March 20, 2012

A Little Monologue on To-Do’s & Taking Time

Do you want to know a secret about business? There will always be more to-do’s The past two days I banged out a full-page, double column, add-some-more-to-the-margin-to-fit-it-all-in, to do list of things I’ve been needing to get done. And at the end of the day, I took five minutes to marvel at all of its marked out-y goodness. But guess what? Today I will write another one just as long to replace it. It just goes with the territory.

Do you want to know a secret about life? There won’t always be more time.

This past week when we were speaking in Boston, the question was asked: how many hours a week we worked when we were first getting started and how many hours a week we work now. I could tell this question came from someone who knows the reality of what it is to be in business for yourself. See when I was in law school, they used to tell us how when we were out in the real world working on cases at the law firms….the hours would just fly by, and we wouldn’t even notice because we would be doing something that we love. To which I would always roll my eyes and think not me friend, there is nothing I could love enough to make me work that many hours in a week and not notice it. And that was a big part of why Justin & I wanted to start this business in the first place: the life balance.

Oh, the irony.

Because the truth is, my answer to that question in Boston was that when Justin & I were first getting started, when we were first building up this business…we worked about 80-90 hours a week. Seven days a week, twelve to thirteen hours a day. And you know what? We loved it. The hours really did just fly by….because we were doing something that we love. And you know what else? I wouldn’t change a thing about those early days. Because I’m a person who believes in seasons of hard work. And in so many ways, they got us to where we are today.

But the thing about seasons of hard work, is that-in order for them to really work-they also have to be paired with seasons of rest. A chance to sit back and enjoy the work you’ve already done. To marvel at how far you’ve come. To recover. To recast. To re-vision. To spend time with the people that you love. Because there will always be more work, but there won’t always be more time. And I’m also a person who believes that when we’re on our death beds hopefully years from now, we won’t be saying Oh, I wish I would have spent more time at work.

These days, Justin & I still work longer hours than we ever thought we would when we were first getting started. But we’re getting better. We’ve now gotten it down to more like 60-70 hours, and we regularly take at least one entire day off a week. This was a huge step forward for us. :) To be able to fit it all in, I’m usually up and working by 7:30am and when we’re at work…we work. We go hard. But by 6pm, we’re ready to shut off for the night. We cook dinner together, we watch a sunset, we pay attention to our dog. We leave the to-do’s until tomorrow.

I know this probably isn’t the super glamorous version of working for yourself that we might all want to hear. The one where we all only work four hours a week, jet off to exotic locations, and even in 100% humidity… we all have perfect hair. Well, that would be my ideal anyway. :) But I just want to always be real with you guys. Real about the work that goes into making it happen. And real about how there are things even more important than the work.

Like fluffy faces waiting on 6pm.

  1. Brent - Live View Studios

    So true – thanks y’all! Managing time is always a struggle as a business owner … we’ve been trying to do better about shutting things down by a certain time. It always seems like there is still sooo much to do. But our time together is wayy more important than any work that needs to be done, too. :)

  2. Chelsea McGowan

    Thank you for writing this!! Mack and I started to really pay attention to our life balance last year, and the difference it has made is phenomenal. Do we still work 70 hours a week? Yeah, absolutely. But we do it in such a way that we can take a day off and take our kids to the zoo if we want to. We can schedule a 3 hour gap between shoots & meetings, just enough time to see a movie. We can read books together on the front porch. It’s all about balance, and without it, the fire that makes our work worth having is lost.

  3. Christy

    Thanks for this reminder you guys! I struggled with stopping working EVER when I first went full time just 6 mo’s ago, and I feel like I’m finally getting better at it. I’m about the same as you – up by 8:30am and working until around 8 or 9. :- I’m trying to get better about stopping when I stop though – no email, no phone, just quality time. Anyway – it’s good to know I’m not alone & for the reminder that there will always be more work, but there won’t always be more time. <3

  4. Aysha

    Absolutely LOVE your hearts. Keep on being real – it’s so easy to get caught up in a world of trying to be something else, especially in this business..but you two are the odds..and I adore that :)

  5. Eileen

    Such a good reminder. But I am really here to say–that might be my favorite picture of you ever. =)

  6. Dede Edwards


  7. Gina

    Thank you for posting this. I have made very similar posts about laundry an how it is never done. You put that last sock in the drawer there will be another load ready to go in the hamper. But I never transferred my thinking beyond the literal to my never ending to-do list. Lately I have been feeling totally burned out like maybe I should hang up the camera all together. Reading you blog I realized two things…one, maybe I just need a season of rest. Ease up on the pressure I put on myself to compete. And two, even if I did hang up that camera my to-do list would fill up with thing that I probably don’t love to do as much :). You two inspire me among many. Thank you!

  8. Melissa

    Love this post. It’s amazing to me how many people actually think that photographers work 8 hours a week and then just play the rest of the week.

