I can’t believe I’m saying this, but welcome to the first episode of the Priority Pursuit Podcast—a podcast dedicated to helping creative entrepreneurs (both photographers and other creatives) define, maintain, and pursue both their personal and business priorities!
(While you can find the recording of this episode above and on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, just about anywhere you listen to podcasts, you can find a synopsis of this episode below.)
When you know what your priorities are, you can live a priority-driven life.
When I started my business, I had no intention of leaving my role as the content director for a marketing agency. But, after a few years of late nights, working far too much, and falling more and more in love with wedding photography, I realized that because I already knew how to market my business and get my work in front of my ideal clients, there was no reason I couldn’t make photography my full-time career. So, I took the leap.
I’ve been a full-time wedding photographer since 2018, and because I love what I do, I feel called to help other photographers and creative entrepreneurs understand how to strategically market their businesses so that they can confidently do what they love profitably.
That said, as a recovering workaholic, I’ve learned the hard way what loving your job too much can do to your personal life. Today, I don’t believe work-life balance exists, but I do believe there’s power in determining your priorities—both in your personal life and in your business—and making choices and creating systems based around what’s most important to you and what’s going to lead to results. Because, when you know what your priorities are, you can live a priority-driven life.
Relationships, effective marketing strategies, setting boundaries, delegating, creating an incredible client experience, and keeping your priorities at the core of everything you do are exactly what you, experts, and I will be discussing every week.
With this in mind, it only makes sense for the very first episode of Priority Pursuit to be about:
- Identifying your priorities
- Assessing how well you’re pursuing what’s most important to you
And, we’re going to do this for both your personal life and your business. Now, grab a piece of paper, or open up a new Google Doc so we can get started!
Now, full disclosure, I read a lot of self-help and business books. I try to read at least one a month. So, the exercise we’re about to go through isn’t some ingenious thing that I came up with.
How to Determine & Assess Your Personal Priorities
We’ll talk all things business in a minute, but we’re going to start with setting and assessing your personal priorities. Because, as much as we love our businesses, our personal lives and the people we love are far more important than our careers.
1. Make a list of the people & activities that are most important to you, & put them in order of most to least important.
This might seem unnecessary, but it’s important to get your priorities down on paper. So, make a list of the people and activities that are most important to you, and put them in order of most to least important.
Your personal priorities might include your faith, your spouse or significant other, family, friends, working out, your dog, or whatever else. These are your priorities. There are no wrong answers.
Simply create your list and put your priorities in the order you see fit.
In case this helps, this is what my list looks like:
- My relationship with Christ
- My relationship with my husband
- My dog, Hattie, whom I will tell you more about in future episodes I’m sure
- My relationships with my family and closest friends
- Serving within our church
- Working out and my physical health
Again, there are no wrong answers, and in every season of life, your priorities will likely shift and change. But, you cannot pursue your priorities until you intentionally identify what they are.
And, if you’re starting to feel nervous while making this list because you’re realizing you haven’t been pursuing your priorities, don’t worry. We’re going to talk about that in the next couple steps.
2. Use your calendar to assess whether or not you’re making time for what’s most important in your life.
Next, open your calendar, because you’re going to need it to assess whether or not you’re making time for what’s most important in your life.
For instance, if your faith is at the top of your list, are you making time to regularly spend time in scripture or grow in your faith? If your spouse is on your list, are you intentionally making time for your spouse and to work on your relationship? If you have friends and family on your list, how often do you see them and make time for them? If exercise is on your list, how often are you working out?
Basically, use your calendar to assess whether or not your life and schedule are a reflection of your priorities.
3. If you aren’t prioritizing your priorities, determine why.
Chances are, there’s at least one person or activity on your priority list that isn’t getting as much of your attention as you would like. And, you need to determine why that is, as well as what needs to change so you can pursue that priority.
Now, I know it can be easy to just want to get tactical and add a little time for this priority to your calendar. But, in order to have lasting change, it’s important to understand why you’ve put that priority on the backburner.
To discover why this priority isn’t getting your attention, ask yourself the question “Why?” until you get to the root of the issue.
For example, when I was building my photography business on the side, I was very bad about making time for family and friends. At that point, I should’ve had a conversation that went a little something like this with myself:
Victoria, you’ve been putting your friends and family on the back burner lately. Why?
Because I’m really busy.
Because I have a lot of work to do.
Because I put a lot on my plate.
Because I find my value in my work.
Because work is an idol for me.
We’ll talk about idols in the future, but long story short, within the Christian faith, an idol is anything you put before God. My personal definition of an idol is anything you put before God or your priorities. If you aren’t a believer, please don’t discount this idea. You can still have idols that affect your priorities. And, to be fair, priorities can even become idols, but that’s a conversation for another day.
However, chances are, if your priorities are out of alignment, you’re making something in your life an idol, meaning you’re making it more important than anything else, and one or more of your priorities are being neglected. Truth be told, as a creative entrepreneur, there’s a very strong chance that your business has become an idol.
Again, before simply making changes to your calendar, it’s important to figure out why your calendar doesn’t reflect your priorities. Because, knowing why is going to help you make lasting changes.
