Apr 24-14

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I am thrilled to introduce Jamie, our new Spring Intern! After much searching and many interviews, Jamie ended up being the perfect fit for the job. I am so grateful for her sweet demeanor and lovely spirit. She is a wonderful addition to our team this spring season! She's been working in the studio for a few weeks now, and she recently accompanied me to a lovely bridal session in Charleston, SC. Now it's time for you all to meet this wonderful lady!

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1. Jamie's first day at work: being trained by Callie! / 2. Jamie's 2nd day of work just so happened to be her birthday, so naturally we bought her a coke to celebrate! / 3. Nancy & Jamie stopping by Queen Street Grocery in Charleston on their way home / 4. Jamie snapped this pic at Lowndes Grove Plantation at a bridal session

Where are you from?

Raleigh, NC

Why do you love photography?

I love that photos will last forever. I always enjoy looking back on photos of myself and my family from years ago. I love the fact that photos capture a moment in time and they can be passed down through generations.

What are you passionate about?

Building relationships through Young Life. I lead high school Young Life for two years in Greenville, North Carolina and I now lead College Young Life at East Carolina University. Leading a small group and sharing Jesus with girls who are in college holds a special place in my heart.

What is your current favorite book?

I just started re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It was one of my favorites in high school and I have been wanting to read it again for a while!

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Jamie's first day at Sola Coffee Cafe for lunch! We of course had to introduce her to one of our favorite local lunch spots, complete with a glass bottled coke.

Your favorite food?

This is a hard one. I could probably live off of mac & cheese for the rest of my life, but I also love fresh strawberries and a plain bagel toasted with butter from Bruegger’s.

What’s something that no one knows about you?

I have really vivid dreams!

Your favorite thing to do on a beautiful day?

I love spending a day at the beach reading a good book or swimming in the ocean. I also really love playing disc golf with my boyfriend and friends. 

What are you most excited about for 2014?

I am excited for this new chapter of life post graduation and living in Greenville, NC for another year.

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Jamie assisting at Lowndes Grove Plantation

Coffee or Tea?

Neither. I know I’m weird! I constantly crave a coke in a styrofoam cup from McDonalds. 

What are you grateful for today?

The warm weather and spending the day with Nancy and Callie in the studio.

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Images from Jamie's Instagram. Be sure to follow her if you don't already!

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Apr 22-14

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I had never been to Centerville, NC before this session. In fact, I don't know that I had ever even heard of the quaint country town until Emily and John mentioned that it was where they wanted to have their engagement session! After looking on a map and realizing it was only an hour from my house, I got very excited because I absolutely love shooting in new places. I missed the turn, because as you can see in the image below - the driveway is long, narrow and secluded - almost hidden from the main road. I took that lovely black and white photograph with the house behind me, facing the road - so you can see how much land you had to cover before arriving.

Upon arrival at this beautiful house, I fell in love. The quietness of the country with no noise, the peaceful countryside, the beautiful big farmhouse, the gardens, the history of the property, and this couple! It was one of those moments where I kept asking myself, "Is this really my job?"

I asked John about the significance of the lovely home, assuming that it was the home he grew up in. I came to find out that this home was his parent's lifelong project. After inheriting some land in the country, his parents decided to walk the land to see what they would find. They came upon a dilapidated house, and John's mom fell in love with it. They took an old, abandoned, historic house, (with kitchen detached! Built in the 1800's,) and over the course of John's lifetime they turned it into their favorite family hideaway: a vacation home, a holiday home, a getaway. While they didn't live here permanently, John's parents have restored this beautiful home to make it a family treasure. Isn't that such a beautiful story?

More than this home and this place, I fell in love with this couple. A Southern gentleman and a Southern belle, for sure! These two are kind down to the core of who they are. They treated me like family, and they treat one another with such tenderness and kindness. I am so thrilled for their wedding this May!

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Comments: 2

  1. Em April 22, 2014 10:41 pm

    Beautiful! What a special place!

  2. Emily April 23, 2014 10:13 am

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures, Nancy! What talent you have! I am overjoyed to be working with you! Looking forward to May!

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Apr 18-14

There are a few major things in my life that motivate me to keep my home in order. First up: working from home. I love walking downstairs to work every day to my studio! When I come "home" at the end of the day (walking back up the stairs), I want my living space to feel refreshing. To me, that means it should be orderly and clean. Secondly, a major motivation for me is the simple fact that we live in a town home. We don't have a big house, so it is easy for just a few small things to leave a room feeling cluttered. I am constantly cleaning out and donating items to keep the amount of stuff we have to a minimum. Lastly, it's stewardship. I believe I am called to manage every area of my life well. God's the owner, I'm just the manager, and yes - this even applies to our home!

