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Episode #138

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Photo Project


UPDATED: June 5, 2023


Photo projects are so exciting! That is until overwhelm, confusion, insecurity, scope creep, busy schedules, and so much else get in the way. Here are the 3 most common stumbling blocks conservation photographers face with a new project and HOW to overcome them – with advice straight from my own project management mentor, Jo.


The most common hiccups you'll face in photo projects are…

Everyone – from beginners to experienced pros – face certain stumbling blocks when it comes to photography projects.

– Not understanding precisely what you're trying to accomplish, so the project feels confusing (and stalls out)
– Not setting boundaries, so the project gets unwieldy and overwhelming (and stalls out)
– Not setting a timeline with milestones, so the project just languishes in idea-mode (and stalls out… if it ever even starts in the first place!)

But the good news is there are simple ways to avoid these mistakes and set yourself up for success – even when you're mid-project and in the midst of one of these trouble points.

And best of all, for this episode, I brought in my own mentor in project management.

Jo has helped me through these EXACT problems time and again. And today, she gives us her best, most practical advice for us creative types to plan wisely and stay on track.

Follow this advice, and whenever you find yourself hitting one of these challenging moments, you'll know how to charge through it and keep that beautiful photo project of yours rolling forward.


Episode 138: 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Photo Project

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/138

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)

Jaymi Heimbuch:
[00:00:00] Jaymi: Welcome to this episode of Impact, the Conservation Photography podcast. And Joe, welcome back to the.

[00:00:08] Jo: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I always enjoy our time together on these things.

[00:00:12] Jaymi: Yes, and I'm really glad that you're here today for this episode because we're talking about three mistakes that photographers make when starting a photo project. And I have made all of these mistakes and you have helped me through all of these mistakes. So

[00:00:28] Jo: I made them too. They weren't photography projects, but I've made them, you said the magic word project. It's like, woo. You're gonna pay attention now.

[00:00:36] Jaymi: I know. Isn't it funny how some brains just latch onto the idea of project and it's like, Ooh, moving parts, puzzle pieces.

[00:00:44] Jo: Yeah. Yeah. Ooh. I want to figure out how, I always thought that if I was something else, I'd always wanna be like one of those assembly line designers have you, you know, whenever they have those, you know, this is how they make a Snickers bar or whatever, you know, and it always goes to, I always thought that was [00:01:00] fascinating.

[00:01:00] Jaymi: Yeah, me too. You know, I just had it in my head cuz I was talking to a a print production team the other day, and, I had it in my head. I can't remember if it was a Reading Rainbow episode or a Sesame Street segment, but they took you into the factory that makes stamps, and so it was someone's drawing of a little dog, and then they showed you the whole print process for how stamps were made.

[00:01:25] Jaymi: And so they lay down the different inks on each other, and then they do the perforations and all this cool stuff, and it's like, what? It's. Cool to see how you figure out how to set up machinery that ultimately makes this product.

[00:01:40] Jo: Yeah. Yeah. I watched a video the other day of how they make marbles. I was just intrigued. Yeah. I was just, I could sit there and watch that forever. Yeah.

[00:01:51] Jaymi: insert losing marble's joke here.

[00:01:53] Jo: Yes,

[00:01:56] Jaymi: Yeah,

[00:01:56] Jo: I needed to get some more, yeah. To put in my head.

[00:01:59] Jaymi: Well, [00:02:00] that's actually a really great example too, of. When you think of a project, there are so many moving parts, and how they come together is often where people get really overwhelmed, right? Is like, oh my gosh, there are a lot of parts to put this together, and how do I want it to come together in a way that makes sense and functions and accomplishes what I wanna accomplish?

[00:02:22] Jaymi: And all of these things.

[00:02:24] Jo: Yeah. And, I think three mistakes photographers make when starting a project. Wow. Great topic because depending on how you approach figuring out what it is you wanna get done, you're stopped before you even start. So, So I think this is a great topic for us to go over though.

[00:02:41] Jo: Yay.

[00:02:42] Jaymi: and this is actually something that I've worked with several students with relatively recently, is. The idea that, okay, I came across this story idea, or I came across this topic that I wanna work on. But the more I research, the bigger it [00:03:00] gets and the more unwieldy it gets and the more overwhelmed I am.

[00:03:03] Jaymi: So now I don't even know where, how to start, and now all of a sudden it's really intimidating or scary, you know? So it really is something that I think. Just covering these three particular mistakes. If we can give listeners tools and strategies on even just these three things, oh my gosh, you're so much more likely to be able to charge forward.

[00:03:23] Jaymi: Cuz we're gonna talk about things that I'm, you know, I coach my students in conservation photography 1 0 1 through, because we all make these mistakes. And, and no matter how experienced you are, you're gonna run into these. But if you have those tools and strategies that, Joe, thank goodness you've taught me over the years it's super, super.

[00:03:41] Jo: Well, I'm glad I could, but I, I also think that you naturally want to wanna go there and so for, there's a lot of people who don't na naturally want to go there. And so having some sort of insights into how you approach it makes a big difference because then it's like, oh, no wonder I wasn't making any [00:04:00] progress.

