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How I’m Redefining Business “Productivity” in the Face of a Pandemic | Friday Chatter

May 1, 2020

Happy Friday, friends! YOU DID IT! (We’re almost to the weekend!) To be completely honest, I think I’ve lost track of time a little bit, but did we just get through work-week 6? Honestly… I couldn’t tell you! However life may be looking for you today, I hope you’re healthy & well in body, mind & spirit.

I’ve been thinking about writing today’s post for a while, and I need you to know that it may not be for everyone. I really hesitated on whether or not to post it because it could be perceived in a number of different ways and also… I’m not here to tell you what to do or how to live your life. The details in this post is simply a reframe that I’m opting to take in my own life and business, and I invite you to do the same if it resonates.

Take a breath… (that’s mostly for me!) Know that today’s post is coming from a place of kindness and from a girl that really wished she had this advice in her hands weeks ago. This isn’t one of those “You have the time do the things you’ve always wanted to do… do them” posts. This is an “If you have the time and the emotional bandwidth and the desire to do things within your business right now and are wondering what to do, here’s where you may want to start” kind of post. I know we are ALL in different stages of life and business right now, so please know that this post isn’t coming from a place of judgment and isn’t trying to call you out. If you are in a season where you need to breathe and work on yourself, that is totally okay. If you’re in a season where you’re ready to dive into working on your business, this post *may* be super helpful for you!

So… if it does apply to you in this season, read away! If it doesn’t apply to you in this season, no worries! Feel free to bookmark it and come back to it in a season or on a day where the topic may feel a little more applicable to your life and business.

Now… what are we talking about today?! Simply put, productivity! Though, there is more to it than just that. HOW do you be productive when a huge portion of your job is put on hold… indefinitely?

I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends about what we can be doing as small business owners with pretty all of our in-person work on hold right now. Overwhelmingly I’ve heard struggles and frustration in trying to decide what tasks are worthwhile right now. Are we doing work simply to occupy time, or is it actually going to help us grow as businesses? What does growth even look like in this season?

Know that a lot of this post will refer to my life as a photographer but that the tips and tricks can apply to a number of businesses. Though a lot of our jobs as wedding and portrait photographers happen at home, the vast majority of the way we actually make money as businesses happen outside the house and while in contact with other people. Because in-person sessions and events that would make up a majority of my workload in this season aren’t happening AND our income streams have changed, how do we decide how to best spend our time?

I was talking with a financial advisor about this last week, expressing my frustrations in how I feel like I’m just throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping that something sticks… that something I do now is beneficial for my business down the line… that something makes its way to my bank account sometime soon. I expressed that I was feeling frustrated because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what would define my productivity in this season… I had a hard time quantifying what was worth my time. This is simply just who I am as a person— I love doing and moving and planning and creating and struggle when I can’t do those things… these things are also all huge ways that I cope.

With our future as small business owners in the events industry is a little up in the air right now, I needed something to keep my mid-day mental spirling in check (to a degree), and for me, that happens to look like checking in on my productivity levels and how I’m spending my time. Again, keep in mind, it is totally okay if this looks different for you in this current season. This is simply where I am right now.

I’m beginning to reframe the way I look at productivity and the way I spend my time, both in this season and beyond, after the conversation we had. After we hung up, I was doing a little thinking and soul searching and brainstorming and wanted to share a few things that I’m checking in with now and in the future when it comes to how I’m spending my time Because I was searching high and low for this information just last week, I wanted to share a few of the points we discussed with you today… the first being:

Above all, define your why.

This is something that I’ve heard from a number of educators throughout the years, and I think it rings even more true in this season. Simply put, why do you do what you do? This is one of those really big and scary questions for me, but it is so important that you sit down and really decide why it is you do… pretty much anything.

I’ve found my “why” when it comes to my business to be becoming even more clear in this season… maybe you’re finding the same thing, or maybe you’re finding the exact opposite. Whether you know your why or are still working on defining it, now is a great time to do a quick internal evaluation on all of your “whys” both personally and professionally. That way, as you work to create your daily schedule, you’ll be able to check in with your daily tasks and to-do’s. Is what you are doing now aligning with your why’s? That’s something only you can determine.

Decide which tasks will make you money now or in the future and prioritize those.

Now that you’ve got your why center on the mind, we need to chat about something that is a little uncomfortable for me: money. As a small business owner, I find that it can be REALLY hard to separate emotions from business, but at the end of the day, bills have to be paid & my business IS my full-time job… a full-time job that isn’t really able to happen right now.

At the start of “all this” I felt like I was doing tasks to stay busy… just to have something to do, and while that was totally fine, with a personal reframe in mindset earlier this week, I realized that I really did want to see what groundwork I could lay within my business… How do I know that what I’m doing now will benefit me down the line?

