One artist’s journey to become a better version of himself by focusing on systems instead of goals or resolutions
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
– Chuck Close
This year I’m not doing New Years resolutions. Instead, I’m doing something a little different.
Top Level: My Word of the Year
My word-of-the-year for 2017 is “Discipline”.
Discipline – noun
• activity that provides mental or physical training
• orderly or prescribed training that corrects, molds, or perfects one’s behavior, skill, mental faculties, or moral character
During 2017 I plan to focus on 5 areas :
1. My Daily Ritual
2. Artwork Production
3. Artwork Promotion
4. Spending time with friends and family
5. Exercise (Strength, Fitness and Recovery)
Most of my daily tasks should fit into one these categories.
I’m a work-in-progress
Please understand that I don’t claim to have everything figured out. I am not an efficiency or productivity guru. I am simply a professional artist, trying to do good work and live a meaningful life.
When I’m trying to look good, I can make a good case for how much I have it together. But I know better. I procrastinate. I (currently) don’t have a consistent studio practice. Sometimes, I spend too much time on Facebook.
You get the point. Maybe you can relate…
A shift in focus
Right now (December 2016) I am working on a batch of 10 digital murals for a client. (They should all be done by early February 2017.) The work is steady (and appreciated) but it doesn’t spark my passion as an artist.
In the coming year, I plan to shift my focus to my fine art— that is painting and sketching. I will limit the freelance work that I take on, and dig in deep for several hours a day at my easel. I’m working on a daily schedule that reflects this plan. (I’ll share my exact daily schedule in an upcoming article.)
This year I’ll be focusing on systems
James Clear challenges the conventional wisdom of goal setting, and encourages focusing on systems instead . Here’s why: Goals can actually be discouraging because they highlight the gap between where you are and where you eventually want to be. Systems, on the other hand, focus on what you should be doing today and the methods to accomplish important tasks. James Clear suggests that, “…goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.”
Painting Series – I am planning to create several series of artwork. Here’s a sneak-peek: “Primavera” (a celebration of spring), Charleston SC (architecture & scenes), Cafe Paintings & Drawings, WNC Landscapes
Working in a series will accomplish at least three things:
1. It will give me a direction when I’m not feeling particularly inspired
2. It will encourage me to go to new places and take on new challenges
3. It will produce a cohesive collection for art lovers to enjoy
Display my art in Art Exhibits – I want to share my art with as many art lovers as possible. There’s no substitute for seeing original art in person.
Earn $50K/Year Income – In order to make my shift in focus from illustration to fine art sustainable, I need to earn some income from selling paintings. This is a stretch-goal.
• March/April – Eastern Caribbean, 25th anniversary Cruise with my wife
• May – Charleston, South Carolina
• June – Roan Mountain Paintout with Scott Boyle
• October – Charleston, South Carolina
Systems for doing important things*
• Daily Schedule
• Painting Production Schedule
• TO DO List
• Morning Minutes 
Systems to eliminate distractions*
• Freedom/Antisocial 
• Unplug. Literally unplug the Ethernet cable from my computer.
• The DON’T DO List (things to avoid doing)
• Hourly Chime (reminds me to stay on task or refocus if my attention has drifted.) 
*NOTE: These are not complete lists
This is an outline of my strategies to work more efficiently in the coming year. In future posts I will go into detail about specific strategies and report on my progress.
I’m sharing this with you for three reasons: 1.) I want you to have a behind-the-scenes look into an artist’s life. 2.) I hope to inspire you to live your life more purposefully in line with your goals and values. 3.) Writing and publishing this encourages me to think through my plans and provides some accountability to help me actually create good habits.
If you’d like to keep up with my journey, just enter your email below!
I’d love to hear about the strategies that you are using to accomplish your goals and create good habits. Please leave a comment below and share one thing that you plan to focus on and one strategy that you plan to implement to achieve that goal
1.) 5 Areas of Focus – Peter Bregman 18 Minutes
2.) Goals vs. Systems: James Clear – Blog Post – Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.
3.) Morning Minutes – Peter Bregman 18 Minutes
4.) Freedom/Antisocial Eighty Percent Solutions – Computer Apps that block email and/or internet access for set periods of time in order to reduce distractions.
5.) Hourly Chime – Peter Bregman – Audio interview: Making Your Decisions Match Your Priorities: Dan Heath interviews Peter Bregman