How I Create White Space and Balance In My Life

I believe in balance when it comes to running a small creative business.  I also believe in creating a routine and schedule that allows you to have white space.  I've made it a priority since starting a business that only continues to gain steam each month to take time to do things that matter to me.  As many can relate, life as a creative entrepreneur is a constant hustle.  It honestly never ends but there are things you can do to avoid overwhelm and burnout.  I believe that you can live a busy life but also carve out time to slow it down and recharge.  

 
How I Create White Space and Balance in my Life | Photography and Life Tips | Photography Tips and Strategies | Running a Business from Home | Work Life Balance
 

I'm coming out of my busiest season yet in business and I've learned a lot about finding balance as a mother, wife, and friend.

As I reflect on 2016 and ultimately coming out of my busiest season yet, I am doing some serious soul searching in figuring out where I can improve in terms of finding more balance and white space in my life.  There were moments this past year that instead of slowing down to soak up those extra cuddles with my daughter, I was distracted by slews of emails from clients, or trying to answer every single question that came to my inbox.  Do I love all those things?  YES!  I do.  Every time I get a notification from someone wanting to pick my brain or get help in any way, I get so excited.  However, as those emails became more and more frequent I found myself answering the same questions over and over again and wondering how I could find some sort of balance.  I so badly wanted to remain a resource and open book, but I also have a little *almost* two year old pulling at my arm when I'd sit on my computer some days.  

So a few months ago I made a commitment to myself to keep answering questions as they come in, but start compiling a list of the most common questions I'm asked daily.  I've slowly but surely been putting those blog posts together so my "library" is filled with more helpful resources for my audience.  When these questions come in and I've happened to write the post on the topic, I can now send a quick email directing them right here to my blog.  My daughter deserves more of her mama living in the moment and not being pulled to the computer throughout the day.  My blog is my space to share my ideas, dreams, pain points, and business tips to help others grow.  It is my goal as another year is upon us is to continue to pour my heart and soul into my blog.  

I also learned early on that multitasking is not my friend.  While I used to pride myself on being an excellent multitasker, it was actually slowing me down.  For instance writing this blog post now, I've closed every single tab on my web browser so that I can sit here in the moment with music playing in the background to focus on my thoughts.  When Facebook keeps popping up notifications, or Instagram I instantly get distracted.  When I work on the blog I like to put my phone away completely and any other distractions.  I also find my best writing comes when I leave the house and sit at the coffee shop overlooking the Willapa Bay. Below is a cell phone picture of my current view.  I love living in the PNW and feel inspired every day to write and share my thoughts.

 
 

I've realized as a small business owner the importance of valuing yourself.  My prices have all changed since I first started.  With that comes an inner battle going back and forth trying to rationalize or justify yourself to yourself.  It's not fun, but at the end of the day I knew a few things were for certain:

  • I want to work smarter, not harder.

  • I want to be able to give my daughter more of my time during the day while she's still home with me.

  • If I have more children, I need to have a business that I'm running, not one that's running me.

  • My clients deserve to work with someone who isn't stretched so thin that they don't get the proper time and attention.

  • The cost of doing business is steep and my prices need to include those hidden costs people don't "see".

So going into 2017 I have an entirely new focus and mindset.  I will only be working on 1-2 design clients at a time and will be very selective on the photo sessions I say yes to.  While I feel incredibly blessed and proud of every single project I took on this past year, I'm going into the new year with improved questionnaires for my clients as well as a more streamlined overall process so there is never a time that overwhelm feeling kicks in for me.  I didn't go into this business to feel stressed and I don't often feel stressed, but it has happened a handful of times this past year.  I'm working hard to avoid any of that going forward with my business.

I am hosting my first ever photography workshop next summer so majority of my spare time will be preparing everything for that.  I'm already scheduling some dates on the calendar to hunker down and away from all distractions to put it all together.  I'm picturing me cozied up in a tiny cabin overlooking the ocean to clear my head to develop the educational piece of the workshop.

A few tips on how to find more balance:

1.  Slow down.  I keep reminding myself that I'm a small business owner.  While I have big dreams, I make sure to bring myself back to reality that I don't need to focus on all the "big" stuff.  I am learning to slow down and focus on one thing at a time.  2017 is dedicated to my couples, limited design clients, and my putting together my Dream Chasers workshop.