I'm excited to share with you The Rays 10 systems for Home Organization. No matter how big or small your home, and no matter how organized you are at this moment, if you just apply one or two of these systems, you'll feel more organized in no time!

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Before I begin, I want to point out something very important:

Living an unorganized life is not a clutter problem: it's a behavior problem.

The truth is, we are usually too lazy to pick up that item and put it away, we just don't want to sit down and make a budget, we love purchasing sparkly new things in the store that are "fresh and new." But if you really want to know my secret to living an organized life, it boils down to two things:

1. Being content with what you have

2. Doing the work to maintain your home on a regular basis

Keeping those two very important things in mind, here are:

 The Rays 10 Systems for Organization

1. Household routines

We have implemented regular household routines for cleaning and clearing the clutter. My favorite of all these listed is our "Sunday household reset day!" Each Sunday I do laundry, grocery shopping, I wash our sheets, and we sit down to discuss our week ahead. It leaves you feeling ready to go on Monday morning.

Quarterlies
• Major house clean outs. We do this 2-4 times a year to get rid of a ton of junk. We just had a yard sale for our spring clean out! Last year, I gave a lot of clothes and household items to a local ministry.

Monthlies
• Household cleaning day, toilets and all.
• Budget meeting happens at the end of each month, just before the new month begins.

Weeklies
• Sundays = household reset day for the Rays! That includes laundry, calendar meeting, groceries, and mail folder emptying.

Dailies
• Get and file the mail
• Put all dishes in the dishwasher prior to bed

2. Mail folders

Pictured below on the left: these 3 clear containers hold our "mail folders." I have to admit that these mail folders are a result of my husband's genius, not my own! As soon as we get the mail and sort it, we place it in the following folders which are tucked away out of site:

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William
Nancy
NRP
To shred
To file
Bills
Coupons

Once a week, we clean them out by filing them, shredding them, putting dates in our calendar, tossing trash, recycling, etc. This is THE BEST system to prevent mail from piling up on your kitchen table!

3. Filing system

It's a wonderful thing to have a good filing system for your bills and your life. We have a file for almost everything, including:

car insurance, bank accounts, life insurance, hoa, Winston, investments, giving, vacations, water bill, gas bill, etc.

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Our filing cabinet is also tucked away out of site. We clean the files out and shred them, then store important documents every 2 years or so.

4. Consignment / donation box

Keeping a consignment/donation box in our garage (or a closet) all year long has provided us an immediate place to deposit unwanted clutter. As you accumulate things you don't want, as that dress goes out of style, as you realize you've been holding on to that colander because it was a gift but you really hate it…. put it all in the box! We love regularly contributing to With Love From Jesus - a wonderful ministry that accepts everything from clothes to household appliances. I also have an account at my local consignment store for name brand items or expensive appliances we simply don't use.

5. A place for everything

We have a designated place for the following items, which have significantly cut down on tabletop clutter:  keys, mail, recycled paper, envelope system, stationery, stamps, pens, return address stamp, scissors, grocery list, remote controls, Winston's leash, etc.

The list goes on and on! But you get my point: these are the little items that can clutter your countertops and leave you feeling like a level 4 hoarder. Just designate a place that you and your spouse / roommate / family all know about, and declare it out loud several times so everyone remembers. Then if you can't find an item you set down on the counter, it's very likely your spouse place it in it's designated spot! We always check the spot first, and I cannot tell you the last time we lost our keys or misplaced a wallet.

Below: our remote control (and video game control) holding place, next to a candle and my quiet time books for my morning routine. 

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6. Gift basket

Many people feel guilty about re-gifting items. I am not one of those people! Stuff is stuff, people. If I don't use it, I'll just regift it or donate it or sell it. I'm blessed to be a blessing, and I want to be generous with everything that flows into my life: money, stuff, clothes, all of it. No hard feelings to the givers - I sincerely do appreciate every gift I am given! But I feel trapped and stifled when I hold onto clutter for guilt reasons only. If it's a nice, unused item, into the gift basket it goes! This is great option for items that are very nice that you don't want to donate. It might make a lovely wedding gift or birthday gift!

7. Personal photo archive

This one is highly personal, so I suggest that you do something that works for YOU. As a photographer, this sadly the last thing that gets accomplished each year. Most of the time, we photographers are so concerned with other peoples photos that we neglect our own. That's why I decided to overhaul my photo storage system about a year ago!

Here is my process for my personal photo archive :

1. Edit photos as I take them throughout the year
2. Back them up on my personal photos external hard drive
3. Print a few 4x6 photos of my favorite images from each event (i.e.: 10 photos from July 4th, 5 photos from Will's birthday, 15 photos from our anniversary trip, 7 photos from Nicaragua, etc)
4. File my personal photos in my photo storage boxes by date

This leaves me with my personal photos in 2 places: the external hard drive which holds all final JPEGS only, as well as prints from our favorite memories and adventures from the year, organized by date. If I'm honest, I NEVER go look through my photos on my hard drive, which is why I don't keep the RAW files, and I only take time to print just a few from each trip. Picturing the end of our lives, I would like to know that there's one shoebox of photos for every 5 years. Not too much, but just enough to remember the really good stuff.

