Earlier this year I found myself so incredibly busy that I could sense a breakdown in the near future. I had too much going on, I was grumpy, my family suffered, and my jam-packed schedule only seemed to be getting worse. How in the world could I ever achieve this elusive thing called balance that I so desperately longed for? I love my family. I love my business. I have an overwhelming drive and passion to photograph and teach – how could I possibly do it all?

Something had to give.

I shared my plight with a close friend, and with his help, we developed a system that made sense to me. You see, I cannot function without systems or processes. They are an integral part of my life and when I try to fly by the seat of my pants, I get lost in a cloud of confusion that is my brain.

When we attempted to define the core issue, I realized that one of my biggest problems is my inability to say no. I simply cannot turn work away, or disappoint friends and potential clients. I mean, who am I to turn work away? Weddings by Heather is something I brought to life through nothing more than a dream to follow my passion, and now that it is our only income, surely I should accept everything assignment that comes my way.

I needed to take a long, hard look at my business model and determine what is essential to the success and continued growth of Weddings by Heather. Obviously, weddings… but what else? As a strategic business thinker, I needed to re-focus my business and define my mission.

Once I could determine the keys to my business, I needed to evaluate requests by asking myself the following critical questions:
Is this request essential to the Weddings by Heather business model?
Is it enjoyable?

To me, it’s almost a matrix in my mind… if a request is essential, then it’s an absolute yes. If it’s not essential, but it’s enjoyable AND I have time, then it may be a yes. If it’s only enjoyable and I don’t have time, then I must refer the work elsewhere.

When I was able to put this on paper and make sense of it in my mind, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I could do this!! I no longer felt overwhelmed, but now felt in control. It may seem pretty simple, but when this all came together, I was thrilled. The very day we worked on this, I sat down with my ridiculous email inbox and was able to plow through messages like never before. Why? Because I now had a methodology. Rather than reading an email and wavering with indecision, I looked at the image below that I have taped above my monitor.

And really, if a request is not essential nor enjoyable, then why in the world should I waste my precious time even considering it? Life is too short, my children are too precious and I could not continue to waste another moment on things that don’t make sense. I have many hobbies that I love… such as church, baking, organizing, reading/learning/researching… and I have found that I can get pretty irritable when I don’t make time for these things.

At this point, the items that are essential to Weddings by Heather are: weddings, boudoir, engagements and paid teaching/speaking events. I will only photograph newborns for past wedding clients, and will refer most family sessions to my peers. They are not core to my business model. Of course what I decide to focus on is at my discretion and subject to change. That is the beauty of owning your own business.

I decided to post this to help some of my photography students that I know are suffering from the same problem. I see too many people (self included) that want to focus on too many things and then end up mediocre in everything. I do not wish to be a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I wish to maintain laser sharp focus on my core business model so that I can be an expert in my field.

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