My Secret To A Productive Digital Studio

We’ve all done it. And by “it”, I mean we’ve all looked up from Pinterest only to discover two whole hours have gone by and all we have to show for it is a pretty sweet set of new boards that will surely be the envy of the entire internet by this time tomorrow. Pinterest, along with a lot of the rest of the internet can be a time-suck of immense proportions! It’s quite a bit easier to avoid if you work away from computers, but as a digital artist, how do I avoid the temptations and ignore all the social media notifications, incoming emails, and everything else online so that I can focus on creating new work in my studio?

Oh yes, it’s time for a little sneak peek of behind the scenes at Coastal Focus Art!

I have a few tricks, but the one I want to share with you today is called RescueTime. It’s a clever little app that runs on my computer and in my browser to track where I spend my time whether online or in programs on my computer.

Pretty much everything was categorized for me right from the start, but I did have to change a few things to more accurately reflect how and where I work. E.g Etsy is where I spend a lot of time, but I’m not shopping, I’m running my shop, adding products, talking with customers, etc. so I changed “” to the category of “business administration” and from “very distracting” to “very productive”.

Not only can you categorize activities, but you can also put them on the scale from “Very distracting” (think typical social media use) to “Very productive” (like doing your finances in Quickbooks). All of this tracking serves a purpose because another feature of RescueTime is the reports. You can see just how productive your day was and why. They sum up your entire level of productivity into one number called the “productivity pulse”, and then break down how they got that from your activity.

You can also set up goals for the categories. E.g. “less than one hour of very distracting stuff” or “more than three hours of design and composition activity”.

There are even more features with the paid version, like enabling “focus time” which blocks access to your distracting activities altogether, as well more analysis of the data collected.

Snapshot of my RescueTime Dashboard

You can see from this snapshot that first thing in the morning, I’m on the “distracting” sites like Facebook catching up with family and friends while I drink coffee and eat breakfast. I track this early time by default because many mornings I will only spend about 10 minutes puttering before jumping over to work stuff.

When I first installed this app, I let it run all the time my computer was one and forgot about it just so I could get a more accurate picture of what my day actually looked like. After two weeks, I examined the data it had collected and used it to set some goals, adjust some items, and to also set my specific “office hours”. Now I use it to keep me on track and honest.

Most days, I’m happily productive, without even thinking about RescueTime. Every once in a while though, I’m having a day where I just can’t seem to focus, and sure enough, at the end of it, I can pop open the report and see a low productivity score for that day. Another thing this has allowed me to do is to give myself permission to have an unproductive day; I still feel a bit guilty about it, but I now accept that I just can’t focus at that time, so I step away from it all and look to my task lists for things I can do away from the computer. Usually, there are errands to run, so I can kind of recover some productivity, even though that isn’t tracked in the free version of RescueTime–offline time can be tracked in the paid version, though!

So there it is, just a little peek into how I stay productive in the studio. I’m self-employed so I don’t have a boss watching over my shoulder to make sure I’m working and not surfing the net. I also know me and know that often, the temptation to idly surf can be too great to resist. I use RescueTime to look over my own shoulder to keep me focused. One last feature I’ll mention. When you’re setting up your goals, you can enter a little bit of text to remind yourself why it’s important to achieve this goal. One of mine says, “You can’t grow or maintain if you’re not present and active in your business.” And you can’t do that idly wasting time surfing the internet.

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