My next project? To make an Artifact Uprising album every 5 years of our lives and marriage together.

8. Trash bags are your friends

If you don't like it, if you don't use it, if no one else would want it - just throw it away. 'Nuff said.

9. Eat all your food.

This might seem silly to some, but nothing bothers us more than finding a never used can of food that has expired. We hate wasting food, but that's what happens when your pantry gets over cluttered!  So, we do our very best every month to plan wisely and eat all of our food. We also will regularly make a big batch of soup, and will freeze most of it to eat later. Yes, our pantry and fridge seem a little bare at the end of the month, but it feels good to know that we didn't waste anything. I know this can be challenging for larger families, so if you have any advice - leave some comments below!

10. The budget (STOP buying stuff!)

If you create a budget and stick to it, it limits your spending. If you limit your spending, you limit the amount of things that make their way into your home. If you limit the amount of things that make their way into your home, you limit your clutter.

It's really common sense: the best way to stop the clutter from accumulating is to simply STOP BUYING STUFF! But let's be honest - this one can be the toughest. It take self discipline and creativity within your home to keep it feeling fresh. It can be challenging, but it is so worth it!

•••

Finally, I leave you with a list of our "unspoken rules" that we live by. We don't really ever discuss these, but we simply do them. They are simple rules that have just developed over time in the course of our marriage. Do you have any unspoken rules in your house?

•••

The Ray's unspoken rules:

If something is left on the stairs, you grab it and take it upstairs. No matter who it is, no matter whose stuff it is!

If it takes less than a minute, do it immediately.

Always take everything out of your car every single time you come inside:  water bottles, every little piece of trash, receipts, coffee tumblers, books, briefcases, photography equipment, jackets. Anything that goes in your car must come out! Our cars stay clutter free this way.

Check your mail folders regularly. 

Always ask your spouse before throwing something of his/hers away.

Communicate about who is doing what household chores.

•••

I am curious: What did you find most helpful? And please leave a comment letting me know what you do for home organization! I'd love to hear it.

Comments: 14

  1. Jessica Thornton April 18, 2014 8:45 pm

    Oh, girl. I want this to be true for my husband and I. We’ve been married since 8-11-2012, and we are still working through life together. This entire list is AMAZING to me. So much to work towards.

  2. Rose April 18, 2014 9:15 pm

    I love your personal growth posts. I work from home as well and it isn’t easy keeping everything in order. You give great advice and I always take it to heart.

  3. Em April 18, 2014 10:09 pm

    Love this post! I feel like we are still setting systems in place for our house after about a year in it. I 100% believe in re-gifting and throwing things out, though – I think some people are paralyzed by not wanting to “waste” things, and while I think it’s important to donate/give away/sell when possible, sometimes you just need to throw things out or they’re going to sit in your house forever!!

  4. Katelin April 19, 2014 2:14 am

    Loved this! I think your first two points (being content + doing the work regularly) summarize it all perfectly. For me personally, having a place for everything is key. Looking forward to future posts!

  5. Victoria B April 19, 2014 3:14 am

    We desperately need a To File and To Shred mail sorter! Great idea! The link to your photo storage boxes didn’t work. This is definitely something I desperately need to organize! If you have any other tips I would definitely appreciate it. :)

  6. Kristin April 19, 2014 4:36 pm

    Love this post! It is amazing the huge difference little things can make in our lives.

  7. Lisa April 19, 2014 8:37 pm

    Nancy- it seems that you and Will are in the same page with household rules. My husband and I are ao different and the owness of organization is all on me. I hate clutter and junk. I have had to learn to give him his clutter space and his car is his. So I can’t complain there. Any advice for couples who are opposite ?

  8. Identity Crisis | LIFE IS HAPPENING April 21, 2014 2:43 pm

    […] stars further aligned this weekend when my feedly served up Nancy Ray’s post on organizing her home life - it was a great reminder that none of this happens without effort. It takes hard work and deep […]

  9. Corley April 21, 2014 2:47 pm

    Love this, Nancy! Such a great reminder that it takes hard work to make your life easier! Definitely going to implement some of these methods at my house this week.

