Life Lately + February Goals

Happy February, guys! I hope you've been staying cozy this winter. We've been vacillating between having a great time being holed up inside and cabin fever. But the best thing for me? January was a successful month of margin in my life!

It helps that my work slows down in the winter. While I've shot a couple sessions and even a wedding, I've also been able to keep up with editing and behind the scenes things that are largely ignored during busy season. PLUS, I read two books (one and two) as a start to my #18booksin2018 challenge, spent lots of time with my little guy (he even started gymnastics classes, which is just hilarious), had a couple dates with Nathan and caught up with a few friends.

It feels SO good to be balanced.

One other huge positive to having margin in my life this month? Nolan hasn't been able to go to daycare for the last couple weeks (hello flu season!), but I haven't been stressed about trying to juggle work and having him home with me. It's official. This slower lifestyle is here to stay!

Are you experimenting with work-life balance this year? How's it been going so far?

Here's to hoping February is just as balanced for all of us.

February Goals

  • Read two books (The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin and A Simplified Life by Emily Ley)
  • Send 2017 vendor galleries
  • Create newborn guide
  • Complete 2017 taxes
  • Organize personal photos
  • Work on 2017 personal video
  • Create 2017 personal album
  • Plan and go on a date night
  • Celebrate Valentine's Day!
Personal Goal Setting

June Goals

We're getting into a rhythm over here, guys! I'm saying that while knocking on wood because things could very well change tomorrow, but for now I at least feel like I kind of have a handle on this motherhood thing. ;) This month's big goal is figuring out how to introduce work into this new little life we've created for ourselves.

One thing I'm constantly reminding myself: Be present wherever you are. If I'm with Nolan, I want to be with Nolan (that means NO screens or multitasking ... it's SO hard)! If I'm working, I'm all out hustling to get my work done efficiently. I have a feeling I'll be reminding myself of this every day until Nolan's off to college, but I think the effort is worth it. I feel a lot less guilty and stressed if I can give 100% of myself to the thing in front of me. Mamas, give me alllll your tips for work-life balance with a baby!

June Goals

  • Read Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by Marc Weissbluth
  • Finish filing our personal photos on a USB
  • Clean out our windowsills in preparation for lots of breezy summer days!
  • Switch my closet over to warm-weather clothes (a little behind on this one!)
  • Take Nolan to the farmers market
  • Start a new workout routine
  • Blog at least five times
  • Prepare for my first weddings of the year

Thoughts on the New Year

New Years Resolutions I had every intention of posting this yesterday, but then I got sick on New Year's Eve. Womp womp. I was really bummed that I was starting off 2015 quarantined in my bedroom (I was going to work out! I was going to blog! I was going to start off the new year on the right foot!) but then I realized that it was the perfect reminder that I can't control everything. I need to show myself as much grace as God does and, darn it, I'm determined to cut myself some slack this year!

For some time now, 2015 has seemed like a mile marker. This is the year I will turn 30 and I can feel that sense of time marching on. I've really loved my 20s (the best college years, living in Europe, an extremely loving family, loyal friends, truly experiencing independence post-college, marriage, our first home, business success, a cute cat ... SO many blessings) and for the first time, I'm a little unsure of what's ahead. I know age is just a number, but that number—and getting older really—makes me nervous.

Nathan and I have talked a lot about where we're at right now. We've decided we're in between. We still feel young but we're way past college. We see lots of friends starting families but we're not quite there yet. Our careers are moving along but we still feel like we have lots to learn. It's this in between that makes me feel slightly unsettled, grasping for something concrete and less lonely.

The past few years I've thrown myself into my business, taking on as much work as I possibly can. That caught up with me last year when I realized my work-life balance was completely off. While I love my work and feel purposeful doing it, it is still work and everyone needs a break from work now and then, right? I realized that sometimes it means more to do less.

This year's balance was better—even Nathan agreed—but there were still late nights and weeks without a break and being too busy to catch up with this friend and that family member. My wake-up call (if you could call it that) came at the end of the year when I sat up panicked in bed one night realizing that I'd completely forgotten one of my best friend's birthdays. That's not me. I value my friends, and I love to keep up with them and celebrate their milestones. Thankfully, my friend is the most gracious person on the planet and she quickly forgave me.

But ... that doesn't make it OK. I knew I needed bigger changes. I needed to ensure that I was giving the best of me at work and at home.

So, I decided to take fewer weddings in 2015. 25% less, in fact. I want to serve my clients well—SO well—and having a smaller client base will allow me to do this on an even more personal level. Remember that whole more with less thing? I've never been interested in expanding and growing my business with lots of employees until we're bursting at the seams. I want to offer a personal, relationship-based service that means something ... to the client and to me. Taking fewer weddings also means I have more time for the things that matter the most: Nathan, my family, my friends, my health, creating memories.

