Typically I like to start my summer “vacation” with a look at the big picture. After all, a little big picture planning goes a long way for my online piano studio. No one wants to spend all of their vacation working on studio projects. But, no one wants to be flooded with work when they get back from vacation. So, what to do?
Outline Your Year
When it’s time for me to start planning out the upcoming year, I pull up my spreadsheet template and begin filling in:
- Teaching weeks
- Group lesson weeks and the theme for each
- Vacation time
- Warm-up themes
- Student challenges
- Lab themes
- Possible recital weeks
- Special notes as needed
While I still need to find or create the resources for each section, my resource shopping and planning can be much more focused.
A short amount of planning now will save you weeks of time during the upcoming school year.
Making an outline of what you will cover over the course of the year will:
- Ensure you focus on your studio mission
- Let you see the progression of skills and challenges throughout the year
- Avoid spending money on resources you just won’t use
- Save time during the year since a quick check of your outline keeps you and your students moving forward
Batching Your Work
In the past few years, I’ve realized how much more efficient it is to batch tasks. Especially those tasks that are routine and tend to be shoved to the bottom of the to-do list.
Batching tasks has helped create more free time for other things, like piano practice, spending time with my family, or just curling up with a great book.
I have a confession though. It wasn’t always this way.
One night I was once again scrambling to get my studio’s monthly newsletter out to my clients. It had been a year of unexpected calls and appointments which meant I was behind on my administrative tasks. So, I madly wrote and double-checked everything before hitting the send button. As I left my office to go say goodnight to my kidlets, I realized that something needed to change. This way of doing the newsletters just wasn’t working.
Thankfully, I realized I could batch my studio newsletters ahead of time so I wasn’t scrambling last minute! Wow. While I initially felt silly for taking so long to figure that out, it has become part of my planning process. And, I haven’t looked back since!
All it takes is TWO days. Two days of writing and scheduling to have 11 months of newsletters complete. All that the time and energy I had put into the newsletters each month … I can spend it on something else! Imagine what you could do throughout the year with this extra time.
Writing a newsletter (even one that goes out every month) can be easy and quick once you start entering in the information from your planning outline. You can include information on:
- Monthly themes
- Student challenges
- Important dates: first lesson, group lessons, vacation, studio events
- Links to registering for studio events
Once you have your planning outline done, it is easy to batch monthly newsletters for the upcoming year.
Batch Tasks to Save Time
We wear a lot of hats, don’t we?andnbsp; Teaching, marketing, social media, bookkeeping … it all adds up.
Some of the other tasks you can batch are:
- Social media: create templates, make images for holidays (even better if they can be used year to year)
- Bookkeeping: set up recurring invoices, reminder emails, receipt templates
- Teaching: practice page templates, themed activities (different focus, same template)
- Marketing:andnbsp; templates for promotions you will have throughout the year
Looking at what tasks can be batched together saves you time in the long run.
Focusing on one thing at a time frees up your memory so you can do the things you enjoy!
Rather than trying to focus on (what feels like) a million things at once during the year, stay hyper-focused on one thing at a time.
This is especially important if you travel teach or teach online.andnbsp; There is a little more prep that goes into having everything at your fingertips while making it look effortless.andnbsp; Batching the admin stuff gives you more time to focus on making lessons great!andnbsp; And, it makes it possible to set aside time weekly to scan digital copies of games, music, etc. to screenshare during lessons.andnbsp;
P.S. Please be sure to follow copyright laws and usage rights from each publisher. Typically you can show it on screen, but sharing it digitally with a student is a whole other kettle of fish.
A Little Planning Goes a Long Way
I’ll admit that I love my job and figuring out ways to inspire my students. Doing some work over the summer isn’t a hardship at all.
But, I also look forward to lazy mornings, eating dinner out on the deck, gardening, reading way too many novels, and visiting family.
It can be easy to forget this, right? Especially with the tasks we least like to do. Wink. Wink.
In the summer of 2020, I lost this. Even though I was at times putting in 10 hour days to “catch up” after Covid hit, the summer ended without me ever feeling like I’d had a break. It took a long time to truly find my balance again even though I didn’t realize just how lost it had been.
If this sounds like you, that’s okay! We all have times when we lose our balance a bit (or a lot). Now is the time to prioritize what needs to be done so you can take a break. What can you batch that will give you time later?
Make Your Planning Count
Over the summer (or any time of year), make sure each project has a specific reason for being completed. And, schedule each project for a specific week.
Now, before you go ahead and schedule out every single week with a boatload of projects … remember, it’s about what needs to be done to save you time later. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend your studio newsletter. This is one area of our admin that tends to have a lot of recurring dates and events. Save all your newsletters so they become templates year after year! I promise it will become faster after your first year.
That’s right! You can have your cake and eat it too. Or, if one of my kids had written this it might be “You can have your pie and eat it too!”
If you are looking for a little extra help sorting through the clutter to make your planning hyper-focused, I offer individual private coaching sessions for teachers and studio owners.
Let me know in the comments below …
How do you make your limited time count?
NOTE: This article was originally published June 22, 2018 and has been updated since then. Don’t worry though! It’s got the same great ideas plus more support to help you make the most of your limited planning time.