The last few months have been a major struggle for me. In terms of not being able to find any spare time to anything but shoot photographs. Now as a photographer thats obviously the main point of my job. But theres so much more then just taking photos for me. I like to share my work, I like to write about it, and I like to converse with other people about not only my work, but theirs as well. I want to write some new blogs, I want to create some behind the scenes content, I want to record some videos. I also want to get more personal projects off the ground. But the main factor is I'm just too damn busy.
Or am I?
Some people may know this about me, but photography isn't the only the job I have. I also have a day job. It takes a lot of time, practice, skill and most of all commitment to make photography a better paying gig then your day job. I work 40+ hours a week at my day job, and then I spend the rest of my time working on all things photographic. I normally average about 4-5 hours a day / evening on editing, shooting, arranging shoots, answering emails etc. In this time frame its a struggle to get things done in a timely manner that I don't become swamped with a mountain of backlogged work. I can blame myself for sometimes getting easily distracted, from the task at hand. The likes of Instagram, messages, Facebook, youtube are the worst type of distractions. I pick up my phone and before I know it 20 minutes has passed by and no work has been done. I'll repeat this process at least 3-4 times, sometimes more a night. Well thats a good hour if not more wasted. All the while that mountain of work I need to get done, is still waiting patiently for me, and it just compounds the problem of not being able to do more of the things I want to be doing as well.
I want to make photography my main job. I want to be my own boss and do something that I truly love. I want to be able to dedicate as much time as I can get to it. But that means I got to work hard. To work hard, I got to up my game in the terms of my productivity. Create content that generates business and opens doors. Content after all isn't going to create itself, and its sure as hell not going to find the right people if it doesn't exist in the first place.
So I came up with a goal. I wanted to be able to make more time for other things, rather then just take some photos, edit said photos, then deliver to my clients and repeat the process the next week. My plan was to start by switching off my phone. My phone is my number one thing that distracts me, so I started there. If its there next to me and I see a notification pop up, I pick it up instantly and then spend another 5 minutes wasting time doing nothing productive. I turn it off and no chance of it getting my attention. Simple.
Second thing I did, I brought myself an egg timer. Yes an egg timer. I set a timer for 30 minutes and then work straight for that 30 minutes. When the buzzer goes off, I get up and do some stretches, I get the blood flowing again in my legs, I move around. I do this so I don't get bored or tired of sitting in the same position doing the same thing. In the past I would sit in my chair for a couple of hours at a time and after a while I would just slow to a crawl in my work flow, because I was either getting bored or just plain tired. Thats when the distractions would creep in again. Getting up and away from the computer for 5 minutes is a little godsend. Now when I would go back and sit at my desk and I'm motivated again to crack on with the work. I reset the timer and work for another 30 minutes, but I know at the end of 30 minutes I can get back up and move around, refresh my eyes, take 5 minutes to get motivated again. Sometimes I even use the 30 minute timer to challenge myself, I'll task myself with trying to get a certain amount of images edited in that time frame, each time trying to beat my last score. Its a little thing like that, that keeps me engaged and helps speed up my workflow. Taking 5 minutes is better then wasting 20 minutes doing nothing useful.
Third thing I did, was create a schedule. I now break up my week into little tasks or goals and try and keep on track to ticking them off. I brought a little dry marker white board, and I detail my week out into what I have to get done, and what I want to get done. A normal week would normally consist of one or two shoots on a weekend. Maybe an evening shoot somewhere in there to. Then I have a day of downloading, sorting through and cataloging images. Then its on to picking the best of the best images and starting to play about with some edit styles and looks. The rest of the week will be a combination of working through my images and trying to edit all of the shots I have chosen. I also sometimes get some retouching work sent to me from other photographers and studios and I have to fit that into my schedule as well, and often have to work to tight deadlines with these. A lot of the time I can be working till the early hours in the morning trying to get stuff done. My own work is constantly being added to the back burner because other things arn't being done in a timely fashion. Those pesky distractions are not helping at all in this instance again. So the idea of writing down my schedule and trying to work to it the best I can has proved very beneficial so far. I now block sections of my days into bite sized amounts of time. On a given weekday, after I get home from work, after I've done the chores, and fed myself. I have a list of things I need to do. Answer emails, download, catalog, pick the best images to work on, edit, social media updates, come up with ideas, retouching jobs, website maintenance, deliver final products to clients etc. If I allocate time blocks to these tasks and try and get them done in the time frame Ive set myself then I should be able to keep on top of my work load and then in turn that frees up time for other things towards the end of the week.
I've been running with this system for the last 4 weeks and I can honestly say its made a huge difference to the way I work and my overall productivity levels have sky rocketed. So much I've even managed to shoot, sort and edit 4 weddings, 5 photoshoots and two big retouching jobs in the space of about 2 weeks, Normally that would have taken me about 6-7 weeks. Its freed up a ton of time for me, that I'm even able to write this blog post. Something that I plan on doing a lot more of in the future. Now that I have more free time.
Take my advice if you want to speed up your overall work flow, you just got to be smarter with your time. Turn off the phone, give yourself a break and schedule your time better.