Lori Pickens

Time Audit for Creative Businesses

Welcome to another enlightening episode of Photo Goals with Lori Pickens, where today we’re zeroing in on something that’s both incredibly precious and often elusive—yes, we’re talking about time. Specifically, how to master it with a Time Audit. It’s like finding the secret map to treasure island, except the treasure is more hours in your day, and the map is this podcast episode.

Ever caught yourself feeling like you’re stuck on a never-ending hamster wheel? Racing through the day, ticking tasks off your list, yet somehow, at the end, you’re left wondering, “Where did all that time go?” If this sounds all too familiar, you’re in good company. Photographers and creative small business owners—you know who you are—we wear so many hats that it sometimes feels like we’re juggling them rather than wearing them. We’re marketers by morning, accountants by afternoon, social media specialists by evening, and through it all, we’re trying to squeeze in the creative work that fuels our passion (not to mention those never-ending mom or dad duties).

But here’s the kicker: That sense of time slipping through our fingers like sand? It doesn’t have to be that way. Enter the not-so-glamorous (but oh-so-effective) Time Audit. This episode isn’t just about lamenting lost time; it’s about finding it, managing it, and making every minute count. We’re going to dig into how a Time Audit can shine a light on where our days really go, transforming us from time-tossed sailors into captains of our own schedules. Get ready to say goodbye to the days of “I don’t know where the day went!” and hello to productivity, control, and maybe, just maybe, a bit more balance in our creative lives. Strap in, folks—it’s time to audit your way to a better day.

What is a Time Audit?

Think of a time audit like a financial audit for your schedule. You’re tracking your income and expenses – in this case, it’s your time spent on various activities.

Benefits of a Time Audit

So, why should you do a time audit? Here are some key benefits:

  • Identify Time Wasters: We all have them – those tasks that suck up minutes (or hours) without any real payoff. A time audit helps you pinpoint these sneaky culprits.
  • Boost Productivity: Once you know where your time goes, you can start streamlining your workflow and focusing on the activities that move the needle for your business.
  • Gain Control: Feeling overwhelmed? A time audit helps you regain a sense of control over your schedule and prioritize what matters most.
  • Improve Work-Life Balance: Let’s be honest, creative businesses bleed into our personal lives. A time audit can help you identify areas for improvement and carve out dedicated time for rest and recharge.

How to Conduct a Time Audit

Step 1: Choose Your Tracking Method

There are no hard and fast rules. You can use a time tracking app, a simple notebook, or even a spreadsheet. The key is to be consistent and track your activities for a set period – a week is a good starting point.

I personally like to use my Google Calendar.  I am an iPhone user and my husband is Android, so Google calendar is a great way to share schedules across platforms.  I can also create a separate calendar that tracks just my activities that I can view along side our family activities, but can have different view settings so it doesn’t clutter up my husband’s calendar or I can quickly toggle it off if I want to see just appoints and events.  

I also like to use Google Tasks and assign completion dates/times to those tasks so they show up on my Google Calendar for the day.  

Example screenshot of Google Calendar showing example Time Audit

Step 2: Track Every Activity

This is where most people underestimate the power of a time audit. Be honest! Track everything you do, from client calls and editing photos to checking social media and answering emails.

Step 3: Categorize Your Time

Once you have a week’s worth of data, categorize your activities.  Some common categories might be:

  • Client Work: Shooting sessions, editing, communication
  • Marketing & Sales: Social media, website updates, proposals
  • Administration: Bookkeeping, scheduling, emails
  • Learning & Development: Skills workshops, online courses
  • Personal Time: Breaks, lunch, workouts

Step 4: Analyze & Uncover Time Gaps

Here’s where the magic happens.  Look at your data. Are there entire chunks dedicated to unproductive tasks? Maybe you spend surprising amounts of time on social media or get lost in email rabbit holes.

Step 5: Take Action

Now that you’ve identified your time wasters, it’s time to take action! Consider these strategies:

  • Set Time Limits: Block out specific times for tasks like email or social media to avoid getting sucked in.
  • Delegate or Outsource: Can you delegate certain tasks to free up your time for higher-value activities?
  • Batch Similar Tasks: Group similar tasks together to improve efficiency.
  • Schedule Breaks: It might sound counterproductive, but scheduled breaks can actually boost your focus and avoid burnout.

The Time Audit Process

A time audit is an ongoing process. Don’t get discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t reveal earth-shattering insights.  Refine your tracking method, repeat the audit every few months, and gradually you’ll build a schedule that works for you and your business.

If you find you’re thinking, “Oh, I just constantly forget to even track the time or I don’t have time to track it in addition to what I’m doing.”Maybe see if there is an opportunity for habit stacking.  Maybe you say every time I pick up my phone,  to look at something, to check notifications, that means I have to also make a note of what I’ve just spent doing in between the last time that I touched my phone. This is a good one for people because most of us are not even conscious of how often we pick up our phones. You can even set your phone to restricted mode or time limits, where you have to basically manually unlock it.  It doesn’t unlock with just your face. You have to say like ignoring my time limit to open the screen, and then before you go, do whatever you were going to do on the phone – Make a time audit note. In your notes app. On paper, or whatever you’re tracking your time in. Do that FIRST.  Note down this is what I’ve done for the last half an hour or whatever your previous time block was.  

Action item for the week… 

For the next week, track your time!  Use an app, loose notes on a sheet of paper, or blocks in your online calendar.  At the end of the week, try to plan ONE change you can make to improve your focus time vs wasted time.  

Remember, time is your most valuable resource, so take control and make it work for you!

Photo Goals with Lori Pickens

Thank you for tuning in to Photo Goals with Lori Pickens to learn about common branding mistakes photographers often make. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d be thrilled if you could take a moment to leave a review on the podcast. Your feedback helps me continue to deliver content that you love and helps others discover the podcast too. For more behind-the-scenes and daily inspiration, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. But that’s not all – if you want to be the first to get updates on upcoming podcasts, tutorials, and all things photography, make sure to join our mailing list. It’s the best way to stay connected and catch all the latest from Photo Goals. I’m excited to have you as part of our community and can’t wait to bring you more engaging and educational content. Thanks again for listening and supporting Photo Goals with Lori Pickens.

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Lori Pickens is a Mother, Wife, Tech Geek from Parkersburg, WV, and the podcast host of Photo Goals. She is a true lifelong local and has been photographing in the area for over a decade. She serves families from Parkersburg, WV to Marietta, OH. Lori is also a Click Pro Elite and Click Community Mentor. When she’s not capturing pictures or spending time with her kids, she enjoys organizing her lists and spending time on her family farm.

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