2019 Goal Setting, Pt. 2

2019 Goal Setting, Pt. 2

Yesterday I shared in my 2019 Goal Setting, Pt. 1 blog post about my reflections of 2018 and what I learned throughout the year. Today I am excited to share with you what my goals are and some of the small steps I will be taking to reach each of them!

2019 Goal Setting, Pt. 1

2019 Goal Setting, Pt. 1

I’ve been using Lara Casey’s Powersheets for my goal planning the past few years. I love Powersheets because before you even begin to set your goals, there’s an entire section dedicated to walking you through a process of looking back over the past year at what worked, what didn’t work, what your big dreams are, and also asks you big questions like where do you want to be when you’re 80 (talk about perspective!), and more!

Tell Me More: 10 Things You May Not Know About Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center

Tell Me More: 10 Things You May Not Know About Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center

Here in Lynchburg, Virginia we have a variety of options for maternal health care and one of those is delivering your baby at the Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center. Below are ten things Lynchburg moms may not know about this labor and delivery unit located in Central Virginia. It is important to note: I am not affiliated with Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center in any way. I am merely a mom in the Lynchburg, VA community and I love to visit my clients and photograph their births at this location whenever I'm granted the opportunity. :)


Five Investments I'm Happy I Made in 2017


Five Good Investments

Business Talk

As I worked through my Goal Setting process for 2018, I naturally did a lot of reflecting on the past year. Something I love to do is read what works for other people in their lives: routines, planning systems, books they loved, etc. While I understand what works for one person may not work for the next - there are times that I’ve discovered something life changing from another person sharing what worked for them.

That said, I really wanted to share with you all some of what I think are the best investments I made in 2017. As a note: you will see that I consider both time and money to be an investment. :)

Without further ado, here are the top five investments from 2017 that I’m really grateful I made.



Date Nights

At the beginning of our marriage, date nights were basically a default every night. (When it's just you two at home together every night, it just happens! :)) So to put a weekly date night on the calendar seemed a little pointless. Then with just one baby, having her tag along didn’t seem like too much of a big deal. (In fact, we were both pretty infatuated with her so we really liked having her with us all the time!) But once we had two kids, time to connect just became less and less and before we knew it, we felt a bit like strangers passing in the night. (Honestly, it’s a little scary how that can happen so quickly.) At the end of 2016, I made a goal to put my marriage FIRST before everything in 2017. And I am SO glad I did!

At the start of the year, I hired a weekly babysitter; every Sunday night. At first, this was to cover our MarriageWorks community gatherings, but soon after I made this arrangement in preparation, they announced they weren’t meeting at all until wayyyy later in the year! Ah! (Which we DID participate in and loved.) However, I kept our sitter lined up anyway.

I budgeted for this and made a long-term commitment to the sitter. She was setting aside her Sunday nights for this weekly job (and we got a pretty good “per job” price since we were committing to this on a regular basis). This really helped us stay accountable, because it wasn’t just us to consider if we wanted to cancel our date night.

Of course there were some Sundays we were out of town, in which case we would let her know weeks ahead of time. But there were also some Sundays where just one of us would be out of town. In that case, we would still have her come and it allowed the one who was at home with the kids to have some kid-free time and a night on their own.

While this investment was financial, it was also a large time investment... (just ask my Sunday Night Football loving husband!) But it was so very worth it. We got into a routine of going to the same place for dinner and drinks and it allowed us to create a new, safe place for us to open up and have some really awesome conversations this past year. I’m SO glad we made our marriage a top priority last year and we are both walking into 2018 with the same goals for our marriage this year as well. 

It’s exciting to look at how far we’ve come in one year, where will another year take us?! We are definitely continuing on with this investment as long as our bank account allows us to!


This is a really personal one for me. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression when Izzie (my second child) was four months old. She just turned three years old this month and the past six months or so I have finally felt like I could see through the fog. I attribute this to my girls getting older (Izzie can do so much on her own now! It has really freed up a lot of my time), my marriage growing stronger (it’s been rewarding to be able to share these burdens/thoughts with my husband in a way that doesn’t burden him but simply allows him to understand me more), and self-care.

What IS self-care, you ask? Well, this answer will and should look different for each person. In essence, it is taking care of yourSELF. Whatever that means to you. In my experience, it was learning WHO I am and WHAT I need most to be the healthiest, happiest me. And then, of course, giving those things to myself.

I’m a big fan of personality tests. Through these tests I have learned SO much about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly - the good I bring to this world in my natural state. Meaning, when I am at my healthiest and happiest, what comes most natural to me? What is the good that I can provide to the people I love, and what do I not do well? Self-Care for me this year meant a whole lot of learning what I do best, what I don’t do great, and how to fill in the gaps for the needs of myself and those around me.

In practical terms, this is what all that looked like for me:

  • Learning more about my Myers-Briggs personality and embracing my truths.

  • Reading StrengthsFinder 2.0 and, again, embracing my truths.

  • Speaking my truths outloud to myself, my friends and family. Some examples:

    • I may not be as driven as so-and-so, but I can handle a social environment with grace and I can make people feel loved and comfortable in a way that not a lot of other people can.