[00:04:00] Jo: I need to ask myself these questions and maybe that'll help. And so I think this is gonna.

[00:04:05] Jaymi: Yeah, absolutely. Well, so the first mistake that. I've made for sure that I often see photographers make, and I kind of hesitate even saying mistake. The first stumbling block that you can come across when it comes to starting a photography project is not understanding specifically what it is that you're trying to accomplish.

[00:04:26] Jaymi: So then the project itself ends up being kind of nebulous to you. . Even if you've got your head wrapped around it, it's confusing to other people because you're not really sure what it is you're trying to walk away with from this photo project. It's more like a, a lightning bolt of inspiration hits you.

[00:04:46] Jaymi: You get really excited about maybe a topic or an idea or something that you could put forward, but what is it that you're trying to accomplish with that and not getting crystal clear on that. I think that that's probably the first stumbling block that people really.[00:05:00]

[00:05:00] Jo: Well, yeah, because usually when you're going getting into some sort of a, Especially if you're thinking about a photography project, is it's a concept. It's this idea, it's this feeling that you have about something that's going on, or something that you want to relay to others in terms of what you're seeing out there.

[00:05:20] Jo: And so it's hard to put your finger on what that looks like when you're done because you haven't gotten that far through the thought process yet, because it's still in that back of your brain. Munk feelings and images of ideas and things like that going on. And so it takes a bit to kind of go through that to think about then what is the thing that when I, how do I know how to say when I'm done, what does that look like?

[00:05:50] Jo: And that. Takes some time to develop. So don't be afraid of that, that you don't, you, you may not know right away what it is and that it might [00:06:00] change as you go along. It usually does, it usually starts very broad and starts getting when changes as, as, as you go along and things firm up. So that, that, I think that's important to keep in mind.

[00:06:13] Jaymi: Yeah. But kind of freedom of being like, I don't really know what this looks like. and Okay, that's okay. But then if you start in on a project, like, you know, like you used the word Munk. I really like that. I don't know if that's a a real word or not, but I really, I think if it's not yet, we need to make it one.

[00:06:31] Jo: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah.

[00:06:34] Jaymi: So if it is feeling all muny, but you wanna go forward, but that ness is making you feel like, but this is overwhelming. I don't know, like, what am I doing? Do you have, I don't know, maybe a strategy or a tactic that someone can take that's like, even though I don't know what I'm accomplishing yet, and it's okay, that that's probably gonna change and I'm gonna figure out, but how do I start moving forward on this when I [00:07:00] feel unclear on what I'm trying to do?

[00:07:03] Jo: Yeah. So I think everybody has different methods that they go about in terms of trying to figure out what that is. But for me, one. It's taken me a long time to figure this out, but letting it cook in my brain for a while is something that's important. I take, I just write kind of notes about what it is that, why is this thing important to me?

[00:07:27] Jo: What is, what is it that I want to tell people? What is it about this topic or this thing? Resonates with me, and I just start writing words. And then after a while I can kind of start pulling those together and realizing, oh, well the thing that's really important is that it's in danger.

[00:07:51] Jo: Or the thing that's really important is that. Not very many people know about it, and I wanna create some awareness about it. Or [00:08:00] the thing that's important is that I just think it's beautiful and it gives me this amazing sense of calm. And, and so when I can kind of get an a. An aspect on it that I understand why it matters to me, then I can start to drill down on then what it is that needs to be there at the end to reflect that.

[00:08:22] Jo: So that then if, if it has to do with something being in danger, then if it's about Maybe an environment going away or, or something like that, that's gonna change. Then what I care about in terms of reflecting that it isn't about a beautiful sunset that's in that spot, or it isn't about the fact that nobody knows where this place is.

[00:08:46] Jo: It's just about that this environment is changing. Okay. That helps me think about then what I need to focus on. It's like I want to be able to say that. Story, this thing, I want to be, this [00:09:00] project that I want to be done with. Can people can walk away knowing that's the message that I wanted it to be. Or if I'm just making a piece of art with Clay, you know, it's like, okay, what is it that I want this to be?

[00:09:17] Jo: Well, I, I really. Okay. It's a, it's a tile. I know it's a tile. Great. It's gonna be, it's gonna go in my garden. Okay, great. But how is it fitting in with the rest of what's happening? And then how do I know when to be done? Well, I know I wanted to match the other things, or at least feel like it's a composition with other things.

[00:09:35] Jo: Okay, that's gonna narrow down then the colors that I use and the shapes that I use or something like that. And so each one of those kinds of questions that I ask myself about what it is that I want it to feel like or be at the end. Narrows down then what I want the product to be that I walk away.

[00:09:52] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . That makes so much sense. So in some of the examples that you were giving, You mentioned, okay, [00:10:00] well I am working on something and ultimately I figure out that, you know, the most important thing is that this habitat is in danger of disappearing. And okay. And then another example is like, I wanna just celebrate the beauty of this one animal that makes me feel really calm.

[00:10:18] Jaymi: And so I could see, okay, well once I come to those conclusions, What done could look like, could be, oh, well, since I know that this habitat is in danger of disappearing, maybe. What I wanna accomplish with working on this is actually not even a photo story or a, you know, a gallery exhibit. I actually really wanna help create a campaign for this one nonprofit that is working on this thing.

