When I read that Obama wore the same suit every day during his presidency because people have limited decision-making ability and he wanted to retain that one extra daily decision in his quota – well, I was hooked on what I like to call “pre-decisions.” There are few things I enjoy more than setting a gentle constraint on my own life that saves me decisions, time, and stress. This is why I capsule wardrobe, bullet journal, and cook a limited number of things for dinner (ok that last one is a lie, but it makes me sound a lot smarter to suck at cooking for a lofty reason).
Perhaps the ultimate pre-decision one can make is the default daily routine – another obsession of mine. Daily defaults allow us to do two critical things: make sure we fit every activity that we want into our day, and also avoid making lots of little decisions throughout the day about whether or not we’re going to go through with each thing.
For artists, daily routines are absolutely critical, and most revolve around sacred, uninterrupted work time. Whether it’s visual artists, dancers, or musicians, most artists need significant chunks of solitude through their day to do a couple of essential tasks. First, to take care of what we could think of as the foundation – the things that keep their art going. For all artists, this takes the form of some sort of repeated, daily exercises that maintain and improve their technical proficiency in their craft. As well, most artists need time in their day to do focussed, independent work on whatever their current project is (be it at the canvas, in the studio, or in a rehearsal space). These are the hours of grind. Then, of course, one must also schedule in all the bits and pieces necessary to actually work as an artist: rehearsals, performances, meetings, openings, consultations, fittings etc. etc. etc.
Is your day designed to serve your personal mission?
Even more interesting than the nuts and bolts of the artist’s day are the other things that colour those blessed 24 hours. Many musicians, for example, maintain some sort of high-level physical fitness routine, be it daily yoga, marathon training, or Crossfit. Others prefer to be particularly gentle on their bodies, and warm them up each morning with a walk or a couple of simple stretches. Some visual artists need to be around other people for inspiration, so they seek out communal experiences through their day; others crave solitude, so they stick to off-hours and quiet routines.
All great artists’ routines have one thing in common, though: the day serves the mission. Balance is key, since just practicing or painting all day simply won’t get you to success. Artists also need time away from their work every day in order to allow ideas to sink in, invite new inspiration to come to them, and to give their bodies and minds time to rest and get charged up for more. This is where it truly looks different for each artist, just as it does for every person in general. As well, for artists who work with others – particularly dancers, actors, and musicians – giant swaths of the day are out of their control (with rehearsals and performances, among other commitments) and highly variable from day to day. Therefore, you’ll find that these individuals have adaptable daily routines (a packable consistent lunch, a workout that can be tucked into a spare half hour, an evening retreat to quiet the mind etc.). Again, the key is pre-made decisions that support the central objective.
Artfully Design Your Days
With that in mind, let’s check out the highly diverse daily routines of some very exceptional artists. As you click through them, think about what aspects of the days resonate with you. Do you like the set routines, or the more variable days? Do you like to crush out your days, packing them to the brim with activity, or do you need more space and flexibility?
In all these questions remember to come back to the whole point of the thing: what are YOU trying to get out of each day? Perhaps your central mission is to grow your company. How are you supporting that? Perhaps it’s to lift as many people up with your kindness and connection as you possibly can. Amazing! Does that feel supported by your routines? Your day is your canvas – your life is your masterpiece – so you may as well put some thought into designing it.
Daily Routines of Artists
Let’s dive in and look at some of the daily routines of artists. You’ll find they’re very different, particularly based on the demands of which type of art is involved. Remember to ask yourself: what about this could I steal for my own awesomely designed life?
I particularly loved this interactive chart of the daily routines of famous creatives. Many on the list are authors, but also included are Beethoven, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Picasso. Click through here to the main site, then hover over the bars on their days to see what they were up to.
Here’s a slightly dated but absolutely marvellous video of First Soloist Yuhui Choe of The Royal Ballet walking you through a day in the life of a professional dancer:
Also, this delightful little video of ABT Principal (and Instagram celebrity) Isabella Boylston:
THE MUSIC STUDENT
I also enjoyed this snapshot of a day in the life of a music student, from Juilliard violist Drew Alexander Forde (which brought back both good and horrible flashbacks to music school):
THE ORCHESTRAL MUSICIAN
And this one from LSO’s Principal Flute, Gareth Davies:
One of my FAVOURITE videos of ALL TIME, PERIOD!
My all-time favourite daily routine video, which is of conductor, composer, and trombonist Christian Lindberg living my dream life (ok, I could do without the icy ocean plunges, and I’m DEFINITELY in the shower for more than a minute, but I’m pretty into the rest of it):
And there you have it!
Daily routines of some of the world’s most creative (and productive!) artists. How does your daily routine stack up? Do you have flexible habits that change with the demands of your day, or are you pretty rigid? And, most importantly, do all of your routines serve YOUR central mission?
Until next time, creative humans!