A common complaint I hear from photographers is that they do not have the time to do everything. Welcome to modern life. We all are over-committed… but you can manage it if you do two things: use a schedule and say “no.”
The schedule is simply required. Find a calendar tool you like and use it. No excuses. Don’t over-think it– just find an app you like (and if you don’t know which that is, test drive one a week until you find it) and use it. You’re a grown-up and you know how this works. Successful people of all kinds schedule their lives and you need to as well. It stops sucking after a while, I promise.
Besides having “preached” this for years in business, I have put the whole scheduling and saying “no” thing to the test lately through experience. These days, I am a full-time law student as well as still running my consulting business. I have no “free” time. There is always more studying to do or another blog post or Manual to be written, etc. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get done what I need to, as well as do some things just for me (that’s important too). It does mean I have to schedule and to say “no” to some things I used to say “yes” to.
We all want to be liked, want to be helpful, and don’t want to do anything that may run the risk of not getting work. Lots of admirable traits there, but it’s unsustainable when you add up being a photographer, a small businessperson, and your personal/family role. You must start saying “no” to some things or you are going to burn out.
No, though appearing scary, is a liberator. The brother-in-law who wants your help with a project? No. The cheap client who wants you to do one for free? No. The extended family complaining that you don’t visit? No. The really demanding friend who is usually a downer and a drag and who shows up late for everything? No. At first it may feel a bit brutal, but really, after doing it a few times, with permission not to feel guilty, well, it’s almost fun.
Moreover, people are amazingly understanding and usually don’t care half as much as you think about whatever it is they are asking of you. If you say “no” they’ll get over it, and quickly, too. You don’t need to make excuses, either. Just say “No, I can’t help/do that/be there” and shut up.
Now, of course there are some things you cannot say “no” to. You’ve got to pay your taxes and do your marketing, for example. But by cutting out the crap you don’t have time for or don’t really want to do, you will have more time to do the necessary things and to schedule things you want to do. Make Tuesday afternoons into creative rejuvenation periods and go museums, etc., for example.
The biggest thing you can do, however, is to stop beating yourself up about not getting everything done. It is never done. As long as you are breathing, there is stuff to be done. You are in control, though, don’t forget. Choose to do what you want and need to, schedule those tasks, and do them as best you can. Things you don’t do you reschedule. For the things you do, pat yourself on the back.