I have always prided myself on my superior organizational skills. It started when I was little. My idea of a good weekend was getting plastic tubs with lids, a label maker and organizing the toys and things in my closet. My parents probably should have been more concerned about my well being. The stayed with me through college and eventually as an adult. List-making and I are practically married. Good old planners have been stored away in file cabinets filled with perfectly written plans, appointments and lists. I still don’t know why I keep the old ones. Organization and I are two peas in a pod. We get along perfectly. Organization is what helped my business survive this long. It’s what allows me to run multiple businesses and do several projects. I’m thrilled it’s so innate. That means nothing is worse when you have to throw your organizational skills out the window to just survive.
You probably know what I mean. Maybe using your label maker does not give you the natural high it gives me, but you know what it’s like when things in life get really crazy and you feel like you’re throwing your plans out the window to just get by. That is happening to me right now. We’re in the process of moving and it’s nuts. I won’t go into the nitty gritty of it, but let’s just say that the stress of moving across the state from a huge metropolitan area to a tiny town of 2,000 people is stressful enough as it is. Especially during busy season when I’m photographing weddings. Add family drama and having to balance the emotions of people not even involved in the move? Bah! I quit.
There are a lot of things I’ve failed at so far in this move. They’re willing failures. I knew what my priorities were and I put blogging, social media, and big business projects on the back burner because we’ve got crazy shit going down. I don’t even know if I’m going to have internet or phone service as of Monday! That said, there are things I’ve succeeded at better than I expected and I’m proud. There are a lot of things I’ve learned about balancing life and business when things get really crazy. So if you’re dealing with an extra stressful life moment like moving, someone passing away, or another huge life event these tips might be ideal for you.
Focus on Clients First
Here’s the vow I made to myself before things got really busy. I vowed to put my paying clients first. These are the people paying my bills. Just because things get crazy over in my house doesn’t mean it should ever affect their experience with my business. Being one of those photographers who lets a huge life event break down their editing time from something reasonable to something irrational was just not going to be my style. My clients need to know I care and they are my first priority. I’ve done the best I can to ensure a great experience for all my clients so far, despite what life is throwing at me now and I hope to continue that. While I might be lagging behind in the packing department, I’m ahead of schedule in the photo editing one. You know what they say, “happy wife, happy life.” Maybe we should say, “happy client, isn’t defiant.” That’s a crappy rhyme, but you get the idea.
Make a Basic Calendar and Share It
The best way I’ve been able to prioritize my clients and stay on top of editing is a calendar. It felt super nerdy to sit down and make a calendar that said what town I would be in (because my job requires travel), whether I’d be driving all day to travel, and what I’d be doing that day (shooting a wedding, editing, packing, etc). I told myself I was making this calendar for me, just so I could block out days for my clients’ editing to ensure I had time. When I finished making the calendar I realized it’s something I should send to people, my assistant, my mom, my husband, and anyone else who should know what’s up in life. I sent it to all my best friends. I literally sent it to as many people as possible. I thought about sending it to Dominic Monaghan, my celebrity crush, so we could finally talk shop about being a hobbit in Lord of the Rings, but I refrained. Apparently there is such a thing as one step too far. Really though, this calendar has been a lifesaver in helping me balance my social life. My friends are more understanding about why I may not respond to their texts. My family thinks I’m super organized still, even though let’s face it, I’ve failed at a lot through the move. I’ll let them just keep thinking I’m that awesome though.
When shit really hits the fan in life and you don’t want it to ruin how you are rocking your business one of the most awesome things you can do is set some serious boundaries. Boundaries in business and in life can help you keep your head above water. When your goals are to just accomplish a few things and not all the ones you normally would, boundaries are essential. I’ve had to set some boundaries with some family and some friends just so I can not go insane, but it was literally the best thing I could do of all.
Here’s the ultimate truth about surviving business when things aren’t going as planned. The best thing you can do is try to prioritize the stuff that’s most important and do your best to accomplish it. Forget about the little things for the time being. Marketing can wait, social media can wait. Blogging can wait. Email newsletters can wait. Wedding vendors demanding free photos. Those people can wait. Focus on the stuff that matters most right now. The clients who need their wedding photos, new baby photos, or whatever it is you provide. Prioritize your family and the stuff you need to get the job done with whatever is going on in the rest of your life. Some people won’t understand. Some will be very upset. The truth is you can’t be perfect all the time. Sometimes when stuff gets really stressful there’s only so much you can handle and it’s okay to say no to some things. I put myself in survival mode, cut my to-do list, and it’s going to be just fine.
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