March 31, 2016

Pancake Session: How to Get Hours of Your Life Back

All this week we have been talking about how smart businesses should be using & managing their money, from this post on the 8 Things Your Accountant Should be Doing For you, to this post on our new favorite budget app, to this post on giving. And today we wanted to talk about an even more precious & often mis-managed resource that small businesses have….TIME!!

From the very beginning of our business, time has been an issue. We started this business while I was still in law school and Justin had a day job, so we were balancing all three. I would come home from class all day to hours of reading still left to do, and Justin would come home from a long day and a long drive each way…and we would just try to figure out how to build our business an hour or two at night at a time. It was tough! If you are balancing building your business while still in school or stuck at a day job, we have BEEN where you are! And we totally get it!

Once we went full time, we were SO sure that we would have all this extra time. But the truth is, that’s when the business took off really fast and we were working like crazy. We were easily putting in 80-100 hour weeks just to try to keep that momentum going. And now as our business is more established and we try to carve out real & lasting life balance even in the busy season,..time, and how to be the most efficient with it, is something we are constantly thinking about & working to make better.We’ve learned quite a few things along the way on how to shave hours off of our workdays, and get those hours, days & weeks of our life back. So we wanted to share them here with you guys too, just in case they help!

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1. Make What’s Working Work More. Justin & I have cleaners come in once a week to help us keep up with the house (we call it “clean sheet Tuesday”!) I know that sounds like a luxury and we were scared how much it was going to be, but it’s actually really affordable. And we have found a way to get even more return on that investment by scheduling all of our meetings, workshops & mentoring for either Tuesday evening or Wednesdays. We used to just do things whenever they fit into the calendar, which always had us scrambling to get the house ready. But by just being a little more strategic with our scheduling and having set days for things, now people come into a fresh, clean house. And we don’t have to do any extra work to get it that way.

2. Group it. Our days used to look like this: go out to the gym, come home. Go out for lunch, come home. Go to Starbucks, come home. Go to Target, come home. I know that sounds insane, but it was true. I actually think in some ways it was our way of procrastinating. And other times, it was just poor planning. But each one of those trips was costing us somewhere between a half an hour and three hours. It took up our whole day! Now if we’re going to run out, before we leave we think of all the things that might potentially need to be done and we prepare for that. We gather up the dry cleaning, we make a Target list, we pack in the bags for Goodwill, we package up that album that needs to go out, we meal plan for the week and bring that list with us to the grocery store (or even better order online!)…and we do it all in one big run only once a week (“errand day”), making sure to plan for the most strategic order of doing things.

3. Tame the Email Beast. Do you want to know the funny thing about email? It can take up your WHOLE life just going back & forth with people if you let it. Especially if you still have that “ding” turned on that tells you when a new message has come in…go turn that off right now if you haven’t yet. That one act alone has saved me hours of my life & given me so much more focus back! So now, I only sit down and do one focused burst of email a day (two if the inbox is really busy)…I put an hour on the clock, and I race myself to get through as much as I can. I answer the most high priority ones first (like inquiries & client emails) and whatever else is left can roll over to the next email burst. Because repeat after me, the world will not end if they have to wait just one more day!

4. Focused Blocks of Time. Anytime we try to bounce from thing to thing to thing (blogging to email to Facebook to organizing my office), that disjointed approach just makes me feel really unproductive, and I end up getting distracted and wasting time really easily. I’ve learned instead to plan things out with focused blocks of time. Kind of like our one hour power of email. We do the same thing with pretty much everything in our life now. For example, we’ll sit down and book all of our travel for the next few months all at once and we’ll stay in that “travel” frame of mind until it’s done. We have “album afternoons” where we crank out everything that needs to be done for all of our albums that are in process all at once. We have that part of our brain on that is focused on Align and Album Exposure & Leather Craftsmen…and how all of their systems work. So we just stay in that space until it’s done. Because the funny thing is, it only takes about 20% more time to do ALL the things in that category once we have our heads in the game, as it does to do just one of them. So if we’ll just stay in that focused space until it’s done then we save a TON of time in the long run!

5. Home Days. Something I have learned about myself as an introvert, is that if I have even one thing (meeting, Skype, dinner) on the calendar for that day…then I spend pretty much the whole day mentally preparing for it. And I don’t get a whole lot else done.  I have learned that for me, I have to have entire days blocked off on the schedule (our “home” days) where I don’t have to be anywhere or see anyone! :) And what’s interesting, is that we’ve also learned that some of our most high performer friends like Katelyn and Amy & Jordan do this too! It’s a common tactic among some of the most successful business people we know! The idea is I can spend the whole day in yoga pants if I want and I can use those days to either crank through “to-do’s”, tackle big projects, or simply rest and take a day off. And that’s really the goal of saving all this time anyway right?

So here’s to more days off and more time for walking hand in hand!

Go rock it out! M:)

PS: Check out more resources for smart business in our J&M Store!

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  1. Rachel Solomon

    #5 though!! So true. All day thinking about one thing. Great idea!

  2. admin

    @Rachel Solomon right? I do that all the time!

  3. Caitlin

    I love that, even as a non-photographer, all of your posts like this still perfectly relate to my world. I am currently in #5. Important meeting at 3 and I find myself researching and practicing and worrying and there is absolutely no way anything else is getting finished before hand. Love the other ones too! Great ideas.

  4. Brittany

    I need to do this so much! I’m balancing a full wedding season AND two kids who aren’t in school yet. Less computer time-more ME time. We cancelled our gym membership and converted our garage into the gym. Now I save 1hr a day that is normally be in the car.

  5. Kelsee Thaten

    Oh, thank you for this! #5 especially. I thought I was just crazy! If I have to have a meeting, appointment, etc. I try to plan it for the morning, so that I don’t have time to think about it/waste my day beforehand! haha.

  6. Claire Diana

    Oh my gosh, Home Days is what I need. So many days I have only one thing on the calendar, but somehow the entire day becomes preparing for or revolving around that one thing (often times just mentally). When I see the rare day in my calendar with NO meetings, it’s like Christmas and I get SO much work done. I need to start planning these days into my schedule!! Thanks so much!

  7. David Abel

    Great tips, I try to always answer emails twice a day so I can actually get real work done during the day!

  8. Cinnamon Wolfe Photography

    I’ve actually just started implementing quiet a few of these things and I love how much more productive I’ve become. Especially #4 and #5. I have to have that home time to re-energize!!

  9. Christin

    This was very helpful! I thought I was totally alone in mentally preparing for social gatherings. Thank you for sharing your tip #5!

  10. Lauren

    No. 5 is such a big one for me. “Have 5 pm meeting – watch clock until 4:15. Get Nothing done.”

  11. Kelli Carrico

    Bless you for providing such a common sense approach to what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming business.

  12. Vitor Lindo

    I’ve been feeling so swamped lately with the season kicking in and I love the advice you gave! My accountant will definitely be getting emails lol

  13. South Florida Photographer

    What a wonderful series! I love the mood you captured!! So full of life! Thanks for sharing.

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