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Episode #121

4 Strategies to Find Time For Photography In Your Busy, Busy Life


UPDATED: May 26, 2023
ORIGINALLY AIRED ON December 6, 2022


With an infinite number of things jostling for room on your overflowing to-do lists, it's easy to let the creative outlet you love slip to the back burner. In this episode, my own time-management mentor, Jo, and I talk about strategies you can use to carve out time for photography no matter how full your calendar. 


Build your own custom time-strategy toolkit

Good news and bad news.

The bad news is, there's no magic bullet solution for time management. There's no one strategy you can flip on and swoosh, your calendar is cleared for creativity.

The good news is, there are LOTS of solutions available that you can build a time-strategy tool kit out of.

This means you can pull the just-right-for-right-now solution from the kit when you need it.

Jo and I dive into 4 of these options in this episode PLUS mindset strategies that make the time strategies actually work.



Resources Mentioned

Episode 121: 4 Strategies to Find Time For Photography In Your Busy, Busy Life

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/121

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)

Jaymi Heimbuch:

[00:00:00] Jaymi: Welcome to this episode of Impact, the Conservation Photography podcast and show. It's so wonderful to be sitting down recording with you again,

[00:00:08] Jo: Hello? Hello, Hello. Good to be here.

[00:00:11] Jaymi: So I'm super stoked about this episode because we are getting into a topic that you have definitely mentored me on, that I've taken a lot of advice from you and run with it over time and learned a lot and have really grown into it. And so I'm really excited to sit down and nerd out about a pretty critical topic to US conservation photographers, which is

[00:00:34] Jaymi: how do I find time to shoot? How do I find time to work on photography, and how do I prioritize my creativity?

[00:00:43] Jo: Good question. Very good question.

[00:00:47] Jaymi: One of the things that I've learned about over time that I, I think that I've evolved to understand through getting a lot of help from you on, on this very topic is that I used to think that [00:01:00] creativity is something. Was a bolt of inspiration or energy that you kind of waited for it to arrive and then took advantage of it while it was there, and then it would go off on its jolly way and you just wait for it to return again. And so in photography, I was always thinking like, Oh, you know, I'm, I'm not, I'm the mood. I'm not feeling creative.

[00:01:20] Jaymi: I'm not gonna photograph. I'm gonna wait until I feel like it again. And I realized that's not how this works at all. Creativity is a muscle that has to be exercised like any other muscle. If you don't use it, it starts to fade. But if you actually exercise it, you can strengthen it and that you actually have to, to exercise it, you have to prioritize working out creativity, just like working out your body.

[00:01:47] Jaymi: That's a big lesson that I learned.

[00:01:50] Jo: I think that's an interesting. Realization because when you're in a career like mine was where no people [00:02:00] didn't expect you to be creative, because that's not the word they associated with technology or, computers or things. But the reality is there's a lot of creativity that goes in that as well.

[00:02:11] Jo: There's creativity in everything, but there's also structure that has to happen in order to give that creativity an opportunity to come out. And I think once that, that dawned on you, and the part of it is just maturing as an adult and as a professional then you're able to take advantage of the methods that are out there.

[00:02:31] Jo: And everything's different for people. There's, everybody's brain works in a different way. So different people use different ways to be successful with that.

[00:02:41] Jaymi: Yeah. I think a lot of times we figure that the only parts of photography that are creative work is when we are out photographing, when we have picked up the camera and we're aiming it at something and crafting a photograph. But yeah, creativity with photography is planning out [00:03:00] photographs that you wanna make.

[00:03:01] Jaymi: It's coming up with ideas. It's the post-processing, it's coming up with the ways that you wanna show your images to the world. There's all kinds of creativity that you're right. I think we underestimate that. That is also creative work as well. But, . I know that for most of us, we're really thinking about, Hey, I just want to figure out how in the world do I make time in my busy, busy schedule to actually do the act of photographing, pick up the camera, head outside, create images?

[00:03:32] Jaymi: How do I manage to do that? And when you're juggling a really busy schedule, which everybody has, it can feel like, Oh, well that gets to slip off to the back burner because this creative thing that I do isn't as big of a priority as these other things in life as taking care of the kids, making dinner, getting the laundry done, my nine to five job, my, you know, all these other things, caring for A parent.

[00:03:58] Jaymi: All of these other things that really take [00:04:00] priority, that it's real easy to just be like the photography side is a luxury. I'm not gonna. Make time for that, or it's really hard to justify making time for that, or it's the first thing to slip off the schedule when it starts to get overloaded.

[00:04:15] Jaymi: So I'm really excited to strategize with you, how do we change our mindset around that? Or how do we build structure and strategy that prioritizes that creativity and allows it to have space no matter what anyone's schedule looks like.

[00:04:33] Jo: Good question. I'm glad this is gonna be really fun conversation. I'm gonna have to figure out how to ma not talk about it all day long, so, okay, let's go.

[00:04:43] Jaymi: So one of the other things that I learned from you as you were mentoring me in project management, time management, all of this stuff, is that there's not a magic bullet strategy for time management. And I think that I was always seeking that.

[00:04:58] Jaymi: I think that I was always [00:05:00] looking for like, well, what is that one process that you can follow and it works? Or what is that one strategy that you can just implement? And you're always gonna have time for all of the things that you've got going on. And when you're a photographer, Your schedule doesn't always look the same.

[00:05:16] Jaymi: Your schedule shifts based on what projects you have going on or what assignments you have going on, or the time of year , like how active you have to be in the field or your, especially if it's a side hustle or a hobby for you, what other projects you have going on in your life or events you have going on in your life.

[00:05:36] Jaymi: Maybe you have to plan for a move, maybe you break your leg, maybe like there's all these things that come up that cause your schedule to shift. And so one of the things I think I really had to accept as someone who's very process oriented is there is no one thing that always works, but there are certain things that work depending on what else is going on.