  10. Anna April 22, 2014 3:43 pm

    Nancy, I have really been enjoying these organization posts and so much of what you have listed here is true in our home too. We currently reserve Sunday afternoon as a reset (for meal planning, grocery shopping, bill paying, laundry etc…). Recently, I have felt convicted that we should instead be using our Sunday as a day of rest. We both work full-time, so Sat/Sun tend to be our catch up days. Have you ever struggled with this notion? Just curious :)

    • Nancy Ray April 22, 2014 7:23 pm

      @Anna Protecting a day of rest is definitely important, and while we are not perfect at it, we strive to have our “Sabbath” on Fridays. Sunday is a work day for Will since he is on staff at our church, so we choose a different day during the week to rest. Great question, and I definitely agree it’s important to protect that day of rest!

  11. Ashley Flores April 22, 2014 9:23 pm

    That third unspoken rule just hit my in the gut! My husband’s car is always so clean on the inside and it boils him that I don’t make a big deal about the inside of mine. I’m getting better at it, but I’m a work in progress, lol. I need to just start saying that everything needs to come out everytime over and over in my head when I get home. But grabbing my stuff, a newborn and all of her stuff…whew! I’m exhausted thinking about it.

    xoxo

  12. Ashley April 22, 2014 9:27 pm

    …and yea…what Anna said. My husband is a full-time student with an internship, and I work full-time. We mealprep and clean mostly on Sunday, but he does homework the entire weekend so we don’t have a Sabbath. I observed it for a very long time before we got married and I know he agrees that it should be done, but I don’t know how to go about bringing it up to him. I think he’ll feel like he doesn’t have time. I think we could at least do a “rest on Saturdays until noon” or something, lol. Suggestions?

  13. LEANNE CAROLINE April 22, 2014 11:46 pm

    What a fantastically helpful list. I’m a huge believer in number 5, a place for everything. I learnt this lesson from my grandparents — they have everything they need, nothing more, nothing less, and everything has its ‘spot’ in the home (so you can always find it too). Thank you for sharing your views on re-gifting. I agree 100%. I appreciate any and all gestures given my way, the thought is what matters, but if I don’t need the item, well, I simply don’t need it. This year my habit of buying less has become quite unconscious (hurrah!). Getting rid of stuff is great, but if you just fill life up with more ASAP you’re only chasing your tail. I have a feeling it was on your blog or Will’s blog where I read the comment ‘whatever stuff you own, you have to store it, maintain it, play with it etc…’. It’s good motivation to have less to deal with on a daily basis. My big home/life organisation strategy is making my lunches to take to work for the full week ahead on either the Saturday or Sunday before. Five cooked and portioned out meals sit in Tupperware containers in my fridge. Each morning I know there is something healthy (and yummy) ready to go. Can’t wait to read your next organisation post xo

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Apr 16-14

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I arrived at Sarah's home on Saturday morning, and I immediately felt welcomed and loved by everyone. The ladies were getting ready downstairs, and sunlight was pouring in the windows as if to say, "Rise and shine! Today is the day!" Everyone was laughing, and of course the UNC vs. NC State football game was on. Being in a home of loyal UNC fans, it was all too important to keep one eye on the game while getting ready.

Sarah was so calm and beautiful. She has been so sweet and steady ever since I met her, and I have been so impressed with her demeanor throughout the wedding planning process. I thought that maybe she would worry or stress just a little bit on her wedding day, but no - she just smiled and quietly enjoyed everyone's company.  Even when the limo had a flat tire in her driveway, she calmly watched her dad pump up the tire, then hopped in with no worries. Her sense of peace was just so real, it affected the atmosphere and made for a beautiful day.

Will was spending time with Fletch and the guys as they were getting ready, and we finally all met at the beautiful Duke Chapel to kick things off. Yes, there were plenty of jokes about how these Carolina fans were getting married at Duke chapel, but no one argued that the place was just perfect for their wedding! After their lovely and reverent ceremony, we headed to the Carolina Inn (some comfortable territory, no doubt!), for the reception and celebration.

So many people came to love on this couple, and this couple loved on everyone right back. They were gracious and inseparable, as a couple should be on their wedding day. I am convinced that Sarah and Fletch will have a long and happy marriage together. They love the Lord first, and they love each other beautifully. Not to mention - they love to laugh together! Steady, constant, loyal - I have been so blessed by knowing this couple. Congratulations, Sarah and Fletch!

Film Processing: Indie Film Lab
Ceremony Venue: Duke Chapel
Reception Venue: The Carolina Inn
Officiant: Doug Lain
Cake Artist: Cinda's Creative Cakes
Caterer: The Carolina Inn
Florist: Fresh Affairs
Event Designer & Coordinator: Erin McLean Events
Reception Band: The Voltage Brothers
Make Up Artist: Make Up For Your Day
Bridal Gown: Traditions by Anna
Bridesmaids Dresses: Bella Bridesmaid
Tuxedos: Bernard's Formalwear
Table Linens: CE Rentals

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Above: I do believe Susan, the mother of the bride, was one of the sweetest and most genuine people I have ever worked with. I love this image of her getting ready. Jen did a beautiful job with hair and makeup, as always! 

