Dave + Danielle | Minneapolis

I recently had the chance to hang out with and capture some silly moments of my soon-to-be newly wed friends, Dave and Danielle (and their furry friend, Stella).  Danielle works at my favorite place ever, Starbucks, and Dave does apartment maintenance work. They enjoy long walks, movies, and being completely goofy (which makes my job all the more fun). Thanks for stopping by. 

 - J 

Priorities lead to balance

You know that tipping point when your work, family and personal responsibilities begin to compete? Has it ever gotten so bad that you begin to show up to things without being there? If you have, you know that it doesn’t count for much and you might as well not be there at all.

This is not a good place to be, and it doesn't have to be. 

So why does it happen?

Most people -- myself included -- when they reach this point, often revert to the old excuse "I just don' have enough time in the day."

How then, is there ample time for some people to lead productive, balanced lives when others get caught up in a frenzy of playing catchup and constantly feel tension between personal, work and family obligations?

The problem isn’t lack of time, but rather, time management. 

As a rule, people who set priorities and balance them accordingly are better time managers then people who don't. 
Trying to manage time without setting priorities is like trying to navigate through the woods with no compass. All you do is go in circles. 

Prioritizing allows us to filter out the clutter -- the excessive checking of email, facebook and news -- and focus on the things that create balance in our lives, the things that matter. 

My priorities are family, health, personal time, work and friends. My challenge (and everyone's) is to align my priorities with my reality. 

One way to measure the gap between how you spend your time and how you should spend your time is to make a pie chart with a space for all your priorities, including a space for clutter, or junk time. Take the chart out every night before you go to bed and rate which priorities were given the most and the least amount of time for that day. 

Do this for one week, and you'll have a map of where you are, and where you need to go. 

Each day we are lucky to be alive. If we are spending our time in ways other than we'd approve of, being mentally absent from our selves and others -- what are we really doing? It's natural to veer off course in frequency and intensity. The trick is to understand where are are, where we need to be, and which direction we are headed. Priorities don't do it alone, but they are a big part of the puzzle. 

 

You're an artist. Will you share it or hide it away?

To perfect is to create something free of faults or defects. While this is a worthy goal, it shouldn't be an excuse to put something off. 

An artist who publishes is better than the artist who obscures because they're scared of an imperfection. 

This isn't an excuse to be mediocre. 

It's just a reminder that perfection can be a road block that stands in the way of what you've set out to do in the first place. 

For us artists, no project every feels complete. One more draft would make it better. One more tweak. A catchier opening. A little more practice. 

Stop!

Without that deadline, you're headed down a rabbit hole with no end in site.

There is a fear among creatives (that's everyone) that once your art is published (a proposal, presentation, conversation, an email, blog post, etc) it will be eternally judged on the world stage. 

Get over yourself. 

This mentality denies us the ability to let ourselves continually grow, change and improve. 

Do your best, own it, put it out into the world, let it go and move onto the next thing. Repeat. 

Steve Jobs famously said to a coder who kept perfecting a piece of software for the first Macintosh, "real artists ship." Despite Jobs' characteristically anal need to create perfect products, he still understood the importance of releasing those products to the world. 

What have you been obscuring to the world? Is it a business idea? A new goal? A blog? A proposal to your boss? Whatever it is, it's not doing much good hiding away like that. 

Ship it. Publish it. Share it. 

Yes, it's scary. Yes, it might fail. The thing to remember is that when something fails, it is "it" that failed, not "you." 

This is important. 

Every success stands on the shoulder of previous failings. Thomas Edison was criticized mercilessly for failing 5,000 times to create the light bulb, but his critics never realized that he was merely 5,000 times closer to success. 

So whatever it is you've been hiding, it's time to let it out. Start now, or wait forever. Your choice.

 

Choose your work wisely

The best part about freelancing is the variety. No two projects are the same and with each assignment brings a new challenge. Yesterday I was filming workers welding pipes in a factory and tomorrow I'll be interviewing 6th graders at a French Immersion school. It's truly a mixed bag of nuts and that's what keeps it interesting. 

But as freelancers, how should we decide which projects to take and which ones to pass on? In the beginning, most of us don't have the luxury to make this choice. Work is work and we are happy to get paid for doing what we love. But there is trap that is easy to fall into and it is the inclination to accept any job that is available. Yes, we need income to keep the operation running, but that shouldn't be the only consideration. 