[00:05:58] Jaymi: And so if you can have a [00:06:00] toolkit, then you can go and select the right time management tool that is appropriate for whatever's going on in your life at the time for your schedule, whatever the ways that your personality works the way that you like to approach things the strategies that fire you up versus make you feel drained.

[00:06:17] Jaymi: So I thought of a few different strategies that we might be able to talk about to start to build that toolkit for photographers who are feeling really strapped for time and wanna figure out how do I find time to photograph based on, what's going on in my life right now?

[00:06:36] Jo: Okay. So I agree , everybody is so different and they work so differently and their brains focus so differently that I think one of the very first things that is really helpful to ask yourself is that question, How do I work?

[00:06:53] Jo: What do I do when I'm most successful? So, for instance, I'm a person who likes to have a lot of [00:07:00] things going on at once because I have a short attention span, so I wanna work on, you know, five different things, but a little. On each of those, say in a day or in a week. Where some people are very focused and that makes 'em very nervous and anxious to have a lot of things going on at once.

[00:07:19] Jo: And they'd rather be doing one thing, knowing it's done, letting it go, and then moving on to the next thing. And there's then that spectrum all in between that. And so I would encourage people to ask themselves, what kind of person am I? Because different strategies are gonna work better for you than others based on that.

[00:07:42] Jo: Because if you're continually trying to fight against yourself, you'll just continue to be frustrated. But if you find that sync with who you really are and accept who you are, then you can build on that. So I wanted to just interject that first before we go into some specific strategies, because I think different [00:08:00] things match different people.

[00:08:01] Jaymi: I think that's wonderful because I do think that a lot of us can look out there at the world or look back at things that we were taught in school and feel like, Oh, if I don't function in this certain way, then there's, there must be something wrong with how I approach.

[00:08:18] Jaymi: My schedule, or there must be something wrong with, I'm always overbooking myself so there's something wrong with me, or whatever it is. And it's true. We just have different ways of enjoying work or enjoying what's going on with our schedule, or different ways of feeling overwhelmed and what does overwhelm look like for me?

[00:08:36] Jaymi: And then accept that and be like, Okay, cool. This is how my brain works. I'm gonna go ahead and accept that, that that is how it is. There's nothing wrong. There's nothing to change about that at all. This is how my brain works now. What strategies are gonna work within that realm? And that I don't have to change me.

[00:08:54] Jaymi: I'm just changing what tools I pull out of the kit.

[00:08:57] Jo: exactly.

[00:08:58] Jaymi: So I'm gonna go ahead [00:09:00] and list out the four things that I thought of that are different strategies that have worked for me at different points in time. And then we could talk about them, but also talk about anything else that pops up that might be a really useful strategy for people.

[00:09:14] Jaymi: So I've found that for me, depending on what's going on in life if there are some really big projects that I have to really focus on, or if there's kind of some downtime, but there's a lot of busy work going on in my life, or if I'm feeling really anxious, you know, sometimes there's just a, a time in life where you just have a higher anxiety level or whatever it is.

[00:09:34] Jaymi: These four things seem to be really. Tools that I can use, depending on those other factors. One of them is actually carving out whole days that are dedicated to creativity work or to a project that I w wanna work on. So sometimes it can work that I plug in little moments of time, but sometimes I just really need to be like, There's nothing else that exists for me right now except this one [00:10:00] thing and I'm so I'm gonna carve out an entire day that's dedicated to that creativity.

[00:10:05] Jaymi: What also can work is carving out a certain number of hours a week. So rather than having it be an entire day, which sometimes just isn't possible because of what's going on with the schedule, sometimes just setting aside a certain number of hours a week. So maybe that's two hours a week or something.

[00:10:21] Jaymi: And then I figure out, okay, well where in the week based on what's going on, can I plug in those two hours of dedicated time or three hours or whatever it may be. Another thing that's worked for me is creating focus sessions. . And so this is where you set an amount of time in your calendar where you turn off all your distractions, you zero in on the work that you wanna do, whatever creative work that is, and you have a timer at the end of that.

[00:10:47] Jaymi: And then when the timer goes off, you're done. Cuz sometimes you know, when you start in on a project, that project can just keep on going and eat into other parts of your schedule. But you have a timer for when it's done. And I really like focus sessions when I'm [00:11:00] feeling distracted because having that timer coming up is like, Oh nope, you gotta stay.

[00:11:05] Jaymi: Zero it in cuz you only have this 90 minutes. So don't go off and check your email or whatever. Stay zero it in. So when I'm feeling super distracted in general, focus sessions can work. And the fourth thing is breaking a project down into chunks. And this works really well when I'm feeling very overwhelmed. So schedule wise, whatever's going on, if I'm just feeling overwhelmed, then saying, Okay, I'm not gonna look at the whole thing. I'm gonna break it into chunks and look at one chunk at a time. So those are four different strategies that have worked. Do you wanna dig into each one as we go? Or what's come up for you as I've listed those

[00:11:40] Jo: Yeah, and I, I, one thing thing I was thinking about as you were listing all of those, and, and that can apply to all of them, is take advantage of your support structure around you. So whether it's a significant other, whether it's even your children maybe someone that you're caring for, and let them [00:12:00] take on the role of caring for you.

[00:12:02] Jo: and negotiate that time that you're going to set aside for yourself so that that's a priority, but not only a priority for you, but a priority for them. So then they get to help you achieve that, right? So now you are saying, Okay, and this Saturday morning I'm gonna go out to this area and try and photograph this species of whatever it is.

