FInding Balance with Nancy Ray

Last year, I wrote a post about how I schedule my work week and how I get it all done as a stay at home mom of a toddler and business owner of a growing, thriving business. The response was overwhelming, and I quickly realized how many of you needed guidance for creating your own schedule and finding balance between work and life. I realized that we all want a glimpse of how others are making it work so we can better structure our own lives. 

Because of this, I was inspired to start this series featuring other busy women and business owners sharing how they manage their schedules and work towards work/life balance. My hope in everything I do is that we can make our lives less busy and more intentional so that we find more room for joy. I hope that this series will inspire you in your own life and help you find just the right combination of work and play so you can make it happen too.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business or work.

I'm Nancy Ray, and if we were meeting in person I’d give you a big smile and a big hug because that’s way better than shaking hands! Born and raised in North Carolina, I love Jesus, my husband Will (we met in middle school!), my beautiful daughter Milly who just turned 1, my great dane Winston, running, blogging, taking beautiful photographs, spending time with my team, and small business. I'm the owner of Nancy Ray Photography, a wedding and lifestyle photography business that consists of myself, my husband, Callie, Olivia and Elizabeth (my 3 amazing associate photographers), and our seasonal intern.

Take us through your typical day and your main daily responsibilities.

My main responsibilities are loving my husband and my daughter well, leading our team, making sure the priorities are getting accomplished in the studio, over delivering to our clients, and producing content for the Nancy Ray Shop.

6:00 I enjoy a hot cup of coffee on the couch while reading scripture and whatever other current book I'm reading (usually something business or non-fiction), and then I snuggle and play with my sweet girl whenever she wakes up.
7:00 A 2 or 3 mile run followed by a shower, if my daughter's wake up time allows for it.
8:00 Our wonderful nanny Rachel arrives, so I usually take 15 minutes to debrief her on what needs to be done around our home.
8:15 I plan my day in my Simplified Planner (hour by hour)
8:30 If I'm honest, I'll check emails and answer anything that feels a bit urgent. But for the most part, I try not to open my inbox until noon.
9:00 Callie arrives (she works with me in the studio), so we touch base about daily priorities.
9:30 Deep Work. This is new for me, but I'm loving it. I try to work without being interrupted on some important project (usually producing something for the Nancy Ray Shop), until Noon.
12:00 Lunch break, snuggle Milly, touch base with the hubs.
12:30 Emails, communicating with the team and clients, filling out interviews like this one!
3:00 Editing, Blogging, re-write my list for the following day
4:00 Work ends, life begins! I usually play with Milly in our living room, take her and Winston for a walk, or occasionally I'll ask our nanny to stay until 5 so I can work a bit longer.
6:00 Dinner
7:00 Bath and Bedtime for Milly
8:00 Will time! We catch up about our days, and maybe watch a show together (Currently re-watching The Office. Never gets old.)
8:45 Bedtime prep: make coffee for the next day, take the dog out, clean the kitchen, etc
9:00 Reading in bed
10:00 Lights out!

What do you wish you had more time for?

Right now I wish I had more time to clean out my house. It's work, but it's not officially work, so I don't want to do it on the weekends or evenings! Also, reading.

What is one thing you always make time for?

A conversation with my husband at the end of the day to connect with him. Running 2 - 3x / week. Reading, even if it's just 15 minutes a day. I just always feel like there's more to learn and more I can read, so sometimes it's a challenge to just be content with what I do read for that day.

How do you manage your schedule?

iCal is where I put all of my big appointments with clients, family and friends. My Simplified Planner (by Emily Ley) is how I plan my daily schedule. Our studio uses Wunderlist for shared work tasks.

How do you find the balance between work and home?

I always feared becoming a mother, because I didn't know what it would do to my work. I also feared mama-guilt and work guilt, how I would never feel like I have time for both. Thankfully, someone told me before I got pregnant (when I was processing these fears!) that life as a working mama is just going to look different for me, and that is OKAY. Step into it. I love my work and GOODNESS I love my girl. More than I ever imagined. And I love my husband to pieces and our marriage is our priority. With all of that said, you just have to simply create a schedule and then stick to it. Being a working mama, I have to plan date nights and put them on the calendar. I have to plan time with Milly and put "park time" on the calendar. And similarly, I have to follow through on my work plans and commitments as well. When I plan in advance and think through life intentionally, I can let go of this guilt and know that I'm making time for my husband, for my baby, and for my business. And it's all good.

Tell us one thing that you have learned about managing a busy life.

Having a Sabbath is of utmost importance. As a follower of Jesus for most of my life, I truly hadn't learned the importance of Sabbath until just recently. Each week, planning ahead and setting apart a day for true rest is so key to a busy life. It refuels me, it allows for quality family time, it releases all kinds of stress. I never knew I needed it as much as I did until I started truly implementing it.

What is one piece of advice you would give readers about managing their own schedule?

Everyone, EVERYONE has the same hours in the day. We all tend to exaggerate our own lives and how busy we are. If you find yourself doing that, take a step back and analyze things. If you are living a stressed out life, it's time to take an assessment, then make a change. Don't blame your schedule for not having time for _____. If it's important to you, you'll change your life and make time for it. And the beauty of it is... you can! We can! We can determine how we spend our time. It's a beautiful thing, really!

Also, read the book 168 Hours. It won't disappoint!

Follow along with Nancy

If you are interested in contributing to this series, or know of someone you would like to see featured, send me an email at and let me know!