Finding Balance as a Photographer

Thank you so very much for all the wonderful comments! It means so much to me! Here is Part II to the saga of the “Got it All Gal” Syndrome. If you missed Part I, you can get caught up here.

After too many moments of feeling less than worthy of my kid’s attention, my husband’s affections and my reader’s encouragement I decided it was time to take drastic measures and get out of my own head! Because in my head was a mess of a place to be sometimes! I was torn: I want to be a great mom and wife more than anything else – and I know that! But I also love photography and I really love Go{4}Pro.  I don’t want to give any of it up but a balance had to be found. So searching I have gone! Let me tell you some real things I’m doing to make changes for the better right now. It’s a work in progress but it’s my progress and I’m grateful for it!

1. First things first. Admit there is a problem! Take a very honest look at yourself and write it down. Be real, be brutal… Who is it hurting? You, your husband, your kids, your friends?  Tell the truth, because it’s never just you. From there I determined, in order of importance, what I needed to work on because trying to change it all at once wasn’t going to make things better.  It was only going to make me feel like a failure at one more thing. One big reality check for me was realizing that I let Go{4}Pro consume way too much time, I was going to need to set limits. I love having Go{4}Pro be scheduled out about 3 weeks but there just hasn’t been time to get myself ahead of the game again. So if a post doesn’t make it up one day, I’m learning that I – and my blog – will survive.

2. Early to Rise –  “…retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” (D&C 88:124.) I had to sleep! I wasn’t exactly trying to resemble a decrepit old hag by the age of 30. But I still needed time so that meant rising before the rest of the house began to stir. But I also knew that the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn wasn’t winning me any points with my awesome Costco Flannel Sheets that still beckoned me, so I worked in baby steps. I started at 6am and worked backwards in 15 minute increments every few days and will do this until I settle at 4:45. I’m at 5:15 right now. This has been huge for me! HUGE. I know it sounds awful and I get that nobody wants to get up when it’s dark… I feel it every morning! But being able to start my day on my terms and not being woken up, literally exhausted because I’d only gotten 30 minutes to 3 hours sleep and leaving my kids with a mess of a mom was not cool. When I stay up all night, it’s hard to stay in charge during the day.

3. Start with Scriptures. More than any other thing I’ve changed… This has made the biggest impact. I start each morning with my prayer and scripture reading, next I check email for 20 minutes and than go get dressed. Than I come back to my office to work until the kids wake up. I go downstairs with them, help them get settled and cozy with sippy cups and put on a cartoon. That gives me about 20 minutes to finish whatever I was working on before the TV goes off and I start on breakfast and getting them ready.

4. Be wise with my time. Or in other words, have an agenda. By not giving myself all night I had to be clear about what I was going to accomplish. I took this a step further by having a list I write each night with what needs to be accomplished the next day – but I don’t let it get out of control. The priorities are 3 to 5 items with a few more that could be worked on but are not urgent. The days of lists that have to be prioritized into new lists for one day’s work is gone. Instead I keep one spiral that has the major goals and those are prioritized by time frame or category but my little note pad has the agenda for today only.

5. Arrange my life around my family. This was huge for the overall well being of my family! I had this terrible habit of arranging my family’s life around my work and they were always losing because of it. If you do this too – STOP NOW! Now I get our church schedule, the kid’s school schedules, Taylor’s schedule and put that all in the calendar. It’s all color coded. Green – work, Blue – Taylor, Red – Kids, Grey – Go4Pro, Purple – Home/Church. All of that goes into the calendar before work has a chance. Next I block all Sundays and Mondays and see what’s left.

6. Create a rigorous schedule. Routine is important and family dynamics work much better when there is routine. It’s a fact. But nothing about our life felt routine. Every day our 4 year old would wake up and ask ‘what day is it?’ And after you told her, she would finish the question with, ‘the day for what?’ I took a lesson from her and realized that I too needed to know what each day was for. Now Tuesday and Thursday are for ordering appointments. There are 2 slots (6pm and 8pm) and every other Saturday is a shooting day and I fill in 3 to 5 sessions with one or two during the week but only if required for a newborn or something. I am trying to implement this in more and more aspects of my life. Creating routine for cleaning (See Flylady), work, Go{4}Pro and the kids.

