Balancing personal projects with paycheck work

I am all about being (probably to a fault) solution oriented; I’m talking everything from how the kitchen is laid out to how I schedule my days and weeks– Problem solving, solution driven, efficiency meters go off in my brain, and then I attack. Breaking up my days into 30, 60, and 90 minute tasks, I make sure I save time for what I like to call “Jenny goes off the deep end” time (something my boyfriend coined when listening to me “ooh” and “aah” incessantly over some inspiration I found).

“Going off the deep end” is a way for me to explore my curious heart, and very much get back what used to be literally play time- designing for myself. Do not get me wrong, dear clients! Creating for others is exactly why I became a graphic designer instead of a fine artist, it’s absolutely true. But for me, I am not truly satisfied with my day until I’ve worked with something that’s just for me as well.

I thought I’d share a few of my tips for making any working situation a little bit more enjoyable,  be it a working-at-home mom, traveling and overbooked event planner, or even just a wedding photographer sick of taking tchotchke photos. Whatever your time frame, you can do this. Here’s how:

1) Notes are your friend!

Personal admittance time: I have a paper and notebook addiction. A notebook is left (with 2-3 pens/pencils OF COURSE!) in every room of the house- just in case I get struck with some glorious musings, and on top of this OCD-itude I got going on, I also have a series of ‘idea notebooks’. Just in case I ran out of steam, got bored and could not for the life of me fill that time with SOMETHING, I rifle through those books, and usually my problem is solved. My advice to those who are swamped with work, anytime you think of a good idea-perhaps for the current thing you’re working on, perhaps for something else, write that down. Tether a notebook to your life. Not an iphone, or an ipad. A papery book. Keeping track of even the most fleeting of ideas will definitely help you wrangle out the good ones, laugh at the bad ones, and even help you figure out the next step: making time.


My iCal is filled with 19 separate calendars. I have dual alarms, I set up time limits. I even give myself a time OUT if I don’t listen. to myself. which is really my iCal. Time is your worst enemy and your best friend. So who then, is in charge? You! SO YOU!

Since I know we’re photographers here, stuck editing? take a 30 minute inspiration break. Had a really exhausting, but overall successful client meeting? Reward yourself with an enjoyable, rejuvenating break! Get the theme here? Taking time to relax in between the tasks you do is actually JUST as important as making time to complete the tasks. Trust me, I know. Sometimes I get so stuck to this screen, I just push my feet out and roll right out into the main living room. Whatever you got to do, make sure you count ‘relaxing’ and ‘refreshing’ as equally important

3) Lastly, and possibly most important! NO PRESSURE.

Remember when it was just you, your imagination, and your creative tool? Be it pencil, wacom pen, or DSLR? Thinking back, were you thinking of competitors, industry magazines, contests, twitter gossip, or insane clients that make you swear that dragons are real? NO! Do you know what you were thinking about? FUN. Playtime. Exploration. The whole world was open, waiting for you to tear it up and sail it to a viking party.  Bring this back to your forefront. This actually may be difficult because of the level of perfectionism that runs rampant in creative professions.

I also had advice for this: (of course I do!)

Make purposefully bad crap. Bad! and I mean DASTARDLY BAD. Laugh at yourself. Do it even worse! Make it EVEN UGLIER!
By the time you have the worst ugliest thing ever, you’ll be crying laughing, in a great mood, and more relaxed to let yourself actually create something, without hemming and hawing it to perfection.

I promise I do this. I also promise that I overthink, overworry, over stress,  and overthink, overthink, overthink (did I forget to tell you that I overthink?) myself to frustration. The trick is realizing what you specifically do that gets in your own way, and then be the impish little 7 year old you used to be, and get that nonsense out of here!

Fitting in some fun, exploratory ridiculousness throughout your day isn’t just for a calmed creative mind, it can also help build your skill sets as well. Discovering anything “new”, while there is no pressure to create, will always keep your abilities stockpiled, helping you keep your clients happy and you more fulfilled with the work you spend your heart and soul creating.

Until next time!


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