How To Take A Vacation When You’re A Piano Teacher

How to Take a Vacation When You’re a Piano Teacher

Let’s face it.  As piano teachers, we all love a good break.  But, do we really know how to take a vacation?  Or, inevitably do we end up in the office/studio/couch getting work done instead of taking a real break?

Getting Ready For Vacation

Please tell me if this sounds familiar.

Scrambling the last weeks, days and minutes before vacation to get everything done.  Only to find a few days later there is something that has popped up that “has” to be taken care of.

I’ll admit that there have been years the hours were longer going into Christmas vacation.  The to-do list was long.  The possible tasks that “should” be done weren’t getting any shorter.  And, wouldn’t you know that when this happens … I start to dream about resources for students after the break?  WHY!  I don’t have time to do anything about the ideas at that point!

Do you find yourself rushing to get “everything” done before Vacation (with a capital V) starts?  And, do you find that the list seems to grow rather than shrink?

Vacation: The Goal

Thankfully, my husband reminds me this is completely normal.  The chances of a million ideas going through my brain at all times are pretty high.  And, I’ve dreamt about teaching many times in the past.  Nor will it be the last.

So, why the rush before the holidays?  Because I am working towards a goal.  No work over the break.  Unless I get a great idea and want to follow the rabbit hole for fun.  Or, I want to get a jump start on a fun composing project.  In which case, is it actually work?

What is your goal?

If your goal is to take a vacation … a real break, then you need to be specific about what needs to be done and what are nice-to-get-done tasks.

You only have so much time and energy.  And, you deserve to have time off to recharge.

The Ideal Vacation

We all have an ideal vacation.  Maybe it’s being active outdoors, family activities or watching your favourite streaming service.

What does the ideal vacation look like for you?  What will you do (or not do)?

For me, my ideal vacation is:

  • Sleeping in,
  • A lazier start to the day,
  • Spending time with my family,
  • Lots of tea, books, video games and other games,
  • Spending time on my own (I’m still very much an introvert),
  • Freedom to follow the rabbit hole of new ideas … if I want.

See, I know myself.  Those dreams about teaching aren’t going to miraculously go away because I’m on vacation.  Oh, no.  Those ideas are going to hit full force after a few days’ break.  And, that means giving myself the freedom to geek out, be creative, or get lost in research … at least for a little bit.

A big part of having your ideal vacation is being realistic about what that may look like.

If you have babies or young kids, chances are sleeping in won’t happen for a few years. But, maybe putting on noise-cancelling headphones while they nap or watch a show can give you those moments of peace instead.

Or, you could become all grumpy “momma bear” like I was and let the kids know they have a chance to watch an extra show … so long as they are silent and let you nap. Yup, they learnt not to mess with mom’s sleep. Just because they didn’t need an afternoon nap didn’t mean I was ready to give them up. Some people need coffee. I needed afternoon naps to get through the day. Whatever works for you.

How to Take a Vacation

There are a few key steps necessary to take a vacation.

1. Edit Your To-Do List Ruthlessly

There is no way to get “everything” done when new ideas or tasks come up each day.  Only do what has to happen.  And, let go of the rest.  Be ruthless as you decide what is a need and what is a want.

“But I can’t!” you might say. Think about it this way. If you had to step away from your business tomorrow, what would be the tasks on that list that couldn’t wait a day or two? You’ll be surprised what can be taken off the list when it becomes that dire. Plus, check #4 on this list.

2. Give Everyone a Vacation

I know many teachers are thinking about how to keep students playing over the holidays.  And, I have as well.

Remember that everyone wants a vacation.  A challenge may not be the right decision for already tired families.  Yes, it’s great to get students playing every day.  Yes, it’s great they learn songs on their own.  A Zoom concert for family members would be fantastic.

Is this what your students and their families are needing right now?

Instead of a challenge, I’ve told my students and their parents that I love getting pictures and videos from them.  Whether it’s a first snowboarding session, playing a song they learnt through a YouTube tutorial, an original song, or “just” a picture of my students smiling, I have loved getting each text or email.

3. Focus On Relationships

You are more than “just” someone who teaches kids music.  You have a relationship with each family that goes beyond lessons (I hope).

Keeping that relationship strong over the holidays is more important than any musical progress your student can make.

Relationships are what keep students in your studio.  Not the spreadsheet of carefully sequenced musical concepts mastered.  There is a caveat here.  If students don’t make progress at all, chances are they won’t stay no matter how much they love lessons.  But, vacation time is not the time to worry about that progress.

We also need relationships outside of our studio.  Vacation is the perfect time to spend a bit of extra time with those people.  Whether it is a family game night, sharing dessert with family/friends (in person or online) or texting/calling a friend, these relationships are important.  They keep us grounded and open to new ideas.

4.  Remember the World Won’t End

As much as I would like to believe that my students will notice if I don’t create everything from scratch, the reality is they don’t notice.  They notice if they are having fun and learning.  Not necessarily what form that fun and learning takes.

Even with ruthlessly editing your to-do list, there is a chance at least 1 or 2 items won’t get done.  That’s okay.  The world won’t end.

What happens if you don’t create that from-scratch new activity for your students?  Can you purchase a version of it?  Can you simplify the activity so it takes less time to prepare?

I’ve had to do this many times over the years.  My ideas can sometimes get a life of their own and quickly spiral out of control.  And, yes my husband and mom need to tell me the world won’t end if I simplify or (gasp) don’t do the activity at all.  As much as I like to be right all the time … in this, they are always right.  They’re quite wise, aren’t they?

Keep in mind your ideal vacation.  And, don’t let some items on the to-do list steamroll over it!

5.  Give Yourself Time

Time is the one thing that we can’t get back.  Vacation time is even more fleeting, so set aside time for yourself.

Maybe you’re like me and need time to geek out, be creative, or get lost in research.  Or, maybe you need time to step away from everything for a bit.

What you need this vacation may not be what you needed your last vacation.  Make time for what you need right now, whether that is time with others or by yourself.

The secret of how to take a vacation is to make time for what is truly important to you.

Take a Vacation

As we head into the break, use these 5 steps to ensure you take a vacation.  A real vacation filled with what you want to do.  This is the best thing you can do to combat burnout, get inspired, and make a difference in the lives of our studio families!

And here is one last tip. Let your clients and students know that you are taking a holiday as well. For students, share some of the things you may be doing in common (like playing games with family). For clients, let them know you take this time to recharge so you can be your best when you see their child again after the break. You’ll be surprised at how understanding and encouraging they can be when they see you taking care of yourself!

Do you have any questions about how to take a vacation from your piano studio?

Let me know in the comments below!

NOTE: This article was originally published on December 16, 2020. It has since been updated with new ideas and stories.

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