I discovered that I need more focused work time. When I listen to music while I work? I'm a machine. When I watch Netflix while I work? It takes me twice as long to get something done. After attending Making Things Happen I realized that I could be about 1,045% more productive with work if I just sat down and No messing around with my laptop, no checking my phone every 10 minutes. Eliminating distractions during work hours means I get more meaningful personal time later. It's taken me ten months, but I think I finally understand.

We've planned fun trips and activities throughout 2015 to keep ourselves energized at work. As I get older, I realize that stuff—consumerism—doesn't matter to me as much as it used to. Don't get me wrong, I still struggle with wanting, wanting, wanting, but it's the experiences that mean more to me at this stage of my life. I would go without shopping if it meant I could see a new part of the world and make memories with Nathan. I know that taking a purposeful, distraction-free break each week is crucial to me giving my very best during my "on" hours.

So what does all this mean? It means that I'm still striving to find balance, and I know I'll be working to find it for the next year, 5 years and probably 25 years. I don't have it all together. I know I'm going to fail. That's just human nature. But I hope that each time I regroup and start again, I learn a little bit more and start the teensiest bit ahead of my last reset.

It's a constant struggle: the need for perfection vs. the urge for something deeper and more meaningful. This year I will let go of this illusion of perfection and all that comes with it. I will move toward what's meaningful, even if it's not as shiny and colorful on the surface.

In light of these thoughts, my January goals are simple. And I want to hear from you: What are your thoughts on the new year? Did you set resolutions or do something different? Do you struggle with the need for perfection? How do you focus on what matters most?

Thanks for reading, friends! Today and all the other days. You make my life more meaningful!

January Goals

Handwrite and mail four letters/cards to people I love Update my new address book Finish The Goldfinch + read two more books (Me Talk Pretty One Day and Mere Christianity) Attempt skiing once again (and maybe try to improve upon my speed/skill) Complete a mentoring session with a photographer I admire Update my website galleries Start work on a new client guide Start a new personal photography project (more coming soon!)

2014 | It's All About Balance

2013. What. a. year. I always find it overwhelming to look back at 365 days and draw up some overall conclusion/feeling/concise thought about an entire year. My 2013 was exciting (It was my first year as a full-time photographer, and Nathan and I explored lots of new places together). My 2013 was surprising and enlightening (I learned something new almost every day). My 2013 was busy (Did I mention I went full-time with photography?). My year was these things. It was also SO much more.

If I'm being 100 percent honest, 2013 wasn't necessarily easy for me. The craziest, most exhilarating thing I did was choose to dive head first into photography. I'd thought about it a lot. It wasn't a rash decision, and I'm so thankful that I was able to ease into it so that by the time 2013 came around I had my ducks in a row. Or so I thought.

Let me tell you something. Running a business is not a walk in the park. It's hard work … especially when it's a one-person show. You probably all realize this. I was still grasping at that truth while I was immersed in it. For me, a lot of 2013 was about struggling to find balance and set boundaries. It was my first really, really, absolutely full season, and while I'm SO unbelievably grateful for (and completely amazed by) it, I was not prepared for it. I was more than halfway through the year before I realized I was completely consumed by work all the time.

Sometime around the middle of August, I was only seeing Nathan when he would come into my office to clear away the dishes on my desk and bring me new ones (I wish I was joking; it sounds so ridiculous). I wasn't seeing or interacting with my family and friends nearly as much as I would have liked, even though a lot of them live within a one-hour radius and the phone was always sitting on my desk. I wasn't eating right (at all), I was exhausted, and the summer was flashing by without a proper bike ride, long walk, or good book devoured on the back deck.

I tell you all of this not to wear my busyness as a badge of honor (although I was certainly doing that just a couple months ago), but to bring complete and utter honesty to the table. I want to share that the most important lesson I learned was that a one-dimensional person is not a happy person, no matter how much work you have, how many features you get or how many Facebook "likes" are currently staring you in the face.

I thought that constantly being busy and stressed out meant I was making it. I thought that saying "yes" to everything was the only way to show that I had it all together. Well, guess what?? I didn't. I don't. And I realize now that that's OK.

I recently read 7 by Jen Hatmaker and was completely awakened to the truth that stress can take over your life if YOU let it.

"We are short fused, stressed out, overextended, and unrested. This pace is not sustainable. I don't want it to be. This season of life is passing me by, accelerated by a lack of boundaries. Most days I just try to keep the wheels on, not living in the moment at all; I'm just getting it done while thinking about what's left ...

"This biblical concept of rest is whispering to me, 'You're ignoring me.' And I am. Not only do I not take God's command for rest seriously, but I act like its not in the Bible. Ah, Sabbath. How cute and archaic."

Yes. That's me. How did you know, Jen?

After much self-reflection, I now realize that balance is going to be my saving grace in 2014 (that and a little prayer :) ). I know that I need more than one thing (work) to keep me happy/creative/motivated/content/excited/[fill in the blank]. I know that I don't nearly have it all figured out, and I will stumble and fall more than once, but I am on the right path. It's not about being perfect, it's about making space for myself to appreciate the moments and then live in them. Imperfect and all. I'll let you know how it goes.

St. Lucia