Business Tips for Photographers | Task Management & Organization
Staying on task in this day and age is nearly impossible with the number of distractions we have from every corner. At the root of the definition of organization is systematization – something that all of us crave but find difficult to make permanent. We’ve gathered up some ways to help you keep your mind on track from our Master the Business of Photography weekly feature challenge. Make sure you join our FREE Educational Facebook Groups to get your work featured and help our community learn and grow together! Editors note: the images used in this article are mostly stock photos and are not photographed by the artists featured unless otherwise specified.
Take a Step Back & Reevaluate
Amidst the chaos of running your business and photographing your clients, it’s hard to find time to focus on yourself. There is a lot of clarity to be found from just taking a step away from a problem or seeking advice from an uninvolved third party. Before you let things get too overwhelming take a moment to analyze what tasks you can accomplish vs. what seems out of your control or unmanageable. Maybe this requires a change of scenery or dressing the part for a client call, even if you are working from home.
I find myself distracted when I have anxiety, usually about things I have procrastinated on. When I have to get a big project done, I first budget 60-90 mins beforehand knocking out the ‘hate list’ aka mental blocker list. We all have crap that we have avoided doing and we feel defeated and overwhelmed. We have a little person that is sitting on a chair in the back of our brain whispering about how We suck as a business person. I will make a quick list of everything that I have put off and dread and for 60-90 mins I’ll get it all done (or as done as possible). This allows me to have a HUGE win!! I just completed the things I hated!! Now my brain is whispering what and AWESOME businesswoman I am. This now allows me to attack my big project LIKE A BOSS.
Working from home is cool, I dig not having to commute and being able to wear pajama pants if I want (yes!) but it can be so tough to stay focused! So many distractions. Even when my kids and husband are out of the house I still find myself struggling to get things marked off my to-do list. I started leaving the house to work at a local co-working space one day per week and my productivity has shot through the roof! I call it my “get-it-done” day and it’s the time I schedule for administrative tasks, marketing, follow-ups, outreach, phone calls or editing. Plus, I’ve been able to make some great connections with other local businesses while there, which always leads to new clients.
“I am most productive and stay on task during the morning hours when my kids are still sound asleep. I get up around 5:30 am, and I am sitting at my desk with my coffee in hand by 5:45 am. I put on my Bose Noise Cancellation Headphones and scroll through a few different focus-themed playlists on Spotify. My favorite playlists are “Focus Flow and Mellow Beats.” I then open up my to-do list and get to work. After an hour or so, I have checked off most of my to-do items and ready to take a break and have breakfast with my family.”
For those of us that shoot and edit our own images, organization plays a crucial role in our efficiency. From creating structured file folders to having a set procedure for backing up and storing your images, being organized is truly is the most important business tip for photographers. Here are some ways our community members like to stay organized:
I highly recommend mind mapping as a way to organize your thoughts and help streamline your business. It’s a great visual way to see how to make things more effective, brainstorm ideas, and give you higher clarity to your daily tasks. The beautiful thing about mind-mapping is that it works for most facets in life, from writing a blog to building a business. Here’s a quick-start guide for mind-mapping:
- Set 10-15 minute timer
- Start with a central idea (select a focus)
- Add branches
- Use simple keywords
- Add color/shapes
“I love using the Passion Planner. It has space for personal & work goals, It has been really great for helping me break down long term & short term goals. It has a place where I map out my passion & a place I write out positive encouragement or things I am grateful for. I love just taking 5 minutes every day & writing out my daily tasks keeping to a minimum helps me not feel overwhelmed.”
“This is going to sound old-school, and maybe out of date with all the tech and apps at our fingertips,..but use LISTS! Yup, write it out. A thick list pad sits next to my mouse and every night before I am done working I will write in hand the things that must be accomplished the next day. When I get up if there is something new it gets written down. It does not matter how small the task is. Not having it on a screen means I am not checking apps or websites or any screens where I can get easily distracted by clickbait. Also, it is proven that when you physically cross off a thing on your list, ( no matter how tiny it was ) the feeling of satisfaction urges you to keep checking things off. By the end of the day, I have a thick list of scratched-out items and a sense of accomplishment…and everything has been done!”
