There is a certain ebb & flow to running a studio. Certain times of the year tend to be a race to the start … or finish, depending on the time of year. And, it can feel like getting balance is a pipe dream.
In the past, these busy times were the ones that I’ve found myself saying, “I’ll get everything done. Right? Sure. I just need make it to the end of [insert event].” Or, “Balance!?!”, I exclaimed. “How am I supposed to fit that in!?!”
This illusion of perfect balance becomes that one more thing that we judge ourselves for. That somehow because we don’t have perfect balance at all times we have failed.
You haven’t failed if you don’t have perfect balance every day.
It took me a long time to learn that. And to start working WITH the ebb & flow of my studio, instead of against it.
The life of a studio owner
The life of a studio owner or teacher is full of ebbs & flows. Busy times where it seems like everything won’t get done. The hours are long, the problems or tasks keep piling up, & that smile seems a little more forced. “Don’t look at the man [or woman] behind the curtain!” And, other times where we can take a deep breath & feel our shoulders fall away from our ears.
Years ago, I heard something that changed my life.
There is no such thing as perfect work-life balance.
You always have to take from one to give to the other.
The speaker went on to explain that even if you work a 9 – 5 job, there isn’t a 50/50 split between your work & personal life. At least not once you factor in sleep time.
After doing the math myself, I realized that weekends made it much closer to 50/50 (assuming only 40 hours a week for work which isn’t the case for many employees). But again, this isn’t a 50/50 split each day. Getting balance with a ‘traditional’ job is over the course of a week. And, WE aren’t traditional.
Ebb & flow refers to the pattern water follows. In tide terms, the flow refers to when the water comes IN to shore. Not just when it laps onto shore, but also over the course of the day & much longer.
For many studio owners & teachers, this “flow” of tasks comes at certain times of year.
- Right before school starts & regular lessons begin
- Registration time for both returning & new students
- Before performances, like recitals
- Before exams
And if more than one of these events is going on at the same time, that flow becomes a full-on tidal wave. Getting balance becomes just keeping your head above the water.
Ebb is the phase when water LEAVES the shore. Whether it’s gentle laps leaving the shore, low tide, or seasonal changes in the water level, there’s a pattern to how water behaves “in the wild” (as opposed to the water in my “i love you mom” mug next to me).
This “ebb” usually comes after:
- Students have settled in after the start of term
- Registration is done … or at least to the point you have enough income coming in
- The day after recital (or perhaps an hour after everyone has left)
- You find out your students rocked their exams
The relaxation we have at these moments feels better than a day at the spa. I know. Those are bold words indeed. No need for getting balance we think. It’s a perfect moment in time.
Getting balance over time
Getting balance isn’t about making every day, or even every week, perfectly balanced. I’m sure there a few people out there that have managed this. But us mere mortals can be a little kinder to ourselves.
Create balance when the ebb & flow isn’t natural
In the week before our studio recital I had 4 big projects due. Part of it was timing thrown off from earlier in the year. Part of it was not staying on top of my calendar like I should. But the end result was that I was the one saying, “I got this. Right? Absolutely [said with no conviction whatsoever]. I got this.”
Realistically, I had 2 choices.
- Just dig down, get everything done & keep going at the speed I was going originally.
- Just dig down, get everything done …. AND change my plans for the following week so I got an ebb (break) from the hectic schedule.
I chose #2.
Honestly, it required cutting back on my expectations for what I would accomplish in the projects during my busy week. Instead of everything being absolutely perfect, I chose to get things done. And not a single person judged me … even when there was a mistake.
It also required cutting back on what I would get done the week after our recital. Instead of creating resources from scratch (which is what I have done for most things), I looked in my bookshelf for 5 minutes & pulled resources that would accomplish the same thing. It took letting go of my selfish pride & realizing that I could still be proud of what we were doing in the studio even if I hadn’t been the architect of every last part of it.
What can you let go of? What can be ‘good enough’ rather than ‘perfect’?
Getting balance sometimes means letting go of expectations.
The big secret
I’m going to let you in on a secret.
It’s about the moments.
The moment you & your student smile at each other during a duet or improvisation.
The moment you & your student laugh because their dog jumped in on the video for their recital intro (true story).
It’s the moment you & a parent gush over a milestone after lesson.
Or, the moment a parent tells you they shared the photo you took of their child to EVERY family member.
You know what it isn’t about? The perfectly designed everything.
This is a hard one for me to remember. Really hard.
Those recital intros? Nothing we did changed the fact the audio wasn’t working at the venue. So, my students did their intros live. And if they were really young, I held the microphone & ‘interviewed’ them.
I was frazzled which meant I forgot to explain about the compliment cards until 3 songs in & my husband had to remind me I had made (read “slaved over”) books for my students. This was in between signalling the AV tech & my mom (who was awesome & took pictures). It was quietly saying goodbye to a student who had to leave early.
Getting balance? That was ALL about looking calm during the recital & taking a break once it was all over. I DID have fun. I just did it while having a million thoughts going through my mind.
And, you know what? No one mentioned the mistakes. The parents, grandparents & friends all raved about the recital. They LOVED that the students would get compliments from the attendees. The students LOVED they got a book of everyone’s compositions. And, every grandparent came up to me & told me how much they LOVED that students had created something of their own to share. They talked about those shared smiles & laughs.
Parents, grandparents, friends … the common theme was how much they loved the EXPERIENCE.
It’s okay if everything isn’t perfect. The truth is that people want to feel appreciated & heard. Parents want a teacher that cheers on their kid & wants the best for them. And, yes. There are exceptions to these truths. There always will be. But, we don’t have to live for the exceptions.
Get balance in the studio of your dreams
You don’t have to burn yourself out to create an experience.
It’s about figuring out what is important to you. And, making studio policies that match up with those priorities. Then creating a studio over time with people that have those SAME priorities.
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