[00:10:45] Jaymi: And so what, what done looks like is actually gonna be. figuring out a collaboration with this one organization and helping to lend my skills there. Whereas with something beautiful, it's like, oh man, I really wanna just celebrate this, this beautiful thing. So what done looks [00:11:00] like is actually maybe a really incredible photo essay that I wanna get in publication or.

[00:11:07] Jaymi: That I want to just put out in the world. So really now I understand that what matters to me is celebrating the beauty of this one thing and just the joy of working on this project. So what I'm trying to accomplish, is this deliverable that that is a, looks a certain way or is a certain thing Because I know that this will also make people feel really calm when they walk through a gallery of these, of this photo as area of these portraits versus, oh, I know what done looks like is I'm gonna make this actual impact.

[00:11:39] Jo: And then also what ends up happening is, is that then now you can get much more focused on what done looks like and say it is that you want to Create awareness and activism around a certain habitat so that it can be maintained and, and these species of animals and plants can survive.

[00:11:58] Jo: Okay, [00:12:00] now you can start to narrow your focus a little more from that into what kinds of thing, actionable things that you can make happen. And so now you have to start asking yourself some specifics

[00:12:13] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. .Yeah. What's interesting too about this is. Even though you know that you wanna create a photo project, but you don't necessarily know what you wanna accomplish with it, and you're asking yourself all these questions. I think knowing that the most important part is to continue asking your questions of, okay, well what's most important to me about this?

[00:12:37] Jaymi: What am I really trying to get across? How does it make me feel? Then you can keep drilling down with these questions. You get to be photographing. This project the whole time you get to be working on this pro. Even if you don't know yet what you want to accomplish, you get to be working on it as long as you're actively asking yourself these questions.

[00:12:55] Jaymi: Cause I think that when you don't know what it is that you wanna accomplish, [00:13:00] you're staying at that topical level and you don't know how to get at that. That's when projects get backburnered. and then you feel defeated and you lose confidence in yourself, and you think that you don't have skill like that is where a lot of like mental talk comes up because you didn't have clarity on what you wanted to accomplish from the the get-go and you kind of.

[00:13:21] Jaymi: We're confused by it or other people didn't really understand. You, you get to still be active and, and keep that confidence going. As long as you're like, okay, but I've got questions to ask.

[00:13:29] Jaymi: What's okay to keep moving forward? I will get to what I want to accomplish. I just have to stay really active in asking these questions. Does that feel like it kind of.

[00:13:38] Jo: Yes. Yes. And, and to me that's, that's the photographer's version of the back of the brain thinking that I might do for something else, right? And so you're out there and you're moving forward, and you continue to get drawn to like one aspect, you know, or you can continue to realize that you're setting up the [00:14:00] shot to be something.

[00:14:02] Jo: Really highlights something. And so then now all of a sudden you have a chance to be able to say, oh, that is the thing that really, really matters and that'll get you there. But, so you have to ask yourself that though. You have to ask, but when am I done? And what does done look like? And so if you keep asking yourself that, even if you don't really know yet and you're continuing to be active in trying to pursue it, , your own subconscious will show you because you are gonna be drawn to the part that matters to you.

[00:14:38] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. , and then asking that question continuously, you all of a sudden you have that ding. Okay, I can recognize that. And I can recognize it because I've been asking that question that

[00:14:48] Jaymi: whole time.

[00:14:49] Jo: Yes. Yeah.

[00:14:51] Jaymi: So that's stumbling block kind of number one is, okay, I'm excited about this concept, but then what am I doing with this?

[00:14:59] Jaymi: Okay, [00:15:00] so we've got some strategies for that. Then the next one is, okay, I've got this idea. I know what I wanna do with it. , and then you don't set boundaries around that project, and then it becomes bigger and bigger, and then you lose your kind of focus on direction. And then you're like, wait, what am I doing?

[00:15:20] Jaymi: Am I really working on this aspect? Or what about over here? And then all of a sudden it just kind of. It's like all of a sudden it just turns to this mushy . Is it, this is it. That is it. We don't even know what this is anymore. And it becomes really unwieldy. So setting boundaries around that project. I think that it, it also comes back to the idea of what does done look like if you don't have a, what done looks like, or even a milestone marker. and you don't have a way to say, no, it looks like this. And anything outside of this is gonna be new territory. Oh man, can you get overwhelmed fast?

[00:15:58] Jo: Yeah. And it's so hard [00:16:00] to keep. Boundary in place because as you learn more and as you get further into it, then you go, oh, but I don't wanna leave this out because that really has an impact on this. So the boundary, , can be really frustrating cuz your boundary just continually wants to just expand and expand and it's expand and it's really, really hard to keep that into something that you know, that you can get done.

[00:16:26] Jaymi: It's scope creep.

[00:16:28] Jo: Yeah, because, as you go along, you learn more. And as you learn more, you realize the complexity of things and you just, and you wanna get into that and then you realize, but then I'll never be done. So you have to always bring yourself back to say, okay, that's really interesting and I think that's really important, but is it gonna really make a difference for why I started this in the first place?

