How Batch Your Way to the Good Life in Your Studio!

How to Batch Your Way to the Good Life

Do you ever get the sense that your goals and the time to complete them aren’t in alignment?  How could do make the most of each moment without feeling like a robot?  Or worse, forgetting to listen to your body as you push through the days and weeks?  One of the best ways to reach goals … and still have a healthy, balanced life is to batch tasks together.

Back in university (those many, many years ago), I was an English major for my education degree.  What does this mean?  Reading.  A.  Lot.  As in hours every-single-day.

To help you make the most of your time this year, these are my time-tested strategies for batching tasks for both the administrative and teaching sides of my studio.

To make this happen, I broke down my list of what I needed and wanted to accomplish into semester, monthly, then weekly goals.  After that, it was fairly easy to set up goals for each day so I could read all those novels, play, poems, textbook chapters, etc. in time for each week’s classes.

Batch Your Time Into Categories

Whether you travel or have your students come to you (or combinations of both), it is incredibly important to batch tasks together.  Any parent or teacher can tell you that it is hugely frustrating to be focused on one thing and then consistently get interrupted.  

Much of the early years of my studio involved my twins doing their best to get my attention every 30-seconds or so.  (Which led to the realization that I needed to set up my work so it happened either when they were at school or I was out of our home.)  Now, I batch activities so that I can achieve flow … that wonderful state when I am completely engaged in the activity at hand!

1.  Start With Your Personal Commitments

It is very easy to fill up our schedule with more and more students.  But when we do so without making time for the other priorities in our life, it is an easy way to burn out.

For myself, weekends (Friday afternoon to Sunday night) have become family time.  When I first started teaching, I took on any students I could get.  It is what most of us do.  

I loved the family I taught on Saturdays.  And, when I found out they were moving out of the country I was sad to see them go because I had seen their family grow over the years.  

But, my husband was tired of taking the boys to every single birthday party on the weekends and being the only dad in attendance.  (It was a happy coincidence that for a couple years they all lined up on days I was teaching, but I don’t think he really believes me.)  Plus, I was wanting to spend lazy Saturday mornings with my family, rather than being out of the house around the time they woke up.  

At that point, those hours transferred from business to personal.

What does YOUR ideal schedule look like?   Does it include time for yourself, time for family and friends, time to pursue interests beyond professional development?

Rosemarie Penner

2.  Add in Possible Teaching Hours

Notice I put “possible” teaching hours.  There is a lot more to running a successful studio that just showing up to teach students.  So, give yourself the time.

How much time do you need to budget per student?

This includes teaching hours, prep for lessons (including new repertoire), communication with family during the week, and travel time (if you travel).

Once you have determined your available teaching hours, find the blocks of time that would work well for scheduling students.  Is it morning, after the kids are at school?  Is it right after school or does teaching into the evening work for you as well?

Another important consideration is when your energy tends to lag.  If you will be yawning all the way through a 7:30 pm lesson, better to stop teaching earlier in the day than come across as unprofessional.  

Teaching when you know you will consistently be tired does a disservice to both you AND your student.

Rosemarie Penner

3.  Add in Office Hours

While I have listed this as a third “step” it really is concurrent with scheduling students.  After all, we need both sides to be successful.

In my schedule, I have blocked off Mondays and Fridays as office days.  Have you noticed that the majority of holidays fall on those days?  Even when I originally taught on those days, it was always a matter of determining if something was a stat holiday, a ‘big enough’ holiday to warrant a cancelled lesson, or just needed to be taught.  

To top it all off, after all that thinking on my part, families tended to cancel anyways whenever there was the possibility of a long weekend.  Now, I make it easy and just teach longer hours Tuesday through Thursday.

If you don’t budget time for admin tasks, that time will come from somewhere.  That time may be your sleep, exercise, or even your personal time.   Be kind to yourself and put it in the schedule at the beginning.

How Batch Your Way to the Good Life in Your Studio!

Track Time … If You Haven’t Already

In order to determine how long it took me to complete various tasks, I use the Toggl app to track various parts of my life.

These are some of the questions to ask yourself.

  • How long do you spend travelling and teaching? 
  • How long does it take to create and upload social media or other marketing for your studio? 
  • There are SO MANY great resources out there.  But, did you go down the rabbit hole while prepping lessons? 
  • Do you spend your full piano practice time focused on piano?  Or, did other things pop up?

While it wasn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me, I like to visit with my families.  But, it was something to watch going forward.  I had to decide whether padding my schedule for that extra time was worth it for me.  It may not have been as profitable, but the relationships I built with my clients were worth it.

One of the best ways to control my marketing and research times were to schedule them in.  Trying to work in my office Fridays after lunch is typically an exercise in futility because I’m distracted.  But, siting on the couch and researching ideas works great.  So long as it’s the early stages of research and my mind can just assimilate the information, rather than plan.

Going down a rabbit hole or engaging in squirrel syndrome sure is fun … until you have to give up something else to get the planning done.  Batch the things you need to get done … so you can focus on the important stuff.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of having to hit a pause button before leaving the piano or a task.  Because surprisingly, it really can feel like too much work to press the button.

A (Not So) Fancy Schmancy Schedule

Creating a schedule can be as easy or complex as you like it.  While I do like having a digital calendar that travels with me wherever I go, having a simple paper schedule of what a typical week looks like can be very useful as well.

My weekly schedule tends to look the same, so having an outline of that schedule means my family knows when I am going to be teaching (and when I am incognito in the office).

It has also helped immensely when I get prospective student requests for quickly seeing if their preferred time(s) work for me or whether they will be waiting with bated breath for a little bit longer.

And it means I can batch tasks to certain days or times of the week!

For example, one morning a week I focus on lesson plans for students in my studio.  This is when:

  • Lesson plans/practice pages are updated
  • Pull together books for students if they have chosen a new song
  • Mark lab assignments … and make notes if we need to cover that topic further in lesson
  • Check that we are still in alignment with the overall annual plan

Another morning, I will focus on writing articles or getting social media images ready.

Typically in the afternoons I set aside downtime for myself.  I know that I have a lull in my energy so anything I do has to take that into account.  And, if I am teaching that evening?  I make sure I’m well rested so I can head into teaching with full energy … right to the last minute.

Don’t try to be 100% on tasks every moment of your day.  It’s just not possible to maintain.  Instead batch tasks at the peak times of the day and week for you.

How Do You Batch Tasks for Your Studio?

I would love to hear from you!  

What is your favourite way to track you overall schedule?  Is it all tech or old school paper?

And, have you tried to batch tasks in your studio?

NOTE: This is a rewrite of an article from January 20, 2017.  It still has the same great content, but is updated with even more helpful tips!

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