While many methods of time management and organization exist, the most successful methods are the ones used wholly and with integrity. Meaning, stick with it! Here are some general tips that many methods have in common.
Only Touch It Once
It’s very easy to pick something up, look at it, and decide you don’t want to deal with it only to put it back down again and repeat the process later in the day. While it seems minor, it’s taking up your time and mental energy because your brain knows it’s something you still have to deal with.
Instead, every time you pick something up, act on it right away. If a student returns an instrument, instead of picking it up and placing it on the floor next to your door, put it where it belongs and write it on the inventory sheet immediately. If it’s a piece of mail you know is junk, throw it away immediately. If it’s something much bigger that you know you can’t complete right away, write it on your to-do list instead.
The One Minute Rule
Going along with the “Touch It Once” rule, the “One Minute Rule” follows a similar principal. If you can complete a task in one minute, complete it immediately. Do not procrastinate. If it will take you one minute to respond to an email you just read, do it right away. If it will take you one minute to file a piece of music away, do it. Not only does this keep small tasks from piling up, but it gives you the satisfaction of completing something which makes you feel good!
Most music teachers have one, if not more, to-do lists. They are a great way to keep track of tasks to accomplish, but often aren’t used in the most efficient way.
When adding an item to your to-do list, think about what it means for that task to be truly complete, and the steps needed to get there. Often the tasks on our to-do lists are too ambiguous or too large to accomplish in one step. By identifying the steps and what it will mean to have the task “complete,” you increase your chances of success.
For example, if one thing on your list is to create a concert program, that may involve getting a list of student names, a list of concert pieces and composers, having the students proof-read the program, and finally copying the program. Add each of those tasks to your list, working through them one at a time, until the final job is complete.
Five a Day
A long to-do list can be intimidating. To help with that, at the end of each school day make another list of five specific tasks you must complete the next day. Write the tasks somewhere and number them one through five, with one being the most important task on your list. The next day, when you have time, begin with task #1. Do not move on to anything else until this task is complete! Then you may begin task #2. Repeat this process until your list of five is complete. At that point, you can move on to other tasks from the master list.
Are you someone who finds yourself at the copy machine five times each day? Or do you feel you are constantly planning for the next day’s lessons? Consider batching your work. When you batch work, you are combining like tasks to focus on one thing at a time. While this slightly goes against the one minute rule, it has equal effectiveness.
Photocopies are a great example. If you think there may be several things you need to copy one day (or even for one week!) save it and do all the copies at once. If you know that multiple students will return sheet music that week, wait until you have all the music and then file it away. Instead of planning for only the next lesson, plan for the next three lessons.
When your mind is already focused on doing something it is easier, and more efficient, to continue working on that task instead of jumping from one thing to the next.
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