[00:16:52] Jo: And if not, then it can wait and be like part. or another subject or something like,

[00:16:59] Jaymi: [00:17:00] Mm-hmm. Yes, inside of, , my business Conservation Visual Storytellers Academy. I have a 2023, , master plan. And here's everything that I want to accomplish. These are the goals that I have and the projects that I wanna accomplish. And one of the biggest challenges for me when I'm making that plan for the year of like, okay, I wanna do this many podcast episodes, and oh, I wanna do this, you know, event or whatever it is When something new and exciting comes up.

[00:17:26] Jaymi: Okay, I wanna do that too. And I wanna do that too, and I wanna do that too. And so I actually have in that document the shiny object parking lot. And so, or actually I re, because you taught me the term parking lot and I actually changed it because I was like, but parking lot has some sort of like finality to it.

[00:17:40] Jaymi: And so I actually named it the shiny object waiting room so that I have this idea of like, okay, it's just waiting. It's okay, Jamie, that you put it over here because it's just waiting. You can still work on that later. So all of these things of like, oh, what about this, you know, ebook idea and what about this and, oh, but you already figured out what your [00:18:00] 2023.

[00:18:00] Jaymi: Project looks like as a whole. So that can go into the shiny object waiting area. And if you have time or if it makes sense, you can pull from that or wait till next year. And that's like top of the priority list. And so when you're coming up with a photography project, that can be the way that you do set boundaries that, and you stick to it.

[00:18:19] Jaymi: But as you're researching and you're like, oh, but then there's this story that I could do or this thing or this, that if it doesn't have that, Clear impact on the project, and it's going toward accomplishing what you wanna accomplish for that project. You can put it in a waiting.

[00:18:37] Jo: Yes. I love that term. That's a great term. I think. other part of that is that a lot of times people say, yeah, but I don't wanna be that structured because life changes and things change, and what matters could change. And I could come across something that's different. And so if I have to stick to this plan, what if it's not really the right thing?

[00:18:56] Jo: You know, what if it should be? Well, it might change. It's [00:19:00] okay for it to change, but if you're very clear about what it was you were trying to do in the first place, . Then you can ask yourself, does this change matter?

[00:19:09] Jo: Is this change important enough for me to go back and rethink what I wanted to accomplish?

[00:19:16] Jo: And then decide whether or not it goes into the waiting room or not, instead of just adding it in. or instead of changing what it is you're doing, , just because you've come to a conclusion about what it is that you're trying to get done and then you stick to that, doesn't mean that you're sticking to it forever that it can't change, but it gives you something to compare against when something else comes up.

[00:19:40] Jaymi: Mm-hmm.

[00:19:42] Jo: Important it is to changing that or not, and that can really help because then all of a sudden you don't feel locked in. But you also have a place to go back to, to ground yourself too, to decide is that something that I'm gonna do differently?[00:20:00]

[00:20:00] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. I remember at the early stages of a project that I was working on, urban Coyote Initiative. We, and I remember very clearly I was driving and we're going down Stinson Beach. We had been photographing something at Stinson Beach and we're going around these curvy roads and just like brainstorming about this project that I wanted to do.

[00:20:22] Jaymi: And one of the things that you said is, okay, but what do you want it to do? Like, what do you want this pro? Like, what is it that you are doing inside of this? And I was like, well, I don't want all of it, all the. I like, I, I don't wanna have it be one, like I want it to be this big, beautiful thing about urban coyotes and I don't know what I want it to do.

[00:20:41] Jaymi: And you're like, but what do you want it to do? And so it was like getting back at that and being like, okay, well the core of the project is this. We work alongside researchers. Who are working on urban coyotes to help tell the story of these researchers and what it is they're working on and through that we help [00:21:00] educate the public by, by sharing these, okay.

[00:21:02] Jaymi: Those are the very specific things. Ultimately, the project. , it did some of that, it did some outreach, it did some image licensing for organizations that were educating about coyotes and it, it did all kinds of other stuff too. But having that, okay, but what do you do that kept us rooted, I think helped us to weigh, okay, well this other idea, this possibility came up. Do we do that now? Or is that, does that come back to kind of that core mission? Do we have space for that? If we, is that gonna take us down some other rabbit hole as a project? Like it gave us a way to weigh what we added and didn't add because we already set that boundary. Our boundary is, and it's not even a boundary that is like a confinement.

[00:21:44] Jaymi: It's just we know where the edges are and if we wanna change the shape of those edges.

[00:21:49] Jo: right, right. And then that way you. Don't all of a sudden realize that you've got 14 more things on your plate that you committed to

[00:21:59] Jaymi: Mm-hmm.[00:22:00]

[00:22:00] Jo: you consciously made a choice because you only have, you have a limited amount of time and resources to get something done. It's just the physical. World we live in.

[00:22:11] Jo: And so , there's only so much time and there's, you can add resources to it. But that implies getting more funding or getting more money or finding more people or all these different kinds of things that could change. And then you, you have what it is that you're tr trying to get done.

[00:22:31] Jo: And so, . If any of those things change the amount of time that you wanna spend or the amount of resources that you have, or the actual amount of stuff you wanna get done, if any of those changes, something else is gonna be affected. You know, you, you wanna do more, then you're gonna need more time or more stuff.

