It seems like we never have enough time in lesson to get everything covered, let alone anything remotely close to resembling everything. Between ensuring that our student truly can play that new section independently, parents needing (or wanting) to talk with us, or any of a million other situations, time has a way of rushing forward with or without us. And, before we know it … we are BEHIND SCHEDULE!
When you travel to your students’ homes, this situation becomes even more stressful. Parents tend to be understanding about the occasional 5 minutes late due to unexpected traffic delays or weather conditions that make driving less safe (i.e. snow, ice, fog). I feel that if I am late to lesson, it is up to me to makeup that time. In the past, this has meant towards the end of an evening of teaching I have had to call or text families letting them know I will be up to 15 minutes late. Thankfully, this has rarely happened & parents have been understanding about the delay. But … it just isn’t an ideal situation.
Over the years, I have developed tips that keep me on schedule & minimize the risk of needing to call or text families about delays.
Tips for managing time on the road
- Google Maps: When scheduling for a new year, enter new addresses into Google Maps to find out the estimated travel time. Then, ADD 5 minutes (or more depending on what time of the day I will be travelling.) This 5 minutes is your buffer. Some days, people seem to insist of driving turtle speed in every single lane or you hit all possible red lights between each home. Don’t stress. You have a buffer.
- Be honest about your families (& how you want to handle conversations): Is there a parent who usually has a question about their child(ren) or wants to share how the week went for practice? You have TWO choices. Let them know you need to run. (Valid reason, but not necessarily great for client relations or future referrals for that parent.) OR. Add another 5 minute buffer for that family. Both parents in one of my families are teachers in the school system. We have often shared apps or tech ideas which have been of benefit to us both. Adding a 5 minute buffer for this family has been beneficial in so many ways (including referrals). At the end of 5 minutes, I say goodbye & move on to the next home. There is no right answer for this situation. It is really what works for you. Knowing up front how you will handle this situation makes it much easier to deal with in the moment.
- Set expectations up front: Winter in Calgary begins in September or October & we have a rule about gardening. Planting before the May long weekend (mid/end of the month) is a big no-no! Unless you have a greenhouse or like running outside to cover new seedlings & plants with protective coverings from the snow. But, I digress. Let new clients know that the lesson time is approximate. Great driving conditions mean that you may arrive a few minutes early. The worse the driving conditions, the more likely there may be a small delay in your arrival. Because families travel through the snow/sleet/ice/fog all winter, they tend to be very understanding that the teacher is driving through those conditions as well.
- Schedule smart: When setting the schedule, block students in the same community together as much as possible. When that isn’t possible, schedule a path that gets you progressively closer to home. By the end of the evening I just want to be with my family, not feeling like I am backtracking through areas of the city I have already traveled. While parents will naturally be focused on what is best for THEIR family, again they tend to be pretty understanding when you explain when you will be in or close to their community. I tell potential new clients that the more I need to drive around, the less energy & focus I can give to their child(ren) in lesson. Giving them a compelling reason that focuses on the benefit to THEIR family usually does the trick.
- Professional development on the go: Travelling to students’ homes does take away time that could be put to other uses for our business & professional growth. One of the best decisions I have made is to listen to podcasts while driving. Not only have I gotten back some of the time lost, but I often arrive at lesson brimming with new ideas & enthusiasm! To save on your data plan, download any podcasts or audio books you would like to listen to your phone. Doing this has meant that my minimum data plan never gets used up fully. Bonus tip: Be sure to have the wireless for your students’ homes also saved into your devices. You save on data & have a (usually) secure connection to easily send photos/videos/etc. to parents or students during lesson time.
Your Top Time Management Tips For On the Road
I like to think that I am getting better as I get older … and, I am sure you do as well! The above tips are the result of years of experimenting on what worked for me. What are some of the tips or tricks you have found help you manage your time on the road?
If you are a teacher who teaches in a studio, how do you manage your time during business errands? (i.e. picking up books/music/supplies, checking out recital venues, etc.)
Have a great weekend!