At 9:05pm tonight, I told myself, “It’s okay.” I may have even said it aloud as I was working at the studio by myself. I had decided that I was not going to finish all of the work that I wanted to get done. But that was okay. I was going to shut it down after I finished just one last task. I had just emailed one of my photo assistants to tell her that I would not be sending her the details for our next wedding together like I had promised because I had run out of time. I told her that I would send the information early next week. She immediately responded, “It’s okay. Now it’s time for you to go home.” And it really was.
Let me tell you about my day. Really it was nothing out of the ordinary but it went like this: I woke up early and did a little Essentrics. Then I began editing a newborn portrait session that I had done the day before. While doing that, I had batteries charging to prepare for today’s shoot. My assistant arrived at my home at 11:30am. We loaded up the car and headed to the client’s office. There I photographed sixteen people. These were corporate headshots but they wanted them very lively and happy. I gave it my usual – my all that includes plenty of laughing and bad jokes. (Example: “How do you make a Kleenex move?” “You put a little boogey in it.”). After we were done shooting and all packed up, I dropped off my assistant, drove to the opposite side of town (which seems to take twice as long these days as it should) to my lab to pick up client orders before then heading to the studio. There I processed 900 photos from a recent wedding (while listening to about a million This American Life podcasts), got caught up on emails including recent inquiries and following up with others, did some invoicing, organised for this weekend’s wedding that includes driving sixteen hours, culled today’s headshots & put them in an online gallery and finally, I scheduled a blog post for tomorrow. The time when I finally left the studio: 9:30pm. Whew. It was a long and full day to say the least. In the midst of it all, I had friends contacting me about getting together and about Skype dates and I could barely think to thirty minutes ahead.
Life wild, right? Except that really, this is life normal. It seems like it is always this busy. Even when you look ahead in your calendar and see those gleaming empty dates, it’s incredible how quickly they fill up with stuff, not just work stuff but life stuff. That feeling of being completely overwhelmed becomes just a feeling of normal. I was rewriting my “To Do” list tonight and realised that at any given time, I’m in contact with at least fifteen different clients. These are people who I am currently working with, who I have recently shot, who I am waiting to hear from, who I am waiting to place orders for, etc. I sometimes do not know how I can keep it all straight. On top of that, I manage my studio which has five tenants (hey, you can be my sixth – I currently have an office for rent!) plus I do bookkeeping for an architectural photography company. Oh, and did I mention that I live with my partner who works opposite hours to mine. Throw that into the life mix. Life.Wild.For.Real.
I have blogged a lot in the past about avoiding burnout and time management but this little ditty is about how sometimes it’s just okay.
Everyday I tell myself just what I want to accomplish and pretty much everyday, I look at the clock and wonder where the time went. There just does not seem to be enough hours in the day. Except, the lack of hours is not the problem. The problem is that I set unrealistic goals for myself. I am not realistic in the amount of time that it takes to, say, finish processing a wedding. You need to be realistic in what you can accomplish in a given period of time. In May, I photographed five weddings (on top of my usual portraits and corporate gigs). While some of you may not think that that is a lot, put this into perspective: I only photograph about fifteen to twenty weddings in a year so photographing five in one month is 1/3 or 1/4 of my annual wedding quota. I am also a one-lady show. Some photographers have full-time staff or they outsource their images to someone else to process. Not me. I do everything myself and I like it that way. I knew that it was going to be chaotic when I started the month and I was determined to be organised and to stay on top of my editing so that I would not fall behind. I even set up the expectation that I would finish the major processing of each wedding before I photographed the next. I nearly conquered that goal but it was hard and did result in a crying phone call or two to my Moms. From this day forward, I am going to be more realistic in what I can accomplish in a set period of time. The world isn’t going to end if I take three to five weeks to finish a wedding. It’s okay.
Vacation is Vacation
It’s okay to go on vacation and to turn everything off for at least some period of time. You tell your clients that you are going away, you give them tons of warning, you have a message on your blog about it, you have an auto-reply on your email. Everyone knows you are away. Vacation is vacation and it’s okay if during that time you take a couple of days to reply to a message. It’s also okay to tell clients that you are leaving a day before and a day after you actually are. Although sometimes this is hard thanks to social media (just don’t check into that airport on your Facebook on the way home!). The day before is needed for prep and the day after is needed for things like laundry and dealing with jet lag. I came home from California at 10pm on Sunday. By 9:30am on Monday morning, I had received two texts from different people with urgent requests from me. Were their requests really that urgent and could they have waited until the following day? Totally.
Look After Yourself
No one is going to look after yourself quite like you. Your health and your body are everything. In the stress of keeping up with everything else, things like exercise and eating well often get placed on the back-burner.
Nearly Everyday, no matter what, I wake up early for thirty minutes of exercise whether it be a 5k run or one of my beloved Essentrics workouts. If I didn’t do those things, I am almost sure that my body would crumple. It’s okay to put off another task to give yourself and your body this time everyday.
When I came home just after 10pm tonight, someone was parked in my parking spot and I realised that I had left my external harddrive at the studio. These were two of the most irritating things that could happen after such a long day. I came in and started typing. My whole plan for tomorrow has been altered since I no longer have the images that I need here at home. Instead of getting up early to continue processing images, I may allow myself a little sleep-in. I’ll take my time to wake up and get our apartment ready for a houseguest who just happens to be one of my most favourite photographers ever. Then in the afternoon, we will head out to meet a friend’s new baby and then check out a potential wedding venue (Holy shoot, I’m getting married! More about that later!). In the evening I’ll retrieve my hard drive from the studio all the way across town and I will then roll through those images that I am dying to finish so that I can cross them off of my “To Do” list. And you know what? That totally is okay.
P.S. The lack of images in this post is totally blamed on that forgotten hard drive. Poor little buddy. 🙂
P.P.S. Since I can’t do my usual and stay up late culling images, I’m going to curl up with Heather O’Neill’s latest book The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. Have any of you read it yet?