[00:22:49] Jo: You. You wanna do it in less time, then you're gonna need more stuff or get less done. It's one of those, all of that sort of is gonna shift and change. That's called the Project Triangle. [00:23:00] And so once you understand what it is that you wanna get done and you have a clear understanding of that, then you're making conscious choices about how much time you're gonna spend on and what resources you need to get it.

[00:23:12] Jo: or are you gonna change the amount of stuff that you're gonna do, one or the other? And so that is a way to be able to keep you focused

[00:23:21] Jaymi: Mm-hmm.

[00:23:22] Jo: and then you actually get something done

[00:23:24] Jaymi: Yes. And that's the, the thing is like when you're working on a photography project that you're really passionate about, like you wanna create things to show people, that's the exciting part. That's the part that you feel like I am doing what it is that I set out to do by picking up the camera, creating images and making an impact with them.

[00:23:42] Jaymi: And so you, you wanna be able to be like, I am. Something. And so if you get too mired into all of these other things and you're spreading yourself too thin, you can't actually pick up the camera and make the images.

[00:23:55] Jo: right? And so, you know, you start out thinking, okay, I'm gonna do this photo essay and I want it to be [00:24:00] displayed in this. Cafe and as part of this sponsored program from a museum or something. Okay, great. And then the next thing you think, oh, wouldn't it be cool to do a book about this and wouldn't it be , cool to get a website going and wouldn't it be cool to do?

[00:24:16] Jo: It's like, yeah. But then will you ever be done? Let's just start with getting the pictures on the wall, and then go from there because you've got the core there then, and that's okay. And then those other things that are in the waiting room can happen, but you're not trying to get 'em all done at once.

[00:24:37] Jaymi: Yes, absolutely. It's sort of like the, the idea of like, when you set boundaries, you can consider them as milestones and you can add in the other thing, but it has to be Milestone two or milestone three, but you gotta hit milestone one. So your boundaries are around hit milestone one and then you can do Yes. And

[00:24:59] Jo: Yes. [00:25:00] And I like that.

[00:25:00] Jaymi: Great. So, so those are two big stumbling blocks right there. Really figuring out what is it that you are accomplishing?

[00:25:08] Jaymi: And now we've talked about ways that you can get at that. And then what are your boundaries and ways that you can set those and keep them really reasonable without feeling confined. The third stumbling block, is not setting a timeline. With those milestones, really digging into the idea of. What is the schedule for creation and for when you hit done? And this is something that I think that is a really important one because like you said earlier, sometimes you're like, but I don't know what I want my timeline to be.

[00:25:43] Jaymi: Cause I don't know what this looks like yet. And I don't wanna be bound to anything. And what if I set a timeline and then I totally don't make it? And so I don't wanna set that timeline because I don't wanna fail. But the thing. if you don't set some sort of timeline, what I see happen again and again and again, is the photo [00:26:00] project never begins.

[00:26:01] Jaymi: It stays in, oh. I'm mulling this over. Oh, I'm collecting information. Oh, I'm researching. Oh, I'm learning. Oh, I'm, you know, you stay in that mode and nothing ever actually happened.

[00:26:15] Jo: and that's where that milestone comes in, is that if you can uh, identifying what a, that first milestone looks like to get you to the end point. Now it's a lot more concrete and it's, it's a lot easier to start and a lot easier to understand how much time you should allocate yourself to do it. So just like the nebulousness of the.

[00:26:38] Jo: Project itself until you really know what is it? What am I gonna walk away with? It's the same thing with the milestone. Right? Well, that first step, what's that first step that I need to do to make this happen? Okay, well then what am I gonna walk away with when that's done? well, it might be that I'm gonna have a set of 10 images I'm really happy with.

[00:26:59] Jo: Or it might [00:27:00] be that the first milestone is I've scheduled a trip to this location to take these photos. Or the milestone might be I've called up this agency and I've set up an interview to discuss what their needs are and how photo. Essay might help them, and then you're walking away with then that interview results, or you're walking away with that portfolio of images, or you're walking away with those airplane tickets and a date that that's happening, and now you have a time.

[00:27:32] Jo: Frame and you have a thing that you know that you're gonna get done with that first milestone, and then the next milestone you can say, well, well then what's the next thing that I need to get done in order to accomplish this project? And so now all of a sudden you have, again, something concrete to work towards.

[00:27:49] Jo: And then it's a lot harder for them that to sit and just languish on the shelf because you know exactly what it is you need to do. And that's not so [00:28:00] intimidating.

[00:28:01] Jaymi: Excellent. When you are thinking about. Setting sort of a timeline, but you're not really sure what done looks like yet, but you know, that you, you wanna get to done, but you don't quite know what it, it looks like yet. So you can't really work backwards to set a timeline. What would be a good strategy for still figuring out a way to hold yourself accountable to some dates in order to make sure that you're actually making progress on this.

[00:28:28] Jaymi: Like instead of working backwards, is there a way to work?