[00:12:23] Jo: And you announce that and then they can be excited for you as well to see what you produce, but also then to make sure that it happens, so that then that Friday night when you're tired and it's been a long week and it's really hard that that other person or people in your life can say, Okay, but don't forget, go to bed early tonight because you're gonna get up early before the sun to get out to the golden hour to do this thing.

[00:12:50] Jo: And they're there to encourage you as well. So don't forget to rely on that support system that you have. It's, it's a big, big help.

[00:12:58] Jaymi: Yeah. [00:13:00] Well, so to dig even deeper into that, for the first strategy that I mentioned, which is carving out a full day of, that's just dedicated to creativity. So I am in a class on. Creating your wardrobe cuz I love to sew. I love to sew clothes. And so this class kind of teaches you how to be really mindful about the projects that you select and really making time for that.

[00:13:21] Jaymi: And one of the things that the instructor mentioned is she has young kids and the idea of having a regular study sewing practice during the week just doesn't work. And so she creates these days also and she's like, I will set aside an entire creativity day and set my whole family up for success. So that means we do takeout meals.

[00:13:43] Jaymi: The kids are already set up ahead of time. They're allowed to listen to audio books. They might get a movie. They get to have, you know, popcorn or these things that make it feel like it's a special day for them too. But they're entertained and I get to focus on this other thing. [00:14:00] And, you know, she basically is setting up a whole structure around it that the whole family's on board with so that she gets to have this one day that is focused on just her craft without distractions or interruptions and all these other things.

[00:14:14] Jaymi: So building that support system with the family. Yeah, that's a big deal.

[00:14:19] Jo: Right. and then even though it's structured in the sense that she had to plan all of this ahead of time, the the time itself doesn't necessarily have to be that structured. So you can feel creative if you want to. You can feel like you're just going to go out and just see what's there and let things happen organically, or you can structure it out yourself as well.

[00:14:44] Jo: But either way, you know that you have this block set aside for you and you don't have to worry about the rest of the world. You don't have to care, be a caregiver for anybody else at that point, because you know that's all taken care of. So that's a great, that's a great story of, of how [00:15:00] someone set that up for her.

[00:15:01] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. , One question I have for you is, let's say you set up your creativity day and you've got the support system and everything, but you're not feeling creative.

[00:15:13] Jo: Yeah, so this is something actually I learned from you, which is still go do it. get up off of your behind and get out there. because once you're out there and you're out in nature or you're out in the spot where you're supposed to be and you just, your just mind wasn't there and it's in 50 different places, and you go out in your sit spot and you're waiting for that opportunity, all of a sudden your mind starts to refocus.

[00:15:45] Jo: All of a sudden you start to let go of those things. All of a sudden, start popping into your head of ways that you can take advantage of the light or the sound or the color or the whatever. And now, [00:16:00] That creativity comes out and you just didn't think it was there at all, so you just were gonna blow it off.

[00:16:05] Jo: But guess what? You just get up and you go out and you go do it anyway. And so when I would hear stories of you getting up at O Dark 30 in the freezing Oregon coast, Winter to go out on your kayak, I would think you are nuts. And then you would come back with these amazing shots of river otters and marsh rens and little ducklings and all kinds of crazy stuff and learned new bird calls and seeing new tracks and uh, learned new things about the the plants that were out there.

[00:16:40] Jo: And you'd come in, you'd tell me these stories of these adventures that you'd have as the sun was rising and the mists coming up off the water. And I would think, Wow. And it's just because that's what you did. You got up and you put on your warm clothes and you put on your beanie and you went out and you did it.

[00:16:58] Jo: And I was always so amazed [00:17:00] that, that you were willing to just stay dedicated and still go do that even though you knew you were gonna be really cold and it would be so much better to just stay in bed with your nice, warm coffee.

[00:17:10] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Yeah, definitely just going out and doing that. Anyway, you know there's two, as you were talking, two things popped up for me about getting yourself into that. I'm just gonna go do it anyway, mindset, because I definitely am very guilty of setting up in my schedule that the next day at, you know, 6:00 AM or whatever, I out the door to go photograph and then the alarm goes off and I'm like, Nope, not today.

[00:17:37] Jaymi: It's a coffee. Stay in bed morning. And then later I'll be really frustrated, like, Why didn't you just get up out of bed and go do it? And there's two things that I think can really help keep you motivated and, and get you out the door so that you're like, No, this is what's scheduled. It's what's planned.

[00:17:54] Jaymi: It's what's gonna happen. And I am excited about it, I mean, this is gonna sound really weird, but you know how some [00:18:00] people have before they get out on, like, let's say they're a big public speaker or something, and before they get out on stage, there's like a real or an mc and they get someone all, you know, they get the audience all fired up and this person's done this and done that, and da da.

[00:18:14] Jaymi: Well, I like to go into Lightroom and look at images that I'm really excited to have taken from wherever I've gone. Or just something that's like, Oh man, yeah, that's, Look at how the light's coming. And that's what it might be like tomorrow. Look at that. Yeah. Oh, that red. I wonder if that one's still there in that same nest spot.

[00:18:34] Jaymi: Well, I might find that tomorrow. And so you kind of do this little like visual pep talk or like hype, hype yourself up,

[00:18:42] Jo: idea, Jamie. I love that idea.

[00:18:45] Jaymi: And I know it sounds, I don't want intend this to sound egotistical at all, but going in and looking at some of your best photography can, can get you feeling really fired up and be like, Oh, it is so fun to create stuff like that. I really wanna do that. I'm, I [00:19:00] wanna get out the door and create it. And it doesn't always happen for me, like sometimes that I'll notice myself getting all fired up and be like, Oh, I can't wait to pick up my camera and head out and then, you know, a phone call or a meeting or whatever, and then it disappears.