In the past 12 months, I've been fortunate enough to work on some amazing projects that have been a delight all the way through. I've also experienced the opposite. 

After experiencing some good and some not-so-good projects, I've come up with three outcomes that I strive to accomplish each time I take something on. They include: 

1. Deliver a truly valuable product that goes beyond what my client expects

2. Create something that I am proud to take ownership of


3. Make the experience exceptional for those I am working with

If I can accomplish these three things, I'll feel pretty good. And while it's my goal that they happen every single time, it hasn't always been the case. To help ensure that I can achieve these outcomes each time, I've come up with a few questions that I ask myself before taking on a project. If the answer to any one of them is no, it is a sign that this might be one to take a pass on. 

Five questions to consider before accepting a job 

Will I be able to provide the service needed? 
As a filmmaker, I take pride in my ability to capture candid moments. I am able to do this because I use a small camera and don't come into a room with an 8 person film crew. That being said, a project that requires the bells and whistles of a large production team isn't for me. The key is to ask the right questions on the front end and communicate with your client which services you provide, and which ones you don't. Honesty and transparency on the front end will always cover you later on. 

Do I have time to take this on?
If you're already working 70 hours a week and a client asks you to take on a large-scale project that needs to be delivered yesterday, it's generally a good idea to respectfully decline. While it's temping to re-arrange your schedule to fit more in, you need to know your limits so that you don't spread yourself so thin that it compromises quality. That's not good for your client or your brand. 

Will I be emotionally invested?
Some projects are more stimulating than others, but it's generally a good idea to be passionate about the work you do. If you can, stay away from work that will drain you emotionally and creatively. Instead, try to take the projects that inspire. Tell the stories that you believe need to be told. 

Is the budget commensurate to the work?
It's important to feel you are getting compensated for the time, energy and resources you put in. By accepting a project on the cheap, you're not doing any favors to yourself or your client. When I take on a project, I want to be 100 percent invested in its success. If I know that I'm not getting paid what I deserve, it's hard to give it my all. 

Is your client invested in the project?
If you are committed to being 100 percent invested in a great outcome, your client needs to be on board, too. Yes, you've been hired to deliver a service or product. But if the person you'll be working with seems uninterested in doing the necessary prep work and giving you the resources you need, you won't be successful.

The idea of saying no to projects goes against who we are as freelancers. But the truth is, having the patience and confidence to pass on the projects that aren't the right fit will liberate you to do your best work on the ones that are.

 

Destined to procrastinate? It doesn't have to be.

One of my favorite productivity and personal achievement experts is Brian Tracy. If you need help getting your ducks in a row, he's your guy. He did to personal achievement what Carl Sagan did to science -- made it inspiring, relevant and easy to understand.

A few years ago, Mr. Tracy wrote a book called Eat that Frog. In the book, the frog represents the task in your day that is the most daunting and the most dreadful. It's the uncomfortable conversation you need to initiate. It's the 5 mile run. It's the proposal you need to finish. It's the clutter that needs organizing. 

In short, the frog is that one thing that despite weighing you down the most, has been demoted to the bottom of your list. And though you know crossing it off will instantly make you feel better about everything you do, you still put if off. 

So mr. Tracy's advice is simple: Eat the frog, and do it first thing in the morning (or at least before you  sidetrack yourself with a shiny object like facebook). In other words, do your most dreaded task first, so that everything else in your day will be a breeze compared what you've already accomplished. 

Can you identify your frog?

Whether you're a self-proclaimed chronic procrastinator, or you simply want to improve your productivity, this is an effective habit to start. Rather than stuffing your most challenging task away in some corner and allowing it to impact the quality of your day, take care of it right away. 

Finding your frog is easy.

When you're staring at that to-do list, underline the three items you need to accomplish most. Out of those three, identify the most important. Circle it. Own it. 

Like many things that act as road blocks in our lives, procrastination is a habit that was learned, and therefor can be unlearned. While there are more ways to shake procrastination, finding and eating your frog is a great place to start. It is said that 20 percent of our tasks carry 80 percent of the weight. So if you can learn to find that one thing that is weighing you down most and take care of it early, you'll be well on the way to a more productive you.