[00:28:32] Jo: Personally there may be, but I haven't come across one, so I just pretend. And I make it up, and then I adjust as I go. So because we ran into this time and time and time again in it, you're doing something new you've never done before. And then we'd say, okay, well when are we gonna be done?

[00:28:51] Jo: Well, we don't know because we don't know what things we're gonna run into. We don't know what it takes to get this to happen. We don't know enough about this technology. We still have to learn [00:29:00] about it, blah, blah, blah. So how can we even begin to tell you that it's gonna happen? I, I can't tell you that it's gonna happen in six months because I just don't know.

[00:29:07] Jo: Okay, well what if we just pick a date and start there and then work backwards? And then as we go along at each milestone, we'll ask ourselves, how are we doing? Wow, that was a lot more work than we thought it was gonna be. That's gonna adjust this. Okay. Boom. Adjusted. So you stick a pin in it and you say, this is what we're gonna try, and you go from there. So honestly, unless you're working for some company that's gonna lose millions of dollars because you don't hit a certain delivery date of something, you have that flexibility.

[00:29:42] Jo: But if you don't, if you don't just commit to something. , then you'll never start. So just commit and then work backwards and go, I think it'll be like this, and I'll think it'll be like that. And then as you're going along and it takes you longer to do that, just tell yourself that's not a failure. [00:30:00] It's just that, oh, I forgot that you have to take this into consideration, or, I didn't know about this, and so I have to go Change how long that takes.

[00:30:08] Jo: Okay, now you know for another time It's okay. Give your self permission for it to change, but start with something.

[00:30:17] Jaymi: Yeah, that I, I really feel too like the idea of like, well, I'll just make it up and pretend it gives you a reminder that this is play. Like, yes, you may be doing something that is very important and that is something that you are driven to do, but. We're still playing. This is still a craft that we get to bring creative talent into and that we get to figure out as we go.

[00:30:44] Jaymi: And all of these other things that we we're out there we're, we're not doing brain surgery.

[00:30:49] Jaymi: we're creating images for something that may indeed have a sense of urgency to it and may indeed have something really big that you wanna accomplish and soon, and that you feel very driven to accomplish. But [00:31:00] we're still playing, we're still figuring it out.

[00:31:01] Jaymi: And

[00:31:01] Jaymi: so by

[00:31:02] Jo: You still have that flexibility cuz you're in control of what it is you're trying to create.

[00:31:06] Jaymi: Yeah.

[00:31:07] Jo: There are things that have hard times to them, you know, maybe it's a seasonal thing because it's something that only happens a particular time a year. , you know, or you're dependent on a particular person to help you with something and they're only available at a certain time.

[00:31:24] Jo: Things like that will come into play. And those you put down right away, cuz things are contingent on these things happening and you know those, and you put those down right away. So that could certainly drive your timeline. right off the bat. So you know that, oh man, if I miss this summer, then I can't do it again until next summer.

[00:31:43] Jo: That's gonna change my urgency and it's gonna change my timeline, and it also may change the order of how I do things, which is okay too. So understanding what those hard timeframes are is important because those are the things you don't have control over. But [00:32:00] then the rest you do and then you shift around.

[00:32:03] Jaymi: That makes a lot of sense. And for the things that you do have control over, even if you don't know what you're gonna do to or how long it's gonna take, you just pick a date and then be okay with adjusting it. But at least you've got something to aim for with

[00:32:18] Jo: Exactly. And so, you know, you said it was gonna take you three weeks to get through editing these set of photos so that you could narrow it down to these 10 images or something like that, that you were gonna submit to an editor, you were gonna submit to a gallery or something like that.

[00:32:33] Jo: Okay? And then the next thing you knew you got hit with the flu or the next thing. That happened was the software went through some upgrade and now your computer is too slow to use it and you gotta figure out what you're gonna do and how you're gonna edit these things. There's all of these things that can come at you that'll shift the timeline, but if, if you have this sort of general sense, put it down, start there, and then go.

[00:32:58] Jaymi: Awesome. That is really [00:33:00] great. I feel like that gives you a strategy that no matter what's going on with your project, what you have and haven't figured out and how comfortable you are uncomfortable you are with being hel with held with. Your, you know, feet to the fire to accomplish something. It gives you a way to make forward progress no matter what.

[00:33:19] Jo: Right? And different people have different self strategies for telling someone else what you set as your deadline or not, right? It, it depends, or setting up something so that you told yourself you're gonna go get this thing done and get a reward, you know, reward yourself when it's done. So everybody has these different things in terms of how to meet that.

[00:33:42] Jo: that, that you've set for yourself in terms of ways of getting there. But setting a deadline I think is really, really important. Just in general.

[00:33:49] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. I absolutely agree, and I think that that is, that's why that made it onto this top three list is because I've watched [00:34:00] over and over and I've done it and, but I've also watched my students over and over those who don't set some sort of, I'm going out in the field on this date, or I will start , this phase by this date.

[00:34:12] Jaymi: Those who are kind of like, well, you know, I'll get to it. Those are the. Stay in, in thinking mode. And once you actually just put a date on the calendar for one thing, man, it's amazing how psychologically that gets you into action. And then that builds confidence and it builds momentum and it builds clarity around what it is that you wanna do.

