Before I delve into how I manage my days & time, (read: stay sane) I'll explain my current position at 22. Wedding & Newborn photography is my full time job, and thank god for that because I love it a lot. I also love being a girl boss. Maybe I like that bit even more. I own a second business with my clever partner, Arky, and you can see that here. I'm in my fourth year of studying Law, with probably two years, maybe three to go. I'm just about to move out of home, ready to create an even better studio than the one I already have. If it sounds like a lot to manage, that's because it is. There is no beating around the bush, I have a lot going on. Sometimes I'm so tired, I feel it in my bones. But strangely enough, I also feel more alive and motivated than I have before. So, I decided that I wanted to write about what has worked for me because there have been several changes I have made in the last 6 months that have seriously improved my business and my wellbeing. Perhaps it can help you too. Because I see you, working alone in that office, slugging 65 hours in a week. I see you, and man, do I feel you.
Working for myself is undoubtedly the best thing that has ever happened to me. I thrive off the ability to control my schedule, to engage with different people at every shoot, and to create something new each and every time. I enjoy structure and I enjoy creating it even more. I'm also a fierce advocate for self care and regularly making time to do the things that keep me sane. It's not always an easy balance, but it's do-able and to be quite honest, it's crucial. Around October last year, I was in the height of wedding season & studying for a subject I had to re-teach myself. After shooting back to back weddings, with two newborns planned for mid-week, and no time scheduled into my calendar to actually do the studying required, I looked at my calendar and cried. Real tears. Real, salty, pathetic tears rolled down my face. I cried because I was overwhelmed & because there was no time for me in the insanity. When I lose myself, I lose the plot. So my first change came into play; accountability.
Accountability & Scheduling
I don't have a magical little elf scheduling my days and time, my jobs or my study. I cant blame the fact that I took back to back weddings TWICE in October on anyone but myself. I knew exam period was November but I made those decisions anyway. I was in charge of what happened to my schedule, and I let myself down big time. So be wise about it, be fair and be kind. I need that tattooed on my brain pronto.
While on the scheduling topic, I'll quickly hammer out what mine looks like. Without showing you my actual calendar, I can tell you that everything I do is in there. From days that I go for a run, down to what will be edited when, what will be sent off, mailed, etc. Days off, or blocks of time off are also scheduled in advance. I try to take the time every couple of weeks to actually look ahead and schedule those blocks sensibly. Then, when it comes down to scheduling meetings or newborn sessions, I never touch those blocks because I know they are there for a reason. Thank you, past me. Side note: I never shoot on Sunday's. I may edit if I feel like it but it's not a schedule day. Having things scheduled and abiding by it really helps to keep me from being overwhelmed. It's a mental thing. When I want to pull out the whole 'I'll never get all of this done' argument, I know my calendar has a time and place for all of it. Except in exam month + the week before overseas trips. That is a work in progress.
There was a time where I truly thought I had ADHD. Purely because my brain struggled to focus on one task properly for 5 minutes, god forbid any longer. This is extremely problematic when you have so many big tasks to get done so I set about fixing this issue. A couple of months on and I swear by this productivity timer. I work in 25 minute blocks on one task only. I remove my phone from the office (yeah, I literally have to put it out of the room) and I work until that blessed angelic alarm goes off indicating it's time for a 5 minute break. I wish to marry the individual who created this timer. Do I need to say anything else about it?
In addition to the timer, I also take a coffee break around 11am each day. It gives me something to work on those 25 minute blocks until. I leave the house and head down to my local heroes who make me a takeaway. I bring it home, and the timer starts again. God, reading this back to myself, does my life sound like ground hog day? I promise it's not. It's just my routine. The beauty of it is that by 2-3pm each day, I've pretty much done more than enough work for the day and I clock off sans guilt. Or I'll have a newborn arrive in the studio. Either way, my working days are actually getting shorter and I'm getting more done. And that's the goal.
