Today’s article is special. Unlike most of my articles it’s not about traveling, post-processing or some new photo gear. Today I want to talk about productivity and creativity, and how I balance my little photography business with my main job.
Because landscape photography is not my main profession. I started with it nine years ago as a hobby, which over time developed into an additional source of income. So since the last six years I’m pursuing photography as a freelancer next to my main job.
Lets first go back a few years and see how I tried to manage creative endeavors like editing photos, writing articles for magazines and my blog and how I tried to stay productive when I just had a few hours in the evening and some time at the weekends. Because I think this is a common struggle for people having a side job.
As a software developer I already sit in front of the PC for more than eight hours at work. So when I came home I usually added a few more hours to this. But quite often I didn’t get much done and I didn’t feel very creative. Also my girlfriend was usually not very happy, if I’d just vanish into my office after returning from work.
So while photography should provide a balance to my main job, it often just created more work and the need to balance even more things.
The Miracle Morning
Two years ago I came across a book called The Miracle Morning*. From the cover it reads: What if you could miraculously wake up tomorrow and any – or literally every area of your life was transformed? The author of the book claims to know the secret.
The claim might be a little bit too bold. But I can attest that I took many positive impulses from the book and was able to improve several areas of my life.
Before the miracle morning I was a master of hitting the snooze button. Then, when I finally got up, it took me roughly 15 minutes until I sat in my car and was on my way to work. But starting the day like that wasn’t very appealing. Getting up for work didn’t get me excited.
On the other hand, when I’m on a photo trip it’s usually no problem for me to get up hours before sunrise. I’m already looking forward to this when I go to bed in the evening and often I wake up even before the alarm clock.
So how can I get a similar excitement every day? And how can getting up early help with creativity and productivity? The book provided the right impulses and the necessary information to get started. Suddenly all seemed so obvious.
The biggest take-away for me was to fill each morning with activities I like to do. Things I will already be looking forward the evening before when I go to bed. And finding those activities was easy. All the creative endeavors, which I often didn’t find the time for in the evening, I started doing in the morning before going to work.
Now you might say that this would simply mean I get home later in the evening and might not have won much time. But the interesting thing was, by creating my miracle morning it was suddenly easy to get up 90 minutes earlier. It just meant to reduce the amount of sleep – or rather the time spent lying in bed – to what I really need, which for me is somewhere between seven and eight hours.
So I set up a routine to which I adhere every morning. The book gave some inspiration but I ended up building my own morning ritual, which involves meditation, some exercise, reading (e.g. The daily Stoic*), a good breakfast and writing articles like this here or working on a photo.
The most important thing is not too rush. It’s possible to have a 5 minute miracle morning. But for me it’s essential to have time. If you start the day with stress, the pace is set and it’s much harder to calm down throughout the day. Having a relaxed start on the other hand removes a lot of restlessness.
More creativity and productivity
The morning hours are the most creative and productive hours of the day for me now. Especially after some morning exercise it’s easy to write or put the finishing touches on a photo. I also don’t get stuck very often, because I usually just spent 30 – 40 minutes on creative work in the morning and during the day I can gather ideas. Executing on those in the morning then is very fluid.
And my main job also benefits from it. I already go to work with a feeling of achievement and I then get much less distracted by thoughts about things I want or have to do in the evening. Let’s take the morning exercise for example. If for some reason I don’t find time to do sports in the evening I don’t have to feel remorse about it, because I already exercised in the morning.
Same with reading. In the evening it can be tiring to read, the eyes are already weary from the day. But I have already reserved 15 minutes each morning and this usually gets me through one or two books each month.
From a productivity standpoint I get more done in my 90 minute miracle morning than I was doing in the same amount of time in the evening. And all this by maintaining a very relaxed pace.
Giving it a try
At the beginning I was skeptical as to if it would actually work. But it didn’t take long to become a habit, and that’s the key. If you stick to it one week it already becomes easier, after two to three weeks it will already feel a bit strange not to do it and after one month it’s routine.
As with so many things, you just have to be committed and get started. When I look at my blog here, my Youtube channel, my Steemit blog and the amount of edited photos, I clearly see the increase in the creative work I’m producing. And much of it is done in the morning.
This doesn’t mean that I no longer work in the evening or on weekends at all. I just don’t feel like I have to, because the foundation is already laid in the morning. And sometimes I’ll just leave it at that.
So I hope this was interesting for you, although it wasn’t the usual content. But I just had to share it, because it’s just great, if you no longer feel like you have to get up and instead feel excited to do so.
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