How I keep my sanity during the busy fall season

I’ve been wanting to write this article/listicle for a couple of weeks, and I finally gathered my thoughts enough to do it. And yes, I took the time during the last week of October to write it, because it was important to me, and I made it a priority.

Photographers, fear not! The end is in sight! I still have quite a few sessions left for the year, but I do not feel as though I am behind, and I break my work up into manageable chunks so I stay focused and on track. Here’s how I do it!

1) I try not to overbook myself. I book things I want and decline or refer on things I don’t want or really just don’t have time to do. This includes not booking 3 consecutive evening appointments, so my family can have me home for at least 1-2 weeknight meals/games/tv time together.

photographer's busy season

2) I cull as quickly as possible following a session or wedding, usually within 24-48 hours. This helps me avoid procrastinating when it comes time to edit. This has also long been the key to me getting my #weddingwednesday blog posts up following every wedding. The biggest hurdle is culling a wedding down from a couple thousand images to around 100-150 for a blog post. When you look at it like that, it seems much more manageable and much less daunting. (Pro tip: this also helps me edit a wedding faster when it comes time to edit the full gallery.) I use PhotoMechanic to cull which helps me do each wedding and session lightning fast!!

fall family photography busy season

3) I use Honeybook to manage clients, book sessions, take payments, streamline communication, and accept questionnaires. It used to take me an hour to manage a wedding booking from start to finish, and now I can do one in less than 5 minutes. A session booking generally takes less than 2 minutes. You can see the time savings immediately.

honeybook home task screen for client management

4) When I import my images into Lightroom, I apply my own general preset upon import, so a huge chunk of the editing is already done to each image.

5) I am punctual and almost always on time. I know this is a stretch for some people and you may wonder how it keeps me from getting behind in my work/editing, but being on time to my sessions overflows into other parts of my work and life. It also makes my clients trust me and find me dependable. Part of this is mapping out my day and my locations to make sure that I’ve allowed myself enough time to both transport my children to where they need to go and make it to my destination, allowing for traffic and drive time.

Champaign fall family mini sessions

6) I am realistic about my goals — both for the season and each individual day. My youngest child is home with me 3 afternoons a week, so I know that those days will be somewhat chaotic, and I will spend time with her and get sidetracked with housework in addition to needing to get some work done. So I usually give myself a handful of achievable goals, and stick to those, then if I am able to accomplish more, great!

lifestyle family photography images

7) I use a color coding system for my editing, and so I know what is backed up. One thing I make a priority EVERY day and week is backing up my images. Hard drives crash so making sure I have multiple backups on both external hard drives and on cloud storage is super important. The image below is example of how I organize my files and use my color system. I have a different color for each type of session — orange for weddings, purple for seniors, blue for engagements, green for all other types of portraits and commercial work. When I first download my images, they go straight into a folder named by date and then title. I immediately back it up onto external hard drives before any culling or editing is done. Then once the editing is done, I recopy the files to all my backups and make my cloud backup of jpegs. Then I apply the color code and know that all the steps are complete and those files are safe.

color coding for organization

8) Treat yo’ self! Today for instance, I am treating myself to a massage that I booked a few weeks ago in anticipation of the end of October. I get regular pedicures throughout the year, and enjoy a quiet breakfast or lunch by myself on occasion when I can. I like to use these as motivation and to reward myself for meeting my goals. Yesterday for example, I finished ALL of my culling AND designed a wedding album, so today’s treat was a motivator for me.

Treat Yo Self

9) I also keep a “winter list.” This is a longer-term list of things I want to accomplish over my slower winter season which is usually about Dec-Feb. This list is for both personal and business tasks — clearing out my junk drawer, organizing my office, entering receipts, fixing a paint chip in the wall, updating my wedding magazine, tweaking automated emails and processes, etc. You get the idea! This listmaking helps me feel like I’m not procrastinating but I’m just putting off less important tasks to when I have more time.

finding a work-life balance amidst busy season

10) Lastly, and this may sound counterintuitive, but I think it’s important to keep personal projects afloat. My friend Dannie Fountain says that you should have a passion project with a certain amount of time dedicated to it each week. This is key for keeping your creative spirit alive when you’re working yourself so hard. For example, she says that if you work 25 hours a week in your business each week, then divide that by 5 to get 5, and then divide that again by 5 and you get 1. So that means you should be allowing yourself 1 hour each week to devote to a personal project (which for me is my podcast - The Give Back Podcast). Do the math and see what your number is!

So there you have it! What other tips and tricks do you have for managing your work-life balance during busy times?

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