No one can dispute the challenges facing choral directors these days. From a lack of work-life balance, to barely having time to reset between classes, choir teachers are busier than ever. That’s why practicing proven methods for time management is so essential. Here are three tips to improve your own time management, and to get your life back.
Determine What’s Most Important
Most of us fill our days with time wasters. The 80/20 rule states that 20% of the tasks created 80% of the results. By that logic, 80% of what we’re doing only generates 20% of the results! By actively seeking out what is most important and making the most impact, we can focus on just those things, and free ourselves up from the other 70-80% that are effectively wasted.
A great way to determine what is most important to you is to take a piece of paper and fold it into quarters. In each of the segments you have now created, create a heading for the four most important areas of your life. For example, you might have quadrants for “health, income, career, family”. You might have “wellness, adventure, family, teaching”. Under each of those headings write one or two goals for that area of your life.
Keep this paper with you, and every time you start a new task, ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing going to move me ahead toward any one of these goals?” If it isn’t, then ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If there isn’t a good reason why, then maybe that task is a time waster. Begin to remove these time-wasting tasks from your life. A great way to do that is to make a plan.
Plan Your Day the Night Before
Every minute you spend planning saves 10 minutes in execution, and most people can plan out their entire day in just 12 minutes! That’s two hours of execution time you just saved! There are lots of ways to plan out your day, from the traditional hand-written notebook to online solutions and phone apps. However you do it, creating a timeline and task list for each day will help you sleep better, have more energy (because you won’t be wasting energy on making decisions), and move through your day more confidently.
Refer back to this plan throughout your day. Cross off any of those tasks that aren’t helping progress your life and your goals, and circle the three that you need to have done first. Be sure to include in your plan any appointments, deadlines, or other time-bound commitments for that day.
At the end of your day, before you start to plan out the next, go through your list and celebrate your successes! You could even write in a journal all of the successes you had. You probably didn’t get everything done that you had hoped, and you may have spent time on things that didn’t matter as much. Acknowledging this helps you to refine the plan for the next day and be more efficient every day after.
Batch Your Tasks
One of the best ways to be efficient in getting things done is to batch similar tasks together. For example, instead of writing out lesson plans every day, set aside one time in the week when you will write them all. Instead of creating new materials or making copies a little every day, make all of the copies you’ll need for a week at one time. Need to answer emails? Set aside just one bit of time every day to answer them in a batch. Sending emails home? Write them all at one time and schedule them to be sent out.
By not having to change locations or workspaces between every task, you can save a lot of time, and accomplish a lot more in one sitting than you expected. Simply group your similar tasks together, by action you have to take to complete it.
You can learn more ideas on how to improve your time management by checking out the book Time Management by Brian Tracy. Only by making the most of every moment will we find time for the moments that matter most.
An experienced K8 music educator, Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, manage, and grow thriving school music programs and have long and happy careers. She holds a bachelor of music, a master of business administration, and is currently pursuing a doctor of education in instructional design. She is a master of time management. In addition to writing for Choral Director, serves as conductor of her local community band, is a columnist for SBO Magazine, and maintains a private lesson studio. Elisa is an internationally recognized speaker, and has presented at national, state, and local conferences as well. She is the host and producer of the Music Ed Mentor Podcast, founder of the International Music Education Summit, author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive and The Music Booster Manual.