Image of hands holding a camera next to an open planner, with text that reads "time management tips for busy photographers"

Time Management Tips for Busy Photographers

Are you the kind of photographer who feels busy, but not productive? Do you feel like you check off a lot of items on your to-do list, but still don’t accomplish anything? Maybe you go to bed wondering where the day went and what exactly you achieved.

It certainly feels like you did loads of busy work: social media, meeting with clients, marketing, researching, editing photos, etc. So why do you still feel like you’ve done very little to accomplish your photography goals? Or any goals for that matter.

It’s likely because you’re a creative person, you have lots of ideas scurrying around in your head and your focus is everywhere. It might also be because you’re starting projects and not finishing them. What all of this really means is that you’re struggling with time management.

Blond woman holding a white planner against her black purse on her left shoulder.

We’re all given 24 hours each day, so how is it that some people (who seem busier than you) get more accomplished in a day than others do in a month?

It’s all about time management. You might be surprised at how much you can create, complete, and succeed at when you practice mindful time management.

If you’re tired of going to bed feeling disappointed in yourself as a photographer, a business owner, and a creative, here are some tips to help you get on the time management track to success.

Write down your 3 MIT (most important tasks) for the day.

Although you may have more than three tasks hanging over you like a black cloud, filling up your calendar and to-do lists with everything you intend to accomplish in a day can lead to overwhelm and frustration, especially when very little gets checked off.

Instead, focus on three priorities (in order of importance) for each day and write them down either before bed or the next morning. For ultimate productivity – and a sense of relief and satisfaction – consider working on the hardest thing first, the thing you’ve been putting off for whatever reason.

Time management expert Brian Tracy calls this, “eating the frog,” and writes:

“Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.”

Focusing on three important tasks and eating frogs will help you work through your tasks in a more mindful way, instead of jumping from task to task with no real direction or clear outcome.

Bird's eye view of a woman writing in her planner.

Understand where your time goes.

It’s easy to spend hours “researching” or “marketing” only to realize that you’ve wasted a whole day doing…what exactly? Poking around on social media? Getting inspired by other photographer’s Instagram feeds? Looking up new camera equipment?

While all of that has its time and place, you might be amazed at how much time you’re actually putting towards things that aren’t necessary at the moment. And when that happens, it can feel like you filled your 24 hours with time-consuming tasks that get you nowhere.

If you find yourself saying, “If only I had more time I’d be able to accomplish this and this and that,” it’s time to track your hours and activities. Throughout the day, take notes on what you’re doing and how long you’re doing it. You’ll probably find that you have big pockets of time being sucked into the blackholes of procrastination. You can then use those once lost hours for the things you’ve been wanting to get around to.

Man pointing his camera lens towards us and focusing the lens.

Focus on one thing at a time.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

Quality over quantity.

The overall message of these phrases is that multitasking is for computers, not humans. It may feel like you’re getting a lot done when you do many things at once, but you’re actually hurting your productivity and quality of work. Research shows that less is achieved when you multitask, but more gets done in less time when you put on your laser focus glasses. co-founder Matthew Toren explains the downside of multitasking:

“Research has shown that multitasking takes as much as 40 percent more time than focusing on one task at a time — more for complex tasks…a respected Stanford University study actually showed that those who consider themselves to be great multitaskers made more mistakes, remembered fewer details and actually took longer to complete tasks than those who did not consider themselves to be frequent multitaskers.”

Moral of the story? Designate blocks of time for things like checking email and social media, and focus on/complete one task at a time before moving on to the next.

These are some of the more popular time management skills you can put into practice, and I encourage you to do so. One might work while others don’t; it’s all about trying different techniques and figuring out which ones fit your lifestyle. Once you do, you’ll be able to accomplish much more than you ever thought possible.

Related: How to Overcome 5 Photography Challenges that Keep You from Success

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