Whether you are a full-time or part-time photographer, chances are there’s room to be more productive and consistent in your photography business.
But we’re all human. Procrastination can kick in. It’s much easier said than done to stay focused on the job at hand. So, how can you boost your productivity in 2020?
Well, experience has told me that it comes down to three things;
- developing positive habits,
- planning and writing down goals and intentions
- and, committing to doing the work.
The importance of positive habits and consistency
New Year’s resolutions and good intentions are one thing, but motivation will only get you so far. It’s only when we completely commit to our intentions that they become a habit.
Anyone who has started a new fitness regime in January and then boycotted it a few months later (yep, I’ve totally done this) will know that if you don’t establish positive habits that become a non-negotiable part of your routine, it’s easy to lose momentum and give up altogether.
Habits are what keep you going. Habits ensure consistent action. They commit you to take small steps toward your goals; to always making progress and keeping focused.
Without habits, it’s easy to find excuses and reasons to not do that thing you planned (whether it be exercise, blogging, attending networking events). And, as we all know, once you’ve not done something once, then it’s far easier to not do it a second time and a third time….until you end up never doing it!
Planning for success
Being intentional about how you will spend your day will also help you to be more productive.
Speaking from my own experience, planning my schedule with the big-picture goal of what I’m trying to achieve in mind is what’s working for me right now.
I’m starting 2020 with my Best Self Journal by my side to keep me focused on my business priorities.
I’ve tried a number of different tools to help with planning over the years. But what I like about this particular one is that it requires me to set a goal for the week, and then three targets for each day which I’ve realised is a realistic amount of things to do. Setting myself more than this can make me feel stressed and overwhelmed.
The planning for each day is ideally done the evening before so no time is lost each morning trying to figure out what to do first. Hour by hour, I map out what I will be working on.
Then, at the end of each day, the journal encourages you to reflect on the lessons learned and what things you achieved and to recognise what you are grateful for.
For me, having a planned task list like this ensures that I’m really productive during my working day, and ticking the tasks off as I complete them makes me feel accomplished. While I don’t always achieve everything I set out to do, at least I try. And when I do complete something, it’s a great feeling.
I know that because I planned my tasks with the bigger-picture goal in mind, each task that I complete is one more step forward and gets me closer to achieving my goals.
Whichever planning tool you choose to use, I highly recommend planning out your day like this. I’m confident it will help you to boost your productivity.
Related reading: Recommended (and mostly free) digital marketing tools I use
A commitment to consistent action
Being committed is the final crucial step, although is far easier said than done.
Following through and actually doing the work is the hard part, but is essential if you want to be as productive as possible. If you work from home, that means closing down Facebook, avoiding the laundry basket and just getting on with it!
Procrastination, F.O.M.O. (the fear of missing out) and shiny-object syndrome are all destroyers of productivity. To be more effective in each working day, you’ll need to be disciplined, focused and committed to doing the work you need to do.
Eight positive habits to boost your productivity
With all this in mind, here are some positive habits that I’m incorporating into my work and personal life this year. Perhaps some of these may resonate with you too?
Habit 1 – Plan for the day
A habit I’ve developed over the years is to plan my day in advance. Pretty much every evening I sit down for ten minutes of quiet time to plan out what are the urgent priorities for the coming day, being careful not to overschedule.
Just that act of planning and writing my intentions down in advance means that I have a game-plan for the day ahead. Then, every morning when I sit down at my desk to start work, I have my to-do list ready and I can begin straight away. I highly recommend this approach as it saves you losing that precious first hour, which is often when we are at our most creative and productive.
As well as a daily action plan, I also recommend planning marketing activities and your blog and social media content in advance. A blog and social media content plan is invaluable since you won’t need to scramble around trying to think of content ideas at the last minute which is stressful but can also be a huge time-suck.
With a plan in place, you can batch create content in advance and schedule posts to be published on social media, leaving you more time to focus on other aspects of your business and be more productive as a result.
Related reading: Content planning tips for photographers
Habit 2 – Themed days and batching
Having days allocated for specific tasks and batch-creating content on set days is a great way to get more down in less time too.
When I’m planning out my week, I allocate specific days to client work and have set days in the calendar for each client that I work with. I also allocate a set day to be the C.E.O. of my own business – to focus on my marketing, content and planning.
