momentum I’d had before. It’s taken awhile to get back on track, but I’m getting there! Just making a point of spending time in the studio helps. If I’m there, I’ll more than likely pick up a brush and start fiddling with an idea. It’s just getting there that’s hard sometimes!

    • admin September 26, 2009 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I need to read my own post again these days! I have a big commission looming over me right now and i am making up all kinds of excuses for staying out of my studio! I will post the finished piece when it’s done. Take care, Lori

  17. Debra Disman October 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    This is terrific- and so timely for me.
    Transitions also can break down our supportive routines, so it is more important then ever to find ways to deal with them effectively.
    Thank you Lori!
    We are not alone!
    And, good luck to all of us.

  18. Larissa Marantz July 25, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Thanks for this great article. As a SAHM of 3 as well as a business owner, I am constantly feeling overwhelmed with the projects and commissions I take on. Instilling positive habits and getting rid of the bad habits will definitely push me in the right direction. However, I have to say that I’ve already gone over my goal for 15 minutes of web surfing tonight before beginning my art, but I am glad that I did in this case because I discovered your lovely article. Look forward to more.

    • Lori McNee July 25, 2010 at 10:44 pm

      Larissa…what a pretty name! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and stopping by for a visit. I have to deal with that overwhelmed feeling a lot too! Maybe I need to re-read my own article…
      Hope to see you again soon –

  19. Wendy August 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks for a great article.

    My biggest problem is too many projects of what I want to do. I can’t decide on which one to focus on and end up spinning my wheels because of that. I’ve been slowly removing excess baggage in the studio so I can focus better. The ‘open’ space I am getting as result is making the studio a more welcoming place.

  20. Franziska San Pedro January 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I just came across the same issue: an unorganized studio! I took several days to do some deep-cleaning, re-organizing and re-inventing creative space. What a difference! I just wrote something similar on my blog, too funny.
    Now that the “basics” in my studio are done, I just have to make sure that, at the end of the day, I leave it ready for the next day again. What I found very helpful is find out when I have my creative moments. These are different times throughout the day where I am very creative and my ideas are rolling. Those times are reserved for creativity. Outside those hours, it’s cleaning, organizing and paper-time, anything that can be done without much thinking..


    • Lori McNee January 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Franziska-

      I had to take my own advice recently and I cleaned and reorganized my studio and office space. I have be busy painting for an upcoming show and didn’t have any inspiration. Cleaning my studio really helped me creatively and I am getting a lot of great paintings done now.
      It is good advice to leave the studio ready for work and creativity the next day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Happy painting-

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