It can be torturous to feel as though you’re endlessly working and not getting anywhere, and we’ve all been there at some point. One of the biggest challenges artists face is building up their attention span when they feel like they’re endlessly working. There are many different aspects of visual arts and it can be hard to know which skills are worth investing your efforts on. Without a focus, it may feel as though your work life is like a prison.
No one wants to be stuck working on things that they don’t enjoy, but artists, especially, find that their creativity stalls if they don’t find their work inspiring or fulfilling. If this sounds familiar to you, then there’s a good chance you need some help focusing on what is important to you as an artist.
Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day, and until someone learns how to hit the pause button on time, you will have to decide how to use your time in a way that is best for you and your career goals. Learning to focus may seem to be a daunting task but anyone can benefit from figuring out how to enjoy their work and stay on task better.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, keep reading for some practical ideas to help you get your attention span back on track. Hopefully one of these suggestions will be just what you need to find that spark of creativity that will keep you involved and invested in bettering your career as an artist.
Think of What Has Captured Your Attention
If you are feeling like you’ve hit a dead end with your job and you can’t seem to focus on anything, it’s likely you need to get back to basics. Take a step back from what you’re working on and take a minute or two to reflect on your interests and what you enjoy creating. At a certain point, you decided to make art your career so there must be something you love.
Write a list of everything you enjoyed, whether that was something from your art classes or even things you appreciated early in your career. If you enjoy it, put it on the list. Consider which things on the list will offer you the most benefit to know how to be consistent at. Sometimes getting back to basics is the best way to upgrade your attention span.
The first thing to do is to look at your list and set small goals for yourself. No one is going to learn how to improve their focus overnight. Part of what makes you lose your focus is that you have lost the joy in your work. No matter how cool your job is, (and let’s face it, cartoonists, painters, and other artists have cool jobs when it really comes down to it) at the end of the day, it is still work, and work isn’t always as fun as one might think.
Go ahead and start making lists. Did you know that a list can help you maintain your focus and achieve your goals? Visualizing your goals is a great first step to becoming a more focused artist. While generating a mental picture is a great first step, taking the chance to write down your goals can bring you one step forward toward progress.
Remember that your attention span is like any other muscle in your body. Just because you decide you want it to improve doesn’t mean you can wake up one morning and suddenly be able to focus longer than ever before. It will take practice and effort to grow your attention span, and the results will be well worth it if you give it the chance to work.
Narrow It Down to Focus Your Attention
So how can you best focus and find joy in your job? Well, the first thing to focus on is to find out what could improve your career the most. Don’t be afraid to really narrow down your focus to discover what you can work on to improve most. For instance, if your overarching goal is to become more skilled at drawing, it’s likely you have an even more focused goal available.
Maybe you want to improve on drawing hands. Hands are notoriously difficult to draw well, but if you believe your need for improvement is what is holding your career back, then it’s time to get serious about improving. Everyone will have a different skill they need to work on that can help them get over their career hurdles.
It’s okay to hyper-focus and concentrate on one thing until you’ve completely absorbed it and you’ve become an expert. Focusing on the skills you need to improve can both further your career and give you the confidence you need going forward in your career. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help to improve your skills.
It may help to take a class on your specific skill set. Taking an art class, whether online or in-person where possible, can be just what you need to get your attention span back on track. Classes give ample opportunity for attention span growth because you have expert guidance.
Perhaps you didn’t appreciate homework and schedules during art school the first time around, but revisiting an educational institution can be extremely beneficial and your teacher can push you and your skills so that you can improve. The instructional time gives you the tips you need to accomplish your goals, and any work time or assignments are designed to help you reinforce what you’ve learned. It can take a long time to facilitate the mastery of specific art skills, and so having class assignments and artistic challenges are great ways to keep pushing yourself forward.
Another tip would be to set a timer and work for a specific amount of time without stopping. Once your timer goes off, you can put your pencil down, check your phone, play video games, or whatever you’d like to do during your break. Over time, you can increase the amount of time you spend working and decrease the amount of time you spend without focus.
Setting a timer isn’t an instant solution to improving your focus, but it is certainly a way artists can both improve on their fundamentals while expanding their stamina for work. And the more time you spend working on something the better off you’ll be.
Art classes also offer the chance to get valuable feedback on your work. Not only will your instructor look at your sketches and other works of art to give you feedback, but the other students in your class could as well. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from your fellow artist when you’re working on the same thing.
How Will You Know If You Can Move On From A Learned Skill?
As you get more confident in your skills and you notice your attention span has improved, you may start thinking about when you can move on from working on a single skill and move on. When you think you might be ready to move on to another focus, think to yourself, will I remember this skill that I just learned two months from now? Once you feel certain you’ll still be able to use a skill again in two months without suffering any issues, you can consider your knowledge to be a feather in your cap.
Once you’ve accomplished one goal, you will want to make sure that you have another goal on deck so you’re always moving forward. Refer back to your list of goals you made before and get your visualization ready to go on the next step. With each skill you add to your back pocket, your talent and abilities will grow and so will your attention span.
Perhaps it seems obvious to you that if you are trying to expand your ability to focus and get an attention span worthy of the envy of others that you should avoid the most common distractions that pitfall even the most committed artists. Building up your brain muscles to avoid temptations may not seem like the most fun, but the results will fast forward your success.
Technology gets a bad reputation for being distracting but even things like poor hydration or nutrition and lack of sleep can set you up for failure and lessen your ability to focus. Find a system that works for you. Put your phone out of sight while you’re working, commit to getting enough sleep and exercise to maintain both physical and mental health.
Remember, your brain is a muscle that needs to be well cared for. Make time for things that make you happy besides just work, even if you love the art you’re creating. Brain breaks are important, so activities like reading, doing puzzles, and spending time outdoors can be just as helpful for keeping you on track.
If you’re still worried that work feels like a prison, hopefully taking the time out of your regular day-to-day efforts to learn something new helped bring the spark of joy back to your art career. If it didn’t, get back to the basics and remember why you opted for a lifetime of visual arts in the first place.
Your Improved Artistic Attention Span
Building up your art skills can help you gain a sharper attention span as well as further your career and help you find your art to be more enjoyable. Let your talent shine as you set some goals and grow as a person and visual artist. However you learn best, you’ll discover having a well-developed attention span is an important part of the recipe for success!