The Top Work-Life Balance Mistakes Photographers Make (and How to Fix Them)

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As I write this, I’m at a restaurant, working over breakfast, while everyone around me is with a friend or family member, chatting and laughing. The irony is not lost on me. The topic of “work-life balance” is one that I visit on a regular basis. I have always put my family first and everything else comes after that. The irony is that many times, in order to properly provide for my family, I must forego attending a family activity.

Balancing work and life is a constant juggling of time priorities. Often many entrepreneurs will end up feeling guilty because they often feel work wins over family time. I used to try to keep strict policies about how much time I should spend with family. The problem is that often led to guilt because as I was relaxing with family I’d often be thinking of the matters at work that needed attention.

Work Life Balance with an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Recently I came across an article that Arlene Dickinson (from CBC’s Dragon’s Den) had written. It challenged my longtime perceptions about how I should approach my work and lifestyle balance. She suggests that being an entrepreneur is a calling and the idea of trying to limit yourself to so many hours a day or week is wrong. She maintains that as entrepreneurs, we are always at work because it is essentially a part of who we are.

“When you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t have a job – at least not in the conventional sense of that word. You have a calling. And unlike a job, a calling defines you as a person. It’s who you are.” – Arlene Dickinson

Initially, I had a real problem with that concept but the more I thought about it the more it made perfect sense. If I am too rigid in how I use my time, I might miss opportunities to be creative in either space.

One of the replies to her article also was worth attention. The article made the point that their work-life balance is not always a 50/50 ratio. They pointed out that sometimes work needs 70% of our week and family time only 30%. That can be compensated by a few days off the following week and so the ratio changes again.

They maintain that the key to a balance is using a calendar system and developing a keen discipline in using it. When planning a week, or month – it often turns out that more free time becomes available.

Work-life balance may not always be 50/50. And that’s ok.

Maybe less television, Facebook, or even menial tasks that help us feel productive but achieve little. Some of these become habits and habits can be broken and replaced with new ones, hopefully, more productive ones.

It’s an important point then to identify whether you see yourself as an entrepreneur or not. Many become professional photographers just because they enjoy taking pictures but struggle with running the business. That can lead to an outright dread for the administration side of things if procrastination sets in. If you put things off that can get you into trouble with clients and if you constantly disappoint clients business will drop off.

The reality is once you chose to make your living from photography, you became an entrepreneur. It would seem then you are at least a little comfortable with risk and if the idea of being successful in business appeals to you then you do have the “calling”, as Arlene puts it.

Action Item – What to do Next

Here are a few actionable steps you can take to get a better handle on the “work-life” balance.

First, identify what you think is an average reasonable work week in hours. If you have a spouse or partner, would they agree with your work week proposal? Discuss how that could be flexible.

Next, design your winning week

Lastly, work with a day planner or calendar. If you live with someone (spouse or partner), make it accessible to them. Encourage them to mark important family events, parties or social outings so you can plan your work around them. Schedule days and times for specific work so you don’t fall behind. Leave open pockets of time for spontaneous decisions and opportunities. Make note of times when you feel guilty about work and ask yourself why you feel that way. Is it because you wasted time and fell behind? Or did you fail to properly prioritize and manage your time? Make the necessary adjustments to avoid a repeat situation and over time you may notice that the guilt is gone and you are feeling better because work and personal life are living in harmony.

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