Unplug & Recharge
With phones taking up such a large portion of how we operate our business and communicate with our clients, it is understandable that we can get easily distracted with apps and social media while trying to stay on task.
“I am a big fan of the movie approach to productivity. This is something taught by Gary Keller in his book, The ONE Thing. Basically, when you are preparing to watch an amazing movie, you prepare. You get your drink, get comfortable, turn off your phone, etc. You do everything beforehand so that during the movie you can focus fully for a few hours. When sitting down to work, I treat it similarly. For me, this means to turn off distracting apps on my phone and computer. I use the Chrome ad-on called BlockSite. I target my ideal ambiance, which for me means, early mornings, in a clean office, with a drink, and I light a cinnamon candle. This is my Pavlov’s dog conditioning. Totally odd, but it works for me. Lastly, I choose one thing to focus on at a time. No multi-tasking. In those few hours, seldom more than 2, I can get a tremendous amount of work done.”
Useful Tools & Gadgets
Whether we like to admit it or not, our reliance on technology, although borderline unhealthy, can make us more efficient when it comes to running a successful business. Here are some tools that photographers have found to increase their productivity and help them stay on task:
“I’ve found one of the best things to keep on track and get work done is to make a plan/ list of things you want to get done THE NEXT DAY. So when you start the day, you already have a game plan set and know exactly what needs to be done. Part of this is as you are going through the day when you think of things that need to be done, just add them to the list for tomorrow instead of getting sidetracked and starting on them right away while you’re already working on something. I use the app, Wunderlist (available for iOS and Android) (I’m sure there are many other options) and have a list made for each day of the week. When I go to bed, I move what didn’t get accomplished that day to the next day and arrange them by order of importance/ which I will do first. Another one is noise-canceling headphones! I’m sure most people work from home where there can be lots of distractions. I recently bought a pair on nice, Sony noise-canceling headphones and have found them to be great at isolating me from distractions.”
“Wear a watch. A classic one, not a smartwatch. I found that I often grab my phone to check the time. Then, there’s always a notification and I unlock the phone and then a spiral starts and half an hour later here I am looking at stand up videos. So I decided to start wearing my watch again. And boy did it help. Instead of grabbing my phone, I just check the time on my wrist. My screen time has gone down to 35%. Also, monitoring how you spend your time on your devices is of great importance. I’m using iPhone/iPad and the Screen time option under Settings is just amazing. It allows you to monitor how you spend your time on your devices and you can even limit the “daily consumption” for each and every app installed. I guess Android has something similar. If not, there are free apps that can do that for you. Today, we have great technology at our fingertips that can quickly turn against us. That’s why it’s important to take control and manage the use of them.”
“I swear by setting timers! I’m constantly setting timers for myself and even set timers for my breaks in between. For instance, I’ll set a timer to cull an engagement session for 1 hour. After the timer is up, I’ll set a timer for 15 minutes of “downtime” to chill, check Instagram, text a friend, etc… I also know how much my time is worth per hour, so I’m staying true to my COGs per shoot. (Time is money everyone!) Since I’m on a timer, I don’t allow myself to get distracted until the timer is up or I finish the task early. I use an Amazon Echo for this and will ask “Alexa, how’s that timer” to know where I’m at in the task and check in with how much time I’ve allotted.”
“My best bet at completing tasks at hand is small interval working periods, like the Pomodoro Technique, which is 25 minutes of timed work with no distractions, then a 3-5 minute break and then back to 25 minutes of timed work. I find that when I use this approach it helps me to stay focused without feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand. I work more efficiently with less burnout and the 3-5 minute breaks rewards me just enough so I can tackle the next 25 minutes and so on.” Here is a list of Pomodoro apps for you to install on your computer to help with your time management.
If you are looking for more ways to get your business on track and get more clients, be sure to check out our Photography Business Training System available as a separate series or on SLR Lounge Premium. If you want to get featured in our next weekly challenge make sure to join our Educational Facebook Groups and lookout for a new challenge announced every Monday!