    • I may be sensitive, but instead of thinking of this as a negative, I now respect it as a privilege. I can sense when something is “off” in my body almost immediately. I can sense the energy in a room and try my best to either contribute or counteract it, whichever is necessary depending on the circumstances. I can sense when someone nearby is dealing with something heavy and I can be empathetic and careful towards them during that time.

  • Clearing space on my calendar for things that fill my cup. This included a retreat weekend with The Motherhood Collective (for staff), a lot of one-on-one coffee dates with girlfriends, a marriage retreat weekend with Tommy (through our semester with MarriageWorks, which we really loved!), a monthly massage at MassageEnvy, and occasional travel to visit friends and family out of town. All of these things renew my spirit, my body, and help me feel “normal” again during seasons where sometimes I can feel anything but.

  • Indulging in daily connection conversations with friends over the Voxer and MarcoPolo apps on my phone. Mama friends - if you haven’t downloaded Voxer, you are missing out! This is such an amazing way to connect with friends in a low-pressure way! My friends will send me voice messages while they drive down the road (because when else do mamas have time to themselves?!) and I’ll listen to them when I have a few minutes to open the app and listen in. I was able to rebuild and strengthen some of my closest friendships by using these simple apps in 2017.

Shifting to more business and professional investments…

17Hats (Client Management System)

For the past few years, I have been using a Client Management System by 17hats. Through this app, I manage all client information, contracts, invoices and workflows. This app is basically my business brain! If you are a photographer and you have more than a handful of clients a year, it would benefit you in huge ways to outsource your business management to an app like this one! It also has capabilities to manage client scheduling, bookkeeping and more.

One big change I made this year was to start using their Lead Capture Form feature. So, now when prospective clients fill out the form on my website, they receive an immediate email response with all of my pricing information and a link to the next step in the booking process! Basically this means my inquiry to booking process is almost fully automated. This has changed my WORLD! I used to spend so many of my office hours trying to tackle emails. However, because of my life season, I also was not in the office every day. That meant that sometimes prospective clients waited many days to hear from me! That’s totally unacceptable this day in age. I am excited for this new automated process and very grateful for the 17hats Management System!

I don’t think I’ll ever run my business without 17hats!

--> My goodness, I wrote this blog post a few days ago and it's amazing what can change in a matter of days! While I LOVE 17hats, it's the Client Management System that really was the game-changer for me. This week I made the decision to begin the process of switching to Tave. I'll write more about this as I settle into a new system and I'll keep you posted about whether it was a good move or not!!  

Acuity Scheduling

Another investment I made in 2017 that I am SO glad I did is using a scheduling software. Setting my business up through Acuity Scheduling has saved me SO much time writing emails back and forth (“Would these dates work for you? No? How about these?”)! Not only that, it has helped me set healthy work/life boundaries for myself and my family.

I created a couple of types of appointments such as Outdoor Portrait Session, Newborn Portrait Session, and more. Then I set my availability for each type of appointment. I can also put a price point on the appointments and require full or partial payment at the time of booking. While this is not currently my practice (because I do most of my invoicing through the 17hats program), it is nice to have available for mini session booking!

But the most valuable aspect of using Acuity Scheduling for me has been protecting my family days. It sounds basic: if you don’t want to book clients on certain days, don’t offer those days. But as an ENFP (see personality type notes above :)) and people-pleaser, I found myself constantly making exceptions for repeat clients and having a hard time saying no. Now I don’t say no, I simply don’t offer. :) It’s a win/win!

Thank you, Acuity Scheduling, for giving me my life back!

Studio Pieces

Throughout 2017 I invested in a couple of projects, furniture and wardrobe pieces in the studio that I am LOVING. Among these investments were new flooring, a nice wrought-iron bed, a neutral colored settee, a new neutral colored wingback chair and a handful of new pieces of clothing for the wardrobe. Having these items sprinkled throughout my images I think have really increased the quality of my work.

The white flooring has added more light to work with in the studio with a great floor-to-ceiling light-bounce, while also bringing a cleaner look to my clients final photos. With white floors, there’s less yellow in the space to work with so the whites are whiter and my images are overall brighter. I really love the new flooring!

In the past, I’ve photographed on a simple air mattress and while it did the job, there’s nothing like the look of a quality bed frame! I am excited to have a new bed in the studio in 2018 as well as a new settee and wingback chair to create different set-ups and add variety to studio sessions!

Here are a few pictures with some of the newest pieces:



And lastly, I’ve gotten my hands on a couple of gems for the studio wardrobe: dresses, blouses, and a few new items for children! I just received the mannequin I ordered (and my friends on Instagram named her Florence ;)) so I can begin creating an online catalog of the wardrobe pieces so clients can peruse the wardrobe from the comfort of their own space. For now, if you are interested in checking out the new wardrobe pieces you’ll need to schedule a complimentary, in-person consultation to come by the studio and see them yourself! I’d love the chance to meet you and talk with you about your photography needs! :)

So those are the big investments I made in 2017 that I’m SO grateful for! They each added quality to my life in their own ways - but all BIG ways! Did you make any big investments last year that you love? I’d love to hear about them!!