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These custom bow ties and cumber buns by Alexander Julian were the perfect touch to this Chapel Hill wedding! Don't you love the Old Well emblems? 

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Below: I couldn't resist sharing this image. Kristen at the Carolina Inn and Erin of Erin McLean Events presented the beautiful ballroom to Susan just before the guests were let inside. I adore her reaction! 

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Comments: 2

  1. Mary April 16, 2014 10:45 pm

    Oh my goodness, I LOVE seeing the Carolina Inn in it’s full glory for a wedding! Such a beautiful wedding, Nancy!

  2. Kellie April 17, 2014 1:06 am

    Oh Nancy these are so beautiful! I am thrilled you got to be their photographer for the day. Sarah (and her whole family!) are SO kind, and beautiful inside and out, you captured them perfectly. I love these so much!

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Apr 15-14

Hello friends! Today, I am so excited to share with you these images from a styled shoot that was featured on Wedding Chicks Blog a couple of months ago! When my dear friend Kaitlin asked me to be apart of this, I knew I could not pass up this opportunity. Everything she creates is absolutely stunning!

"This shoot was inspired by a small, quaint Italian restaurant downtown. What is extra special about this cozy corner restaurant is that it is the same building my great grandfather used to run his grocery store in. I incorporated organic elements, like the potted herbs, loaves of fresh bread, and European dough bowls overflowing with flowers, along with historical elements, such as the private historic Raleigh home, the vintage pews, and the old farm table. These images are a fusion of organic and historic qualities. Some of my favorite natural elements were the olive branch garlands lining the aisle and the flowers by Tre Bella that crawled up the side of the exposed wood framing." 

From Kaitlin with Simply Put Vintage

Many thanks to all the amazing vendors that made this possible!

Event Designer: Kaitlin Briley
Vintage Rentals: Simply Put Vintage
Hair & Makeup: Make Up For Your Day
Florist: Tre Bella
Dress Designer: Tre Bella
Paper Goods: Victoria Austin Designs
Venue: Private Residence

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Comments: 2

  1. Katie Minnick April 15, 2014 2:06 pm

    Nancy! You are so amazingly talented. God is so good. Question for you- do you perchance know where the bridesmaid dress is from? Love the pale pink. Thank you! :)

    • Callie Pitts April 15, 2014 3:08 pm

      @Katie Hi! Thank you! The bridesmaid dress came from Tre Bella Bridal!

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Apr 11-14

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Angel and Brad compliment each other perfectly. Angel is outgoing and sweet; Brad is strong and thoughtful. Although Brad and Angel have dealt with the difficulties of life, they are confident that The Lord's plan is always perfect. Angel and Brad had been dating for around a year before they started talking about the thoughts of marriage and close to this same time, Angel's dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. During this difficult time for Angel's family, Brad stood strongly and constantly by her side. The night before Angel's father passed away, Brad was able to ask Angel's dad for her hand in marriage and he gave him his permission. Brad asked Angel to marry him months later on her Dad's birthday as they were visiting his grave. He told her "I want this day to be special and not sad anymore." From talking to Angel, I know that she is the person that she is today because of her Dad, and Brad wanted it to make it clear to her how important that was to him as well. I love the words that Angel shared with me about why she loves Brad "I love how much he included the first man I ever loved in everything." 

We met at Carroll Joyner park on a beautiful winter afternoon. The sun was out, people were crowded around the park running, walking their dogs and spending time with their families, but this didn't stop us from enjoying the park ourselves. As we walked around talking about life and wedding planning, I learned a lot about this couple - why Angel loves teaching, that we share a love for the beautiful state of South Carolina, and that Brad thought taking these pictures was going to be miserable! (Hopefully it wasn't!)

I am so excited for this couple's Christmas wedding in December!

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Comments: 1

  1. Angel April 11, 2014 1:06 pm

    Aww yeah we are so excited for December it can’t get here fast enough! Thank you for your sweet words and we are excited to be working with you and Brad said he enjoyed it more than he thought!

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Apr 10-14

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(source)

Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

I'm going to be honest: time is my weakness. I've already been late 3 times this week. Often, I have a hard time focusing on what's in front of me. I believe my generation (and especially the generation to follow) are going to have to fight distractions and teach ourselves to focus more than any other. With social media, fast-paced TV, our phones at our fingertips, texting, and constantly scrolling and seeing something new and fresh, it will take more self control to sit and focus on just one thing for a long amount of time.