Simply put, you’ve got to look for the places that will give you some kind of financial return now or in the future.

I was talking with a few of my fellow photog friends about how we feel a little now like we did at the start of our businesses… doing a lot of things and investing a lot of time for little, if any, financial return in the immediate future. While frustrating, it is also an opportunity to look for all of the amazing ways you can grow. Remember how exciting it was at the start of your business to make certain connections? To learn that one new thing? To press publish on that fresh update of your website? To do *insert anything here*… Yes, there were many moments of frustration and plenty of lows and plenty of highs, but what if we could use this season to reignite and reinvigorate our passions while evaluating how our passions help us provide for ourselves both now and in the future?

Right now, maybe this looks like investing time in updating your online portfolio or website… maybe this looks like researching how you may want to update your pricing… maybe this looks like finishing the educational courses you purchased to begin months ago but didn’t have the chance to finish… maybe this looks like updating systems or email templates or workflows for more efficiency… maybe this looks like taking some time off to focus on other things so you’ll be refreshed and ready to go when the world is ready for us to work in-person again.

I hope this makes sense… basically, if you are wondering if a task is worth your time, ask yourself: Does this align with my why and is this going to make me money now or in the future? It sounds super cheesy, but as a small business owner, your time is money. If a task isn’t necessarily designed to yield financial return in the future, consider asking yourself the question: will this save me time in the future to do more of the things I love? 

Get specific with what changes you want to make and how you’ll do so

If you are a photographer like me, chances are good, your favorite thing about your job is being behind the camera. I miss it so much it hurts these days, but that’s not what this post is about… ANYWAYS.

This may not be the most glamourous point, but the above point is really just to say that you may not be doing what you love most about your job right now, but it doesn’t mean these tasks are any less important. Now IS the time to look at your systems and workflows and content and work/life balance to get super specific about the things you’re planning… about what (if any) changes you want to see. Go back to the point before… are there things you can do now to help you do more of what you love in the future? I can’t tell you what this will look like for you, but I will tell you that you need super specific here.

Pick ONE (just one for now!) thing that you may want to change, update, or implement… decide what you need to do… what may be standing in your way… and write out a plan to make some changes! Take it one thing and one day at a time and set deadlines if you need.

That said, good growth happens slowly. All of the things and the changes do not need to be happening right now. Pick a few to focus on.

Lastly… it is okay to grieve… it is okay to breathe… it is okay to not do all or any of the things right now

I just spent a lot of time offering recommendations and things to do and tasks to take on, and while that’s great, sometimes what we REALLY need is a slowdown… to check-in with ourselves and our priorities as a human. I’ve been doing a lot of that this week, and it’s been pretty brutal. There have been lots of highs, more lows than I care to admit, and many, many tears. It is okay to recognize that we are all hurting in some way right now, and we’re all processing our world and what this means for our futures at different rates.

For me, this was a week where a lot of the emotional weight of this season and what this means for the future caught up with me. I felt really stressed and really anxious at points, really frustrated at other times, and for the most part, I just focused on surviving without putting too much pressure on myself to be “productive” most days. I got the things done that I wanted to get done, watched some educational videos, taught some classes, and also gave myself permission to feel a-okay about simply just existing while watching all the old Below Deck episodes right now. If this is where you are right now, it is totally okay to be there… to put business aside… to take care of yourself. After all, if you were to truly ask me, taking care of what you REALLY need is the absolute best use of your time.

I so hope you were able to leave this post feeling equipped to make this season whatever it needs to be for you!

Just in case you were curious and to keep myself accountable, here are a few tangible things I’ll be working on for the next couple of weeks within my own business… to keep track of all of this, I’ve made a super long list that sits out of sight on the daily. I’ll pick one task at a time, add it to my daily to-do list (and then promptly hide the big list away!). Once I finish the task, or if I ever need a little reminder of what my current goals are, I’ll pull it out and pick something else to work on. The best part is… there are plenty of blank lines, so I can always adjust the list as I go:

  • Continuing with daily tasks like emails, social media, blogging, and bookkeeping
  • Staying on top of current and future scheduling (sessions, weddings & portraits and all of the things that come along with this)
  • SEO education and tweaks on the back-end of my site (I’m working my way through Davey & Krista’s Inquiry System Course)
  • Finishing some online courses and education that I got behind on (HELLO KJ All Access!!)
  • Prepping a few blog posts for future content
  • Evaluating and updating my email templates and online communication
  • Finishing edits on a printed magazine for my branding and mentoring experience
  • Digital networking with other creatives simply because it makes me happy and helps me feel less alone

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