[00:34:30] Jaymi: And you're gathering that information that then informs decisions like, okay, what am I accomplishing and where are my boundaries? And it really, it is a magical thing. Just putting a date on a calendar is a magical.

[00:34:43] Jo: Yeah. And, and the other part of that too is sometimes you do that and then you miss the date again, and you miss the date again. It's like, then it's time to ask yourself, why, why am I not moving forward with this? What is keeping this from happening? And it's usually because there's some sort [00:35:00] of fear of something failing, you know?

[00:35:04] Jo: Oh, it won't be good enough. , oh, I'll do it and then I'll have to redo it. Or, oh, so it's time to stop and ask yourself what it is that's keeping you from meeting that deadline. If it had to do with things that are outta your control, then there's nothing you can do. But if none of those things really happen and you still miss that deadline, you need to start asking yourself why.

[00:35:29] Jo: Maybe it really isn't as important to you as you thought it was gonna be, and you just need to let it.

[00:35:35] Jo: And pick something else. Maybe it is this sense of you don't know enough. So how could you be out there doing this when you're not an expert? Well, does it matter for what it is that you're trying to do?

[00:35:49] Jo: And when is someone an expert? That's, that's so nebulous. That's all in everybody's heads in a lot of ways. There's so many people with letters after their names from here to Kingdom come that have. [00:36:00] Other kinds of experience and just because they have letters after their name doesn't necessarily mean automatically that they're more an expert in something than you are.

[00:36:09] Jo: Just, just go for it. Just do it. You can't do it without the experience. So start asking yourself why you're not meeting that deadline.

[00:36:17] Jaymi: I feel like that's a whole nother episode that we could dig into is, is okay if you're not meeting the deadline, you need to ask yourself why. And then what comes up with that? That can actually be. A pretty big weighty thing to tackle, but oh my gosh, if you take the time to really open yourself up and analyze that, you could hit a whole nother level of success in your work because you actually addressed what was stopping you

[00:36:44] Jaymi: on something.

[00:36:45] Jo: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. This is a real small little version of that. So we have these planter boxes at the bottom of our driveway. We have a long driveway. And my husband made these wonderful wooden planter boxes. I have these gorgeous Hollows in them, [00:37:00] and I wanted to put some ceramic tiles as an inset into these planter boxes, and I wanted to have some images of the different animals that are around our area.

[00:37:10] Jo: And so I wanted to draw these things and so, but I wasn't, doing it. I wasn't doing it. I wasn't, why, why was I not doing it? Finally figured out that I was afraid that because it's on the street and everybody's walking by and seeing what it looks like and that if it's not good enough, they're gonna go, oh my God, what the heck did she put in there?

[00:37:28] Jo: And then I realized that's okay, because what if I make it and I don't like it? I can do another one. And as soon as I came to that conclusion, That I can do another one, or I can come up with something different if I don't like it because I have complete control over what's getting produced. It freed me up to go ahead and start making some things.

[00:37:47] Jo: Now I'm in the middle of it and I'm having a great time, and it's like, oh, what should, maybe I should do that . Animal. Oh, maybe I should do that animal. And so it just completely shifted my attitude. Towards it and, but I had to stop and ask myself, why [00:38:00] is this so hard? Why can I not make this happen?

[00:38:03] Jo: And as soon as I realized why, then I could forgive myself and tell myself I could do something different and that would be okay. Then I was set free.

[00:38:11] Jaymi: Oh my gosh. I love that story. So, so much. So I send out these surveys, like when I do my masterclass on finding local stories, I will send out a survey there. When someone joins my email list, I'll send out the survey and one of the things that I say is, you know, what's your biggest challenge in conservation photography?

[00:38:29] Jaymi: Or, or what do you feel like is this the biggest hurdle that you're facing? And I don't know, and how many hundreds of responses I've gotten. How many of them are, am I good enough? I think I'm not good enough. Will people think I'm not good enough? I don't know if I'm good enough to do this yet.

[00:38:45] Jaymi: It always comes up like as that one big thing of, I don't, I can't do this yet because I'm not good enough, or I don't think I am, or all of that, and it's like, let's, let's just do it anyway. And let's go ahead and be not good enough and let's play with [00:39:00] that. And, and it's okay to not be that great and let's go ahead and embrace that and say, you know, these images suck, but look how much I learned and now I'm gonna go back and oh my gosh.

[00:39:09] Jaymi: So I'm editing a, a photo story right now for Ranger Rick and. It's a species that was really, really hard to photograph, and it took a lot of hours in the field for this photographer watching the behavior, watching the behavior, figuring it out and, and honing settings and all these things to be able to get these shots.

[00:39:27] Jaymi: And so I had, emailed a question to, to the photo editor who's managing these, these images for the photographer, and we're emailing back and forth and he's like, oh, by the way, the photographer wanted me to show you this one of what the shots looked like when he first started trying to photograph the species.

[00:39:42] Jaymi: And it is just the most terrible shot. It's completely blurry, like heads co. It's the worst image. And it's like this amazing, talented photographer that's where they.

[00:39:54] Jo: Right.