Friends, I do not have it all together, but I want to keep learning.  I am not always early, and I often find myself distracted. However, I am striving to live fully in the moment, to say no to distractions, to do my best work and to rest well and often. While I'm not perfect, I do have systems in place that help me manage my time well in my work and home. Over time, I've learned a few tips that hopefully will help you too. If you're like me, you're ready to be one of those "early people!" You're ready to finish your day feeling accomplished, rather than incomplete and rushed. We can do this, so let's dive in together!

I have to start with this rather long excerpt from one of my favorite-ever books, Boundaries. Please stick with me here and read this. You won't regret it! :

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"Many people feel that their time is out of control. They are "eleventh hour people," constantly on the edge of deadlines. Try as they might, they find the day - every day - getting away from then. There just aren't enough hours to accomplish their tasks. The word easily doesn't seem to be part of their personal experience. Some of the time binds these strugglers deal with are these:

  • Business meetings
  • Luncheon appointments
  • Project deadlines
  • Church and school activities
  • Holiday mailings

 

… The problem often stems from one more more of the following causes: 

1. Omnipotence: These people have unrealistic, somewhat grandiose expectations of what they can accomplish in a given amount of time. 'No problem - I'll do it' is their motto.

2. Overresponsibily for the feelings of others. They think that leaving a party too early wil cause the host to feel abandoned.

3. Lack of realistic anxiety. They live so much in the present that they neglect to plan ahead for traffic, parking the car, or dressing for an outing.

4. Rationalization. They minimize the distress and inconvenience that others must put up with because of their lateness. They think, 'They're my friends - they'll understand.'

The person with undeveloped time self-boundaries ends up frustrating not only others, but himself. He ends the day without the sense that a 'desire realized is sweet to the soul' (Prov 13:19). Instead, he is left with unrealized desires, half-baked projects, and the realization that tomorrow will begin with him running behind schedule."

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Does anyone else identify with this excerpt as much as I do? I read this book 2 years ago, and these pages stood out to me most. I've been making changes in my life, and it feels good to end a day knowing that scripture to be TRUE: "a desire realized is sweet to the soul!"

If you are ready to take hold of your time, I would suggest trying the following exercises. I've worked through each exercise in the past 2 years, and they have been invaluable to me! If I may make another suggestion, do not try to tackle all of these at once. Try one per week, or one per month even, and see how it works for you. I can confidently say that each of them WILL be worth your time!

1. Track your time for a month

Last year, I read 168 Hours and it had such a profound impact on my life. Laura (the author) explains that the very first step to take hold of your time is to simply record how you are currently spending it. Although it seems daunting at first, it is actually quite simple! All you have to do is write down how you spend your time in 30 minute increments. You can see how I tracked my time for an entire month below. I highlighted my "work hours," so I could realistically see how many hours a week I was working. I could also total my time for exercising, sleeping, hanging out with people I love, reading, etc. It was so enlightening to me! She warned us that we often tend to think we work much more than we actually do. That proved true for me. Here are a few takeaways that I had after doing this exercise:

- I thought I was working 50-60 hours/week, when I worked an average of 40 hours/week.
- It's important to bundle all errands together once/week to save time driving. Driving can really add up.
- I was spending much more time with friends that I thought I was! We regularly ate dinner with friends and spent time in ministry at church.
- I wanted to spend more hours/week exercising.
- I wanted to spend more hours/week sleeping.
- I wanted to spend less hours/week driving.
- I wanted to be more intentional with how I spend my leisure time.  More baths, walks, and dinners at home. Less piddling at home, TV, and driving.

Here is a Time Log Download if you are up for the challenge!

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2. Map out your ideal week

This post by Michael Hyatt inspired me to do this for myself, and it's a game changer. I see in the "big picture," so creating time blocks was immensely helpful for me! Here is a view of my ideal week. I'm currently in the process of updating it now. As a wedding photographer, it is helpful to update it seasonally. I would encourage you: update it when you need to! It's like a time budget. It won't work perfectly the first few months, but you'll be able to make it work for you after a while if you are committed to trying it. When I do stick to my ideal week, it feels wonderful. But keep in mind: it's called an IDEAL week for a reason, and life is not always ideal. Life happens! Allow for grace and change. Don't set your plan so strictly that you don't allow for the Lord to bring things your way if He wants to.

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3. Plan out each day by the hour

I love Whitney English's Day Designer and Emily Ley's Simplified Planner for this reason: You can map out your day hour by hour. Talk about making the most of your day! Every morning, I sit down and write down my top 3 priorities for the day. Then, I write out what I'm going to do hour by hour in order to accomplish those priorities. Here's my example for today:

No. 1: Blog Organization in Time
No. 2: Clear emails before the weekend
No. 3: Pack for Georgia

6:00 - Up! Coffee and Scripture and Prayer
7:00 - Read current book
8:00 - Prep studio / email clean up
9:00 - Consultation with Callie + Bride
10:00 - Blog
11:00 - Google Hangout with Amber Housely
12:00 - Lunch + UPS store + library (errands)
1:00 - Emails
2:00 - Emails
3:00 - Emails + Prep equipment for session
4:00 - Take care of Boaz and Winston / ShootQ maintenance
5:00 - Drive to session
6:00 - Engagement Session
7:00 - Engagement Session
8:00 - Dinner / Pack for Georgia
9:00 - Pack, catch up with Will
10:00 - Bed!

