Boost Your Productivity, Photographer: Creating a Weekly Schedule

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As photographers, we are self-employed entrepreneurs, or as I like to call them, we are “solopreneurs“, working usually by ourselves. Many photographers have a home-based studio or office, while others have a dedicated space. Whatever your set-up is and wherever you work, you have undoubtedly experienced procrastination and distraction. The best photographer productivity tip I can give you? Create a weekly schedule and group tasks by proximity.

I am an efficiency nut. I love finding ways to get the most out of everything I do, in the most effective way possible. The topic of efficiency and productivity is one that I am very passionate about. I could go on about it for hours. This article is the first in a series outlining photographer productivity tips and how to increase your efficiency as a professional photographer and business owner.

Efficiency tip

Why scheduling your days might be the ideal solution

As professional photographers, we have many appointments and sessions throughout the week.  Everything from consultations, ordering appointments and pick-ups to on-location sessions, studio sessions and wedding days. Imagine two studio scheduling scenarios:

Scheduling Scenario #1

You take appointments, meetings and sessions whenever you can take them and schedule them into any day possible. Your schedule is all over the place and your days are often divided. This requires you to change “hats” many times during your day. Meeting prospective clients, greeting old ones for pick-ups and travelling out on-location for sessions all in one day. Not to mention that this constant “switching” makes it difficult to be in your office for an extended period of time. Making it challenging to get work done such as editing, designing and e-mails without being distracted.

Scheduling Scenario #2

You take all in-studio appointments such as consultations and ordering sessions in the mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You schedule all of your on-location sessions on Monday and Friday afternoons. Wednesdays are a “production” day where you are in your office without interruption, working on retouching and designing. The first and last hour of every day is dedicated to correspondence (e-mail and phone calls). You’re also available for pick-ups on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons.

Which is better?

Which scheduling scenario do you think is more productive? The first one means every day is completely different. You don’t have any scheduled set period of time where you can sit down and do production work. The second one means that you have a dedicated time slot for each task/commitment. You also know what to expect every week. You allow yourself a dedicated time slot to work on production so you don’t get behind.

Obviously from an efficiency and productivity standpoint, the second scheduling scenario wins hands-down. I would also argue that there are several other benefits to having a pre-scheduled weekly plan, making it an essential part of our photographer productivity tips.

The best way to set client expectations is to have pre-determined studio policies.

  • We are more personally fulfilled and therefore more “in the zone” when we don’t have to constantly switch gears. This constant switching can become tiresome and create unnecessary anxiety.
  • There is less wasted time. For example, when we go out for an on-location session, we all know that there is a good amount of preparation and time to make that happen. However, when you can put on-location sessions back-to-back, you are saving time by not having to prepare and travel several times on different days.
  • By having set days and times for different tasks and appointment types, you are inherently creating a set of policies that govern how you run your photography business. This is the best way to set client expectations.
  • Aside from educating your clients and setting their expectations, having a schedule that you follow week after week means that you personally have a more concrete set of plans that you follow. This will help you to avoid pushing working hours into your personal space where you should be spending time with your family and friends, which is another key aspect of photographer productivity tips.

The example above is just that … an example. It may not work for you or your preferences. It might even be slightly too structured for you, and certainly, it’s a good idea to leave room for flexibility. It’s no secret that every photographer functions slightly differently and has their own personal “flow” as to how they’d like to structure their time. I recommend that you create a plan for yourself that makes sense with how you work.

If you don’t know how to optimize your time properly, the line between your personal and professional life gets blurred. Get your life back with the Winning Week Formula – the ultimate guide to productivity.

Action item

What to do next

First, write down all of the tasks that you have in a typical week. If you can’t think of them all now, keep a piece of paper by your desk for the next week and every time a new “commitment” comes up, write it down.

Second, group the tasks in terms of proximity. What needs to be happening for that task to take place? Where do you need to be, physically, for that task to happen? This will give you all of the “contexts” and will help bring like-tasks together when scheduling.

Third, determine when you’d be most happy for each group of tasks or “contexts” to take place. Use the knowledge of your own personal “flow” to dictate this. For example if you aren’t a morning person, then don’t schedule sessions where you have to interact with clients then!

Fourth, create a document that outlines your schedule. Print it. Keep it by your desk. Stick to it yourself and enforce it when scheduling appointments with your clients.

Example weekly schedule

A case study of the time-chunking exercise in play.

Here’s a quick example workflow of the above 4 tasks that I have put together for myself. This isn’t necessarily all-inclusive, but it gives me a great starting point and establishes a baseline for productivity and time management.

1 – List all tasks

  • Consultation
  • Viewing appointment
  • Print pick-up
  • Cheque drop-off
  • On-location portrait session
  • E-mail correspondence
  • Phone calls
  • Retouching
  • Designing

2 – Group tasks

  • Office work = e-mail, phone calls, retouching, designing
  • Quick 15-minute appointments = pick-ups, drop-offs
  • Longer 1-hour appointments = consultations, viewing appointments
  • On-location sessions

3 – Determine the best time

  • I am a morning person, so I really enjoy morning sessions.
  • I am not productive in the afternoons, so I’ll keep my production (editing, designing) in the mornings or early afternoon before 1:00 pm to maximize my own productive times.
  • I’ll schedule pick-ups and quick appointments in the later part of the afternoon when I don’t need to be productive.
  • I like to start the week off on Monday morning by clearing my inbox and getting any production work from sessions on the weekend finished.
  • I like to finish the week off on Friday afternoon by clearing my inbox for the weekend and finishing up any production work for the week.
  • I need to have some availability for evening appointments – consultations and viewing appointments – so I will pick one evening out of the week for this.

4 – Schedule time slots

Here is the sample weekly schedule all of the discussion (above) boils down to for me. A couple of other quick notes:

  • I am a 9-to-5 kind of guy, and I love that structure, so you can see that I have designed my work week to follow the 9-to-5 schedule.
  • I have a young family and enjoy my personal time, and so I am fairly strict about working as close to 40 hours each week as possible. Therefore, on Wednesdays when I work later in the evening, I start later in the morning.
  • When I have a wedding on a Saturday, I sacrifice one of my “on-location sessions” days (Tuesday or Thursday) and take the day off. I really prefer to only work 5 days per week to avoid burnout.
Sample the weekly schedule after going through the time chunking exercise discussed in this article.

I hope that you enjoyed this article about photographer productivity tips, time management and efficiency in your workflow. Would love it if you would share your thoughts in the “comments” section below. Does this schedule work for you? Where do you differ?

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