[00:19:11] Jaymi: But I think that if you can set up a, the night before, maybe be like, Oh, I'm gonna do 15 minutes in Lightroom and go hike myself up for this

[00:19:19] Jo: I love it. , it's like that uh, you know, they talk about smell being something that brings back a memory. Well, looking at those photographs is, that brings back that memory of how excited you were. To be able to produce that and knowing that you could do it again, and so it's, it, it, that's a perfect thing to tap into.

[00:19:38] Jaymi: and then you don't let that time slip to the back burn and you're like, There's other important things I have to do instead. I won't prioritize that. It's like, no, this is gonna be a a priority because I'm really excited about it. The, the second thing that I learned about recently, I told my storyteller accelerator members about this, Storyteller Accelerator is my group coaching program for [00:20:00] conservation photography 1 0 1 alumni.

[00:20:02] Jaymi: And I told them that I learned about this thing that I didn't know existed. And then as soon as I heard about it, I'm like, Oh my gosh, I totally do that. It's called enclothed cognition and. I'll have to find the study and I'll link to it in the show notes. But they basically did a study that took two groups of people and they gave one group a doctor's lab coat and they said, This is a doctor's lab coat.

[00:20:26] Jaymi: Go ahead and put it on and we're gonna run you through some brain tests. And then the other group was just in their clothes that they wore, whatever. And they tested them on some just cognitive activities and they found out that those who wore the doctor's lab coat did better on these cognitive tests than the other group.

[00:20:47] Jaymi: And they're like, Oh, so we really prescribe something to this item of clothing of being smart or knowledgeable or, or whatever it is. Okay. So is that just. The idea of putting on a [00:21:00] uniform or is that really something that we're prescribing to that we're, we are assigning a certain value or a certain something to this article of clothing.

[00:21:08] Jaymi: And so they did another version of it where they did this group, you guys are wearing a doctor's lab coat. And then another group, they're like, Okay, you guys get white artist smocks. Exact same thing, same article of clothing. But they called it something different, which means that each group was prescribing something different guests who did better on the cognitive brain test, the ones who thought they were wearing a doctor's lab coat versus an artist smock.

[00:21:34] Jaymi: So the idea is that when we're wearing something that we assign a certain something to, that we think of in a certain way, that it changes how we actually behave and like the resources that we're drawing from ourselves. So I was like, I just realized that I absolutely do that. When it comes to being a photographer, I have two pairs of brown Carhartt overalls. I have a summer [00:22:00] pair that are regular old canvas Carhartt overalls. And then I have a winter pair that's insulated.

[00:22:04] Jaymi: And I realized that I put those on whenever I'm going out photographing, whether it's me going out to, to go help and assist on a photo shoot, or it's me doing my own shoots or whatever it is, they're just what I put on because I know that I can throw on this pair of overalls and get in the dirt and the muck and whatever, and away I go.

[00:22:22] Jaymi: And I realized that over the years of wearing those carhart overalls, whenever I photograph, whenever I put them on, I instantly switch into photographer mode. I'm instantly like feeling ready to go stomp around in the dirt with my camera and go find things. And it's like gets me into this absolute mindset of like, Oh, when I put this on, this is who I am.

[00:22:45] Jaymi: I am nature photographer, Jamie. And so I thought, Wow, I didn't realize that I had built that, but you could absolutely create a piece of clothing or a piece of something that you assign. Photographer value too. And so every [00:23:00] time you put that on, you're like I'm in photographer mode. This is where I act like the best photographer in the world.

[00:23:06] Jaymi: This is where I make the best photo I've ever made. This is where I get straight into creativity because the instant I put this on, that's what it means. And that can really fire you up, I think, to, to get into that creative zone when you've scheduled your creative time and keep it prioritized as well too.

[00:23:25] Jaymi: I don't know if that's really gonna work. It's totally a theory where when I heard the study and then made the connection, I'm like, Oh, that's what's happening. And there might be a researcher out there who's like, Jamie, No, it's not, but we can try it. And if it works, it doesn't matter if it's scientifically proven.

[00:23:40] Jo: Right? And it could be as simple as this is the hat I wear when I go out. And so then therefore you're ready and you're it. It's just something else. That is another trigger to get your mind ready to go. And whether that you're going out for a half an hour or all day, it helps to get that right mindset and get [00:24:00] ready for that time.

[00:24:00] Jo: I think that's a great idea. I mean, I've got that hat that has fallen off in all kinds of different oceans, you know, that we've had to go rescue in all kinds of different places because it always blows off my head and it's like, Oh, gotta turn the boat around and go get Joe's hat.

[00:24:15] Jaymi: Yep.

[00:24:16] Jo: But boy, that's the hat I keep in my camera bag cuz that's the one that has to be with me to in order to do that.

[00:24:21] Jo: So I could totally see that as like, yep, nope, this is my creativity trigger. I think that's a great idea.

[00:24:28] Jaymi: that's true. I never thought about that, but every time we go out shooting, you've got that Dan hat on.

[00:24:33] Jo: Yep.

[00:24:34] Jaymi: That's fantastic. I love that. Okay, so that is not only one strategy for time management, which is carving out an entire day and also a couple strategies on getting into that creative zone. When you have your.

[00:24:46] Jaymi: The second strategy is simply carving out a set number of hours each week. So every single week you know that you're gonna dedicate one hour, three hours, whatever it may be. I think this is[00:25:00] tough to do because you might carve out those hours and then plop it onto your calendar, and then as soon as something more important comes up, you move that.

[00:25:09] Jaymi: So what do you think about this strategy and how it might be able to be successfully used?

[00:25:15] Jo: Yeah, so I think because it's also something that might be the thing that's viable for someone you know, coming up with a big chunk of time can be a challenge. So trying to find a couple hours and spread it out throughout a week can be something that I think is more reasonable for a lot of people.