When I sit down and plan out my day at the beginning of my day, it keeps me on track to accomplish what I need to. Tomorrow, we leave early for a family wedding in Georgia. I want to make sure everything is planned and accomplished before we leave! For example, I am confident I'll enjoy my weekend and be fully present with my family if all of my emails are caught up, and if I'm packed tonight instead of rushing around in the morning.

4. Try my Email Ninja Game!

Call me crazy - I don't care! It really helps me knock out some emails, y'all. I call is my Email Ninja game. Here's how you play:

Step 1: Grab a colorful post it note. Write the current time and number of emails in your inbox, then put the sticky at the bottom of your computer screen so it's constantly in front of you.
Step 2: Put on music (Soundtracks only: no words! The Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack is my favorite email and blog writing music). Turn off all social media and distractions. The only reason you are allowed to get up from your chair is to use the bathroom. THAT'S IT.
Step 3: Answer as many emails as you possible can. Delete all junk mail without even reading the content. Be efficient and as fast as possible. Once you answer an email, FILE it so it's out of your inbox.
Step 4: Grab that same post it note, and write the current time and number of emails in your inbox at the end of your email ninja game.

If your inbox is at zero, you WIN!
If you reached a goal you set for yourself in a certain amount of time, you WIN!
If you got distracted with social media, you LOSE.
If you got a snack, then started folding laundry, then decided to vacuum, you LOSE. (Been there, done that.)

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5. Work hard, Rest well.

This last point is the WHY behind all of this. It is the most important point of all, actually. It's the reason I'm passionate about managing my time and resources well! I believe we were created to live life to the full, to give our everything to our work, then to throw ourselves into good and true rest. To be face to face with family and our loved ones - not distracted with work undone or iPhones or Instagram. This can be so difficult in today's world, but it's worth fighting for!

Work Hard! How often do we say we are "working," when really we are distracted, trying to tackle too many things at once, and looking at Instagram or at an online sale during work hours? I've been there, friends. It's still a struggle! But one thing I know to be true: I love the feeling of coming to the end of a day, knowing that I worked hard, stayed focused, and accomplished all that I could for that day. Working hard allows us to truly appreciate good rest.

Rest well, friends. That means taking a weekly Sabbath, turning off social media, reading a book, getting outside, allowing your mind time and space to think and relax. Its good for the soul! This is not always easy to do, especially for entrepreneurs like myself, because there is always work to be done. Can I get an amen? It's so hard to shut everything down for a day, but when I rest well, I can accomplish more fulfilling and focused work. When I work hard, I can rest well and be 100% present with those I love.

Have you tried anything I've listed above? Or is there an exercise you are going to try? I would love to hear!

Comments: 7

  1. Sarah F. April 10, 2014 6:09 pm

    Nancy!
    I JUST ordered 168 Hours 20 minutes ago! Along with Boundaries and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. So encouraged and excited by this post. Thanks for the link to the time log, I’ll be needing that!
    Blessings!

  2. Victoria B April 10, 2014 6:11 pm

    Love this post! Great ideas. I need to track my hours as I am clearly reading blogs during work. I have been trying to schedule my ideal work day schedule but so much comes up that I find it hard to stick to. I also underestimate how long things will take all the time, so I think tracking my time for a couple weeks will be very beneficial. Thank you!

  3. Lorin April 10, 2014 7:41 pm

    These organizational posts are wonderful, Nancy!! Our pastor taught a series called “The Broken Clock” & challenged us to track our time for a week. Incredibly eye opening to see how long/much something takes!

  4. Kristen April 11, 2014 12:41 pm

    Can you describe your ‘File’ system in your email ninja. Thanks for the encouraging post!

    • Nancy Ray April 14, 2014 2:51 pm

      It’s too long to explain in the comments, but I might tackle my entire email system in another post! Thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Emily Alice April 13, 2014 3:10 am

    Thank you so much for posting this, Nancy! As a senior college student with three jobs, almost every week I feel like I haven’t completed what I wanted to get done because I’m always catching up. I’m definitely downloading that time calendar!