7. Start Doing! How many times have you heard a great idea, even known it would benefit you but you never implemented it into your own life? Shame on you, shame on me! No more of that! I stopped talking about it and wasting an obscene amount of energy on thinking about it , wishing it was different and started doing. Doing the hard work of waking up early… Buying a bathroom cleaning kit for every bathroom so that when I ran in to help do someone’s hair and noticed it needed cleaning, I could just do it then… What are you not doing?

8. Stay Positive. By nature, I’m a really positive person. Probably to the point of annoyance for some. But when you don’t sleep, are never caught up and are angry with yourself for the poor job you’re doing at home, you can get negative. And when negativity creeps in, you have to get it gone fast! For me, doing a NILMDTS session or this session for Rylee really just puts things into proper perspective for me very quickly. And I’m always a fan of counting your blessings! In fact every time our five year old whines at us she has to name 5 things she’s grateful for. I truly believe that whenever anyone get’s caught in a “poor me” state of mine all the really need is to go and do something for someone else to find perspective.

9. Break it into manageable chunks. Be realistic with yourself. What needs to be accomplished, what wants to be accomplished and what is just busy work. Now get that broken into time sensitive matters and start taking chunks out one by one.

10. Create Procedures. This is going to be a full post but start breaking it all down as if you had to streamline it all for someone else. Plan it out, each and every step of the business process so that you stop creating unnecessary work for yourself. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead determine your policy, create your procedure and streamline the process so you and your client will know what to expect each and every time!

That’s the tip of the iceberg. I think this will be a 4 part post. But tell me what you think. Which item(s)  are you going to implement immediately or if you already have implemented one, where have you felt the effects?

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  1. Kalli says:

    I, too, have started writing down what I need to get done every day the night before. I even include “shower” because during this busy season, for me, it’s the first to go. 🙂 I realized I was spending so much of my time and energy trying to remember everything I needed to get done. And I was stressing about trying not to forget it all. But when it’s written down, it’s out of my head. And I feel more peaceful and happy. I LOVED this post. Very thought through and SO needed for everyone!

  2. Ashley says:

    Hey Leah!
    I have been reading your blog for about 5 months now and have really tried to implement your great ideas! I always look forward to reading it in the morning, and when there’s not a new post, I’m bummed but totally understand! I always wondered how bloggers like you do it all! I have been toying with the idea of a blog since it’s pretty much mandatory for photographers now!
    I just wanted to let you know that your post came at a great time. However, my problem isn’t getting it all done as much as is it trying to market, get ideas down, figure out pricing/products and it all gets jumbled so nothing ends up getting done! I almost wish I had your problem! I think about my business ALL the time and my 7 and 3 year old need me to pay attention to them!
    I try and read what blogs say to do, then take it step by step instead of trying to do it all at once! You feel like Keeping up with the Joneses a lot of times! I try to stay motivated, but it’s hard when you get so stressed out like me!
    I have been shooting for 5 years, but just this year took a really long look at what I wanted to make this business and have almost completely revamped everything- including making the switch from weddings to portraits (which is where I always wanted to be!)
    Please continue the awesome advice and the “real you” posts! It is all a great inspiration to me and many others!!

    • Leah Remillet says:

      Thanks so much Ashley! It’s so exciting hearing from all of you! It sounds like you need to schedule a phone consult cause I can absolutely help you with getting it organized, pricing and selling and marketing yourself effectively! That’s where the best me comes out! 🙂

  3. Adrienne says:

    Leah I just want to give you a big hug! I love these 2 posts. Thank you for being so real and honest. I like you even more now… even though we’ve never met! 🙂 You’ve helped me more than you know. Thank you!

