How to Become an Effective Manager of Time
What are you doing with your time and how well do you manage that time?
When you run your own business, time management is critically important. If you're a solo practitioner, then it's even more important to get it right. For a photographer, wasted time is the same as leaving money on the table. Being an efficient manager of your time can mean better business - better yet, you might even find that it helps with your personal time as well.
There are a few things we like to do to manage our time, and they're easy enough for anyone to implement, regardless of what your business or industry. Good time management is about you, not where you work.
First, let's point out what might not be so obvious to you. Managing your time well doesn't necessarily mean doing MORE. It means doing things well and more efficiently. Once you have a handle on your time, you'll likely find that you also are able to do more.
LEARN WHEN TO SAY NO & YES
When you run your own business, it can be challenging to say no. Sometimes, it even more challenging to know WHEN to say no and when to say yes. But if all you ever do is say yes to others, eventually you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with things to do. That’s when it’s impossible to keep up or keep clients happy.
Either you won't be happy because you've over-committed or someone else won't be happy because you've not met their expectations, missed a deadline, etc. It also usually means you’re sacrificing the quality of your work. As a photographer, that's the kiss of business death.
Before you take on too much, take a good look at your schedule and your current commitments.
- How much more can you tackle?
- When can you commit to doing it so that you do it well?
- Can you add new things, while spreading them out, so you don't do too much at once?
Remember, that you might not need to say no. Good time management is the art of knowing when to take something on.
Our tip: Learn when to say no and when to say yes. Offer a date or timeframe which works for you. As a photographer, that might mean scheduling clients so that you can devote enough time and energy to them, while not over-scheduling yourself. Always be honest with your client (and yourself) regarding your timeline for completing a project.
SET A SCHEDULE & BOUNDARIES
Another challenge we face as photographers is establishing and adhering to a regular schedule and setting boundaries for our times. While you will want to meet your clients' needs as much as possible, it's critical to also set boundaries on your time - if you want to manage your time well. It's important to establish some level of boundaries and routine, whether you work from home or run a studio because it’s good for you and your clients.
For example, setting up regular business hours lets your clients know when you're available. If you have a website, you can list your hours on there because that's an effective way of setting boundaries. This also helps you. When you're not working, it’s your downtime, and you should be very protective of that time in your day or week.
Our tip: Be specific when you schedule your hours, even if it changes from week to week. Decide what you will do and stick to it, whether it's business or personal. Be sure to prioritize your calendar, writing things down by importance and deadlines.
RE-EVALUATE AD NEEDED
While having a schedule is important, don't become so rigid with it that you add unnecessary pressure to your day. Make time to regularly assess your time and effectiveness with how you’re scheduling things to do.
Does that schedule still work for you as your business evolves? You might want to shift things around, eliminate certain activities, or even add others as you become more effective in managing your time.
Our tip: It's ok to be flexible when it comes to your schedule - as long as you don’t throw everything off or begin over-scheduling yourself once again! Only you can decide what works and doesn't work for you. Because most photographers’ work revolves around client schedules, setting up regular hours can be a challenge. Do the best that you can by scheduling blocks of times. On occasion, you might find that you need to bend a bit to meet a client's needs. Again, prioritize and be prudent with projects and time.
Want to be effective with the time you have? Focus your energy and attention during the time you've allotted. You'll find that the more focused you are, the more you can get done, and you will produce better quality work. As a photographer, our success depends on the quality of our work. If you're not focused and you have too much on your plate, you’re going to struggle to produce top-notch work. Being a good manager of your time does not mean tackling three things at once.
Our tip: Don't schedule too many things at once. Multi-tasking can make focusing very difficult, even for the best multi-taskers out there!
Some of the most organized people will tell you that they're organized because they make lists of everything they need to do. If you're an exceptionally busy person - and even if you're not - you might find that creating lists helps you. You can even maintain two different lists, one for your personal things and one for work. Photographers need to be sure that they meet their client's expectations and deadlines. Otherwise, they won't be in business for too long.
Our tip: If you're going to use a list, we suggest including any relevant deadlines. Work ahead when you can, but don't over-schedule yourself just because you want to work ahead.
It's tough for creatives to outsource to others, but sometimes it's the best thing you can do. You don't necessarily have to hand over the creative work over to someone else - although, that's certainly possible. Outsource the back-office stuff to help you better focus your time on the creative aspects of your business. Some photographers outsource photo editing. That's like outsourcing the creative side, but, hey, whatever works to help you better manage your time!
Our tip: Consider outsourcing whatever you don't enjoy doing in your business that must get done. For a lot of photographers, that's the business side of things like bookkeeping, but it could be as simple as hiring a part-time receptionist to answer the phones and schedule appointment.
Lastly, remember that time is something can't ever be recaptured. Lost time is just that: lost. Use it wisely so you can better enjoy it!