7 Time Management Tips I Wish I'd Known in My 20s
The day I picked up a camera and went from corporate to creative, I didn’t realize the weight of my decision. When you’re at the helm of a burgeoning business, every moment of your workday must be spent intentionally. As my homegrown photography business started to gain momentum, it became so much more than a passion project—it was a dream manifesting. It has expanded into a national interiors and architectural photography business, with my collaborations landing on the pages of the world’s leading shelter magazines. It led to a branding company for small businesses and inspired me to found The New Southern, an aesthetic-inspired ecosystem of young designers and creatives across the country. With more clients and projects at hand, I knew that I had to change my processes for just about everything in order to operate efficiently.
As a photographer and stylist, I have designer clients across the country, calling for constant travel from coast to coast. When you travel to three to five cities a month and well over 100,000 miles per year, you quickly find support in the little things—the way you pack, the apps on your phone, the things you put into your body—which make the biggest difference while on trips. With a day that reaches far beyond the 9-to-5, I strive to take advantage of every second in order to find rest when I finally sign off and shut down at EOD. Now, the ways in which I operate while traveling have helped me streamline my entire workflow even while at home in Nashville. Whether you’re a working mama climbing toward that promotion (while emailing in the carpool line!) or a busy student with a solid side hustle, these time management tips can help you better manage your time and energy, maximize productivity, and open up opportunities for more “you” time. And who doesn’t need more of that?
When packing for business travel, I stick to the basics. On shoot days, I am constantly moving around. My day-to-day ensemble is simple: a great pair of jeans, my favorite V-neck T-shirt or chambray button-down, a jacket for cooler temperatures, and a comfortable but cute pair of flats. Sticking to a uniform cuts my packing time in half. Another major time-saver is TSA PreCheck, which allows me to get to the airport a little later and pass through an expedited security screening. Also, staying loyal to a specific airline, accruing points, and gaining status (hello, Southwest Rapid Rewards!) make booking so much easier.
A few days out before a trip, I focus on hydration. The more water you intake, the less miserable your jet lag will be! Plus, it leads to clearer, glowy skin, which is an obvious plus when you’re on the road and battling puffy eyes or dark circles. I’m also big on antioxidant-packed green juice, and I take a lot of vitamin C to keep my immune system up.
I basically live out of my luggage. If that’s the case for you, too, it’s smart to double up on all of your bath and beauty essentials. I keep duplicates of products (Dove deodorant, hair ties, first-aid kit, moisturizers, and my favorite scent: Le Labo Santal 33) in my suitcase 24/7 so that when I’m headed to the airport, I don’t have that “Did I forget my toothbrush?” moment.
There are some things that I absolutely do not travel without. In my bag, you’ll always find 3M noise-canceling earplugs, a fat stack of business cards, a portable power bank, a car charger for my iPhone (you never know if your ride share will have one!), and sanitizing wipes if the plane tray table or hotel room needs a good wipe-down. I also try to pack healthy snacks, like raw almonds, Rx Bars, Wonderful shell-less pistachios, and my favorite Yogi Tea bags. Business travel and vacation are two very different things, so I try to consume filling, wholesome foods, rather than an indulgent meal, to keep from feeling sluggish.
When you’re in the clouds, rely on the Cloud! By the nature of my craft, I’m constantly editing a shoot, collaborating on upcoming projects, or fishing through archival galleries. Tools like Dropbox and Google Drive allow me to take my work everywhere, maintain communication with my team, and share progress with clients and editors no matter my location. The Squarespace app is also essential, as it allows me to push blog updates live (hello, #TheNewSouthern) remotely. A coast-to-coast operation calls for consistent access to my projects and team no matter where my travels take me.
It’s amazing the work that you can get done while in the backseat of a cab. I’m constantly checking in with clients, project-managing with my team, responding to queries from my social media followers, or documenting my newest scenic inspiration. I try not to waste a second of the workday. I make good use of transit times to the airport, on my way to meetings, or waiting out a layover by making phone calls. It often cuts down on errors that sometimes result from confusing emails, and of course creates a friendlier relationship with clients and collaborators. In a society that lives off of emails, texts, and DMs, I’m a firm believer that a quick phone call is much more productive. I operate off of a good old-fashioned virtual list as I find that multitasking actually slows down my workflow. I like to tackle a task head-on and with great intention, then move on to the next item on the list, allowing me to plow through my to-dos much faster and leaving room for some creativity at the end of the day.
Sometimes, you just have to! I fully embrace photo editing and writing on long plane rides, and so often, my neighbor is enamored by the images and wants to chat about each and every one. While I’m truly a chatterbox myself and value connecting to those around me, I’ve learned to carry 3M earplugs everywhere I go so that I can be more intentional with my time and give a visual “This is my office in the sky” cue. Of course, I don’t always work in complete silence. I have several playlists that put me into productivity mode. I’ve also recently taken a deep dive into the podcast world and regularly listen to Lewis House’s School of Greatness, TED Radio Hour, Call Your Girlfriend, and an old faithful, This American Life.
Over the years, I’ve found a rhythm to my workflow that keeps things streamlined and simple. My best practice is to check emails twice daily for anything urgent, usually around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and respond as necessary. For those remaining, non-urgent emails, I find a time to sit down, draft responses, and schedule them to send out automatically the next morning via Boomerang.
I also have shared editorial calendars with certain clients and team members to make sure we’re always on the same page. There are a few apps and online tools that have totally changed the way I check things off my personal to-do list. When I’m in Nashville, Instacart makes grocery shopping a snap. I’m constantly ordering Delivery on Postmates. And, of course, I can’t live without Amazon Prime.
This is perhaps the most important tip I’ve learned. As my business continues to expand and grow globally (This Southern Gal will be working in Paris at the beginning of the year), and as so much of my time is spent in transit, free time is an elusive entity—and a luxury! I try to spend those free moments intentionally, whether catching up with loved ones, focusing on self-care, getting out of the house for a fun local activity, or even doing a few vinyasas. The moment I realized that no one is able to juggle absolutely everything alone and that delegation is key to a successful business, my quality of life changed.
Share your time management tips in the comments below!