You know why we put a lot on our plate? Because as ambitious creatives, dreams and ideas come easily. If you’re anything like me, you wanna do it all, right now. We want to swim in our passions and create richer relationships, happier lives, happier clients, and profitable businesses…
and show up best-dressed to the class party with the most-creative cupcakes. << ok maybe that’s a stretch.
2016 was my year to marinate in these dreams and let ideas swirl in my mind, non-stop… but this noise overload has got to go! These should-be positive and exciting thoughts have left me feeling angry, suffocated by what I’m not doing, and handcuffed to a to-do list (with the irony that I’m working towards a life of more freedom).
Ya feel me?
Quick side note: Is it just me or is there an unspoken ritual we all endure when we turn 30?! Suddenly in deep reflection over what’s happened in our lives, so far, and deeply aware of our wants for what’s ahead? It feels like everyone in my circle of friends is talking about this stuff!
So, how do we fit all of our dream-work onto our plate when our time is limited and we can’t drop what we’re doing (like parenting) to focus on the dreams?
Here are 7 ways to give the middle finger to doing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g so you can give more to your core values.
First, you have dreams for your:
- family life
- other relationships
- day to day – what this looks and feels like (though this one is often not given much thought, I’ve learned)
- overall personal wellness
All these things are on my mind too, friend.
Over the past few years my mindset was to maintain and rock each area with small steps + precision, intended to let the tide of dreams rise together. Trying to do everything all at once has failed and quickly leads to overwhelm and stress (and a slight case of being a control freak in some areas). All of this together causes me to quickly take action based on reaction rather than acting with strategic intent. When reaction becomes a habit, the dreams start to crumble.
Be sure to pin this image so you can easily reference back to this post.
For me, a feeling of disconnect from myself, my kids, and even my photography has crept in. Have you felt like you’re in a fog, further away from your dreams than when you started, yet you’re busy as hell doing the dream-work?
I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers on how to rock life feeling balanced and 110% happy. These are my lessons learned in finding the confidence to give the middle finger to doing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g while being highly productive.
“I had no idea when I started my business that doing what it takes to win, and having big dreams, would so often feel like failing or struggle instead of like a parade.” – Kyla Roma
1. Pay attention
It might sound ridiculously simple, but frequently taking time to think about all areas of your life can help keep your dreams alive. You can re-prioritize your immediate actions to balance things out.
Paying attention can also help you avoid what Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy call “drifting” in their book, Living Forward. Drifting is basically allowing a part of your life get so far off track without realizing it (Examples: your health + weight, building a business that’s fully portrait work when you want to be doing something else, a marriage that was once strong and now not so much, etc.)
Warning sign: You haven’t thought about your dreams in all facets of your life lately.
In my world, some areas in life have become heavy weights, like my health, being overweight and overall feeling like a tired old lady. Other areas have left me mind-blown with progress, like nearly tripling my income from last year and attaining confidence in being unapologetic to live my best life.
I haven’t been paying attention to self-care. This awareness lets me shift my priorities around.
So you see, it’s not about adding another to-do to your plate it’s about prioritization of the things you’re paying attention to.
To give drifting the middle finger and be more productive in areas you may not have been giving care to, ask yourself these questions:
- What are my dreams (consider all areas like the short list above)?
- Which actions would make the most impact and act as a baby step in the right direction right now?
- What can I do to foster an environment and mentality to rock out the dream-work?
2. Dreaming + planning can be incredibly helpful and equally dangerous.
When you discover a dream, without creating an action plan, it remains a dream. This is where planning can be helpful, so you avoid missing out on a dream. However, when you do finally set your sights on a dream and take action, it’s hard NOT to obsess over it. I’m the walking poster child for this.
Warning sign: You’re in “get-shit-done” mode 24/7.
It’s hard to turn this mentality off. We start to feel difficulty in being fully present for our kids, spouse, friends, because we’re in this go-go-go state… like the fate of your dreams is in your hands, every second.
To give the “must-get-shit-done” feeling the middle finger and be more productive, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I underestimating the amount of time this dream is going to take?
- What boundaries do I need to set to make time for my dream work + be able to fully be present for those I love?
- What can I do to remove myself from the environment that fosters the “get-shit-done” mode and redirect my focus?
3. Less quantity, more quality (and get comfortable saying no)
Planning, structure, routine and developing habits are difficult or non-existent for some. I struggle with some of this too, but at the end of the day, I know my results are a direct result of my choices.
Making sure I realistically only plan for 1-2 main business tasks and 1-2 main personal tasks per day has saved my sanity.
The key here is that the tasks chosen are tasks to help you accomplish your current big goal (in my case, my quarterly goal). Adjust this based on your own schedule and responsibility level.
Warning sign: Your to-do list looks more like a to-do book… and it rarely gets slimmer.
To give your to-do list the middle finger and give better energy to the priorities, ask yourself:
- What would I like to accomplish in the next 90 days?
- What milestones need to happen each month to make this big goal happen?
- What does this look like broken down into 2 week sprints?
- What roadblocks and schedule conflictions may pop up?
- What can I do to overcome these roadblocks and keep focus on my strategic priorities?
- What can I unapologetically stop doing, without guilt?
- Which actions do I need to take first?
Everything else goes to the bottom of these priority tasks UNAPOLOGETICALLY!
