Most of you may know that when I am not behind the camera, I am a full time live-in nanny for two children. Perhaps the most common question I get asked, is how do I balance it all? So while I have yet to find the perfect answers for this loaded question, I thought I would take today and share a few things that I HAVE learned along the way. Whether you are balancing motherhood and running a business, or work an entirely separate full time job on top of photography, I hope these tips help you out a little.
Have a Plan. Sounds simple, right? Then why are there weeks where I start without one?! I can already tell that I am mostly writing this post to myself as a major reminder of the things that work when I actually DO them. Around last fall, I took the advice of other photographers and started keeping what I call the “Big List”. I use a notebook and it is where I brain dump every to do, every project, every idea. I am a pen and paper girl. I want to write it down and cross it off. This notebook keeps me from asking myself where in the world that post it went. If I work in a coffee shop in the evening, I bring the notebook. If I go away for the weekend, I bring the notebook.
Then before the week begins, whether that’s Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, I take a look at my Big List, and make a plan for the week. I love using my Emily Ley Simplified Planner for this task. She has these great weekly planning pages that work great for me! However, you can probably create something yourself on a simpler scale that still works. (But if polkadots and super cute things help you focus, then you should definitely check out her line)
I take a look at my week and make a Reasonable to do action plan. I say reasonable because one of the most important lessons I have learned about myself is my tendency to “go big or go home”. If I decide I need a new session guide, I struggle with not being able to think about anything else until it’s done. Then I find myself listing that as my todo list on Monday morning. “Write, Design, and Order Session Guide. Oh and from Scratch. In 2 hours.” Obviously that is the clearly setting me up for failure. Because then when it doesn’t get done on Monday morning, I feel like quitting my job because life just became too overwhelming for me. SO. Super important to be reasonable. Know what you are capable of doing when. If you only have a nap time, an evening, or a lunch break- know what you can get done and write it down. Break big projects up into action steps. Set yourself up for success.
Be flexible. Just because I make this incredibly detailed to do list with a super fun colored gel pen, does not mean I stick to it 100%. Life Happens. For me, just writing it out my expectations of myself is the biggest battle. If I can write it out and have an idea of what I need to work on, that is really successful for me. I know that I have to be flexible. I work with children. The baby usually naps at the same time, but you know what? Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes it’s a really fussy day. Sometimes the older one gets sick and doesn’t go to school after all. If I don’t approach these situations with a flexible mindset than I have a meltdown. Ask my friends. Last week my photoshop crashed. With two sessions to edit, a mentoring sub brand that just launched, and a workbook to order. I sobbed. I had to send away my computer for a week to get it repaired. LIFE. HAPPENS. I had to be flexible. I realized that I was actually NOT going to get any of those things done until it returned. So I made a list for how I would prioritize these tasks when it did. Then I climbed back in bed and watched an entire season of Parenthood in like 3 days. And breathed. And you know what? I needed the break. Be flexible. Life won’t end. (Tiffany are you reading as you type this? Life will NOT end!)
Be passionate for what you do. And if you aren’t passionate about it. Get rid of it. I’m serious. There are weeks where my only choice to get work done is to work in the evenings. My only time to not feel like a Mom and remember to have a life of my own. If I wasn’t passionate for my photography business, and how I have created my brand to be something I adore, then there is no way I could pull the extra hours that I do without completely burning out. Is it all the time? No. But it definitely becomes necessary at times, and if I was shooting things that I wasn’t passionate about or working with clients that I didn’t get along with, then there is no way I could do it. Build your business and brand to be something you love. So that you shoot what you love. So that you work with clients that you love. So that when the business becomes a bit more demanding than usual, you enjoy the time you spend on it. As Justin & Mary say, you are doing all of this to build a life you love.
Have systems. Whether you use Evernote, Pixifi, ShootQ, or a DIY approach, it is SO crucial to have systems systems systems. During one of my Connected Brand coaching sessions this week, we were talking about how to make it easier for this mom to still meet her clients in her home for pre-session consults. It was such a personal and meaningful element to her brand that she didn’t want to give up, but was seeing the direct demand this sacrifice was having on her family as most clients wanted to meet in the evening. The stress of having the house clean and getting the kids calm and fed before they arrived was just not worth the battle anymore. We brainstormed ways to create a system for this. I suggested having one or two days a month where she met with her clients, rather then multiple times throughout the week. Then it’s one or two days she is preparing for, giving her time to get a sitter and time to plan on having the house guest ready. A simple change that could be customized to fit her schedule and needs. Have systems for everything. Systems for booking, systems for workflow, systems for editing, and product delivery. My Connected Brand workbook really goes over this, and walks you through your brand experience from start to finish so you can easily point out the areas to build better systems. Just as I wrote it, I noticed so many areas of my own brand that needed improvement. Functioning systems lead to a balanced life and business because your time is spent efficiently.
I hope these few lessons bring encouragement your way.
What are YOUR best tips for keeping a healthy work balance?