    I’ve realized lately more and more that since I started my business, I’ve neglected my husband, my “alone time” with God, and my house (it’s a wreck!). I know some things have to change now starting with arranging my schedule around my family, scheduling time in my day to clean (I love your bathroom cleaning kit idea), going to bed earlier, and most importantly making time for the One who has blessed me so much – God.

    “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34

  4. Kristi says:

    Leah, I’m loving this post! My youngest daughter, Hannah, asked me yesterday morning if all of the mommas in the world get up early. I am normally up by 5:30 because that is my time to begin the day with the Lord, reading His Word and praising and praying, and then I can respond to emails, check my calendar for the day, and read some of my favorite blogs (yours is always a daily must read). Then it is time to get ready for the day. I certainly can’t do it all in my own strength so starting the day, dedicating the day to Him, is the only way…otherwise I will be a stressed-to-the-max wife, momma, teacher, and photographer. I love it that this is how you start your day too. I can’t wait to read more. Thank you for these incredibly real and insightful posts!

  5. Alison says:

    Love all of your suggestions!!! Last year, I over booked. This year I did a lot better but still had some times where it was true insanity. I am working now at looking at my entire 2011 schedule to plan out kids stuff (generally) and pick my shooting weekends knowing there are exceptions for babies since they show up when they are good and ready. I found myself spending huge amounts of wasted time looking for client information and contacts so I am working with some new studio managment software (free!) to start to get a handle on things. I have declared Tuesday night my night off from the business because it is the night my daughter and I curl up together on the couch to watch Glee and hang out. I make sure to tell my clients that is the one night of the week I am not on email etc so blogs and galleries just won’t happen that day. I am far from balanced, but every single bit I do makes me feel that much more in control of things. I realized a few years ago that I had to stop waiting for life to happen to me and go out and make it happen- if I want something to change, grow, stop or anything else, I am the only catalyst behind that change. That has become my new motto as I take back the pieces of my life that have been out of control. Kudos to you and all of the readers for starting to take their own steps!!!

  6. Kim Larsen says:

    Leah,

    I really wanted to comment yesterday, but I ran out of time and never got to it. I tend to have the opposite problem. While I want to do everything perfectly, and be everything for everyone, when I get busy and have too many things on my plate, I just shut down. Right now, I have so many things I need to do, but I can’t get anything done because my brain just stops working. I spend most my days just wasting time and only doing the bare essentials because I lose my motivation and focus. I have been working on a complete website/brand redesign since before the workshop, but it’s nowhere near being done because every time I try to work on it, I just hit a mental block and can’t focus on it. I just feel so scattered and disorganized, and I feel like I don’t have the time to do things the way I want to get them done, so instead, I spend my time reading blogs and surfing the internet. I need to figure out how to keep my motivation going when I get stuck. I am getting tired of coming up with all these great ideas of things I’d like to do with the business, and then just letting them die because I don’t know what steps to take to get them done.

    Sorry, this seems to have turned into a bit of a rant! Anyway, I do appreciate you sharing these posts with us. It really does help to remind the rest of us that everyone is human and we all struggle in one way or another.

    • Alison says:

      Hi Kim! Being stuck is miserable! Is it possible to find someone to work with to get your design and branding done? I know when I am unsure about what I am doing I tend to shut down and find anything and everything else to do rather than actually jump in and do it. I have asked some friends for help before, even if it is just to voice my ideas (which usually spawns more ideas but that is another story) and talk them through. Often the next step or idea shows itself that way. Consider hiring someone to help you get it finished- it doesn’t have to be some expensive service, work to find someone who will listen to your ideas and start to implement them with lots of your feedback. Unsticking one thing can make many others fall in place!

