Do you ever have those days where you just wake up in a slightly bad mood and then the rest of the day just seems to snowball into a bad day?
Isn’t it weird how that works?
Your view of the world shapes the world around you.
What does this have to do with being a music teacher?
Your view of yourself as a music teacher and how many students you believe you deserve will determine how successfully you will actually become.
If you believe you can’t do something...you won’t.
Your students and clients will pick up on this weakness.
How you feel about yourself as a music teacher and your studio shows.
If you feel like you’re unorganized…
...or if you have a teacher working for you that you feel isn’t doing a good job…
You will have a hard time selling music lessons because people will pick up on your lack of confidence.
Music teachers need to believe in themselves and their music studios in order to be successful!
We’re going to show you how you can start fighting self-doubt RIGHT NOW.
1. Music teachers need to surround themselves with people who believe in them.
As a music teacher, this means you need to surround yourself with students, parents, friends, and family who believe in you.
If you think negatively about yourself AND surround yourself with overly-critical people, it makes it easier for your brain to feed you even MORE negative thoughts.
If you’ve thought through negative thoughts before (even if they’re lies) your brain says:
“Hey! We’ve talked about this before! Here’s the summary: You’re a crappy music teacher!”
You need to start feeding yourself positive thoughts and truths. But more than that, you need OTHER people to feed those positive thoughts and encouragement to you as well.
2. Music teachers need to take care of themselves.
You make your whole living as a music teacher by investing in your students through music.
You help people for a living.
But you can’t help people when you’re running on empty.
It’s the same reason flight attendants tell passengers when there’s a lack of oxygen...you have to put your mask on first before you help the person seated next to you.
Everyday music teachers give, and give, and give.
You HAVE to take the time to refill.
So, what are some things you can do to recharge?
- have some quiet time each morning.
- read a good book and drink some coffee every day.
- make time to exercise.
- go get a pedicure or a massage.
Do more enjoyable things and do them guilt free!
You NEED it.
Let's talk about this productivity tip for music teachers...
As I sit and type this I am a few minutes into a Pomodoro.
My whole family does them together.
We'll ask Alexa to set the timer for 25 minutes and we'll all get to work.
Currently I am working on new content for The Studio Challenge.
My 6 year old son is in the next room doing homeschool work.
We set the timer and we work.
Just 25 minutes of getting work done.
Can you imagine that?
Can you imagine at 6 year old being productive and NOT interrupting and asking questions every 90 seconds?
It can be done.
My son is EVERY bit of an average 6 year old full of wonder, noise, and strange messes.
But for 25 minutes at a time the entire family is completely focused.
My dachshund, Flops, is even sitting here next to me napping. He's REALLY good at this.
Ok, let's talk about how this productivity trick works and a little history.
The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. Pomodoro is Italian for 'tomato' and is named after the tomato shaped timer Cirillo used when creating the method.
There are six steps in the original technique:
But what we do is FAR from typical office work with typical office hours.
If you're anything like me, it's rare to have 2-4 hours of time to sit down and get work done before you have to teach lessons.
And we have weird schedules.
So, most often, work comes in spurts.
Here's my adaption of The Pomodoro Method:
1. Decide on task to be done.
2. Set the Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes.
3. Work on the task and end when the timer rings.
4. Take a break and restart when you're ready.
I like simplicity and this fits my schedule a little better.
Things to remember:
1. You need to set a timer and stick to it. That 25 minute window is important.
2. When the timer goes off it is time to stop. Just like the "Pencils Down!" tests when you were in high school. You don't get 'one more minute' to wrap it up. Stop and take a break.
3. Get rid of distractions BEFORE they happen. We had to keep our 5 year old occupied so he does his own version with us. Put your phone away. Close your browser. No Facebook notifications. No texts or phone calls. Seriously, the world isn't going to implode in 25 minutes. Whatever it is can wait.
4. The breaks are important. Crucial even. Take some time away to relax and recharge. Grab a snack. Go for a walk. Play with your kids. Do something fun that takes you out of work mode. This will help you to come back refreshed.
...Hang on...My timer just went off!
...ok, I'm back.
Seriously, those timers are for real!
For reference, there was about 20 minutes between those Pomodoros.
We checked out my son's work, my wife cleaned the house a bit, and I jumped into the Facebook group to hang out with some of you fine folks. And now we're all back in it.
I simplified the system to work for me.
And you can make adaptations to work for you.
Just make sure that you stay uninterrupted and that you set a timer and take breaks.
I think those are the cornerstone elements.
Do I do these every day?
Nope. Because my life doesn't really fit organized, scheduled systems, remember?
Yours probably doesn't either.
What I love about these is that we can fill a whole afternoon with 3-4 Pomodoro Sessions or we can just randomly grab one if we need to knock something out really quick.
It only took about a week to get into the habit of it and it is working really well for my family and for me.
Music Teacher friends:
Can you use the Pomodoro Method to better serve your studio?
Being productive is hard.
But it's not because you're lazy. Far from it.
As a music teacher and small business owner, you probably work longer and harder than most people that you know.
But you don't get to 'clock out' and your brain doesn't just turn off.
There is always something to do and something that needs to be done. Always.
So you work...
You have to reschedule students and try to collect payments.
You have to prep for lessons.
You see a post about new groups or classes so you start researching how to add it to your studio.
Someone mentioned a Facebook ad doing well, so you should do that too, right?
You start projects but never really get around to finishing them.
In short...you're flailing!
It’s like you got dropped in the middle of the ocean.
You know that there’s land somewhere but can’t see it.
So you start swimming.
