It was an all-too-familiar scenario for me: It was the weekend, and my back was hurting. My eyes ached from staring at the screen for too long, and my legs were numb from being immobile for hours. Even my brain was throbbing. And still I sat at my desk working, convincing myself that the more time I spent completing the post-processing on my latest batch of photos, the more I would ultimately accomplish. Never mind the fact that I was bone-tired and the quality of my work was suffering right along with my body and mind.

The Problem

Have you ever worked yourself to the point where your photography business had you running on empty? Where you were just so exhausted, you questioned why you turned your passion for photography into a business in the first place? Possessing a knack for learning things the hard way, Ive reached that breaking point numerous times. It makes you question everything you thought you knew, and can make the stereotypical office job look like a soothing vacation.

This is where lifestyle design comes in, especially for those of us running our own businesses. It’s common sense that we need to take care of ourselves so that we can stick with our craft for the long term, right?

Sustainable business and lifestyle design are ideas many of us don’t even consider until weve reached our breaking point.

Taking care of yourself, scheduling in interludes of rest, and making sure you are preserving your sanity will make your life and your work much more enjoyable. Achieving this balance can help you sustain your business and your body for the long-term.

Practical Advice

Here are a few tips for sustainable lifestyle design that Ive found to be personally helpful:

1. Occasionally get away from your work.

Over-scheduling yourself when it comes to shoots will wear you out quickly. Likewise, sitting at your computer retouching photos until your back breaks can do just as much harm in the long run. Instead, schedule to times to take breaks, be it a few minutes or even a few days. Not only will it help you more objectively view your work, but inspiration in the form of new marketing ideas or creative ventures may strike you while youre engaged in other activities.

In my case, the best ideas and solutions come to me when I step away from my workstation and decide to take a leisurely walk in the park. It never fails. Before I know it, Im frantically clawing through my purse for pen and paper so that I can scribble the latest idea down. Studies have shown that the brain generates alpha waves, otherwise known as those lovely problem-solving waves, when youre not directly focused on a problem or task, and so it logically follows that inspiration often strikes when you are not engaged in direct work activity.

2. Just shoot for the heck of it

You don’t always have to have a photo shoot lined up for you to pick up your camera. Go out and shoot for fun. Isnt that why you picked up the camera in the first place? Explore. Experiment. Learn something new. It may give you new ideas for the future, and will inevitably renew your love for the craft. After all, practice makes perfect, and shooting for fun will improve your creative and improvisational skills, making it easier to think on the fly when you are on an actual shoot.

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Shooting for fun is a great way to experiment and renew your passion for the craft. This is a photo I took for fun, and its among my favorites.

3. Take care of your physical and mental health.

There was a time when I was so focused on work that my health went downhill quickly. The stress of over-committing to too many clients eventually led to a breaking point; I began to suffer from actual panic attacks that soon sent me to the doctors office. As a result, being creative became the last thing on my mind as I became consumed with my ill health. Projects were put on hold, communication with clients suffered, and the work that I did manage to complete was not up to my usual standards. My business was negatively affected, to say the least. It was after this health scare that I decided to make some changes in my business and my lifestyle, which included opening up my schedule enough so that I could incorporate exercise into my day. It took a few months, but the panic attacks eventually subsided.

Find What Works for You

Managing your unique lifestyle design will vary according to your personality, as well as the type of photography that you do. Its important to work with the cards that you have been dealt. For example, its a simple fact that destination wedding photographers will spend more of their time on the road, while family portrait photographers may see more clients in an average work week. The key is to carve out some time for you to decompress. Some people enjoy going on photo walks, while others find it refreshing to go for an afternoon jog. Others prefer to spend some time in their garden, while others like to have a game night with the family.

Whatever your schedule and wherever your work takes you, its vital that you set aside some time to relax and take care of yourself. In the end, it makes your business, and therefore your lifestyle, more sustainable for the long run.