The start of a new year offers the perfect time to reflect on the past year’s successes and shortcomings, take stock of what’s working in your art career, and think about where you want to be a year from now.
What projects do you want to complete? Are there habits you want to break and others you want to begin?
Chances are, you may have asked these questions before. And, chances are, the answers to the questions became your New Year’s resolutions. And even more likely, these resolutions didn’t stick.
It’s not because you were incapable, or weak-minded, or didn’t have the drive.
The problem is that we usually approach our goals all wrong. First, we tend to make resolutions that are too broad. When there’s no clear path to take action, it’s overwhelming and often leads to inaction. The larger we make our goals, the more insurmountable they seem and the less likely we are to complete them.
So, what types of goals should we be setting and how should we approach them?
By applying a few rules to your goal-setting, you can keep your resolutions and improve your year ahead! Here are some proven ways to stick with it.
Make resolutions that are unique to you
The fastest way to failure is to pick a resolution simply because you think you’re supposed to make it.
Do you think you should be having more solo shows? Have a bigger social following? Or do you feel like you should be making more “serious” work?
Make sure you are setting your resolutions for yourself and what you think will truly make your life better — not what you think will impress others.
Reflect on what you think needs to be accomplished or improved on in the year to come. Be honest with yourself about where you are now, what your weakness might be, and where you could improve personally to make your life and art business better.
Choosing something you’re instantly motivated by will make it easier to stick with, as opposed to doing something just because other people expect you to or because it’s that time of year.
Personal goal example: Use sketchbooks regularly. This is an attainable and specific goal that will create a habit over time. Sketchbooks are great places to flesh out new ideas, spark creativity, and keep a record of your studies that will later turn into bigger pieces.
Pick one (or two) long-term goals to focus on
After asking yourself what you need to work on the most, make sure you only devote yourself to those one or two things.
Remember, too many resolutions can be overwhelming. Smaller things will probably get taken care of naturally if you put them on the to-do list, so skip grouping them in with your resolutions.
Sometimes a label makes all the difference in your mind.
And at this point, it’s okay to be broad in your resolution-making when picking an area of your life or self that needs to be improved. Long-term goals are the goals you want to achieve by the end of the year or part of a larger plan.
Long-term goal example: Have a solo art show or get gallery representation. These are the north stars of your resolutions. It’s what you are working towards and what will keep you on track with the smaller goals.
Break your big goals down into smaller goals.
You’re probably the most excited to work on one area of your art business: getting organized, personal growth, productivity, marketing, or social media.
These are all great areas to focus on, but also way too general. The key to success is to take your broad, idealistic goal and break it down into smaller, achievable steps. For instance, say you want to get that first solo show. Think about which actions will help you reach that end goal.
Examples of small term goals: In order to achieve your long-term goal of getting that first solo show, you will need to accomplish a number of small goals first. You will need to make sure you have high-quality photos, your bio and statement up to date, and a way to present you and your work professionally.
If your long-term goal is to grow your art business, you could resolve to read at least three articles a week to become more knowledgeable. You could even plan to enter more juried shows, gather client names for an email list, or develop a marketing calendar.
There are infinite and abundant opportunities, but you have to start somewhere.
Stay accountable to yourself by tracking your progress.
When goals are out of sight, they are also out of mind. That’s why experts suggest physically writing down your resolution and placing it in a spot in your studio or home where you will see it every single day.
Having small visual reminders of your progress will help keep the resolution at top of mind and also serve as a reminder what you have already achieved.
Tell your family and friends about your goals. Knowing they may ask you about your progress can be just the push you need to follow through. Plus, the more people you have on your side that can lend a hand, the better.
Example of holding yourself accountable: If your goal is to better track your artwork, you can take a number of steps to make sure you stay on track yourself. Tracking your artwork is all part of valuing your artwork.
The first step on your way to getting organized is to get an easy-to-use system like Artwork Archive. Having an inventory program like Artwork Archive will not only allow you to track all the details of your artwork, where it has shown, and who it sold to, it also allows you to measure your progress.
Measure your progress by recording 10 artworks a week to start. The added bonus is having your information in art inventory software is that it will also help you keep tabs on your other goals by giving you insights into your sales, gallery performance and which artworks are selling best.
Experts also agree on one thing: set a deadline.
When we call it a New Year’s resolution, that implies we are taking the entire year to do whatever it is we think will make our lives better. That’s a gigantic window of time to do anything, let alone accomplish an already difficult goal.
That’s twelve whole months filled with other work, activities, holidays, and things to get done. That means plenty of time for resolutions to get lost in translation or put on the back burner.
The solution? Once you’ve broken down your resolution into smaller steps you need to take along the way, set a hard deadline for when you want each of them to be accomplished—even if it seems like a longshot.
Put your goals on your calendar and check in with yourself when the date rolls around. Have you accomplished that section of your goal? If not, what held you back? Did you bite off more than you could chew? That’s ok! Reassess and reset your goals with smaller sections if need be.
Setting deadlines will put pressure on your work ethic to see it through. Celebrating your small victories will help push you along the path of gradual success. Remember that changing habits is a marathon, not a sprint.
There will be highs and lows.
You know that feeling of excitement and relief that bubbles up when you successfully complete a project? Remember that and let it drive you to want to do more! Celebrating your accomplishments throughout the process actually helps you sustain momentum to the end.
On the other hand, you need to keep in mind that old habits die hard.
There will be good days and bad. Snooze buttons will be hit and deadlines will pass. But being too hard on yourself won’t do any good—it only gives you an excuse to quit altogether. So always keep this one thing in mind: tomorrow is a new day.
It doesn’t have to be January 1st to start fresh.
Ready to get started?
If you’re the kind of person whose resolutions never seem to stick, it’s okay! You probably just haven’t had the right tools for success.
Don’t get down about your past failures. Embrace this time of year when everyone is focusing on starting anew and imagine how you will feel when you’ve changed your life, art, and business for the better.