[00:25:35] Jo: But you're right, it is something that can get stomped on pretty easily. So one strategy that I've used is not necessarily thinking about it at a specific time during the week, but think about it as just an amount of time. So if I wanna set aside two hours a week, Towards going and shooting And [00:26:00] my plan originally was, okay, four in the afternoon on this day, and four 30 in the afternoon on a second day, but I can't do that.

[00:26:09] Jo: Then where am I gonna put those hours? So it's not so much that they're gone and lost, but that then I commit to rescheduling. So then maybe it turns into a two hour shoot on that second day instead of a one hour shoot. Or maybe I move that to another day, but I don't, still don't lose it. So I'm still putting in that time to help with that muscle memory of working on my craft and getting that time in.

[00:26:36] Jo: And so not giving it up completely when you have to change. I think is the main thing. it's not like a class like, okay, I'm in an exercise class and so you know that Tuesday, Thursday class at, at five o'clock after work and that class is gone now. It doesn't have to be, it can change.

[00:26:54] Jo: You can move it to another time and still go out and do that. And that's the beauty of, of not necessarily have [00:27:00] to be depending on other people in terms of being able to accomplish what you're trying to do.

[00:27:04] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . I like that. What happens though, cuz it's sort of like thinking about it like a to-do list item. So not necessarily a scheduled activity, but during this week at some point there is a to-do list item that is my photography and where am I gonna place that chunk of time. What happens if you get to the end of the week and the new week's about to start and you still haven.

[00:27:30] Jaymi: Set that into the calendar and stuck

[00:27:31] Jo: Right. Yeah. So again, this is just my own way of managing it is first I let it. And I don't beat myself up about it, which is difficult, very difficult to do. Then I think about, all right, I've reserved these two hours of time, and then what I try and do is I get focused on what it is I actually really wanna accomplish in that time.

[00:27:56] Jo: So then it not only turns the to-do list [00:28:00] into, Oh, I'm gonna go set aside an hour to do this, and the to-do is to do something in that hour, but then to actually say, and in that hour I'm gonna go to this place and I really wanna try and find this thing and get this shot. And so then get a little more focused so then I can be a little more determined on how I hang on to that time and put more priority on getting that to happen.

[00:28:25] Jo: Because it may be that if it's too nebulous and too vague on. What I'm gonna do during that time, then it's a lot easier to give it up for a different priority that goes on in your life. But if it's I, but I'm gonna lose the light if I don't do it right now. And if I don't do it this week, next week there's a storm coming in, so I wanna do it this week because this way I know the sun's gonna be at this angle and the fog comes in at this time of day and I wanna get this shot this way.

[00:28:55] Jo: It, it puts a priority in my own head that then [00:29:00] when somebody says, We're outta milk, I'll say, Okay, I'll get it after I do the shoot, Not just instead of and, and so that's the kind of thing that I'd get more focused on what I wanna accomplish during that time.

[00:29:15] Jaymi: I really like that strategy. Instead of it being like, well, I set aside an hour a week to go photograph whatever I feel like and exercise that, it's, I set aside an hour a week to photograph, and this week I'm going to be doing X, Y, Z. So I know that I have this window of time or opportunity or whatever.

[00:29:35] Jaymi: And yeah, you can kind of build that excitement around it too, of, I'm gonna aim for this.

[00:29:41] Jo: And it also sets it up for me to be that thing. I daydream about . So, you know, if, if I'm gonna go out Thursday afternoon and I'm gonna go do this thing, then that gives me Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to be thinking about it.

[00:29:55] Jaymi: Mm-hmm.

[00:29:56] Jo: And, and so I get to have that chance of, of going [00:30:00] and drifting off into, Oh, and it's sort of like your version of the, your Lightroom, you know, looking at things.

[00:30:06] Jo: It's, it's, it's my version of being able to think, Oh, well then I can do this and I can make it look like that. Or, Oh, and then I could go here because then if that doesn't work, I could go over to this spot instead. And so it gives me time to think about scenario planning. It gives me time to think about what I actually want to produce.

[00:30:25] Jo: It gives me time to think what's important to me. Maybe there's a skill that I wanna read up on before I go. Those kinds of things. So, When I get more focused on what I specifically wanna accomplish and then prioritize that, then not only does it harder to let it go, but also it's easier to think more about how I wanna make it better.

[00:30:46] Jaymi: Mm. You know what I realized as you were talking that that also does, is it expands the number of hours every week you're being creative. Cause even if you're not picking up your camera now you're thinking about your creativity and [00:31:00] practicing creativity, even if you're not actually making images. Which yeah, is exercising that creativity muscle in these off hours almost.

[00:31:10] Jo: Yeah, you know, on your lunch hour at work and you're, you're sitting there having your lunch and, uh, your friends couldn't go that day. And so you're by yourself and you're sitting here trying to figure out, instead of worrying about the meeting that's happening that afternoon, or figuring out, you know, what it is that you have to accomplish that day, think about what it is you're gonna be doing Thursday afternoon when you get to have that time.

[00:31:32] Jaymi: yeah,

[00:31:33] Jo: yeah, it, it really gives you that escape. And I'll just love doing that.

[00:31:37] Jaymi: That's excellent. Well, so that is the strategy for, you don't necessarily know when it's gonna happen, but you know it's gonna happen setting aside a certain amount of time each week for creativity. The third strategy is focus sessions. So this is really about putting a time on the calendar and sticking to it no matter what.

[00:31:57] Jaymi: And they're, and it's a set amount of time, so you know, [00:32:00] okay, well once this is over, I need to have produced whatever I said I was gonna produce, or I need to be done like at a stopping point or whatever it is when that timer goes off. So it really, for me, zeros in the focus. And so this is one thing that I use when I'm feeling very overwhelmed.

