If you’re an artist, you’ve probably heard the old adage about how creative people thrive in chaos. Without a messy home or studio space, how will anyone know you’re a “real” artist? The truth is that if you’ve ever actually lived in a constant state of disorganization, you likely know it doesn’t feel that great. Most of us do better with at least a bit of organization—even the most creative among us. 

Getting organized won’t just help you feel better, it can help you be a better and more prolific artist, according to creative entrepreneur and Skillshare instructor Sophia Chang. With so many artists running their own businesses and being responsible for things like accounting that might not be in their natural wheelhouse, Chang believes organization is more important than ever before.

Why is Organization for Artists Important?

Being organized goes beyond just setting up a working space for yourself. Organization allows you to streamline your workflow, communicate more effectively, get paid more easily, and more. Getting organized can offer a range of benefits for artists and creatives, including:

  • Allowing you to reach your goals more easily
  • Giving you an accessible way to keep track of projects and ideas
  • Helping you gain momentum and keep moving forward
  • Reducing overwhelm and mental clutter
  • Helping you enforce boundaries around what you need
  • Aiding you with reaching a “flow state” where you’re in a rhythm of producing that feels good and your focus is at its peak

9 Creative Organization Tools to Try

All of those benefits sound amazing, right? But how do we actually get organized as artists? Organization for creatives operates on the same fundamental principle as for anyone else: The most important thing is to find a system that works for you. I am a freelance writer, editor, and crafter, and I’ll share some tools I’ve tried below. 

Experiment with a couple different strategies to organize before landing on the one that is going to stick. Ask other creative friends for their advice on how to be organized, and add their suggestions to your list to try.

1. Asana

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Asana can help you keep track of tasks and their respective deadlines, as well as manage recurring tasks. For example, I know that I work on my newsletter every Monday, so once I check it off the list, it pops back up for the following Monday. 

You can also create separate projects; I have projects for managing the admin side of my freelance business, writing a novel, my newsletter (shown above), and applying to graduate school. I add the project-specific tasks under each project and each day, my homepage shows me everything I have to work on that day, across all of my projects. 

2. Trello

The author’s “Freelance Writing” Trello board.
The author’s “Freelance Writing” Trello board.

Trello is like a digital whiteboard and does have some overlap with Asana. I like to use Trello to organize my workflow at a glance. I have a “List” for each week—that way, I can see if writing assignments are stacking up in one particular week and stop accepting new work for that time period. 

I also keep a board of “Ideas to Pitch” so I don’t lose track of new ideas or concepts I want to let percolate. When I worked at a creative agency, we used Trello to tag other people on the team on different tasks, delegate ownership, and keep up with due dates for client projects. 

Basecamp and Monday.com have some of the same functionalities as both Asana and Trello and may be worth checking out as well. 

3. Google Suite

Many companies I’ve worked with use Google Suite to collaborate. Docs allows you to make edits, tag others, or leave comments for review; it also makes sure people aren’t working with outdated versions of a document. The same applies to Spreadsheets and other Google products. I recently spent half an afternoon organizing folders and documents within Google Drive and while it seemed laborious at the time, it’s an amazing feeling to now be able to quickly find everything that’s related to a certain project. 

4. Paper Planners

Paper planners come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. 
Paper planners come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. 

I’ve tried to get away with it, but I don’t know how to be organized without a physical planner. I love using it to map out my days and make sure I don’t forget appointments and meetings. There’s just something satisfying about writing things down and seeing what I have to do on paper. I prefer the Passion Planner (bonus points because it’s founded and run by an Asian woman!), but there are plenty of good ones out there. 

5. Notes App or Evernote

I use my smartphone’s Notes app to keep track of things that come up as I’m out and about, or for lists that don’t fit anywhere else. (For example, I have a Note about what packages I’m waiting on, and I delete them as they come in through the mail.) I also know many people who use and love Evernote as a way to keep track of ideas and take notes. 

P.S. If you’re looking to take better notes, here’s a great place to start.

6. Hire an Organizing Expert

A professional organizer can help you get your supplies in order to foster creativity and success. 
A professional organizer can help you get your supplies in order to foster creativity and success. 

Sometimes you’ve gotta leave it to the experts to show you how to get organized. You can hire an organizer to come in and shift things around, propose systems, go through your things and purge items, or help you identify blind spots around what you need to do. Most times, organizing is a one-time project. Google “professional organizers near me” and see what comes up.

7. Distraction-Busting Tools

If you find yourself distracted by your phone and its endless stream of notifications, app updates, texts, and more, try turning your phone on airplane mode while you work or storing it in another room so you won’t see it light up. There are also a number of tools that promise to cut down on distractions, like Freedom and Serene. 

8. Accounting Software

For many creatives, staying on top of finances can be a big challenge. If you’re a freelancer who’s still creating your own invoices and sending them out, try a software program like FreshBooks or Quickbooks Self-Employed. These programs help you streamline the tasks you probably aren’t good at (remembering which invoices are overdue, tracking time you’ve worked on different things) so you can spend more time being creative. 

9. Slack

If you communicate with other people about your work and want to keep it all organized, try Slack. You can create different channels depending on topics or needs and always have access to what was discussed, in one place.

Remember: There is no single best organization method for creatives. Spending the time to brainstorm how to get organized and find tools that work for you will pay huge dividends in the long run. You’ll be able to effectively manage yourself and your work, feel more clear headed and motivated, get more done, and take better care of yourself. 

Looking to Get Organized Now?

Creative Small Business Essentials.

Written by:

Nikki Carter