4. Get specific about what needs to change in order to make your hypothetical priorities your real priorities.
Once you’ve gotten to the bottom of why, now it’s time to make changes. For this step, all you need to do is decide when and how you’re going to make time for your priorities and get your priorities on your calendar.
For instance, if your faith life is currently being neglected, this might mean waking up 30 min earlier on weekdays to read, reflect, and pray. Or, if you’re failing to prioritize your spouse, this might mean scheduling a weekly date night or a few minutes every day to chat. If you aren’t seeing your parents regularly, this might mean scheduling a time to visit with them once a month.
Again, there are no right or wrong answers, but unless your priorities are on your calendar, you likely won’t make time for them.
How strict you need to be about this step is going to require some self assessment.
Now, how rigid you are with this is going to take some self assessment. For instance, Zach and I strive to have one date night (whether it’s going out or hanging out at home) per week. We’re in a season of life where our schedules are pretty flexible. So, we don’t have a set day of the week for date night. But, we do intentionally spend at least one evening a week hanging out. When we have kids, this will likely need to change.
You know yourself and your schedule. If you need to get exact dates on the calendar like the Gilmore family’s Friday night dinners, do it. If you have a little more flexibility, that’s fine, but be specific about how often you’ll make time for your priorities and make sure what’s most important to you gets on your calendar somewhere.
For example, to maintain my friendship priority, my goal is to hang out with a friend at least once a week. So, I’ll schedule a coffee date, invite a girlfriend over for a girls’ night, or even ask a friend to walk Hattie with me so we can chat.
Long story short, if you want to keep what’s most important most important, get your priorities on your calendar.
How to Determine & Assess Your Business Priorities
Now, let’s break down your business priorities!
Making a list of your personal priorities was likely pretty easy. But, determining what your business priorities should be might seem like a more elusive idea. That said, numbers don’t lie. So, to determine your business priorities, you just need to determine what’s helping you bring in revenue.
1. Decide what your business priorities should be by determining how your paying clients are finding you.
In order to determine what your business priorities should be, all you need to do is determine what actions you’re currently taking that are leading to bookings and sales. You’re running a business. Therefore, your business priorities should be whatever is allowing you to bring income in.
Your list might look different, but as a wedding photographer, these are my business priorities:
- Referrals from past clients
- Referrals from other vendors
- My website
- My blog
Depending on your target audience, your business priority list might look very different than mine. But, again, you’re running a business. As a result, it’s important to prioritize what’s going to bring in income.
2. Make a list of all of your business tasks.
Now that you have your priority list, it’s time to make another list.
Make a list of ALL of the tasks you (and your team if you have one) do for your business. This includes everything from answering emails and posting to social media to performing your actual service or providing your actual product.
As a small business owner, you likely do a lot. So, this is probably going to take a while.
3. Compare your lists & determine which tasks are needed for your priorities.
Now, the purpose of determining your business priorities is so you can put your time and resources toward the tasks and tactics that are going to move the needle in your business.
Once you have your task list, you’re going to compare it to your priority list and place each task under its corresponding priority.
For example, my top priority is client referrals/customer experience. As a result, the welcome box I send clients is going to go under this priority. And, SEO is a huge part of my business, and because getting published as a wedding photographer helps improve my SEO, submitting weddings for publication is a task that would go under my SEO priority.
4. Stop putting tasks on your to-do list that aren’t moving the needle in your business.
After you’ve listed your tasks under your priorities, you might have a few tasks left. If that’s the case, chances are, these are tasks that AREN’T making you money, ARE costing you time and money, and may even be getting in the way of your personal priorities.
As a result, the items left on your list aren’t worth your energy and can be taken off your to-do list.
Now, I will add one little caveat here. There is a difference between a task not working and a task not being effective because you aren’t doing it well. For example, perhaps you aren’t finding clients by posting to Instagram, but your ideal client is on Instagram, and your direct competitors are finding success with this platform. If this is the case, Instagram likely isn’t the problem; the issue is likely your strategy.
Again, every business is different, so you’ll have to do a little assessing to determine whether or not the issue is the task or the strategy. But, there’s a good chance several things are about to come off your to-do list!
5. Use your new-found time to help your business grow!
There’s only so much time in a day, and whether you’re a solopreneur or you have a team, you can only handle so much.
But, when you get rid of the tasks that aren’t moving the needle in your business, you will free up your time to (1) focus on the things that are beneficial to your business, (2) explore new strategies and tactics that could potentially help your business grow, and—most importantly—(3) focus on your personal priorities.
What if there’s still too much on your to-do list?
Now, perhaps you’re looking at your business priorities and tasks and feel like there is still too much on your plate.
Don’t panic, friend.
Simply look at your priority list and commit to the items at the very top of your list—as many as you can reasonably do well. These are your proven money-making strategies, and when you do those well, you will bring in more revenue.
Let’s talk next week?
Now, I know this was quite an exercise, and I hope you’ll forgive me for giving you homework on day one. But, determining what your personal and business priorities are will serve as the basis for so many of our discussions moving forward.
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review. And, if you’re willing to share the word about The Priority Pursuit Podcast, please grab a screenshot, share that you’re tuning in on your Insta story, and tag me at @victorialrayburn.
Thanks for tuning in (or reading in), and I’ll talk to you next week!
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