4. Stop reacting to the success of others by adding another to-do on your list.
Can I get a G-U-I-L-T-Y?! Oh man this one is tough for me. I mean, we look around at the photographers around us and because everyone brings their own unique voice to the mix, we are in total awe. That inspiration can expand our vision, which is great, but can also influence us to react to feeling like we need to do more (aka to be better).
Example: seeing those rockstar photographers turned family film artists or self-portrait masters? Yeah, I wish could do that stuff! And it would be so easy to get better, because all I need to do is take a class, right?
But you know what I’m NOT doing? Dropping what I am in the middle of just to add more to my plate. Learning is a necessity, but only when you’re able to take action. Otherwise, it’s just more noise. In terms of giving your time, when you say YES to something, you’re saying no to something else.
Warning sign: You find yourself wanting to be more like everyone else or you are constantly enrolling in education (classes, buying ebooks, etc.) to be more like _______ rather than putting in the time to develop YOU and do the current dream-work at hand.
To give the middle finger to gotta be more like ______ reaction-mode, ask yourself:
- Why do I love what they’re doing?
- Will dropping what I’m doing to learn to do _____ help me right now or can it wait?
- What makes ME wonderful for my clients just the way I am? (and own it!!)
5. Are these hot, new to-dos based on fact or feeling?
You can thank my business strategist, Kyla Roma for this one. She brings me back to my center with this question all the time, “Marie, is this based on fact or feeling?” Usually, I’m doing the eye-roll when she asks, because I’m feeling so strong about something. But, she’s always right. I’m reacting to a feeling.
Ever get a hunch about something and take action right away? Example: your clients haven’t sent feedback about their gallery, so you think you need to get a mentor, because clearly they aren’t happy? Ok, that’s a little extreme, but hopefully you get the point.
These mis-leading feelings aren’t always based on fact and can interrupt our dream-work.
Warning signs: You’re sucked into tasks that popped up out of the blue.
To give actions based on mis-leading feelings the middle finger, ask yourself:
- Why do I feel like I need to work on this right now? Is this true?
- How will these tasks help my strategic priority?
- If these turn up to be feeling-driven tasks, what can I do to work through the feelings?
6. How can you gift yourself help?
I’m not here to shove my lifestyle down anyone’s throat. This may not work for everyone, but this works for us.
Monthly, if not weekly, my husband and I have a deep check-in conversation. This is where I don’t just tell him what’s going on in my business or in my mind, but I show him, if possible. Also important, I listen to his perspective. This helps both of us respect one other’s day-to-day requests so much more. It helps him take my business ventures seriously (which was especially important before the income started to come in and it was more like a hobby).
For example, I like to book a hotel for occasionally writing retreats (4 total in 2016). I can batch a bunch create of content during this time, uninterrupted. Dave is fully supportive of this, because he is completely clear on what’s going on with Fearless and Framed.
My daughter is in Kindergarten and we have our son in daycare. I’m absolutely not saying everyone needs daycare. For me, segmenting my time has been necessary for my sanity. I believe this choice isn’t for everyone and admittedly often I feel guilty like I’m choosing my job over my kids.
The truth is, I’m not choosing my job. I’m choosing my dreams and if we don’t take care and love ourselves, how can we take care of everyone else and be totally happy? Maybe some people can, but it’s a non-negotiable for me. It’s a personal fear of mine of the kids leaving the nest and I’m like, “now what do I do?” When I feel I’ve taken care of myself (creative urges, especially), I feel like I’m a better, more present parent during our fun time together.
A few other time-saver forms of help I love:
- using Kroger’s ClickList (online grocery shopping)
- batching tasks through retreats as mentioned
- hiring a house cleaner (picking up is a big task with little ones, so the deep clean is a Godsend)
- meal planning
- hiring help in areas you need help with – for me, that means a strategist to for better business direction (because you can’t read the outside label from inside the bottle), a nutrition + fitness coach to take the guesswork out of my fitness goals, someone to run the tech side of F&F launches, and someone to give stellar customer support so I can focus on my “zone of genius” creating content and developing products.
- My favorite business tools, like ConvertKit or Sendible.
Warning sign: If there are still tasks you cannot eliminate and the weight of everything you’re doing falls solely on you.
- Who can I recruit to help?
- Do I need to have better communication about what I’m working on with my support system?
- Do I need to look into time-saving strategies in my personal life?
- Is hiring help in specific areas an option?
7. Create systems inside your business
Shooting, editing workflow, client workflow, client communication, marketing, client care, past client marketing and care, etc. There’s a lot going on! As if I need to tell you that, right?
Everything from your marketing to product delivery can be broken down into systems. These systems can help you streamline processes and also give you a time estimate. For example, you should know exactly how long it takes you to complete a session from start to finish, broken down into segments. This knowledge will help you develop your schedule accordingly.
You can also create systems that help personalize your marketing plan when someone lands on your website, for example. This can help you attract customers 24×7. Bonus, when you have a marketing system in place, you can measure your efforts to free yourself of the guesswork.
Warning sign: You feel like you are doing a lot of repetitive tasks and you’re not entirely sure what’s most effective.
To give doing-it-all on repeat the middle finger, ask yourself:
- Where am I spending a lot of my time?
- Why am I spending a lot of my time here?
- How can I make this easier?
- Can this be measured for it’s impact on my business?
Alright, so it may feel like a lot of work to free yourself from doing it all, but it IS possible to stop doing everything and have better productivity on the things that matter.
Comment below with what you’re committed to NOT do in the coming year!
Before you go, grab this playbook to check yourself you’re feeling bogged down.