Protecting Your 20
If you’re not a full time photographer, retired, or independently wealthy, you probably work for a living. How much time does this leave you to focus on photography? I try to cover the basics every week: eating, sleeping, working, and photography. I spend somewhere between 10-25 hours per week on photography. Carving out the time isn’t always easy, but photography is my top priority and I’m committed to making the time for my passion. I call it protecting your 20 — making sure your free time is spent wisely.
Over the last 15 years I’ve participated in a lot of activities: Aikido, yoga, mountain biking, playing music, and photography. Whichever activity was the top priority would usually get 10-12 hours a week. This wasn’t planned, I’ve only come to realize this subconscious prioritization later. For the last 5 years, photography has been the top priority.
Consistently spending 10-12 hours per week on an activity for 4-5 years is about how long it takes to get reasonably good at something. To hit a plateau somewhere in the middle. A spiritual teacher once told me he referred to this level of learning as beginning to understand.
An analogy I’ve found very useful for deciding how to spend my time is digging a hole. You may dig a little bit in a lot of places to see if you’re going to find something just below the surface. Eventually you may make a decision on where to dig deeper. You might keep digging for a long time. Maybe your whole life. Or you may dig somewhere for a few years, and then decide to dig somewhere else. For me the most frustrating style is what I call the sampler: digging lots of small holes for relatively short periods of time, but not going deep. The sampler doesn’t work for me — I’m digging in the photography hole like a mad miner, and there doesn’t seem to be any turning back.
Finding the Time
If you are motivated, you can find the time for photography. After a few years of shooting digital, the post processing and digital asset management tasks started to add up. Scheduling a regular time to work on certain tasks is a good way to get caught up — I try to carve out a 2-3 hour time slot to work on these tasks every week.
Andy Frazer has a great post about setting your photography goals. If you get to the end of the year and you’re not satisfied with your photographic output, set some goals. Make sure your goals are measurable, and the list is reasonable. Setting goals takes some time, but is worth it. Revisiting your goals and readjusting throughout the year is a healthy part of this process.
Bring a camera with you everywhere. Simple advice, but not often followed. A few years ago I was at a dinner with 14 photographers, 12 of them full time professionals — someone said a group photo would be a fun idea. I was the only person with an easily accessible camera. Do you have a small point and shoot that goes with you everywhere?
Stop by your local library and have a look in the photography section. Reading about photography and looking at others photos is a great way to stay motivated.
I’m sure you can help me add to the list of how to find the time to fit photography into your life. Unfortunately I’m out of time this morning, and have to get to work.