Guest Post By: Laura Neff of Laura Lee Creative
I think you know the feeling. Busy season hits and all of a sudden it feels like you’re suffocating and drowning all at the same time. We work all year long to book weddings and have a busy schedule, and then once busy season hits, we cannot wait for a break because we are SWAMPED and it often feels like we’ll never get on top of our to-do list again. Our self-care goes out the window, our organization is gone, sleep becomes a distant memory for some, we have weddings every weekend, our feet hurt, and we’re just usually downright exhausted. As wedding photographers, we do A LOT OF THINGS, and when our schedule is packed to the brim, it can be hard to keep up and keep our priorities in tack.
Well my friends! I’m excited to talk to you today about ways to stay organized during busy season so that you can continue to keep your head above water and see continuous growth in your business without the burnout.
I’m ALL about working smarter, not harder, so I’m going to dive into 10 ways to stay organized during busy season. *PS! There’s a free gift for you at the end! =)
Utilize a Client Management System.
I used to think a google sheet was enough to keep my business ducks in a row. My goodness is that a laugh now! There are so many client management systems out there, but I personally use and love HoneyBook. At any given time, I can go in and see ALL my client communication and info in one place. My emails with clients, questionnaires, contracts invoices, vendor contacts, workflows, task management and more are all in one place. While I’ll get to workflow in a second, having a client management system like HoneyBook allows me to make sure that nothing is slipping through the cracks, and I’m still giving an exceptional client experience.
Within HoneyBook, my workflows and task list is dynamically created based off of the project date or the previous task, so I’m able to go in every day and see what needs to be done that day.
Use a Task Management System
Similar to a client management system, a task management system helps keep you on top of your daily and weekly todo’s and help you push towards those larger goals. Even during a busy season! I use Asana to track any task that isn’t directly related to a client. Before implementing HoneyBook’s workflow and task management tool, I kept all my workflows in Asana (so just know you can do client tasks in here too!)
Now, I keep everything that’s floating around in my brain in Asana. I do a weekly braindump of all my ideas and things I want to do or accomplish and I put them into a Big Picture Strategy board. This is the master hub. I go into this board once a week to plan out what tasks will be done that week and I put them into a daily list. I prioritize what needs to be done and write out my daily task list in order of importance so that I’m doing productive work and not just busy work.
This is the most important tip I could possibly give you. And to this day I have no idea how I ran a business without workflows. To put it simply, your workflow is any given number of tasks you do in order to complete a project. There are four main components: tasks, subtasks, deadlines, and procedures.
I have been teaching about workflow and systems to photographers for over a year now and the two most common mistakes I see are:
- Not having a workflow, and reinventing the wheel every time you have a new client or project.
- Having an overly simplified workflow
The problem with having a simple workflow is that it only includes tasks, and not subtasks (in most cases) which is where the overwhelm sets in. If your workflow is…
- Design Album
- Deliver Client Gallery
….then that doesn’t tell me much, and it gives me a lot of overwhelm. The problem is that there are about 20 subtasks within each of those things that we need to account for, and having big, overarching tasks like that don’t allow us to build momentum. But if I work more like this:
- Open blog platform
- Create new post
- Title post with SEO tactics
- Write post using the blogging guide
- Put 3* pictures into a Lightroom Quick Collection
- Order Quick Collection
- BlogStomp pictures
- Upload pictures into blog platform
…and so on, I’ll be able to build momentum and use little pockets of time throughout my day to get these tasks done. Which brings me to tip #4.
Build Momentum with Your Productivity.
My workflow is actually 141 steps from beginning to end, so that I can be constantly crossing things off and gaining momentum. And that’s just one benefit! The other is that I’m never reinventing the wheel again, and I’m being consistent through every project or client, allowing me to do things faster each and every time, and save loads of time in the long run. I’ve estimated that my workflows have saved me over 1000 hours in one year.
I break up every project or task into tiny subtasks that I can take action on quickly so I can build momentum to get the larger things done without overwhelm.
Stay on top of your inbox
Your inbox can be daunting if you don’t stay on top of it. Mail platforms aren’t always organized in the best way for productivity, so I recommend using an outside app like SORT’D to help you stay on top of things. SORT’D lets you sort your email into lists such as “To-Do” “FYI/No action” “To Read/Watch” “To Follow Up” etc. (however you want!). This allows me to keep my inbox clean at all times because it helps me easily compartmentalize everything in there, and helps me see what’s important and not important.
Keep your Workspace Clean
This is a quick tip. Our environments usually have a direct result of our productivity, so it’s important during our busiest of seasons to keep our spaces clean. Get your desk space cleared off and your floor picked up so you can work with a clean headspace. No one will know if everything is secretly hiding shoved away in a closet.
The easiest ways to keep your workspace clean is to make sure everything has a home! If there’s no room in your closet for your camera bags, they’ll end up on the floor. If there are no file folders for papers, they’ll end up on your desk. Make homes for the clutter so you can get to work in a good environment.
Don’t be Afraid to Say No
When we’re the ones solely responsible for our bank accounts, it’s easy to say yes to everything. But if you’re able to plan your financial goals ahead of time, and you’ve met them for the month, don’t be afraid to turn down work. There’s come a point where there really aren’t enough hours in the day, no matter how productive you are, if you’re packing your schedule to capacity. So figure out your priorities, and make room to say yes to the best things, and remember it’s okay to say no sometimes.
Make Decisions Quickly
I think one of the best things you can do as a busy owner is make quick decisions. This comes with anything: culling, writing emails, tweaking your white balance, the list goes on. If we tallied up all the time we spent on making decisions, you’d be astounded. Because: FUN FACT! The average adult makes 35,000 decisions a day!!!! That’s about 24.1 decisions every minute, or one decision every other second. Imagine how much time we waste if we’re wishy-washy with our decisions! So take this advice: done is better than perfect. Go with your gut, and decide things quickly.
Use a Distraction List
Did you know, that in this new technology age, humans have less of an attention span than GOLDFISH?! There are so many distractions that it can be difficult to get anything done. I have a pad of paper next to me at all times that has “distraction list” written at the top, and every time I’m trying to do focused work on a certain task, if a distraction pops into my head, I write it down on this piece of paper, and then I go through and “do” my distractions when I have a break between work segments. It has helped SO MUCH.
Stay on Top of the Little Things
It’s easy to let everything pile up and have the mentality that we’ll “get to it when I’m less busy”. Dishes, laundry, tidying up. But I’ve found myself to be much less stressed when the little things are taken care of, so I try to do them as I go. At home and at work. If I eat, I wash my dish right away, if I do laundry, I put my clothes away that day, if I get an email that will take two minutes or less to take action on, I do it then. Staying on top of the little things helps you have a better grasp on the big things.
PHEW! Okay, I know that was a lot. So thanks for reading! I absolutely love teaching about workflows and systems so that you can see true growth in your business, and I actually want to leave you with a free gift today!!
Click the link below to download my free guide for photographers!
Cheers to less work and more life my friend. Have a great season!
GUEST POST BY ACADEMY STUDENT LAURA NEFF!
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Laura is a photographer and educator, specializing in helping creatives make more money, live fully, and work less. Join her for daily productivity tips, motivation, and work-life balance in The Fireside Tribe FB group!