    I SO believe in taking time to relax, re-charge and spend time with the ones you love. Without that time, why are we working so hard?

    I too have a fluffy face waiting for me at 6pm every day. It’s the best feeling.

  9. Alison

    I recieved a note this morning from one of my friends who mentioned she wanted to do something creative just a little here and there. What did I think about photograph. I took a deep breath and answered there is nothing "little bit here and there" about having a photography business and you really have to love it to make it run! People really do believe we shoot a session and do a little computer work, easy peasy!

  10. sharon elizabeth

    Firstly — that’s by far my favorite picture of you! Gorgeous! Secondly, I spent most of the day yesterday upset – like legit crying, upset…. I told Chase – I just feel like I haven’t had a productive day since I went full time….. I feel like I’m never getting anything done… He reminded me, just like you just did — that it doesn’t happen in one day… It takes time — but looking back on the past couple weeks, I’ve done more than a to-do list… I’ve started making small steps to creating a successful life!!!! XOXOXOXO Here’s to working 24 hours in a day and loving it! =)

  11. Katelyn James

    My fluffy face keeps me from getting my master list done! He pees every HOUR! and because he’s so cute… I can’t get mad at HIM! … I get made at ME… and then I pout, and then I’m MEAN when Michael gets home. It’s a horrible cycle. I’m trying to get better at it too!! :) wonderful post my friend!! xoxo

  12. Amanda Miller

    I absolutely needed this today…as last night when I finally packed it in around 11PM, and looked at all I accomplished from my To-Do list that day….only to then write an entirely new list, even longer than the first. I guess To-Do’s will always be there…and sometimes, they can wait. :)

  13. Rebekah Hoyt

    Such a wonderful reminder that time is a gift and we need to be good stewards of it! I always feel like I’m working TOO little or TOO much… finding that balance really is hard! Thank you for this post :)

  14. Lauren Wakefield

    I swear sometimes it is like you are reading my mind. Especially lately, I feel like time spent just being happy…and care free…is so incredibly important. No amount of work is more important that that. Plus…Goose enjoys the extra attention. :)

  15. RealtorDad

    Great post Mary! For those who put in the 13 hour day, studies have shown that if you work for 90 minutes and than step away completely for 15-20 minutes your productivity WILL go UP. Take a walk, Read, ride, play with Cooper, whatever, just step away.

  16. Sandra Fazzino

    It’s all so true. Over the last ten years with Alessandro, we have paid our dues in our individual carrers. At this point in our lives, I was hopeful we would slow down. Not so. We’re not way off, but still pulling 6 day weeks & 12+ hour days. That being the case, Sunday’s are sacred as well as Saturday date nights. Having two fluffy cats around the house helps, because they remind me to take a few minutes to nuzzle & purr. Thx for sharing. Although, I have a feeling your minds are spinning even while you sleep! ; )

  17. rich

    thank you so much for posting this – you guys are constant inspirations to us =)

  18. athena p

    I think that one of the biggest ways in which you can motivate and inspire is simplyby being open and honest. And you and Justin have that nailed. As always, a thousand thanks. xo

  19. Nithya

    Wonderfully said!! Thank you

  20. Jackie Lamas

    so honest and wonderfully written! thank you for keeping it real and letting us know how it really is.

  21. Amanda Truth

    This is fabulous. It’s a real look into what it’s like to be in business for yourself, a look I think not many people see, except the people who are knee deep in it. I love that you’re so honest and not just sugarcoatingly sweet.

  22. Leigh Madeleine Miller

    There’s something about the timing of your blog posts, they always seem to come just when I need to hear them :-) Thanks for posting, Mary, and thank you for always sharing so much! I am always listening :-)

  23. Bethany Ann

    I LOVE this post. I wish more non-business owners understood that business owners work so much more than often perceived. :) And I would just like to say that even though you are busy, you are SO for taking the time to comment on photographer’s blogs who comment to you. Thank you! It means a lot to me! :)

  24. Mikaela

    ahh this is so good, so what I needed to hear…thank you. and that bit about perfect hair in humidity? exactly my ideal world too ;)

  25. Jennifer Medeiros

    THANK YOU!! It’s good to be reminded every now and then that time is worth more than money, because that’s something you never get back. :)

  26. Stephanie Stewart

    Oh, Mary, I love this post! Besides being phenomenal people, artists, photographers…your work ethic is inspiring! People just don’t understand all the work that goes into this business! And all your hard work has paid off! You and Cooper are adorable!

  27. Christa

    Awww…Cooper…it’s all about the fluffy faces :)

  28. Shannon Rosan

    Amen. PS-there is too much cuteness going on in that photo :)

  29. Brooke

    This is so, SO true! I’ve had emails recently asking me for the secret. These people don’t like my answer -I work my @$$ off lol! I need to balance more though!

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