As a musician with a busy performing, teaching and composing schedule, I am constantly looking at ways to simplify everyday tasks and increase productivity. I have been using MusicTeachersHelper for a number of years now, and I still marvel at how quick and easy it is to organise my timetable, send mass emails to students, keep invoicing up to date, and produce yearly income reports. The time I have saved by using MusicTeachersHelper has allowed me to take on more performing and teaching. However, at the start of this year, when my number of students had increased dramatically, I realised that while administration was no longer time consuming, I was spending increasingly large amounts of time responding to emails or phone calls from parents and students.
Obviously communication outside of the normal lesson time is necessary and I am always happy to talk to parents and students about their progress, future planning, etc however I found that I was answering my phone at all hours of the day and night, and often when I had just walked in the door from a long day teaching and realised that I needed to set boundaries so that teaching did not intrude on my personal time.
My first step in setting clear boundaries was to inform parents and students. I put a note in my newsletter explaining that my schedule often did not allow me to answer my phone (it always turned off when I am teaching or in rehearsals), and often I do not have the opportunity to return phone calls within a reasonable timeframe. I explained that the life of a musician is such that I often finish teaching and drive straight to a rehearsal or performance, returning home late in the evening. Obviously it is then too late to phone a parent back, and if I have a few days in a row with a schedule like this then it is easy for a week to go by before they get a response to their query. If they email however, I am able to respond to them at any hour of the day or night, and I always check my emails every morning and every evening. Therefore, I strongly encouraged parents to email rather than phone, as this guarantees them the fastest response.
The most important change I have made when dealing with emails is to schedule a short period of time in my timetable each day to check and respond to emails. I no longer have my email program automatically updating throughout the day, as I find it far too easy to become distracted by emails throughout the day when I am supposed to be completing other tasks. Also, by bunching all my emails together I am more focused and able to make quick decisions to queries, knowing that I have to get through al the emails in my inbox in 20 minutes.
Once boundaries are set, it is important to stick to them. My phone is either switched to ‘silent’ mode once I walk in the door at home, or if my phone is on and I notice a parent calling after hours I will let the call go to message bank to be dealt during the following working day. This new system for communication has allowed me to reclaim some of my personal time, which of course makes me a happier and more relaxed teacher. It also means that parents are confident knowing that they can email me and receive a response to their query within 24 hours.
If you have any top tips for increasing productivity please share them in the comments box below.