[00:39:54] Jaymi: certainly not good enough, but let's keep playing. Let's keep studying, let's keep trying, let's keep [00:40:00] doing this. Like these images are terrible.

[00:40:01] Jaymi: And then they ended up, after enough time in practice, creating such an incredible collection of images that are this really cool, fun story. So it's like, let's go ahead and not be good enough. Because like you said, you don't have to show.

[00:40:17] Jo: Right,

[00:40:18] Jaymi: you, you can choose to change or keep it to yourself or pivot.

[00:40:22] Jaymi: No one has to know. So go play.

[00:40:24] Jo: Yeah. That's like, that idea that it doesn't have to be perfect. And so same thing with these milestones that you created on your timelines. Is it good enough to keep going? Yeah, it's good enough. Let's keep going.

[00:40:36] Jo: Doesn't have to be perfect to keep going. , you can do good enough and keep going, and that will help your project progress and keep and keep on going. And if you're not hitting that timeline, ask yourself why not? And then address that.

[00:40:51] Jaymi: Yes, absolutely. Well said. Awesome. Well, I think that that is a, a beautiful note to wrap up on. So let's just [00:41:00] recap kind of what we covered, which are these three really common stumbling blocks. So if anyone listening is like, oh my gosh, that's me, trust me, everybody goes through them. All the time, no matter how experienced you are, but these three stumbling blocks have strategies for getting over them.

[00:41:18] Jaymi: So one big stumbling block is not understanding really what it is that you're trying to accomplish, and you do need to get a grasp on that. But even if you aren't really clear on that, we do have a way for you to start to get at that. And Joe, you, you said it so beautifully with asking questions like, okay, well what do I really, what's important here and what do I really keep getting drawn to And what, what do I want to sort of walk away with and so continuing to drill down and drill down, and drill down into ask those questions.

[00:41:50] Jaymi: Eventually you'll get at that light bulb moment of, oh, this is what I'm trying to accomplish. Okay, so now I think I can figure out what this project looks like [00:42:00] and can start to. Build it in a way where I'm clear on what I'm accomplishing and other people will be clear on that too.

[00:42:07] Jaymi: When I show them this project, this photography project, the second big stumbling block is not setting very clear boundaries, and so the project ends up getting really unwieldy. You keep adding on or changing what it is that you're trying to accomplish, or it just starts to get like it, not even a project anymore, but this entity that is morphing into other things that you can't then focus on.

[00:42:32] Jaymi: So setting really clear boundaries,

[00:42:34] Jo: many interesting things.

[00:42:37] Jaymi: And so one of the strategies that we talked about with that is, Creating boundaries, but knowing this can change, this can shift. It's okay if later on as I gather more information, I change up some boundaries, but being really clear on, okay, but for right now I'm working toward this one thing that's milestones.

[00:42:55] Jaymi: So maybe setting some milestones in there and saying, I can [00:43:00] do all of these other things I can add, but I'm gonna go ahead and wait on that and. Work on this one thing that I've already determined and be very clear about that boundary. And then once I hit that milestone, once I complete that part of the project,

[00:43:12] Jaymi: but then I can move on to this other thing. And the third thing that we talked about is not setting a timeline with those milestones. So the risk with not doing that is that you stay in information collection mode, or you stay in fear mode, or it's just something that gets backburnered and other things take priority even though you care about it.

[00:43:33] Jaymi: Other things keep taking priority because you don't have that start date. So you can look maybe at what done looks like and then work backwards in a timeline. Or if you have no idea yet what done looks like and you don't know how long it's gonna take you, Joe, you gave such a great. option of, well make it up.

[00:43:53] Jaymi: Just pick a date. Pretend like that is your milestone date. But you can always shift that [00:44:00] as you figure out what it actually looks like to work toward this thing. So like you said, there are some hard and fast things that you may need to stick to if you are working on a project that has seasonality to it and you know that springtime is the only time that you can make images, well, you've got some hard and fast.

[00:44:17] Jaymi: Timeframes there to work with, but there's other aspects of it that you can just pick a date and as you figure out what it looks like to work on this, you can shift that date around, but you put a date on the calendar and it gets you in action, so yeah.

[00:44:33] Jo: and then also then, if you're not meeting those timelines that you picked, ask yourself why

[00:44:39] Jaymi: Yes,

[00:44:40] Jo: and address that.

[00:44:41] Jaymi: Yes, absolutely. Awesome. Well, Joe, thank you so much for lending all of your experience and expertise to this issue, because it's something that. Is so familiar. It happens to all of us. And sometimes when you're inside of that thought spiral, it can be really hard to figure [00:45:00] out how to fix it. And so thank you for giving us tools that we can use and feel really comfortable using that aren't, you know, big and scary tools.

[00:45:09] Jaymi: They're just simple strategies that can make all the difference in a project.

[00:45:13] Jo: Thanks. Yeah, it's, it's so strange because it's not rocket science, but as soon as you can put a name to it in a label and maybe kind of give yourself some. Little hints of pathways to follow, then all of a sudden things aren't so daunting, and that really helps.

[00:45:29] Jaymi: a hundred percent. Awesome. Well, thank you Joe, and thank you to everyone listening, and we'll talk to you again next week.


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