We may all have the same 24 hours each day, but what happens during those 24 hours varies greatly from person to person. Trying to find work-life balance when running a studio and teaching outside of a 9 to 5 situation adds an extra challenge. This is why time management is so important for busy piano teachers.
Be Honest About Time Crunches
I found my time reduced greatly once I became a mom. And even though my twins are independent teens now, there still seems to be quite a bit of time spent on “mom” tasks. Somehow I thought this would reduce as they got older. It has, just not necessarily in a consistent manner. Perhaps you can relate.
Ladder of Priorities
Knowing your priorities is the first step in time management. If you don’t make choices based on your priorities, it doesn’t matter what fantastic system you use … it will never feel quite right. And, chances are you’ll burn out before too long.
I’ve used the “Ladder of Priorities” for decades. It’s given me the ability to change my approach at each stage of my life. It’s also helped me know what to say no to (another important skill). Be sure to watch the video below for a step-by-step guide through this incredible exercise.
A Realistic Look
Once you know your priorities, you’ll be looking at how much time you actually have. Look at what personal commitments you have. Do you need to:
- Drop off or pick up the kids from school?
- Take care of an ageing parent?
- Set aside time for volunteer work you do?
If mornings tend to be unpredictable, don’t schedule office time at that point. Give yourself a buffer that allows you to start at a reasonable time. I was reminded of that when it was colder than -30° centigrade and my kids (plus one of their friends) needed a ride to school. Even though they should text if they need a ride home or having something lined up, there’s always a chance my afternoon plans may suddenly change as well.
There are many things that can change how much time you really have each day. No point in waking up at 5 am for an incredible 2-hour morning routine if it means you’re:
- Exhausted by the time the kids get up,
- Too tired to spend quality time with your significant other by the evening, or
- Unable to meet the needs of others (whether human or pet).
Be realistic about the time you actually have. Trust me. You’ll be much happier and relaxed if you are honest with yourself!
Be Honest About Your Workflow
It’s hard to be honest with ourselves, isn’t it? It feels so much better to assume you can get lesson planning, social media or other projects done quickly.
Until you are faced with the fact that those projects aren’t getting done in the time you budgeted. Then, it feels pretty crappy.
Something that recently came up in a morning meditation was about awareness.
Being aware of how long it really takes to complete an admin task doesn’t have to include judgement. You can make changes later about what can be done to streamline the process. Neither berating yourself for not being faster or burying your head in the sand makes your time management skills any better. Easier said than done, I know.
Even now, I time track nearly everything when it comes to my work and professional development time. I love using Toggl because it’s free and the reports allow me to make informed decisions about which projects I can realistically take on with my current schedule.
Once you have an awareness of how long tasks take (plus what tasks you need to add to your schedule), watch “Setting a Planning Routine” and Setting a Admin Routine“. In each of these videos, I walk you through the types of tasks that are on my schedule and ways to get to them during the week.
I’ve been talking about batching since at least 2017 (though probably earlier). This time management tip has been one of the best ones I’ve incorporated!
In a nutshell, batching is putting together tasks that are similar so you can stay in an optimal focus state. The specifics of the approach have changed for me over the years, but it has always been a tool that helps me make the most of limited time. Personally, I think the best approaches are ones we can adapt to the different stages or times in our lives.
Watch “5 Ways To Batch Your Way to The Good Life” for practical ideas on incorporating this into your schedule.
Batching and time blocking are related. Batching is combining similar tasks. Time blocking is the practical application of batching.
I’ve tried everything from a wall calendar + schedule, white board for my to-do list, bullet journal, and much more. All in the name of time management. Some worked better than others. Some worked for a time, but then fell to the wayside.
Technology Can Be Your Friend
My current favourite time management solution is digital. I value being able to:
- Visually see what is on my schedule (both personal and business) each week
- See what is on my to-do list regardless of where I am: office, couch, enjoying breakfast, got an idea while I’m out and about
- Practice non-judgement by easily and quickly moving or deleting a task at the end of my workday
- See the progress I’m making towards project goals
Ironically, having this ease of access has made it easier for me to step away from work at the end of my work day. Saving time and energy with keeping studio info at my digital fingertips takes away a lot of the stress I used to feel.
Make conscious decisions about how you schedule the time you do have available. Having all that information in one place makes it so much easier!
P.S. Over the summer my time management approach is very different. Between a much more flexible schedule and never knowing when I’ll head into my office, use paper and erasable pens works much better for my to-do list. Changing things up depending on what your schedule is like allows you to focus on the here and now … not what you “should” be doing.
Systems and Templates
While all these other time management tips work incredibly well, there are two things that will help you save time over the long haul. Systems and templates.
These are my secret “weapons” when it comes to how I went from stressed out to successful studio owner.
Systems take away much of the decision fatigue we face as entrepreneurs and teachers. You know your process for planning lessons (including big picture planning), scheduling social media and creating studio newsletters.
Templates save you from reinventing the wheel. Even when something needs to be tweaked, starting from a template saves time. You wouldn’t expect a student to start with finding the musical alphabet on the piano before playing Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude. You shouldn’t force yourself to start from the beginning when it comes to admin tasks either.
Using both of these has removed a lot of the decision fatigue I used to experience by the afternoon or end of day. Not sure if you have decision fatigue? If trying to figure out what to have for dinner seems too overwhelming, chance are you have decision fatigue.
Time Management For Busy Piano Teachers
Time management isn’t a one and done thing. The strategies and approach that work today may not work when your life changes. That’s why having a flexible approach is best.
5 time management tips for busy piano teachers are:
- Be honest with yourself about your priorities and how much time you have each day.
- Track your time so you know how long tasks and projects really take.
- Batch tasks to stay focused longer.
- Use technology to help you make informed decisions about what goes on your schedule.
- Use systems and templates to reduce your workload over the long-term.
Which of these tips was an eye opener for you?
Get personalized time management help with a 1-on-1 consulation with me! I specialize in helping teachers like you use technology to reduce their admin time so they can focus on the things they actually want to do.