[00:32:15] Jaymi: I have a lot of different projects. They're all equally urgent and important, and I have a really hard time when I try to sit down to one thing, to zero in on the work. And creativity is one of those things. I've been doing focus sessions as a bonus for the academy. So our conservation filmmaking 1 0 1 students and the conservation photography 1 0 1 students.

[00:32:37] Jaymi: We've done a series of focus sessions every week and one of the things that I heard back at when we got done with 'em, I asked everyone like, Hey, if I'm gonna implement this again for you guys, what did you get out of it? What did you think about it? And what I loved hearing back the folk said, working on my coursework or working on my film or working on my portfolio or whatever.

[00:32:58] Jaymi: It would not have [00:33:00] happened this week if I didn't have the set amount of time where I knew I was gonna sit down and I had 90 minutes. And so, and one of the students also said, I take the work that I am not excited to do, but it's part of my project. So this particular student was creating a film and.

[00:33:17] Jaymi: She's like, I really wanna create this film, but there are aspects of it that I don't like doing , that's, that's our, there, it's hard or it's frustrating, or whatever. And so she would wait until our focus sessions and do the things that she really didn't wanna do until that focus session and accomplish it.

[00:33:36] Jaymi: And so

[00:33:36] Jo: And, and this is, this is something that you do as a group, right? So you have this sort of group accountability. Is that what's happening?

[00:33:44] Jaymi: Yes, and honestly, so I've done focus sessions just solo and for me, they don't actually work as well as when I do focus sessions with a group. Because yes, you all hop on a zoom together and you're all working through that amount of time on [00:34:00] whatever it is that you're individually working on, but everyone's, they're working together.

[00:34:03] Jaymi: So this could be a strategy for, especially if accountability is a really difficult problem if you're finding, you always let creativity work slip. So of course you can't do this if you are trying to get out to go photograph, but this is perfect if you keep putting off editing your images or processing 'em, or doing captions or putting them into a portfolio or all of these other aspects of creativity.

[00:34:27] Jo: I love this idea. And I, the other thing I like about it too is besides putting accountability on you, because in a sense you sort of committed to this group to be there to do your thing and to focus in, you get to use that group as, as leverage to those around you . So you can say, Sorry, I, I'm supposed to be in my focus session now I have to go no, I can't do this right now.

[00:34:54] Jo: I can't stay late tonight because I have my focus session. And so [00:35:00] it's this accountability for you personally, but also those that are not in the focus group that want you to go do something else. You get to say, Nope, sorry, I have this accountability to this group of people. Even though technically you don't, but you do because you've made this commitment.

[00:35:16] Jo: I really like.

[00:35:18] Jaymi: Yeah. And I think that there's something too showing up where you know that the other people who are there are in the same boat as you. They're all wanting to practice some element of their creativity. And no one is doing the same thing. So again, when I've done this with Conservation Visual Storytellers Academy, some of 'em are students of our filmmaking course.

[00:35:36] Jaymi: Some of them are students of my photography course, and they're all different levels of projects they're working on. And some people are going through, you know, module one of CP 1 0 1, and some people are writing pitches for stories they've finished and everyone brings something independent in. But knowing that you all are there to accomplish something that has to do with your photographic or [00:36:00] filmmaking, I think there's really some power to that.

[00:36:03] Jaymi: And it seems like in the feedback that I got, it's not just me that feels that everyone's like, We're all here to do something

[00:36:10] Jo: Yeah, and there's this embedded support that comes with it, I think. Yeah. Yeah, that's that's a terrific idea.

[00:36:16] Jaymi: for me also just being on Zoom, I think, and so I have the little zoom in in a corner of my screen while I'm working on the rest of my screen. But seeing other people are there also, every time I start to be like, Ah, I just feel like taking a brain break and checking email, Oh, nope, we're still active in this, you know, 90 minute session.

[00:36:35] Jaymi: Okay, get back in it. Jamie. There's something about having that there that really keeps me zeroed in on, You only have 90 minutes, it ends at 90 minutes. Even if your brain's kind of tired now keep going, because once you hit that timer, you're done and you have to move on to other things. So don't you wanna go ahead and stay fully in this creative zone?

[00:36:53] Jo: Right, Right. So it's like your study group

[00:36:57] Jo: that, you know, in high school where [00:37:00] Okay, we're gonna get together and study for finals and everybody might be studying for a different final, but they're all there committed to doing what it is, and so that's great.

[00:37:11] Jaymi: I love that. So I think people could do this with maybe friends or fellow members of camera clubs meetup groups, you know, there's all kinds of people that I think that you could loop into trying this if it's something that you wanna do. Cool. And so the fourth thing is, and this is Joe, you are the master at this.

[00:37:31] Jaymi: This is everything that I do today I learned from you, is breaking your projects down into bite-size chunks so that instead of one big creativity thing that you are trying to prioritize or make time for, and it can feel really big and overwhelming, and what, part of it should I work on right now?

[00:37:48] Jaymi: You are breaking it down into little pieces that you can then tackle and schedule just the pieces into your calendar.

[00:37:57] Jo: Right. And the first step [00:38:00] is a session just to do the breakdown.

[00:38:02] Jo: , and then once you've got that, then okay, then today I'm working on step one. Well, I don't wanna do step one, that's, I just, my brain isn't ready for step one. Okay. Well then do step three. But at least you're working on it and you have something that you know you're supposed to accomplish.

[00:38:18] Jo: And it's not so big that you can't feel like you can't get it done.

[00:38:22] Jaymi: Yeah. And I think this works really well. If you have maybe a photography project that you're working on or a photography story that you're working on and you just can't seem to figure out how to find time to work on it, then you could say, Okay, but can I find time to work on this one shot that I wanna get for it?

