It happens to all of us. Burnout. It creeps up, almost unnoticed. You just think you’re tired because you’re busy, and busy is good, right? That tends to be the mantra of us self employed. As if not filling every iota of time with a “to do” task means that we’re failures or our business is in jeopardy. Sooner or later all your days are filled with “busy” and we’re left with our jaws on the floor when we realize we haven’t take a day off since August and it’s nearly Thanksgiving (my constant battle each year with “wedding season” here in D.C.).
The problem is, busyness, isn’t always congruent with productiveness. Productiveness is what moves us forward, keeps us engaged, keeps us growing. Busyness is just surviving, like you’re doggy paddling in the ocean waiting for your life raft. Personally, I hate busy. I lose myself when I’m busy. I lose my connection with what I’m doing when I’m busy. I’m constantly fighting to coming back to a space of productivity and balance.
Not too long ago (around year 7 of being in the industry) I hit a wall. Hard. I felt like I was doing the same things over and over. I felt that despite working at home, I hadn’t “had the time” to leave the house in over a week, (sans for walking my two Boston terriers). It was ridiculous. I had become a prisoner to my own business which was 180 degrees off of why every entrepreneur starts out on their own. I had to make a change. I started implementing some rules for myself to avoid the burnout and stay engaged and connected to my purpose in photography.
- Take one day off a week (at least). This day floats for me as to what day it is, but it has to exist or I’ll go batty. Even if it’s just a day to do laundry and clean the house, it has to happen! Working weddings, it’s easy to end up working 7 days a week just to get everything done on time. You’re weekends are filled because that’s what fits most clients’ schedules, then the weekdays are filled with editing, and the evenings get a meeting (or three) squeezed in before or after dinner. Taking at least one day, especially in your busiest seasons, is a huge help.
- Get a white board. I have this amazing week long white board that is my lifeline. Every Monday I sit down and plan out the week. List any important appointments, and make a rough game plan of what I need to accomplish each day, and of course, mark my day off in big red marker! At a glance I can easily see if my afternoon is flexible, or if I should be working on the Jones’ engagement edits, or if I need to be sending out invoices, or making it a paperwork/tax/bill paying morning. I find it keeps me much more on task and dispels a lot of anxiety from trying to remember everything in my head or completely cluttering my iCal.
- Take a hike. Get away from the computer! Do stuff that has nothing to do with photography. I love to hike with my dogs, go window shopping, or read a book. Switching gears away from “photography brain” is good. Exercise a different muscle every once in a while.
- Find a cause you believe in and spend some time volunteering regularly. Getting connected with the community can renew your spirit and purpose and in a way, also get your business connected to the community. Giving back never hurts. I spend a few hours, a couple days a week at a local therapeutic horseback riding program and always find myself rejuvenated and clear headed afterward.
- Surround yourself with people you admire. Nothing is quite as good at getting creative juices flowing as surrounding yourself with people that you admire for their work and work ethic. They don’t have to be famous or well known. You just have to respect the work they do and have an open mind to learning. There’s a small group of some fabulous women photographers in my area that tries to meet up for a glass of wine or potluck every month or so. We toss around stories, relax, talk about roadblocks or successes and I try my best to take it all in. Hearing what they have to say, their words of encouragement or advice is a helpful boost to keep pushing when I’m down. It’s also, a helpful safe haven to realize that even the people we think are superstars, still run into roadblocks, too, which can be just as helpful to remember!
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