As a photographer, it is easy to get bogged down in creativity, without really thinking about how effective your process is. As time is the most valuable resource that you have, you need to use it most efficiently. In this article, I will break down a few tips that helped me become a productivity master.
The secret to productivity, as I discovered it for myself, is that you need to feel like you have a productive day. It is hard to objectively say what was and what wasn’t a productive day. So, I would like to invite you to consider the tips in this article as ones for making your day feel productive, not objectively faster. I won’t teach you a mad Capture One hack to enable you to edit thousands of photos in one sitting. Such a hack doesn’t exist, although we all wish it did.
The feeling of wasting time is familiar to everyone; There are days when we just feel like doing nothing. There are other days where we are busy all day, but at the end of it, feel like we’ve done absolutely nothing. It is important to understand that productivity is never about the quantity of work, it is about the work that you produce. Take me as an example. I can spend the day going through admin and doing other boring, insignificant work and feel like I’ve done nothing. On the other hand, I can spend four hours on the road, shoot for 12, have 10 good images at the end, and feel like I’ve done more in a day than in a month. I don’t advocate for either, but I am just trying to point out the differences in quantity produced. You need to plan, which is a huge topic in itself, and achieve the goals you set out in the most effective fashion.
How often do you check email? With the digital age, it has become the norm to reply to everything as soon as possible. Some keep email open at all times and turn on phone notifications for emails. While there is a speed benefit to this, the downside is being unable to focus on your task. I found that it is best to check email twice a day: midday and 4 PM. This tip comes from a fantastic book by Tim Ferris: The 4-Hour Work Week. Although the title sounds scammy, the contents are well worth your time. Back to email, a personal tip is that you should limit yourself to reading each email once. This will help you reply faster, as well as keep a clean inbox. If you choose to go through email, reply, read, forward, delete, or archive each piece. Since implementing this, I found that I reply to all emails that need to have a reply. It saves the embarrassment of “sorry, I forgot”.
Writing Things Down
Despite me belonging to Gen Z, I prefer pen and paper to digital. Digital workflows, especially for to-do lists, can only be so good. There is strong evidence against having a digital workflow for note-taking and to-do lists. it all boils down to how well you remember what you need to do.
Take shot-lists for example. Although there is a digital template that I use for them, most of the time, it ends up being full of small scribbles, notes, and so on. If I can, I also use a whiteboard for mood boards and other notes about the project. Personally, writing things down is an incredible productivity hack.
The same goes for ideas. I strongly suggest keeping a little idea pad where you can draw, write, and create concepts for your images. Having tried both a digital and physical one, I can hardly remember what I thought of if I typed it up.
Have Good Hardware
This goes without saying, but hardware makes a huge difference. Not so long ago, I started to edit off a Samsung T7 SSD, which has been an amazing performer in my workflow, and which I reviewed here. Good hardware helps you be faster by eliminating the wait for file transfers and load times in Capture One or Lightroom. A good digital workflow will be by far the best way to save time. While there is little noticeable difference between a 500 MB/s and 1 GB/s transfer speed, it all adds up. A good computer such as the new M1 Mac will do wonders for your workflow.
Set Realistic Goals for the Day
This might sound silly, but a lot of people are guilty of overplanning and underachieving. It is simply unavoidable to try to fill out your to-do list with as many things as possible. This leads to overworking and still being unhappy, as well as feeling like you haven’t been productive during the day. Try to allocate particular time slots for each task, and think twice before adding an extra.
Batch Tasks That Belong Together
I batch all tasks together unless it’s something urgent. For example, when writing, I sit down and type up a few articles together and then edit a few together. It is very inefficient to do the article-editing-formatting path in one go. The same applies to editing and business. My estimates go out in batches, so do treatments and other things. Marketing is also blocked to take up a day. Editing-wise, I try to select images from all fashion looks to see how the story fits together, then I do color, also in one go. Retouching is taken care of elsewhere; you can find out why by reading this article.
Overall, productivity is a feeling rather than a defined way of doing things. You can feel “productive” and send out a single invoice a day. You can also send out 20 invoices, do a photo shoot, and market to every single art director in your country and feel unproductive. Be realistic, set clear goals, and you will feel productive. Use the other tips to work more efficiently.