How to improve your photography by doing nothing

Above: Image by Gina Milicia

“The wise rest at least as hard as they work.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Have you ever tried to work on a computer that has Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One, Mail, and the 27 tabs opened in Google? It’s slow and crashes often, right?

Have you ever wondered what happens to our bodies when we try and multi-task or continually overload our systems? The same thing, we slow down and if we’re not careful we burn out.

To “burn out” means you lack the physical and mental energy needed to work efficiently. This state is caused by overloading the body with too many external stress triggers like stress, lack of sleep and too large a workload. Our bodies can still function but only at about 25% capacity and for those of us in the creative industry the first casualties are creativity and inspiration.

Nurturing creativity and inspiration

Creativity and Inspiration are fickle. If you don’t nurture these relationships they will wither and die.

Working long hours, high-stress levels, lack of sleep and exercise and a poor diet without taking regular breaks to rest and recharge are ways to guarantee you will be spending more time with Overwhelm and Burnout. These guys love to travel as the Burnout Bratpack: Tiredness, Insomnia, Depression, Anxiety, Lethargy and Weight Gain.

The best ways to avoid the Burnout Bratpack is to protect your energy at all costs by doing some or all of the following activities every day:

1. Learn to say “no”

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

This is tricky at first because most of us feel obliged to say “yes” to most invitations because we are afraid of offending people. The problem with saying “yes” to everything is you end up being so overcommitted that you don’t enjoy any of them.

2. Switch your phone off and give yourself “me” time every day.

“And now I’ll do what’s best for me” – John Green

Dedicate at least an hour or more each day to do something that you love on your own to help you rest and recharge. Schedule this into your diary and make it as important and regular a part of your routine as brushing your teeth, eating dinner and sleep.

This might be going for a walk, meditating, listening to music or watching a sunset. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as this activity recharges your energy.

3. Sleep

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker

One of the biggest factors that contributed to my burnout was lack of sleep. I was trying to function on 3-5 hours a night. It’s definitely possible but not sustainable. Lack of sleep and poor quality of sleep messes with your body big time.

4. Manage Stress

“The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this lifetime.” – Sogyal Rinpoche

The single greatest factor in controlling my stress and happiness levels has been meditation. Yep, as woo woo as this sounds I start each day with 15 minutes of silent meditation. I haven’t missed a day for nearly five years.

Imagine your mind is like a washing machine filled with dirty clothes and when you wake up in the morning it’s set to “heavy-duty wash” as it agitates the clothes all the dirt and debris (your thoughts) constantly circulate. Meditation simply stops the agitation and lets all the dirt and debris settle giving me a clear mind to start the day.

If I have a clear mind, free of debris there is more space for Creativity and Inspiration to visit.

If this sounds a bit too much then you may want to ease yourself in by going for a walk to start your day or sitting outside quietly on your own for 5 minutes.

The other really great way to manage stress is to exercise. You don’t need to run a 10km marathon or become the next Crossfit champion. Twenty minutes of walking will do wonders for your stress levels.

5. Get organised

Write a list of everything you need to do each day, each week and each year. The simple act of writing things down really helps to solidify your goals. It’s also a really good way to organise tasks and I get a huge sense of satisfaction from crossing things off my “to-do list”.

Lists can be old school like carrying a pen and paper or kept on your smartphone. I prefer the old school technique because there is something about physically writing stuff down that makes it feel real.

Once I started to really focus on these simple techniques it wasn’t long before I had Creativity and Inspiration back in my life and when I needed them all I needed to do was make the call and they would pick up.

Have you ever experienced burnout? What was your experience and what did you do to overcome it? I’d love to hear about your experience.

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Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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