You can read more about my reflections on 2017 by clicking here.

Liz Cook is a familybirth and wedding photographer in Central Virginia. She loves to photograph emotional and discreet birth stories, the details of parenthood, and fun and easygoing couples in love.

2018 Goal Setting, Pt. 2


2018 Goal Setting

With Lara Casey's Powersheets, pt. 2

Yesterday I shared in my 2018 Goal Setting, Pt. 1 blog post about my reflections of 2017 and what I learned throughout the year. Today I am excited to share with you what my goals are and some of the small steps I will be taking to reach each of them!

Much like my goals wayyyy back in 2014, I have found that I am still very content with the idea of enough. I simply want a healthy and happy home life, I want to do everything I can to raise good, God-loving kids, and I hope to contribute to my community in a positive way. So while my goals may not seem all that exciting at first glance, I am really excited at how much I know I'll grow as a person through the work I'll be doing to achieve them!



Without further ado here are my 2018 Goals and the first few steps I plan to take to achieve them this year:

Cultivate a deeper relationship with God.

  • Memorize & meditate on one piece of scripture each month
  • Attend/participate in 1-3 bible studies at my church this year
  • Read: Fervent

Continue to nurture a stronger, healthier marriage.

Give more focused, quality time with the girls.

  • Monthly one-on-one dates with each girl
  • Social Media Free Sundays (or total phone-free Sundays?)
  • Weekly morning devotions with Sunday before school (create a routine with this)

Improve physical & mental health.

  • Be more disciplined with my quiet time/journaling routine and pray about keeping it a priority
  • Explore new podcasts and listen to them while editing in the office (instead of music)
  • Register for 1-3 5k Fun Runs (I'm already registered to do a 5k Foam Race Obstacle Course with a friend in March!)
  • Participate in a 21-30 day yoga challenge/retreat (I hope to do this in the summer when the girls are home and they can do it with me)
  • Allow chores around the house to be exercise! Turn on music and break a sweat while working!
  • Read: Boundaries & Rising Strong

Work towards becoming more financially responsible.

  • Absolutely NO business debt in 2018
  • Close my one and only business credit card
  • Participate in a contentment challenge before July (I'm considering Nancy Ray's challenge)
  • Request a copy of my credit report and analyze it

Continue to seek and implement ways to simplify and automate my business.

  • Pray and ask God to show me what this can look like! Social media assistant? Virtual assistant? Batch editing/writing/projects? I don't know just yet.
  • Research possible editors for session images, pray about this step.
  • Add Monthly Tending dates to my calendar and stick to them!
  • Write / plan blog posts in bulk (I've never done this before but am going to give it a try!!)
  • Read: The ONE Thing 

Seek and implement ways to simplify, automate, and create routines at home.

  • Continue using my weekly planner to keep up with life and stay on top of things
  • Work through the Intentional Mom's Toolkit to explore other possible systems that may work for our family
  • Make Sunday Meal Prep and Taco Tuesdays a weekly routine
  • Design a solid AM & PM routine for the household and make it a habit/rhythm
  • Read: The Miracle Morning & The Lifegiving Home



I know that seems like a lot - but it's really not! It's completely doable and here's why I think this: 

Another big change in my mindset this past year is my plan/hope to approach this year with the 12 Week Year mindset. This means instead of planning ahead for an entire year, I will plan for the upcoming twelve weeks. (Because one year from now my whole life could look different! It doesn't make a lot of sense to plan so specifically for a season so far away.) This has changed EVERYTHING! I can look at the list above and not be overwhelmed at all I have listed because I know so many of those items are for the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th quarter of the year! I'll get to them eventually, but right now I am simply focusing on this first quarter and the progress I can make now. That's so exciting to me! 

Here are ten action steps I've either already taken or I plan to take by the end of January to start reaching my 2018 goals:

  1. Call and close my one business credit card. (done!)
  2. Begin reading Fervent. (started!)
  3. Schedule dates in January for special dates with each girl. (done!)
  4. Register for the winter/spring semester of MarriageWorks. (done!)
  5. Register for the upcoming women's bible study at church. (done! We begin meeting this week!)
  6. Register and begin training for the 5k Foam Race in Charlotte, NC in March. (done!)
  7. Set an alarm on my phone on Sunday mornings for "Social Media Free" days and move social media apps to another screen. (This plays a trick on my mind and when I go to the usual app location out of habit I am reminded that's a social media free day!!) (done!)
  8. Tape this month's scripture card to my bathroom mirror (done!)
  9. Begin researching other fun obstacle course races to do later in the year.
  10. Gather all of my quiet time / journaling materials and place them in a basket near my favorite reading chair. (done!)

So that's that! Let's see how this goes! 

What are some of your 2018 resolutions or goals? I'd love to hear! 

    Liz Cook is a familybirth and wedding photographer in Central Virginia. She loves to photograph emotional and discreet birth stories, the details of parenthood, and fun and easygoing couples in love.