As we are all in the middle of the holidays, most of my readers are also trying to resurface from the busy season that just ended. I’m right there with ya! Although, this year seemed to be much worse for me. Even though my workload for my photography business was more manageable, I now run this blog, have 3 children to watch at home while preparing for our 4th coming in a few weeks, and had some unexpected personal issues take over the past few weeks of my life. I am completely fried!
It has been a month since my last blog post, mostly due to the reasons stated above. My brain simply lacked the energy and motivation to formulate a good blog post. The other reason was due to being “ego depleted.”
What is ego depletion?
Simply put, your brain has a maximum amount of self-control. When that energy for mental capacity is low, your self-control or willpower is impaired. During the busy season, ego depletion for photographers is at an all-time high! Symptoms of being ego depleted include poor decisions, being easily distracted, and a lack of motivation.
For example, during the busy season, do you snack more, exercise less, and make unhealthy food choices? You may rationalize eating that cupcake when you are stressed as a way to help minimize that stress. If your mind is clear and not stressed, you will make a better decision about what to eat.
What about clicking over to check Facebook or Pinterest when you have loads and loads of editing to do? I’m sure we’ve all been there!
These are just a couple of examples of how ego depletion can affect our willpower. It can be a serious hinderance to being productive and making good decisions for not only yourself, but also your photography business.
I am ashamed to admit it, but after having session after session during the busy season after a year of sessions, it is tough for me to get excited about future sessions. And yes, I did put session in that sentence 3 times to really drive home how tiresome you are after a long year of taking photos! What’s most unfortunate is the fact that I have a passion for photography, but yet do not feel that way for each and every session. It isn’t fair to me or my clients.
There are ways to try and avoid feeling this way. You could lighten your schedule the next year or raise your prices to lower demand, but it is never easy to turn away business.
What if you find yourself in this situation of being ego depleted no matter what preventative measures you take? How can you avoid feeling a lack of motivation and making poor decisions? I’ve listed below 4 ways to help deal with this feeling and help get you back on the road to productivity:
#1 – Don’t ignore the stress.
Whatever you do, do not ignore the fact that you are stressed and busy. Acknowledge the fact that your brain is overloaded. If you ignore it, you will continue to make those bad decisions and be unproductive. You start to rationalize your poor decisions since you are so busy and stressed. Cue reaching for that cupcake and feeling completely horrible afterwards. 🙂
If you are stressed, acknowledge it. Do not shove it under the rug and try to keep plugging along. Your mind and body will thank you in the long run.
#2 – Identify and understand ego depletion.
Ego depletion doesn’t just happen when we are in the middle of our busy season. It happens when we are struggling to make healthy eating choices or making an effort to exercise a certain number of times a week. Or, it could be the struggle to not overspend or not eat out during the week. Or just being a stay-at-home or work-at-home parent! Any decision or action you are struggling with making on a daily basis can cause you to become ego depleted.
For instance, by Friday, I am sick of cooking and just want to order a pizza for my family. It is a combination of the fact that I do not want to make a decision about what to cook and put the work into it.
How can this example apply to my photography business? I know my brain is fresher earlier in the week, so typically most of my work and decisions are made during this time vs. at the end of a long week.
Here is another example that is more applicable to the photography industry. How do you feel after shooting a wedding all day? Are you fresh and ready to cull and edit that wedding that night? Heck no!
And if you think you are, you may want to reconsider that decision the next time. Did you know that you are more likely to cheat and make poor moral decisions when you are ego depleted? What if you are inadvertently disregarding more images when culling simply because you are burned out from your wedding? Something to consider if you are making important decisions and performing critical work to your business.
If your brain is fresh and ready to take on those culling decisions and editing work, you will do a much more thorough job and be more productive.
Identify and understand ego depletion so you know when you are at your best.
#3 – Avoid becoming ego depleted.
This might seem obvious at first glance, but it is the ultimate way to combat ego depletion. How do we avoid this when it is constantly plaguing our busy lives?
The trick to avoiding ego depletion comes down to one simple thing: planned indulgences.
What does this mean? Maybe it means that you reward yourself with some Facebook time after editing each session. Or, you save your special dessert for after dinner, not all day snacking. Or, you plan out your fall schedule to make sure you do not overbook yourself, yet again.
To think about it another way, picture how you feel if you are working hard to diet and avoid sweets. If you don’t give into the temptation for a while, you become more and more susceptible to binging during a moment of weakness. You have to have a planned indulgence once and a while to keep you on track and prevent yourself from falling off the bandwagon.
By planning your indulgences ahead, you are giving yourself the tools to combat ego depletion!
#4 – Know who you are.
Know how you personally could become ego depleted, and it will help tremendously. If you hate editing, plan plenty of indulgences in-between sessions and edit when your brain is fresh. If you are not a fan of doing newborn shoots, don’t schedule them during your busy season.
Know how much of an indulgence you need to give yourself. Know what things will trigger you to easily become ego depleted. Know how to handle it when you are burned out.
For myself, this took some time, and I still haven’t figured it out completely. I recognize the best times for me to work and focus is after my children go to bed. However, there are some nights where I just will not be productive, even if I try. So, I take a break and play a game or watch TV on the couch and step away from my computer. I can assure you, the next day I am very, very productive, since I gave myself some “me” time to recharge my brain.
No one is going to ever completely avoid ego depletion. That is why you need to know yourself enough to tackle it head-on.
Ego depletion beyond your photography business.
Handling ego depletion is a skill that will help you in your everyday life. It happens to us on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Even if one day you move on from doing photography as a profession, these rules to handling ego depletion will serve you for the rest of your life, as well as help you run your photography business.