When it comes to over-scheduling, photographers are some of the worst offenders. While some seasons—*cough*—weddings —demand extra time, feeling overworked, frantic, and exhausted does not have to be a daily reality. With just a few time management strategies, you can simplify, reduce stress, set yourself up for success, and set aside time for yourself. Here are some ways you can protect your life by managing your time.
“Set Boundaries. Work hard. Play hard. Don’t multitask.” - Kirk Mastin
Time management isn’t about squeezing as many activities as you can into a day, or spreading yourself thin “multitasking”, it’s about crossing off items on your to-do list in the most efficient way possible. Our first strategy may sound simple, but it takes practice and consistency to be successful at setting boundaries.
Here are some actionable ways you can set boundaries for better time management.
Set Boundaries by Setting Business Hours
Many photographers work from home, which makes establishing formal business hours difficult. I’m sure we don’t have to tell you that having consistent self-control at home is difficult. With dishes in the sink, kids running around, and friends calling you for lunch dates (knowing you have a flexible schedule), it’s easy to go back and forth from work to life, and feel overwhelmed. It’s time to accept the fact that multitasking is not productive.
Give your day structure by making it known that you’re not always available, and do not budge. Make your hours clear to clients, family, and friends.
When you set boundaries by setting business hours, a couple of things will happen. You will be held accountable to work a weekly number of hours on your business. Make your family and friends your priority in off-hours. This is huge. When you set aside time for work, you’re also setting aside time for family. When you’re off the clock, you won’t be checking your email every hour or taking client phone calls.
Stop multitasking and stay focused on the task at hand. Most importantly, when you schedule your business hours, also schedule time for yourself. Block out time on your calendar and honor it. You’ll be a better friend, family member, and photographer if you make time for yourself to decompress.
Set Boundaries by Learning to Say No
Perhaps one of the most important lessons for any business owner is to learn to say ‘no’. If you try to do too much, you won’t excel at any of it. Try to weed out anything that doesn’t really matter, and only agree to commitments that make you excited. Think about it this way: You’re not letting people down if you decline immediately.
You’re being honest about the time and energy you have to offer, and you’re providing higher value to people you can commit to. When you learn to say no, you’re also learning to give a quality ‘yes’. You’ll gain a reputation as someone who is reliable and who consistently provides quality work.
When saying no, be honest and don’t make excuses. Resist the desire to say you ‘don’t have the time’, or to come up with an over exaggerated sob story about why you can’t. Everyone has the same number of hours in the day and people make time for the things that matter the most to them. Be honest, say you have to prioritize other things this week and you don’t feel you can deliver your best work if you take on any more projects.
If the project is something you’d like to do in the future, suggest an alternative date. This is a much better approach than saying yes right away and then taking forever to schedule an appointment or deliver a product. Being straightforward makes the conversation easier, and makes room for future opportunities (if you want).
“Prioritize and conquer. Do what is most important not necessarily what is most urgent.” - Kirk Mastin
Rank Your Priorities
Sometimes everything feels like a priority. Before you start your day, identify the top 2 tasks you absolutely have to get done that day and complete those tasks first. If you focus on getting them out of the way early, the stress of the day will be lifted as soon as you’ve completed them, and you’ll be able to relax knowing that you’ve finished the essential work for the day. Anything you do afterward is just lifting the workload for the rest of the week.
Use a Timer
How often do you sit down to edit photos then think, “Did I post that blog on the site today?”; only to be in the middle of posting it when an important email pops up on your notifications. Fast-forward a half hour, and you have an unedited photo shoot, the first draft of your blog, and (what you now know is) an angry email waiting for you in your inbox.
Keep yourself in check by using the timer method. Once you’ve identified your top 2 priorities for the day, eliminate all distractions (turn off your phone, etc.) and set a timer. Timers force commitment. Instead of telling yourself you have to work on something until it’s finished, schedule 45-minute project-focused time blocks. Don’t work on anything else during that timeframe. Complete as much as possible before the timer goes off.
A timer helps you stay focused and makes you more productive. In addition, you’re less likely to view tasks as overwhelming, because you’ve chopped them up into 45-minute achievable chunks. You can schedule these on a daily basis, or work on bigger projects 45-minutes at a time throughout the week. You can iterate on this timer method, adjusting to whatever makes the most sense for you and the project.
After each time block, take a 10-15 minute break.
Sneak in a quick workout, stretch out on a yoga mat, put headphones on and zone out, or get outside in the sunshine. Taking breaks boosts productivity.
Modify Your Business Model
If feeling stretched for time and/or stretched for money, it may be a good time to reevaluate your business model.
Outsource When Necessary
It’s not always financially possible to outsource when starting a business, but as your business grows, it may be time to consider outsourcing. Take the parts of your business that you don’t love to do, or that you know you’re not so great at, and outsource them. It may be tough to get used to paying someone else for work you technically could do, but by cutting out certain less-desirable tasks, such as photo editing, accounting, or bookmaking, you’ll give yourself more time and energy to spend on the parts of your business that you love. Chances are, outsourcing what you can to experts will even help you deliver a better product to your clients in the long run. Win. Win.
Do Less, Bump Up Your Rate
If you find yourself burning the candle at both ends, maybe it’s time to scale down. If you began your business doing all types of photography, by now you know what you actually love to photograph. Prioritize that work. This is especially important if timelines overlap.
For example, don’t fill your schedule with senior portraits when you most love to shoot springtime weddings. When you prioritize the work you love, you’ll progressively cut out the work that doesn’t give you joy, build your reputation in a more specialized style of photography, gain more experience shooting that style, and attract the clients you really want.
If you don’t feel like you have the financial wiggle-room to do less, re-evaluate your billing rate. Most photographers are under charging. Billing at a higher rate will give you more room to be picky about the work that you take on. For more on pricing, read Top 5 Most Common Pricing Mistakes for Wedding Photographers.
Share with our community: What time management strategies do you swear by?