This approach allows me to fully focus on the client or the task at hand and avoids flitting from one thing to the next. It’s a definite time-saver and means I get so much more done.
Habit 3 – Set deadlines and hold yourself accountable
When we have a deadline to work towards we’re more likely to get the work done. Whereas, when we allow ourselves an open-ended time frame to complete a task, it’s much easier to let that time drift and, guess what, the task doesn’t get done!
Parkinson’s Law states that we allow work to fill the time available and that we naturally pace ourselves to finish a project just in the nick of time.
So, if you find yourself guilty of letting projects take up too much time – whether that’s editing client images or blogging, for example – a great way to become more productive is to set yourself deadlines. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to spend on a task and see what you can achieve.
If you haven’t tried the Pomodoro technique before, do. It involves focusing on a task in 25-minute stints with a five-minute break in between. It’s a great way of getting more done.
Habit 4 – Let go of perfection
Linked to the above is the fact that striving for perfection is sure to curb your productivity.
I’m often guilty of wanting to make everything I create perfect, but this leads to procrastination and to tasks taking way longer for me to complete than they should do. I know this can be a common struggle for photographers too.
Perfectionism can literally kill your productivity so a positive habit to incorporate into your life if you can, is to let go a little more. Remember, perfection is subjective anyway!
In the end, it’s better to hit publish on that blog post, launch that new service or do that Facebook Live than not do it at all. My plan is to do more video and particularly live videos in 2020 – watch this space!
Habit 5 – Eat the frog!
You may well have heard of this expression, ‘eat the frog’? If not, well, it simply means that you get the task that you are most dreading out of the way first.
So, if you literally had to eat a frog, and were dreading it, then the best way to tackle it is to get it done first. That way, with the unpleasantness of eating the frog over with at the start of the day, it can only get better from there!
How could you apply this analogy to the tasks in your business that you are dreading?
Habit 6 – Regularly review what’s impacting your productivity
When I first met my husband, I used to tease him for keeping a daily diary. But, the joke’s on me now as I soon adopted this practise into my own life, and now am a journaling convert!
I’ve found that spending just ten minutes each evening to reflect on the day is really useful as it allows me to identify what I could have done better, where I wasted time and how I can be more productive the next day.
The working day can literally fly by, but reflecting on how you are spending your time every day will help you to identify where time was lost and which tasks took longer than you expected.
With this knowledge, you can then plan better for the days ahead. You can boost your productivity and performance simply by understanding where you are currently losing time and by finding ways to avoid this in the future.
This daily journaling habit has also become invaluable in my business review process. Every month, I review my daily journal to identify the positives, negatives and the lessons learned. Then, I combine these thoughts with other data to give me a picture of how the month padded out overall.
Related reading: How to conduct an annual review of your photography business
Habit 7 – Turn off distractions
If you do identify that you have lost precious time in your day by being unfocused and unproductive, what was it that distracted you?
Turning off distractions such as email and social media notifications can really help to boost productivity.
- Log out of Facebook and Instagram when you sit down to complete a specific task so that you don’t find yourself randomly scrolling the newsfeed
- Only look at emails a couple of times a day (morning, lunchtime, and evening), rather than when they come in. No, you usually don’t need to reply immediately!
- Put your phone on silent
- Ignore the doorbell/phone/postman.
Distractions will always be there to take you away from the task at hand, but you need to be focused in order to be productive with your time. If you don’t, the only person to blame will be yourself.
Habit 8 – Make time for self-care
I’m not particularly keen on the term ‘self-care’ and in the past I’ve been rubbish at this! But I know that being in good physical and mental shape makes such a difference to my productivity and performance.
I’ve recognised how valuable it is to have breaks from the computer, walks in the fresh air, chats with friends, occasional days off (guilt-free) and regular exercise. I live very close to parks and the sea so I really don’t have any excuse for not getting away from my desk a bit more this year.
I know that when in the past I’ve allowed myself more downtime, to rest and to think, it’s made me more focused and productive as a result. Looking after yourself does have a huge impact on how you approach things in life and business, so perhaps you should do more of this in 2020 too?
Let me know in the comments below which of these eight habits you need to do more of in 2020, and what other things you do habitually to boost your productivity.
And, if you haven’t already, come and join my Facebook group for photographers! The group is a growing community of professional photographers just like you. In there I share PR tips and offer support and accountability. Let’s crush 2020 together!