Managing Time- Photo Focus

(Love this old photo of Nova and I when she was 6 days old)

Time is the one thing I always wish I had more of.

Maybe in the moment I don't realize it so much...but looking back I almost always wish I could have had a little bit more time. More time to look at something pretty. More time to spend with someone. More time to finish projects.

Now that I am a parent and a business owner time has taken on a whole new meaning.

I use to pride myself on being spontaneous. Waking up and working on or doing whatever felt right. Unless I had an appointment or a shoot I was generally "free" to do as I saw fit. Eat when I want, spend a whole day on the computer...or even sleep in!

Not so much anymore. And truthfully I need the consistency and order just as much as my daughter or husband does...maybe even more.

With photography screaming for my attention and my husband and daughter making puppy dog eyes at me from the office door...I knew some predictability and order was what we needed and fast.

Grant and I have discussed all of our time management issues in depth, I am sure numerous times. All of you who are self-employed know your business is a family business. It would not work for me to do what I do if I didn't have the support of my husband or kid(s). It just wouldn't. I don't have set hours. I might stop working but thoughts of work are harder to let go of. My brain is constantly on, thinking of ideas, things I need to doesn't turn off at 5pm.

So the question was, what now?

First things first we needed to set some basic hours for work and our personal lives. This will really be different for everyone. Our situation is unique because we both work from home...we also both have busier and slower times of the year for work, so we have to really be adaptible based on the current tide.

Before we could figure out what was a good schedule for us, some of my basic questions had to be answered:

  • Making a plan but knowing when to be flexible- this I have to be OK taking as it comes. If my baby is sick I change a work day around etc..
  • How much time is "enough" time for Nova or Grant or work?- Quality matters but so does quantity. I know I want to spend as much time as I can with my kids and my husband and NOT feel guilty about not working. I am still working on figuring this one out...
  • What about ME time?- Must be a priority. Doesn't have to be much. Sometimes a shower does the trick, but one alone activity out of the house a week is a must.
  • What is most important to work on if my time is limited?- prioritize deadlines once a week so I actually know...and always make customer service #1. Getting back to clients, answering emails...
  • Am I a bad mom beccuase I want to spend time working?- Somedays it might feel like it but NO! That's like asking if I am am a bad mom for being me? NO. If I try to be something I am not I will only hurt my family and myself. Working and neglecting my responsibilities as a parents are two different things. I work FOR my family. But I am learning how much I want and need to work. It's a gut feeling I am learning to listen to and not ignore.
  • What do I need to feel content?- Is a creative person ever content? I can be happy and positive but I have come to accept there will always be more that I want and need. It keeps me moving forward.
  • How much time away is too much time away from my family?- I have done and can do two nights away for work. This feels like a good number to me right now. Anything more than that and I would rather have them with me...luckily they are able to come with me most of the time!!!
  • Is it worth the money?- Some things are and some things are not. I really think most people understand the need to make family a priority. My time away from them is worth a lot! This is a balance of figuring out cost, desire, and sacrifice. Every work opportunity does offer different benefits. Some are purely creative, which matter! Some are purely money makers, which matter! I wish I had an easy answer for this but it takes years of working and a new baby in your arms to help you sort it out.
  • Will I ever get caught up?- No. Sad but true. Unless my ideas and the photography market stop changing (never will). It's OK. Some things need time to cook.
  • Everybody else has way more time than me and is way more productive.- How can I ever know? Everyone has different skill sets. This is where I need to ignore appearances and concentrate on my own situation. Maybe some people are better at filing paperwork, maybe I am better at hiding in closets with Nova to scare Grant. How can you compare those two?
  • It is distracting to have work days at home!- It sure is. Would be amazing to have a detached office again, but until that is a possibility, I need to shut the door, Grant and Nova need to plan activities and stay busy. A few hours alone working in the house every week is really amazing.
  • I am pregnant and's hard to work at nights.- Then I don't have to! Really I am way more productive during the morning daylight hours. Factor this in.
  • What do I really want or expect from my business- I want to feel like I am creating and improving. I want to make money, yes...but way more than that I want to feel like I am making a difference. I want my time spent working to be meaningful.
  • When I die what will I wish I spent my time doing?- EASY. I'll wish I spent more time with the people I love. Canned answer but true!!!! My family comes first and then work. I think my clients value this and it makes me a better photographer.

I know this is a super long post...stay with me.

So after all of the thinking and analyzing some scheduling musts for us are:

  • I work 2, sometimes 3days a week in the AM (from home..unless I have a shoot)
  • Weekends are for shooting and traveling OR family time if I am not working.
  • My off days I am wholly focused on Nova and Grant. We plan outings and I get to cook! Separation of work days and family days are key for me. I don't do well splitting my attention everyday for an hour there, an hour here...
  • Outsourcing. I am allowed. Any part of my business I can have others help with, I do (or should).
  • When Nova is napping or sleeping, I am allowed to as well (this might just be a pregnancy must).
  • At least one out of the house activity a week alone, that isn't work related.
  • Grant and I go on a date each week!!!!!! (another focus post coming on this).

I had a mother of one of my dear friends tell us once that she tried to always light up when she saw one of her kids, no matter what she was doing. I really really love that. I may not be able to always stop working when I want because life is full of deadlines BUT I can light up every time I see my sweet Nova or Grant. I try really hard to always be mindful of this. I will be sitting at my desk and she will come back from an errand with Dad and open the front door yelling "HOME!" and then I hear her little feet running down the hallway towards me. I greet her with a huge smile, like it's been years since I've seen her, wrap my arms around her and tell her how much I missed her and love her. Then we talk about all the adventures she had while she was gone. When I can do this I feel so much better about the time away, and I know she does too.

I am glad she will get to grow up seeing her parents work hard for the family. I am grateful we are trying to find balance and order so her and her siblings can learn how to do the same.

And now I must must know, what are some of your secret tools for keeping and making schedules? What is the single most important thing that helps you feel order in your life?

Once I press publish on this blog post you all know the world will do a backflip and Grant and I will have to have another long talk...and figure this all out all over again. Not sure if the thought makes me want to laugh or cry.