Creating balance between work and life is not easy. When I first started my business I vastly OVER-estimated my ‘free’ time & vastly UNDER-estimated the time I needed to complete basic administrative & teaching tasks (let alone projects). My twins were going into preschool 3 mornings a week & I thought, “Great! I have all this free time & can take on more students. Easy!” The reality was that I didn’t accurately budget my time & felt like I spent most of that year telling the boys, “Yes, sweetheart. But, mommy needs to finish this stuff & THEN I can take a look at your drawing.”
I don’t claim to have the magic pill solve all scheduling woes. And, I certainly don’t claim to have a perfect balance of life & career. What I can offer you is some ideas on how to get a little closer to that balance … at least most days.
What ‘balance’ used to look like
The next year, I swore that I would do better to balance work & life. The boys were in kindergarten every morning which seemed like a lot more time. My studio almost doubled in size that year. I actually added time for lesson prep, but forgot to add time for keeping the books, finding new repertoire, & well pretty much everything else. I got through the year, but it was rough. My husband was (and still is) amazing by taking over things when I needed extra time. I used the walk home to talk with the boys about their day, but still didn’t feel that I was the mom or wife I wanted to be.
The following year, I got smarter. For about a month before registration, I tracked how much time it took to complete different tasks. Then, I created a spreadsheet with those numbers so I could figure out the average times & break it down as a per student time. My math loving husband was impressed & frankly, so was I. This liberal arts girl was finally figuring out the numbers & what tasks needed to be added to my schedule. Even though the boys were moving to full days at school, I kept my studio the same number of students. Life was busy, but it was much more manageable.
One podcast completely changed my viewpoint. And, while I searched in vain for the podcast I thought I would include a paraphrase of the 2 sentences that blew my mind.
There is no such thing as life-work balance. You always have to take from one to give to the other.
~ Paraphrase from someone much smarter than me
Decide what brings meaning to your life.
Some might call this list your priorities. Call it whatever you like. These are the activities or people in your life that make life more than just days passing by.
For myself, my family is hugely important. While I love my career, I don’t want to give up spending time with my children or husband. We made the decision that our kids will always have a family member take care of them. It means a juggling act figuring out when my husband can be home for me to leave for work or if another family member is available to step in. It has also meant letting go of teaching Saturdays so we can have more time together.
This list on how to balance work and life is going to be different for everyone. The important thing is to be honest about what truly matters to you.
Let go of having perfect balance.
Okay, maybe if you walk a tight rope or balance beam for a living this may not apply to you. But, when it comes to balancing the time you spend on your career & the time you spend on your personal life? There will be an ebb & flow. Some weeks will be better than others.
These days, I don’t spend the hours working that I used to. I focus on getting the majority of my prep & admin stuff done during the day when the boys are at school. On the weekends, I rarely answer emails or calls & do my best to avoid doing anything work related. There are days or weekends when this doesn’t happen & I thank my lucky stars that my husband is so supportive. And, when this happens I do my best to let go of the guilt & just get things done so I can be with my family. With recital season coming up soon, I’m letting go of balancing work & life evenly because I know that I will be more focused on work. My family knows once the recital is done I will put more focus on family life again.
Figure out how much time you spend per student
Please avoid the mistakes I made at the beginning of my business. Diligently track your time for several weeks. (A handwritten list beside you is a fancy as you need to get for this step.) It will give you the best tool to create a realistic schedule for yourself. And, if you don’t like how you spent your time, this gives you the perfect opportunity to schedule in time for your priorities.
Control your time. Don’t let it control you.
For your business, schedule time for:
- Lesson prep
- Travel (if going to student homes)
- Curriculum planning
- Repertoire research & practice
- Newsletters & social media
- Paperwork (invoices, receipts, tax documentation, etc.)
- Professional development (including reading music/teaching articles & practicing piano)
This is a basic list & your schedule should include whatever weekly & monthly tasks need to be added.
Once you have your times, it’s time to determine the time you spend per student.
- Determine the average time for each category.
- Add up the averages for your total time you spend on work-related tasks.
- Divide the total number of minutes by the number of students you are currently teaching.
- Voila! You have the number of minutes you need to budget for each student you enroll.
Determine your weekly schedule
Now that you know how much of your time will be dedicated to each student, you can confidently make a schedule that balances work and life!
Some questions to consider as you make your schedule:
- What sections of my week will I dedicate to my priorities?
- Do this part FIRST. You are much more likely to spend time on your priorities if they are written in first.
- Which specific days & times do I want to teach?
- How many hours per week can I comfortably work?
- You have bills to pay, but overworking yourself will lead to spending more money on healthcare. Be realistic.
- How many students can I teach each week?
- This is where your number of minutes per student comes in handy!
Determining the number of students to register:
- Change the weekly number of hours you will work to minutes. (i.e. 30 hours = 1,800 minutes)
- Divide the your weekly minutes working by your minutes/student. (i.e. 1,800 ÷ 70 = 25 -26 students)
This is one of the tricky parts. No, really! I can speak from experience that it is hard NOT to schedule based on what others want instead of your schedule. I think it may partly be a teacher thing. We want to help others & it can be difficult to stand our ground.
Let your clients & potential clients know what days & times you have set aside for teaching. You will be amazed at what families will do to ensure they can keep a teacher, so stick to your guns. They will make it work.
If someone pushes for a time that is not on my schedule, I say, “I understand that this other time would work better for you. However, I already have another activity/student scheduled in that time slot.” If it is time I set aside for my family, I’m honest. I have only talked to a couple of parents that did not respect that I have set aside that time. Especially when I point out that my work hours are just as sacred to me. If they aren’t understanding, chances are they will be pushing all year round for exceptions. No thank you.
Work-life balance. Do you think it exists?
Do you see it as all-or-nothing? Maybe it’s a pendulum?
To read more about easy self-care habits to help you create the balance you crave, read “8 Easy Ways to Create Work-Life Balance“.
I would love to hear your strategies or thoughts on balancing personal life with teaching!