Okay, so working on art, or anything for that matter, under your own steam in isolation, freelance for example, you walk a fine line in most cases between getting distracted, or working to much. EVERYONE who works on their own in isolation for any period of time will fall foul of this to lesser or greater degrees. For me I hit both of these killer zones hard from time to time. If it is work I'm really into I can go an insane amount hours without a break, or completely swing the other way when it is work I'm not interested in and spend every second looking for something, anything, to do that is not what I should be doing - being a digital artist and having the internet at your finger tips is not your friend in these situations.
So, how do you beat this problem? How do you keep engaged and productive with your work without negativity impacting the work or even your health or sanity? You become a happy tomato!!
A few years ago I was listening to a pod cast and one of the hosts was PJ Holden (I know him for his awesome comic work, namely in 2000AD). Pj Talked about this very issue and had discovered something called the Pomodoro Technique, which since this nugget of genius I now use to this very day to awesome positive impact - though I will add that there are still times when the pressure is on it all goes out the window and I spend too much time sat at my computer working.
You can find out some details online about the Pomodoro Technique with a simple search, there is even a little bit here on Wikipedia. In a nutshell though, the Pomodoro Technique (pomodoro mean tomato in Italian) is a very simple process and it encourages a more productive and greater quality of work - awesome, I know.
The process is this:
Step 1. Figure out what you need to do, in my case paint an image.
Step 2. Next, set a timer for 25 minutes, this can be anything as long as it's a timer. Watching a clock wont work, it needs to go 'buzz' so you can focus only on your work during this period (I use an iPod). While the timer is running focus on the task until the timer goes off, and when the timer goes off take a short break (I usually take 5 minutes) - then rinse and repeat!
Step 3. You go through this process about 4-5 times, and then take a longer break, usually a 30 or 15 minute break before going through the process again.
The principle is that you always know there is a break coming up soon, so you don't get distracted, the second part of the principle is that when you take a break (you MUST 'tools down' when that buzzer goes) you are keen to get back to it as you generally end up halfway through something. Over time you begin to work in very productive short bursts that always ends up generating a high amount of work without negativity impacting the quality. It is amazing the improvement you'll find in your work, and from personal experience this technique has made a huge impact on my work and life.
Well I hope this helps and don't forget to share :0)