Aug 21, 2017
Are you trying to find a balance between paying the bills and following your dreams? Are you spending too much time managing small details, and not enough time working on bigger picture projects? As a business owner, figuring out how to do both the necessary daily work while attending to large-scale projects can be tricky. I’ll share some time management tips that might help you achieve a better balance.
My bread and butter is teaching private music lessons. I average 40 students on my weekly roster, and I spend about 20 hours a week in lessons. I spend another 1–5 hours doing billing, scheduling, and lesson preparation, plus about five hours a week commuting.
Apart from the 25–30 hours a week I spend working my “day job”, I also co-own a small ranch, where I work a few hours a month, plus I’m a wife, and the mother of one child, so I have the duties that go along with that. In addition, I volunteer anywhere from 1–16 hours a month at school-related activities. So, all of that leaves little time for my “big picture” project which is my performance career.
In order to reach my big picture goals, I have to find time to sit and write, as well as perform, and also record the music I’ve written. So how do I balance my daily work with my bigger projects?
I schedule my clients in blocks five days a week. On these days, I have a set amount of time that I teach, and I assign students to time slots within my blocks. I sometimes have students that want times that are far outside those times (Like really early in the morning! Do they not know I’m a musician?!). But, sometimes, I just have to say “no” to those students whose schedules just don’t work with mine.
If I have several students asking for new assignments that I need to research, I set aside time in the morning or evening to work on those.
The same goes for monthly billing. I dedicate an hour or so late in the month to work on billing for all my students. This allows me to get into my “math” brain, focus on the task, and get it done so I can move on to other projects. Obviously, I’ve saved a lot of admin time but using the Fons app to help me bill and schedule all my appointments.
If someone cancels a lesson, I pick up a guitar and practice. Or work on writing. Or do something that helps my bigger picture project. Whatever it is, make use of unexpected blocks of time, even if it’s just 10 or 20 minutes.
I always set some goals for my week. For example, maybe one goal is to book five new shows. Then, I can break the goal down into tasks such as: researching venues, contacting venues, making sure my website is current, planning my schedule, etc.
Once I know what I want to accomplish for the week, I’ll sit down at the end of each day, see what I completed and what still needs work, and write a to-do list for the next day. This way, I have concrete plans and tangible actions waiting for me every morning.
I love my mornings at home. If I can stay off social media (except for marketing related to my long term projects!), I can usually carve out at least a couple of hours a day to work on projects. This is greatly aided by some things I’ve already mentioned, like compartmentalizing my schedule, and setting goals. Ideally, when I get up in the morning, I head straight to office to look over my daily task list, and then dive in.
Understanding when and how you work best is important for accomplishing self-driven goals. For me, this means that while mornings are great for getting certain tasks completed (communications, research, practicing, etc.), my creativity is often more easily focused in the early evening.
So, I try to set aside an hour or so during this time a couple of days a week to work on songwriting or arranging. For an introvert who often spends my afternoons working with six or more clients, this has the added benefit of allowing me some quiet “alone” time that is also productive.
Lastly, one great way to get a big block of work done on your long-term projects is to schedule a day each month to focus solely on the project. Having a large block of time is helpful… the creative juices can really get going when you don’t have to shift gears after a couple of hours. Designate solid goals and tasks for the day, give each area an approximate time goal, and get to it!
Balancing big projects with daily work can be challenging. Hopefully some of these suggestions will help you find your way to equilibrium, satisfaction and tangible success!
Val has been teaching since 2001, and loves helping people follow their dreams of learning to play an instrument.
Discover more about Val at valblaha.com.