Rule 5: Unplug

Time keeps on slippin'...

One of the biggest challenges faced by any photographer has nothing to do with skills or settings. Instead, it’s the same challenge faced by anybody trying to juggle their passion (and/or profession) with the other demands of everyday life. At one point or another, we’ve all lamented that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all we have to do, much less to try and shoehorn in the stuff we’d like to do.

Okay, so not enough time. End of story, right? Uh, not so fast.

How much time do you “need” for your craft (because, really, this doesn’t just apply to photographers) on a day to day basis, or how much of it would you like to have? How much of a difference would one extra hour per day make to you, and to what you love to do?

There’s no magic involved here, just a little discipline and a pinch of time management. Cut out some of the clutter, and see what happens.

This has been a real issue for me lately. Between day-to-day obligations, getting The First 10,000 off the ground, and trying to learn (and then hopefully pass on) something new about photography every day, something – literally – was going to have to give. I’m sure for each of those things I just mentioned, you can think of one or three of your own. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle, though. If you need an extra hour a day, instead of worrying about doing an hour less of something (‘cause you can always find an excuse not to do that), do fifteen minutes less of four things. Then it becomes a lot easier to carve out two, sometimes even three hours of your day (you may decide there’s not much point in watching something if you’re going to miss the first or last fifteen minutes; there’s an hour you didn’t have before).

Turn off the television, the MP3 player, and the e-reader. From time to time, step away from the internet, the email, Angry Birds, and the text messages. Hell, if you want to stop reading this right now so you can turn off your computer and get out your camera, I won’t mind a bit (but may I suggest that if you come back tomorrow to read this again, you start at this bit, so you’re not re-reading the same several paragraphs for the next few days).

It’s hard to have something nattering in the background, whether it’s having your iPod on, or just the mental chatter set up by doing too many things at once. People pride themselves on being able to multitask, not realizing that all “multitasking” means is “doing a bunch of things half-assed simultaneously,” rather than devoting your full attention to something. But taking a few minutes’ time away from each of those things to devote to something you love is worthwhile. You’ll have more time than you did before, and the quality of what you do will improve as well.

Postscript: I started this post on the 21st and wrapped it up the next day. On the 23rd I came across something on David duChemin’s Pixelated Image that covers the same ground, and much more eloquently than I’ve managed. It’s called “45 Days,” and you can read it here.

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