Jennifer C Vigil

Are you making this goal setting mistake?

TLDR: Not having margins in your schedule is a common goal-setting mistake and one I am guilty of making.

The start of a new year is often bittersweet for me; l am excited for the new year but often want an extra week or two to the old year.

This year is no exception. I just wished I was a Time Lord like Dr. Who and could give myself an extra week in 2022.

Why can’t I be Dr. Who

Since I am not likely to suddenly become a Time Lord (if they even exist, and I secretly hope they do and will hear my plea to join their ranks), I am doing the next best thing…easing slowly into 2023.

I let go of getting out holiday emails. I sent “Happy New Years” wishes days into January.

And you know what…

I am totally ok with that.

I am working on pacing myself more in 2023.

As Tara McMullen invites readers to do in her recent book, What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal Setting, I am rethinking goal setting and time management.

It’s all about margins, as she puts it.

I have heard this phrased in different ways before, but for some reason, her using the word margins is what finally made sense.

As an artist, I get margins.

You need room at the edge of the paper to frame it.

Painting or drawing to the edge can create an interesting compositional tension or suggest that we are just glimpsing a fraction of a larger whole.

Playing off the edge (of paper, board, or canvas) is a useful compositional strategy.

In life, it doesn’t translate as well.

In planning (or goal setting), the absence of margins causes unnecessary stress.

As artists, we control our schedule way more than we often acknowledge. It is up to us to build those margins into our schedules.

FOMO is the enemy of margins.

We feel that if we say no to an opportunity, we will miss out. We might not I get our work in front of the “right people”–curators, gallerists, etc.

I can’t tell you how many times other artists shared stories with me of days of all-nighters getting ready for a show that they “just couldn’t say no to” because they feared this might be the event that would get them noticed by the “right people.”

It’s like the lottery.

We hear about the one artist who gets some big opportunity from participating in a show (or had outstanding sales), and we think, “you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket,” aka say yes to everything because this might be the big one.

It is like the myth of the “overnight success.”

Yes, it takes time, and you need to get your work out there, but you also need to have breaks.


Margins or breaks in our schedule allow for us to:

Refill our creative wellspring
To make new work
To daydream
To breath
To enjoy the journey

In 2023, I am adding more margins to my schedule.

If I learned anything from 2022, it’s that the lack of margins creates more chaos and a domino effect that extends weeks and months past the triggering event.

2022 started off great with a call with a photographer. The next day I got sick and was out of commission for a month, and lost a worrisome amount of weight. It put me behind for the rest of the year.

Oooff. What a rough start.

In May, I finally went on an 8-week-long Italian adventure with a dear friend (which was supposed to happen in May 2020). We were to end our trip visiting her family in Sicily. That was cut short in week 5 when she tested positive for covid and I fled back to Tucson in hopes of not getting it.

Villa d'Este Garden, Tivoli, Italy
Villa d’Este Garden, Tivoli, Italy

No such luck. Five days later, I tested positive. My PCP got me antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, and I weathered it better than most.

And the biggest unplanned event…

Our move to Denver in August. In early July, my partner said, “I can work remotely indefinitely. Let’s move to Denver.”

Fall colors in the Rocky Mountains

After the initial shock and terror (I have a great team of doctors in Tucson), I got on board. The next 6 months were grueling.

We spent 6 weeks getting our house ready to list right as the housing market began to soften. We put the for sale sign up on August 20 and left for Denver.

We finally sold our house and closed on the new one on Halloween.

We are still settling in, and my new studio is slowly taking shape.

My new studio

This year I am putting in BIG margins.

I am slowing down.

Less but better is my motto, again.

I want to enjoy 2023, not just survive it.

I invite you to add more margins to your schedule. Give yourself a break, a slow week or two after a big push.

Take a month off for an artist residency in your studio.

Visit friends or family.

Travel, hibernate, or both.

Let me know in the comments what adding margins looks like for you this year.

Need help with what to say no to and how to be more effective with your art business? Schedule a free consultation call today.



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