But you aren’t sure if it’s the right direction. So you change course and swim the other way.
Over and over. With no land in sight.
Aren’t your arms tired by now?
So let's change it.
You need a plan. You need direction.
I was reading a cool story a few days ago.
A group conducted an experiment and dropped several people in a forest or desert and asked them to walk in a straight line.
When the sun or moon was visible or they had a reference point (like a mountain or large tree) they could do a pretty decent job of walking in a straight line.
But when no reference point was available they would walk in circles.
But they didn't realize they were walking in circles.
They were convinced that they were walking in a straight line.
Some of them walked in circles so tight that they didn't surpass 50 yards.
They walked in a 50 yard circle!
For reference, that's like trying to walk from one sideline of a football field to the other and never making it.
Just a continuous circle.
And i'm talking about the WIDTH of a football field...not the length!
People don't even know that they're lost.
They feel like they are right on track.
They are working JUST as hard as if the were walking in a straight line...
After all a step is a step whether it is in a straight line or a circle...
but they were never getting anywhere.
All of that work and nothing to show for it.
But if they were able to fix their eyes on a target, everything changed.
You need a target and a destination.
Let's talk about how you can be productive and stop walking in circles...
1. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
You are unique and awesome. So is your studio.
You KNOW what makes you special and awesome.
Why are you chasing other people's success?
Keep focused on you.
No one can make your studio successful except for YOU, and your success will look different than theirs.
What works for other people may or may not work for your studio. Just because you see someone doing something new or hear about something that works incredibly well, it doesn't mean that you have to suddenly change direction and chart a new course.
***SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME is a REAL THING.
Do not get distracted by every new shiny thing that comes along.
Set a plan and follow it.
Here's another big one...
There is no SILVER BULLET.
No MAGIC thing to find that is suddenly going to make everything work for you.
But most advertising is geared towards this instant gratification.
There is no instant gratification when you're building a successful business.
There is healthy growth.
There is planning.
There is hard work.
Then there is success.
Don't look for the easy way. You're better than that. Look for the RIGHT way.
Stop looking for Shiny Objects, Silver Bullets, and Easy Solutions and focus on you and what makes you amazing.
Use others for inspiration and encouragement, NOT DIRECTION.
I love the amazing resources that are out there for music teachers these days.
There was basically none of that when I started teaching 15+ years ago.
But, like any social media, it's easy to start comparing yourself and lose focus.
Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get excited.
Then get to work.
2. Brain Dump
One of the first things to do is find a place to get everything out of your head.
As a musician and a creative you likely have a lot of ideas in your head.
They don't come at opportune times.
They don't come when it's convenient.
So, one of two things likely happens:
1. You never actually get any of these things done because you either forget them or you're too busy.
2. You jump ship and chase after every idea like a fat kid behind an Ice Cream Truck.
Like the Fat Kid....you're never going to get that treat.
And, even if you do...you'll just see another truck heading in the other direction.
You need a way to harness all of these amazing ideas that you come across.
You can organize and categorize and strategize them later.
Right now we just need to capture them.
Could be a sheet of paper, app on your phone, or something like Trello.
It just needs to be something that you will ALWAYS have with you so that you can jot down an idea and then move on.
The idea here is to clear your head.
There are only so many things that you can carry around and think about.
It's time to lighten the load. It's time to focus.
This is free-writing. No editing or organizing.
Just get it out as it pops into your head.
Just write. Get it all out.
No matter how it sounds.
This is JUST FOR YOU.
3. Get Systems and Help
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
If you can find something that makes your life easier, just grab it and move on.
Trust me, I'm the DIY type.
I like to do things myself.
Sometimes to save money.
Sometimes just to prove that I can do it.
But time = money. Actually...it's worse than that.
You can make more money.
But you cannot make more time.
Grab something like My Music Staff for scheduling and billing.
Try LessonMate to fix your makeup and cancellation problems.
Don't waste your time chasing payments and juggling endless Google Docs.
You can bang your head against the wall or find ways to make what you need to do simpler.
But BE SPECIFIC.
What problem do you want to solve?
Don't let this become Shiny Object Syndrome. Don't chase solutions.
But if you have a problem, find a tool that fixes that problem for you and make it happen.
You have to stop sometimes. You have to unplug.
The problem many people make is assuming that if they just keep working harder that eventually everything will work out and it will get easier.
Not unless you make it that way.
You can't outwork this.
First, take some time off from studio work.
Find a hobby that is not studio related.
Even if you love it, find something else.
Trust me on this one.
Can you pick up a new sport or hang out with friends?
Spend some time with the family?
Just walk away for a while.
Secondly, take time to UNPLUG from technology.
Go on a walk.
Just spend some time with family or friends.
Get away from your phone for a while.
Your mind needs the break from being always on.
Go and allow yourself to get bored for a while.
It's worth it.
How are you going to be more productive this week?
Sometimes life will be amazing.
You'll be signing up new students, birds will be singing, you will feel fantastic, all of your studio families will love you and have no problems, and everything will be right with the world.
But life doesn't always work that way.
We find ourselves with plans laid out assuming that we will feel amazing and have the time to get everything done.
But sometimes you're busy.
Or just not feeling it.
Or it seems like the ENTIRE world has conspired against you.
So, what do you do then?
List those things down, and when that day comes, you can check them off and leave knowing you accomplished what you needed to.
Anything you accomplish outside of your bare minimum list is bonus.
Treat it that way and DO NOT beat yourself up for having "red" days.
You have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of your students, staff, and teachers.
Give yourself freedom to have "red" days, so you can build up the energy for "green" days.