Another school year has begun and once again many music educators are facing the difficult challenge of managing extremely busy schedules. One survey asked 100 band directors, “What are the greatest challenges you face in your program?” Few music educators would be surprised to learn that “Time Management” was the leading response.
How well do you do managing your time? What system do you use to manage voice mail? E-mail? Do you find time each day to prepare for rehearsals? Clear your desk? Pay bills? Or is your head spinning, trying to figure out how to manage your life and activities?
I’d like to share some time management strategies and tools you might use to help you improve your productivity, reduce stress, and enhance your quality of life. Just imagine what it would be like if you had four extra days a year to do the things that you enjoy most in life. If you saved just 15 minutes per day, you would gain about 2 hours a week, 8 hours a month, and nearly 100 hours per year to enjoy your hobbies and spend time with family and friends!
1. Set Goals
Do you set short term and long term goals? Do you write goals down and review them often? Research shows you will be far more productive if you clearly define your goals and put them in writing. Goals are like magnets…the more clearly you define them, the stronger they pull! Learn to “dream your dream, plan your dream, work your plan”, and your “dreams will come true!”
2. Use One Calendar
How many calendars do you use? Have you ever missed an important appointment or family event because you looked at the wrong calendar? Many people have a calendar at school, a calendar at home, and a calendar in their briefcase. It is far better to use only one calendar and to always carry it with you.
3. Eliminate Floating Paper
When was the last time you searched for a piece of paper with an important phone number scratched on it? Are you the king or queen of post-it notes? At the very least you’ll want to keep them in one place. Good time managers carry some kind of a planner/organizer to keep their schedule and important information. Something I use to stay on top of things is an app on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro called “Things.” It is an excellent task manager, makes it easy to keep track of your tasks, and can help you be more productive. Prefer paper? Then take a look at the FranklinCovey or Day-Timer planners.
Do you take time to plan each day? Some of the most productive band directors make lists of things that need to be accomplished and prioritize them daily. Take time to plan daily and during your planning session, ask yourself, “If I had to leave town unexpectedly and could do only one thing today, what would it be? If I could do only two things, what would they be? And so on.
5. Develop a “Do It Now” Attitude!
Are you a procrastinator? Did you know that procrastination is the number one time-killer! You can change that by developing a “DO IT NOW!” attitude. Handle important phone calls, e-mail, etc. immediately. Don’t “put them off until later.” As Dr. Tim Lautzenhauser would say, “Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether you want to do it or not.”
How do you go about managing large projects like band festivals, contests, or tours? A good way to manage projects is to keep a notebook for each major project and to chunk the project down into major tasks with dates for completion. For example, for your Spring Trip you might list things like:
- Get district approval by 11/15/15
- Send informational letter to parents by 11/30/15, etc.
Do you know one of the fastest ways to jump start your personal/professional growth is a powerful technique for managing time called compressing? Compressing enables you to learn a huge amount of information in a short period of time. Examples would include: attending Midwest Clinic in Chicago, an all-day computer class, a Bands of America director workshop, a Conducting Symposium at your local college, or attending ABC in Oregon.
8. Follow the 4 D’s of Time Management
Have you ever heard of the 4 D’s of Time Management? They are drop it, delay it, delegate it , do it.
Let’s say you need have an instrument which needs to be repaired for the upcoming concert. Ask yourself: Could you “Drop it”? No. It has to be repaired before the concert. Could you “Delay” taking it in for repair? Well, the concert is less than a week away and it will take two days to repair so, no, it can’t be delayed. Could you “Delegate it”? Could your colleague who lives near the repair shop take it in? No, they have important meetings this week and are too busy. So the last D is “Do it.” You need to take the instrument in for repair yourself.
9. Ask Quality Questions
To improve the quality of your program, learn to constantly ask yourself questions. What are your program’s strengths and weaknesses? What needs to be improved? If you could change only one thing about your program, what would it be? Learn to ask quality questions…you won’t be disappointed.
Kay Hawley is a retired teacher who taught instrumental music in Hopkins, MN for more than 40 years. She holds Bachelor and Master of Music Education degrees from the University of Minnesota.
Kay is a strong advocate for the arts in education and has presented at an impressive list of state and national conferences. In 2012 she was named the Minnesota Music Educator of the Year.