  7. Good for you! I’m taking it all to heart, but especially the needs first, wants second, and busy work third! 🙂

  8. Casey says:

    Your insights are very good, and your struggles I believe very normal! Be encouraged your one of a million working mom’s who try to find that balance between career and family! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  9. Stephanie says:

    Your list is very similar to my own list of goals to attain balance. So since you put so much time into your list I thought I’d share my thoughts on a few of your points that really hit home for me.
    1. Admit there’s a problem….Not a problem for me. Once I realized I had shifted from excitement over each new job to dread – I knew I needed to make some changes. It’s just a matter of actually hunkering down and committing to the changes that need to be made. For me that’s re-evaluating my pricing and methods of ordering prints.
    4. Have an Agenda. This is something I have always done. I’m achiever and I love the thrill of crossing something off my to-do list. …Check 🙂
    5. Arrange Life Around Your Family. This is something Tamara and Julia and Lori talked about a lot at Escalate Live. They all schedule their family time first because otherwise it’s too easy to let it fall by the wayside. I mean, if even these long standing, well-known photographers have to do this – I don’t feel even slightly bad about having to do it myself. It shows we’ve got our priorities right. 🙂
    8. Break It Into Manageable Chunks. This is a great idea! So often I get overwhelmed by the size of the workload or the amount of tasks I have to complete that it takes me twice as long to complete it because I end up procrastinating about it.
    9. Create Procedures. That’s something I’m planning on implementing here very soon. It would just be so awesome to have the whole process laid out in steps so that it feels like clock-work when I go through each session.

    So there’s just a few of my thoughts on some of your points that really hit home for me or are things I’ve been thinking about. Thanks so much for sharing Leah!

  10. Vanessa says:

    Oh leah! I so need to book a phone consultation with you. Someday when I have a few extra dollars. I really think it would be an amazing investment because…what I’m trying to do right now…is just figure out what I’m doing! This is complete insanity! I don’t have much time to write anything very meaningful, but I’m here reading, listening and learning. Oh how I hope I can get my head wrapped around this soon!

  11. Silvana says:

    Ok I’ll implement my first one tomorrow, every time my kids whine (that’s most days) I’ll ask them to name 5 things that are grateful for. I love that idea Leah.
    Thanks for keeping posting, I love this blog so much.

    • Leah Remillet says:

      Isn’t that a great idea?!! Not mine unfortunately. A girl at church said she was doing it and I immediately went home and started it that day!

  12. Victoria says:

    I needed this post yesterday….in fact, probably more like 6 months ago. I can tell you off the bat, like Silvana commented about utilizing the whining idea, I too, will give it a try starting tomorrow. You have many excellent ideas to help get balanced and I’m really excited to give your advice a try. Not so much the getting up part, but like you, there have been times I don’t get to bed until 4am and then get up by 7am. My poor family…the hag they’ve had to deal with at times! I’ve often said to myself “if only I put as much energy into my children and marriage as I do my business, I wonder how much happier my home would be….” this is when I know I need to make a change. I try to be everything to everyone and in the end just end up feeling like I’m failing at everything. Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing your personal struggles with us, your devoted readers. Tomorrow is indeed a new day and thank you for this kick in the pants…I needed it! 😉

    • Leah Remillet says:

      I love (no seriously LOVE, LOVE, LOVE) that you admitted that you sometimes say, “if only I put as much energy into my children and marriage as I do my business, I wonder how much happier my home would be….”

      I see so many woman (me included sometimes) needing desperately to realize that there greatest treasure is not their website, blog, or the amount of fans they have on facebook… It’s those hearts that beat FOR them and they are fragile… they can be lost. It’s not price that any of us can or should ever pay. I think I need to write an entire post about this cause it’s a trend I notice a lot and it scares me!