[00:38:41] Jaymi: Can I find time to work on this one series of images of a character? Can I find time for just that thing? And then it's not, Oh, I have this big project. How am I ever gonna find time? I need to schedule two whole weeks, you know, just to work on this thing. It's like, Or I bet I could find.[00:39:00] two hours this week to get this one piece that I want, and then that one piece is done, and

[00:39:04] Jo: And it might even be just learning something about how to do one of the pieces that you wanna get done too. So maybe you're trying a, a new technique or you wanna set up a camera trap as part of what it is that you're doing, but you've never done it before. And so research can be a part of that as well in terms of setting aside that time, it's, because a lot of times I know that I stop myself from moving forward when I'm not really sure how to do it or how I'm going to accomplish it.

[00:39:37] Jo: And because that maybe I've never done it before. And so setting aside that time to go read about it or to go watch. You know, a short course about it or to go get some advice from someone that counts too, as breaking down into small chunks as well. And then your brain's had some time to process what it is you're trying to get done.

[00:39:59] Jo: And then [00:40:00] that thing that you're trying to do doesn't appears to be so big anymore either.

[00:40:04] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. I like to use this when I'm feeling really overwhelmed. Like I mentioned, when everything feels important and urgent, it's like I can see all of these different creative elements that I wanna do for this thing, and where do I focus my time?

[00:40:17] Jaymi: So, for example, I've been really wanting, this has been on my. Simmering, you know, on my oven for ages and ages. But I really wanna build out a very cool, immersive visual experience for a project I'm working on, which then means, okay, building a website, which is learning this theme, which, if you wanna customize, it means learning JavaScript and css.

[00:40:41] Jaymi: And then there's the images themselves and there's how are you gonna make things move around? And that's not even getting to the stuff that I want to actually load into the website. And so it can feel really big of like, Well, I need to go photograph this stuff, but I also need to learn how to customize this theme.

[00:40:57] Jaymi: And I also need to learn how to make it load quick. [00:41:00] And I also like, there's all these elements that make the project super big, which then can bring it to a screeching halt. And so I like using something like this, which is, . But what I'm gonna just focus on right now is this one little element of making this one thing happen, or what I'm gonna just focus on now are these five images that I want to make this one thing happen.

[00:41:20] Jaymi: Like, Or what I'm gonna focus on right now is going and experimenting like, I wanna do these virtual tours so well, I'm gonna spend 15 minutes just playing around with the equipment out in the woods to be like, Okay, well how do I want this to look? What's the pace that I wanna go at?

[00:41:36] Jaymi: Am I gonna do this 360? Or from first person perspective, how am I gonna really make this happen? Just the experimenting can be part of breaking that down and then that way you're moving forward. Cause I, I definitely hear from a lot of my students, and I've also experienced this, where it's like I just feel like I wanna immerse myself in this, so I need two or three weeks and I'm just never gonna be able to carve out that [00:42:00] amount of time to really get this done.

[00:42:01] Jaymi: And so I don't know how I'm gonna do this. You don't need to book two or three weeks, you just need to break it down and then plug the little chunks in. And that might be using the two hour a week idea, or the focus session idea, or the one day idea or whatever it is. But you really need those chunks so that you don't spiral from, But I'm supposed to do this.

[00:42:22] Jaymi: And as soon as I start to work on that, I feel like spo, , I really should be working on this other thing. So then I pivot and go work on that. And as soon as I do that, I feel guilt for not working on this other part of it. And how am I gonna make all these pieces go together and ah, so , I

[00:42:34] Jo: And so forget it. I'm just gonna go home and take, get take out for the kids.

[00:42:38] Jo: yeah,

[00:42:39] Jaymi: I clearly, I need to learn more. I need to research more. I need to study more. I need to stay in that education realm instead of action realm, because I don't have the time to take the action.

[00:42:50] Jaymi: And it's like, oh man, no, that's, we, we've gotta figure out ways to keep moving forward. So Joe, what would be your biggest piece of advice or.

[00:42:59] Jaymi: [00:43:00] Overarching strategy you would use for someone who's trying to figure out, Okay, but this big thing, I don't understand how I'm gonna break that down. How do I break that down into chunks when it just seems like one big unit to me?

[00:43:12] Jo: Yeah. You know well first off, a lot of it is just practice. But it's really just kind of asking yourself, first off, what do you wanna end up with in the end? You know, what are the things that you're gonna hold in your hand or, you know, or virtually on your computer or whatever that is?

[00:43:32] Jo: What do, what artifacts of things are you going to end up with? And work yourself backwards from that in terms of what it takes to get that. And then once you start thinking about those things, of what it takes to get it, then they start sort of naturally bringing them down selves down into chunks. So say you wanted to pitch a photo story, and of course you're the expert in all of this, but you know, okay, well I need the images, but I also need this and that.

[00:43:59] Jo: [00:44:00] And, you know, there's five things that you need in order to make that happen. Now that you know what those five things are, you can take each one and ask yourself, what does it take to get me that thing? Okay. Well, if I want these seven images to show this, Okay, Well, what are those seven images? Well, I want 'em to be this.

[00:44:18] Jo: Okay. what's the first one that you want to go tackle? Oh, well, I want um, image of this species in this plant with doing this behavior because that's really illustrative of this thing that I'm trying to tell the story about. Okay, well, what's it take to make, that happen? Well, that species does that usually in the mornings.

[00:44:41] Jo: But it's gotta be warm enough because then they're active, so it means it's around this time of day. So now you've narrowed it down into a time. Of when it is that you want to go capture an image. Wow, that's a big step right there.