As much as I am a girl boss, and enjoy the running of my own show, I am so proud to work with shining star, literal angel, Lauren Thiel. Lauren has been my bookkeeper since late last year, managing the accounting side of my work and keeping me away from the thing I probably hate most about business owning: numbers, invoices, tax receipts, profit & loss statement etc. Have I lost you yet? In all seriousness, Lauren has been a huge help and one of my best decisions I've made yet. Together we have our eyes on my goals and I know she has my back to help me reach them. To any of my business owning friends, if you are thinking of outsourcing this type of work, shoot her a message, and be ready to fall in love.
On the outsourcing topic, my next goal is to outsource some of my admin. Though I'm not sure how and/or when, it seems as though down the line this will be my next step. As business owners, it's a common trap to think you have to juggle it all. It's scary to delegate. But being a frazzled possum with no life is scarier.
Here's a game changer I never, ever thought I would see. In the later part of last year I began a running programme that trains you from being a non-runner into a 5km runner. If you are anything like I was, and the thought of anything other than a brisk walk made you feel ill then let me tell you: you can do it too. Besides being proud when I finished it, I was truly shocked. Hand on my heart, there is nothing that helps me focus more than a run in the morning. I literally can't believe it's the case but it is. I tend to run first thing in the morning, and it irons out the creases. I forget about whatever I was thinking about before the run, and my mind is ready to go again. Now I'm not saying it's for everyone but I will tell you to give something a go in the morning if you can. My productivity on the mornings I run is far, far better than those that I don't. And my beautiful friend Danielle, whom I study with and finished the programme with, will tell you no less.
A couple of days a week, I try and attend lunchtime barre/yoga classes here which pretty much do the same thing that running does. Though I notice it helps more with my anxiety and stress levels as opposed to my productivity. Even on days that I have weddings on, I try squeeze in an early class because I truly find myself more centred after doing so. The day can be tackled far better when I've done that for myself. I also just started adult ballet classes because I wanted to be doing something that was less about my fitness and more about pursuing a hobby. I danced for several years as a kid, and thought I'd give it another go, this time for fun. I attend every Monday and have the whole day to look forward to those classes where I am with myself, doing something completely unrelated to work.
Don't ever underestimate the true power food has on your productivity, energy and overall wellbeing. I truly adore Heidi, a friend and beautiful dietician who often speaks about feel good foods and their effect on her. She talks about intuitively eating and I love the approach more than I can express. I bloody love vegetables. And eggs. And banana smoothies. And green juices with so much ginger it burns my throat. I love kombucha, and hummus and real, proper, help-me-get-it-done ingredients. I also love myself a donut and sometimes I just need to get my hands on a Happy Maple creation. I eat for how I want and need to feel and it's certainly important. That also means lindt dark salted caramel chocolate because oh damn, it's fine. Could I function without the feel good foods and the ignore-the-price green juice? Yeah well obviously. But it feels good.
There is little that is worse than shooting a wedding and not getting fed at the reception. I am a nightmare without food. (Arky could share a few stories) But honestly, I am. I'm also a worst-case-scenario type individual so I plan for those scenarios all the time. I pack things like almonds, fruit, crackers, roasted beans, fruit & nut bars, berocca to most of my weddings. On reflection, I actually don't know if there's a worse combo than me and low blood sugar.
My favourite contribution to 'success' is indeed taking breaks. Traveling is my thing. It might not be yours, and that's totally fine. You find what you like to work towards and you go for that. I love planning breaks and I love booking them even more. I have no trouble putting in the crazy hours in the lead up to holidays, and I have no trouble enjoying those said holidays knowing I've worked hard for them. There's not much else to that point. Except perhaps that I still need to learn to turn off completely. And have someone set up automated emails for me. Because last time I did that it was a disaster.
Phew. Marathon post. If you're still reading, I'll arrange a medal to be sent to your home. I suppose my final point is that you really do need to find your groove and embrace it. Sometimes parts of that might happen naturally, and sometimes you might need a push. I urge you all to think about what you want and need to do and work from there. Try something new. Alter your routine. Or build a new one from scratch. Move your body. Always remember that caring for yourself is a need in itself, and incorporating something that can be classified as that into your every day is your first step, in my opinion.