  13. Carrie says:

    Leah, this is sooooooooo awesome! I so needed to read it for a number of reasons. I was just talking with my hubby the other night about #2 and #3 and set a new plan (because what had started turning into habit over the past couple months was just not cool) so this post came at the perfect time to solidify my new resolutions!
    OK, so reading all the comments from all these incredible photographers both inspired me and I have to admit, made me feel a little stressed out FOR THEM! I wish I could give everyone a great big hug and help resolve their problems, but I guess that’s pretty much what you’ve already done for them by writing these two posts Leah! 🙂
    I have one thing that I just implemented into my life that I’m loving so much I just had to share. It’s definitely not some brilliant idea that no one hasn’t thought of before….but….I started realizing about a month and a half ago that I was booking myself to the point where I was bordering the “you aren’t going to be able to do it all WHILE still being the mommy/wife you want to be” line, so I scheduled in a personal 2 week vacation (aka breather time where I can get caught up on a million things, actually have time to watch my first movie in over 3 months, maybe even turn the TV on at night to just relax and watch a show or something, go on some fun dates with my hubby, plan and actually go on all the fun day trips I’ve been wanting to go on with my daughter, family and friends, etc….) where I didn’t take on any new sessions. Best thing I’ve done in quite a while! I’ve felt rejuvenated and have had time to step back and really evaluate what I’m doing with my business and family life.
    I think I will continue to do this about every 2 months or so and keep the evaluation process ongoing. I don’t know if this is of help to anyone, or if it’s just crazy talk to most people, but I just thought I’d share.

    Leah, you are fabulous!

    • Leah Remillet says:

      Care I love that idea. I’ve been scheduling every other week with 3 to 5 session in a week. Somehow I thought that was going to give me the in-between but with that many ordering appointments it hasn’t… I have 4 session the first week of Dec. but after that I’m taking the rest of the month off. I’m not missing the chance to love on my family during the holidays! … And spend time with you!

  14. clair says:

    What wonderful posts! Thanks for sharing your struggles and insights. It is so good for us women to not hide our challenges and to help each other instead. It is only after I see that someone is truly human (ie not perfect) that I can begin to really connect with them. We women really only do ourselves a disservice by pretending we have it ALL together when we don’t. It merely sets up false expectations, makes others feel inadequate, and as you have described- makes us feel we are failing in so many ways.

    So awesome that you have written down the strategies that help you find balance and be efficient. I very much agree with #2 and #3 as being small things that can make such a difference in the tone and focus of the day ahead. You have inspired me to make more of a commitment to rise before the family and have a bit of time for prayer and scripture! (It has been sporadic lately and certainly gets overlooked when it is not part of the daily plan.)

    You are awesome! I hope that you will keep feeling more and more happy about your accomplishments as you implement the strategies you have outlined! With such a wonderful game plan, I have no doubt you will find success!

  15. Aria says:

    THANK YOU! This post was written just for me!! Especially the parts about pulling all-nighters every single night and making a million lists. My brain is a big ball of mess, and I need to slow down and prioritize. I’m going to print out this post and read it regularly to remember these amazing points. Thank you so much for your honesty and willingness to share. I would also LOVE to do a phone consult! 🙂

    • Leah Remillet says:

      That makes me feel so good to here that you would even print it put to refer back to!! … And I would love to chat with you!! Phone consults are my highlight! I love sharing and getting to really do individual inspiring!! It’s way to much fun for me!

  16. Victoria says:

    I also printed it to refer back to in order to make my own changes. I thought of a question though….when do you edit? If you go to bed early, have times set aside for everything else, including two days/week for ordering appointments…how do you not edit after the kids are in bed late into the night? My workflow has come a long way in the past 6 months as I do a lot of batch editing now. However, I’m probably not as busy as you are. I’m pretty sure I KNOW I’m not as busy as you are; not sure where I would MAKE the time if I were! 😉

  17. Samantha says:

    I am so riding this wave with you. I was just thinking the other day about how much I love Go4Pro, but that most of the blogs that I read are about being the best and biggest that you can be. And that is great if that is what you want, but right now I don’t want to be the most popular photography business in town. I want to take care of my family and do photography ON THE SIDE. ie- photography is important to me and I want to be successful, but there are A LOT of things that I’m just not willing to give up right now. So I was thinking about starting a blog about how to be a pro photographer part time. How to do it well when you are doing it, but how to not have to work on it all the time. Reading your post makes me realize the biggest step toward this freedom- permission.Thank you for sharing your story and giving us permission to step away from the business. And I’m glad you are the one writing about how to be a part time pro. 🙂

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