  6. LEANNE CAROLINE April 15, 2014 6:06 am

    Hello Nancy. (This is Annie — my nickname, just in the very beginning stages of a mini blog/name makeover). This is a fantastic post. I really am loving this organisation series. I gravitate towards the ‘on time’ end of the spectrum. I learnt a long time ago to factor in all elements of getting a job done, so as to stay to time. So often we do overestimate what we are physically capable of (and that the bus will run to time, the stars will align etc.). Also, I am a personality that likes to take due time in doing whatever task. That desire for “something new and fresh” you highlight is such a modern pull. I’m currently calling myself a ‘distraction ninja’ (to pinch your terminology). The other week I turned off email pop up alerts on my work computer; already I can tell my productivity has improved. Thank you for the rest reminders. I think it’s all too easy to forget about that these days… there is always something we can do (or rather, something we THINK we should do). Good luck with your ‘ideal’ weeks ahead xo

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Apr 09-14

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I met Kristin and Dan at Morning Times downtown after work on a chilly evening. We shared sweet conversation about each other, and I got to see how Kristin and Dan interact with each other. Most of the time, we have phone conversations with our brides about the details of their wedding, but since we were meeting so close to their wedding we decided to have our conversation in person. It was so refreshing to speak to this sweet couple and see how excited they were for each detail and how they had thought through every minute of the day. I loved how organized they were with their separate to do lists and how they spoke to each other with patience and kindness. Kristin and Dan's biggest concern was to throw a celebration that celebrated not only them but their family as well. After shooting their wedding this weekend at The Sutherland, I am confident to say that they did just that! I am so excited to share the images with you soon!

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Comments: 2

  1. Kim Alford April 11, 2014 8:49 pm

    So lovely, Callie! Can’t wait to see their wedding pics! <3

  2. Kristin Williams April 22, 2014 9:41 pm

    Aw this is so cute!!! The shots are beautiful; I love them and we loved working with you! I’m so excited to see the ones from the wedding!!

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Apr 07-14

inspirationmonday

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman

Today, I woke up very sleepy. It's a rainy day here in Raleigh, and I had a hard time getting my head in gear for work. I have a million emails to write, images to edit, a photo shoot this evening. I need to work out, to meet some friends for lunch, to clean the studio, to take Winston out. The list could go on and on!

On Mondays, I usually don't give non-work-related emails the time of day, but 2 emails in particular caught my attention: Jess sent me a preview to her new album, and Artifact Uprising (a company I adore) introduced me to This Wild Idea in their newsletter.

I usually don't give many things on Instagram the time of day, but 2 images caught my attention: The new Naptime Diaries Shop was launched, and my friend Caroline has posted all kinds of adorable outfits that made me obsessed with her new blog "un-fancy."

I also usually don't break my blogging schedule. But you know what? IT'S OKAY! Actually, it's really good for Type A people like me to just break the rules every now and then.

Sometimes, it's really good to just stop and allow yourself to be inspired. To listen and watch artists doing their thing. Because here's the thing: when we work in our strengths, when we do work that sets our hearts on fire, we inspire others to step into their callings. To do the thing that God made you to do!

I feel so strongly that these four artists I've listed above are doing just that. They are working in their strengths, from a place of passion, and they are blessing so many around them because of it. I encourage you to follow them, to watch their work, and to allow it to inspire the deepest parts of you to do that which God has called you to do!

1. Jess Ray : her album "Free Forever For Everyone" is released for free on April 19. I've been listening to it in my studio all day long. It's the heart of such beautiful worship.

2. This Wild Idea : "You gotta point your camera at what you love, something that stirs you up, even when you don’t have an audience and no one is lookin…that’s how you grow as an image maker" - Theron. A quote I'm committing to live by.

3. Un-Fancy : My dear friend Caroline Joy just introduced her brilliant blog "Un-Fancy" - a beautiful and inspiring place that teaches others how to create a capsule wardrobe and live from a place of intention in regards to what you wear and what you own. I feel so strongly this goes hand in hand with the Contentment Challenge. Love my friend and I love her heart. Also, I want to kidnap her so she can just come work her magic on my wardrobe, because let's face it: she's amazing.

4. Naptime Diaries Shop : My friend Jessi is so inspiring. Her shop will get you so excited to decorate your home with scripture. Not only do I love her work, but I love her heart. We are both married to men in ministry (they are planting a church in Charleston!), but she never uses it as an excuse to keep her gifts quiet. She uses her ministry platform as a REASON to share her gifts! I relate so much to her passion and calling. And guess what? Use SPRING14 in checkout and receive 25% off all canvas orders today!

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Photographer, wife, and worshiper... I am a Southern girl who looks most forward to waking up each morning to drink my coffee, read my Bible, and soak in the beauty that surrounds me. These pages chronicle my work, my life, and the things that I love most. You'll also hear from Callie, Will, and Elizabeth - my amazing team who has so much to offer. Thanks for visiting, I do hope you stay a while!
Nancy Ray