Batching Your Way to An Easier Life

As I was looking at my (long) list of goals for 2017, I realized that if I actually want to reach these goals some changes to my schedule needed to happen.  How could I make the most of each moment I had available without feeling like I had become a robot?

In these first few weeks of January, I’ve reverted back to what I did in university those many, many years ago.  I broke down my list of what I needed & wanted to accomplish into  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.

To help you make the most of your time this year, I’m including my time-tested strategies for scheduling the administrative & teaching sides of my studio.

batching-your-way-to-an-easier-life

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 groups of students together & admin tasks together.  Any parent or teacher can tell you that it is hugely frustrating to be focused on one thing & 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!

Start with your personal commitments

It is very easy to fill up our schedule with more & 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 & 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 & friends, time to pursue interests beyond professional development?

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, & 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.  

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 & 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 & just teach longer hours Tuesday through Thursday.

If you don’t budget time for the administrative side of the studio that time will come from somewhere.  That time may be your sleep, exercise, professional development, or even your personal or family times.  

Be kind to yourself & put it in the schedule at the beginning.

In order to determine how long it took me to complete various tasks, I have been using the “Hours” app to track various parts of my life.

  • How long do I REALLY spend travelling & teaching? (Turns out I like to visit though that isn’t a big surprise to me.  But, it is something to watch going forward.)
  • How long does it ACTUALLY take me to create & upload the social media for my studio? (Depends on  the time of day I work on it: my perfectionist tendencies come out at odd times.)
  • There are SO MANY great resources out there.  But, did I go down the rabbit hole while I was supposed to be prepping lessons? (Sometimes, but it sure was fun … until I had to give up something else to get the planning done.)
  • Did I TRULY spend my full piano practice time focused on piano? (Now that I need to hit a pause button before leaving the piano … yes.  It just feels 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 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 (& 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.

If you would like a template of the weekly schedule I use, head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store to download it.

Your Tried & Tested Schedulers

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?

Have a great weekend!

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