Picture by Ashley Burns Photography

Picture by Ashley Burns Photography

2.  Find yourself in a place where you have eyes to see opportunities to connect with what matters.  If my daughter is pulling at my arm or acting "clingy", she needs me.  At that moment I need to be there for her.  She deserves all of me and the other "stuff" can wait until she's down for bed or when I'm able to use my babysitter.  The vacuuming can wait.  The dishes aren't going anywhere, the floor can be swept later.  I'm learning to let go of things that I used to obsess over because life is messy.  My house isn't as perfect as I display on Instagram.  The minute one room is cleaned the next one has some sort of mess waiting for me and I'm learning to just be okay with that.

Picture by Ashley Burns Photography

Picture by Ashley Burns Photography

3.  Don't lose sight of why you started in the first place.  I started my business with the intention of creating a life that I love and one that my children grow up seeing their mother do something she loves and that she cares about.  I do what I do so that they know what it means to work hard and to not give up, ever.  "Dream Chasing" has quickly become my business motto.  Every day I'm chasing my dreams.  Are there days I question myself?  Sure.  Are there days I wonder if I even know what I'm doing?  Definitely.  Then I get an email or message from someone telling me how my story has changed their life and the way they run their business.  They tell me that my words bring tears to their eyes and that they feel inspired every day looking through my work.  Whoaaa, do you know how overwhelming this is as a small business owner?  It's amazing.  Do I know everything?  Heck no.  Am I learning new things every single day?  Yes.  Is there always room for growth and improvement?  Definitely.  I started this journey to make a difference and I never want to lose sight of that.

Picture by Ashley Burns Photography

Picture by Ashley Burns Photography

4.  Recharge.  Step away from the "to do" list and do something for yourself.  I find my reset button when I take Riley out to play and bring my camera along.  When I take pictures of her, I find my happy place and remember why I love what I do.  She has been my source of inspiration from the very beginning, and like number 3 I never want to lose sight of that.  I take a lot of pictures of her but I'm learning when it's appropriate to bring the camera and when I just want those memories to be instilled in my head and heart.  I have plans in 2017 to put together some personal projects (styled shoots) because those help me find my creativity and slow down.  I recently purchased a Hasselblad 500 medium format film camera.  I did this for a few reasons.  First, I want to learn film.  Everything I've learned has been incredible but I do believe that shooting film will aid me in becoming an even better photographer to better understand shooting intentionally, slowing down, and understanding my lighting.  I'm about to send off my first few rolls of film to the lab so I'll keep you posted on how they turned out!

Photo by Ashley Burns Photography

Photo by Ashley Burns Photography

5.  Spend time alone.  I find peace when I'm by myself.  Whether it's a walk on the beach, curling up on my bed with my kindle or going for a drive, I find clarity when I take time to just be alone.  Life is so distracting, busy, and stressful.  Spending time alone is crucial for lowering stress, increasing happiness and encouraging creativity. Some things to try; meditate, write, sketch, do some yoga or simply sit quietly for a few minutes each day and do absolutely nothing. 

Picture by Ashley Burns Photography

Picture by Ashley Burns Photography

6.  Live well.  I'm going into the New Year with a whole new outlook on my life, health, and happiness.  I haven't taken the best care of myself all the hours sitting on my computer, drinking too much coffee and not enough water.  My health and wellness is priority number one and I've realized that I haven't been doing the best I could be doing.  I eat well, but I've been missing the consistent exercise in my life.  Riley and I will be working hard to freshen up my yoga skills, start weight training (me, not the baby hah!) and just living well overall.  My children deserve a mom who is active, happy, and who will be around for the long haul to experience all the firsts.  

7.  Relationships matter.  Unfortunately this past year, I have not been a very good friend.  I have hustled every single day to get where I am right now and in the midst of it all, I lost touch with some people in my life.  I tried to get to as many events as I could, but every week I felt stretched thin and as if there weren't enough days in the week to share my time and devote what I needed to my business.  Riley takes up all my free time and I wouldn't change that for the world, but then my business took up all the other minutes, hours, and days.  Make time for your people.  You need them just as much as they need you.  

Just yesterday I heard from an old friend.  He apologized on his end for losing touch as well but I still can't help but feel like it's my fault.  He expressed to me how much he misses being a part of my life and hearing what I'm up to through other parties breaks his heart because he wants to hear from me.  I couldn't agree more.  We are making plans to meet up next time I'm in the city and I cannot wait to sit down with him and catch up on life.  

Make a date with your spouse, meet that friend for a quick coffee to catch up, turn off the tv and start connecting with the people present in your life.  I took the picture below of my sister and soon to be sister in a moment of love.  It is a gentle reminder to hug your loved ones, tell them how you feel and always keep them close.

Emma Rose

Emma Rose Company, 6849 US-101, South Bend, WA, 98586