Do you have big dreams but such little time? You can’t change the number of hours in the day but you can change how use the time you do have. With a little planning and organization, you can conquer your to do list and chase those dreams! Check out my productivity habits for photographers.
In this article, you will find:
- Practical tips for managing an overloaded schedule
- Small action items to move towards your goals faster
- Ways to make the most of the time you have available
Have you ever felt like there are never enough hours in the day?
Juggling a family, life and a photography business is not easy and quite frankly, it’s often impossible to find balance each day.
There are numerous tactics out there to make you more systematic and intentional with your time. Although these methods can spike your productivity, they are often difficult to normalize. Instead of chasing the next shiny thing, or searching for the next “proven method,” relying on a few basics can keep you focused and provide you with the most effective way to continue to move the needle and make progress on reaching your goals.
DISCLAIMER: Before the good stuff – this is a must mention! All of these tips are intended to inspire you. They are not meant to discourage you. Developing habits does not happen overnight. Habits take dedication and repetition to become a long lasting. Give yourself grace in finding a system that works for you and remember that every step you take moves you closer to where you want to be. Courtney Holmes says it best “progress over perfection.”
Productivity Habits for Photographers with Limited Time
Define Your “Next Actions”
It’s time to start viewing your to do list a little different. Making a to do list is often the first step we take when we are motivated to get things done. Although valuable, it can be counterproductive when the size of the list is too large. Instead of motivating us to act, we become paralyzed in trying to figure out where to start.
One of the biggest takeaways that I learned from studying David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, was his development of the “Next Action” mentality. Allen encourages people to look at every task, big or small, and figure out what the next action is to move the needle on the project. In other words, every task or project has a “next step” or something that must occur next in order to continue moving the project towards completion. Next Actions are bite size tasks that are manageable.
For example, if the task is starting a newsletter, finding an email service provider might be your “next action.” Or perhaps if you already have this, your next step would be picking your template or organizing your content outline. The goal is to identify what the next action is to continue moving you towards your desired outcome.
Adopting the “Next Action” mentality is extremely valuable. Start thinking about all of your “to dos” in this way right away. You will find clarity in your focus and knowing exactly what it is that you need to be doing next for each task.
Every little step, or next action taken, is progress towards your goal.
Pick 3 Things
Do you often feel like your to do list is 4 miles long? You dream big and there is no shame in that! However long your list, don’t let that stop you from making progress every single day.
To avoid to do list overwhelm, it’s time to ditch the long to do list…well, sort of…keep reading!
Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the size of your list, set small achievable goals for yourself. It is much more motivating to have achievable goals, rather than unrealistic expectations of your time.
Pick 3 things every single week that you want to complete and 3 things every single day. Make sure the tasks are bite sized, meaning they are realistic given the time you have. Trust me, a small win is much more motivating than the weight of an unfinished task.
Prioritize Profit-Driven Actions
When deciding which “next action” is going to make your priority list, ask yourself this question “What will have the biggest impact in helping me reach my goals?” Asking this question will keep you focused on progress and growth. You will find out that not all tasks are created equal. Sometimes small actions can be the most impactful but least rewarding, while others reap immediate rewards but do not contribute to growth.
For example, since starting my business, I have been wanting to create a Showreel to showcase my films. The purpose of the Showreel would be to attract new clients. However, with a full schedule booked, attracting new clients is not a priority at this moment. I did however need to refine my email templates to give my clients a better experience. With a full schedule of clients, I knew refining my Client Workflow was a priority. Writing email templates is not glamorous and did not give me the creative boost I wanted but it was necessary to improve not only my client’s experience but streamline my workflow, giving me more time.
Schedule Your Non-Negotiables
As business owners, there are certain tasks that need done no matter what. Filing sales tax, recording expenses, updating your books…etc. For us creatives, this stuff isn’t high on the list of reasons why we became photographers. However, these tasks are non-negotiables. They need to be done in order to keep business running smoothly. Instead of letting these recurring tasks live in your thought cloud, write them down and schedule them on a recurring cycle.
If your bank statements come on the 15th of every month, schedule a recurring task on the 16th of every month. Some examples of weekly non-negotiables could be managing personal finances, cleaning up emails and updating your to do list.
Intentionally setting aside time for the mundane but critical tasks will keep you accountable and on track in your business and life. Be mindful of your mindset as well. For example, I purposefully set aside time for non-creative tasks when I know my creativity is low. I am an early bird and usually login at 5:30am every morning. On Monday’s when I’m coming off a weekend, my creativity is usually pretty low. I schedule to update my personal finances at this time. It is a mindless activity that can be done as I’m trying to get myself situated for the week.
Step-by-Step Plan for Ultimate Productivity
Ok, it’s time to land the ship and take action. Here is a step-by-step plan to help you manage your never ending to do list, find clarity in your priorities, become more productive with the time you have and continue to make strides towards your goals each and every day.
- Schedule a 20-minute planning session each week. This step is incredibly important!! During this time, organize and update all of your to do lists, projects and priorities. I would also suggest updating the “next actions” for each project you have. Make a note of any scheduled non-negotiables.
- Pick 3 projects to focus on for the week. Remember, these projects should be profit driven or a non-negotiable. They should contribute to your progress and growth in your business.
- Write them down. Once your priorities have been identified, write them down or place them in a highly visible spot. You want them to continually remind you what your priorities are.
Personally, I write my priorities in a notebook that sits on my desk. It is always open. Writing something on paper for me makes me feel more accountable. This is personal preference though. You may find keeping everything electronically, where it can be accessed works best for you.
The most important thing is that the tasks are in a highly visible location and will motivate you.
- Evaluate Progress Every Day. At the close of your work day or at the end of the night, pick 3 small goals for the next day that you want to accomplish. These tasks should facilitate the progress of your priorities. They will typically be the next action for your projects.
Writing down your 3 priorities for the next day at the close of your work day, while the momentum is fresh and you are engaged with what must come next. This will help you pick up right where you left off the next day and not dawdle when work starts again.
- Batch, Batch, Batch! When possible, I encourage you to not only schedule your content but batch it as well. Items like blogging, newsletters and social media content can be consuming to keep up with. Stay tuned for my best tips on successfully planning and batching content with ease.
Last Thoughts for Success
These are simple but very effective ways to start increasing your productivity immediately. Even if you implement just a single tactic, it will help ease the burden of your never ending to do list. Here are a few last thoughts to help implement these with success.
Create a System That Works for You
This is something that will vary for everyone but in order to achieve consistent, steady and forward-moving results, you need to have a consistent and reliable system that works for you. For me, I need a place to record all my thoughts and tasks in one, easy to use, and easily accessible place. I use ClickUp for my project and customer management system. There are numerous systems available from the old-fashioned pen and paper to a full-scale project management system. When choosing your system, keep these few things in mind:
- The system needs to be easily accessible from home, the office or on the road.
- The system must be easy to use. If it is complicated, you will not use it. Period.
- It should be scalable. Before you know it, your business will evolve. You need a system that will scale with you.
Take Care of Yourself Before Anything Else
I may have saved this for last but it should be top priority. You have got to take care of yourself first and foremost. This means getting the sleep you need, eating well, exercising and giving yourself the mental breaks when you need them most. If you are not at your best, you will not produce your best work.
The need for more hours will always be there, but you can maximize the hours that you do have. I encourage you to invest your time in creating long lasting, productivity habits. Give yourself the time and space to find what works for you. Whether you found value in one of the tips above or all of them, I encourage you to take them and make them work for you. Every little step taken moves you closer to your desired results.
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