[00:44:57] Jo: You've figured out what you want the image to be. You've got the [00:45:00] message of what you want the image to, to convey. You've decided where it is you need to go, you know, what time of day, what time of year, whatever it is. In order to make that happen, you've just figured out a whole bunch of steps that now make this very easy and clear to decide, this is when I'm gonna schedule this time to go do that. Artifact number one is done and then you go do that with the next one and the next one and the next one. And those all then come up with their own sort of organic timelines. You find out in dependencies between things like, well I can't get this thing done until that thing's done. And so you find out those dependencies and you start building up this work plan that then helps you understand where the priorities are.

[00:45:44] Jo: And it's all just starting from the end. What do I want to have when I'm finished? What does success look like? And then I back up from there. And then you just break it down into smaller and smaller and smaller chunks and tell you maybe even have a [00:46:00] chunk that's a small as, and I'm getting in the car at five 50 this morning because that's the way I'm gonna beat the traffic in order to get past that bridge that gets me to the spot on the coast in order to see this.

[00:46:15] Jo: Elephant seal. And so you just start big and you get smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller. And I could go on and on and on. And I mean, you know, there's planning things from here until eternity about how to do it. But I think the main thing is what do you want in the end?

[00:46:31] Jo: What does success look like? And then back up from there.

[00:46:34] Jaymi: Love it. Yep. That has been a huge game changer in how I tackle creative work since we started working together. Back in what, I guess it was what, 20 13, 20 14 or something when I came to you and was like, I have 14,000 photography projects in a full-time job and I don't know how to do any of this.

[00:46:51] Jaymi: And then, you know, you really taught me this, breaking it down. And so now it's like, Oh, easy. Each project is gonna look like, and then you've [00:47:00] got your plan of action and those micro steps feel. So much more doable than the one big thing, and you figure out your timeframe. So one of the things that I love about this strategy too, of, of really breaking it down so that you're building, oh, every week or even every day for 15 minutes, or every day for half an hour is part of this little bite size chunk today.

[00:47:27] Jaymi: My creativity is gonna be going into my inspiration board and pulling certain images that I wanna use as inspiration for what I'm gonna create. And then the next day is, okay, now it's going out into the field and trying for that image, and then the next day is I'm gonna process those images and see what I think and I might need to try again.

[00:47:42] Jaymi: And then the next day is, you know, it's all of these little things and the creativity can look different, but you're exercising that muscle a little bit in what doesn't always seem like creative work, but it really, really is because it all adds up to that creative process.

[00:47:58] Jo: Right. And the [00:48:00] other thing that helps and is hard to remember to do, it's really hard to remember to do, is to look back and remind yourself what you accomplished so that then you energize yourself to move forward cuz sometimes when you do break it down into really small steps, you forget that then you accomplish this big thing through all those small steps or that you're that much further to accomplishing that big thing because you've been working on these small steps.

[00:48:33] Jo: You all of a sudden you realize, Oh, I'm halfway there. I, what do you know? Oh, I'm three quarters of the way there. Oh, look, I only have to do this one more thing. And I'm done. Originally I figured out what success was gonna look like. How did I know when I was done? This is how I know when I'm done.

[00:48:53] Jo: Guess what? I only have to do this one more thing and I'm gonna be done. Wow, I can't believe I did that. It took me [00:49:00] six months. But look at this. I'm here. I'm done. I did it.

[00:49:04] Jaymi: Yes. I love that. And that reminds you when you have that end point to go look back and say, Look at what I did with my creativity and my time. It reminds you about how you have prioritized your creativity and that it's not just kind of a nebulous thing that strikes you when the muse decides.

[00:49:26] Jaymi: It's really something that you can put to work a little bit. all the time and come away with something really magnificent. You don't have to wait until you're feeling it, you know, to get outside with your camera. And those are the only times you can prioritize creativity. But if you do a little bit when you can, using strategies that work for your personality, that work for your schedule, in that moment in time, then you can walk away with all of these little things that you've built that are meaningful and impactful and that show how [00:50:00] you've grown and evolved as a creative that keep building on each other.

[00:50:04] Jo: And it wasn't about finding the time. You found the time because you prioritized the time of what it was you wanted to get done.

[00:50:13] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . So we went through four different strategies if there's one takeaway piece of advice that you would give to someone who is just really struggling with, I wanna find time to go out and photograph, to really prioritize creativity, I don't even know where to start.

[00:50:32] Jaymi: If there's one piece of advice that you would say, Start here, what would that be?

[00:50:36] Jo: Wow. You know, everyone is so different, but I would say, Start with a goal, Start with deciding something that you want to create and something small. So it doesn't have to be a big project. Uh, It could be a single type of image that you [00:51:00] want to convey something, a feeling a sense of place, whatever that is, and put that in your head and then start there and figure out how can you achieve that.

[00:51:11] Jo: And once you achieve that, then you find out, Oh, I could do this and I could do that. And then the next one, and the next one, and the next one. And you'll organically find the time and the way that works for you. Once you have that goal in mind. When you don't have a specific goal in mind, it can become too overwhelming or.

[00:51:31] Jo: Something that's too easy to let other priorities get ahead of. So start with something, start with something small and work towards achieving that, and then grow it from there. And then it's not about the time, it's about how am I going to achieve the goal?

[00:51:48] Jaymi: I love that so much. Thank you. Well, Joe, thank you for being my mentor in creativity, prioritization, and time management, and for being willing [00:52:00] to mentor everyone who's listening to this. It's super, super helpful and I'm really grateful for it.

[00:52:05] Jo: You bet. And I wish I did it as well as I could talk about it.

[00:52:12] Jaymi: I think we all wish that we're like, we could talk about this certain thing forever and ever, but still never feel like an expert

[00:52:18] Jo: No. So nobody is ever perfect or an expert. So that's the other thing, Remind yourself that Yep. We all just keep learning and just keep chugging along.

[00:52:28] Jaymi: Yep. Well, Joe, thanks again so much and everyone will talk to you again next week.


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