Crunch Time! April is often a super busy month for many musicians with lots of challenges time-wise. Therefore, I offer the following updated version of a time management article I published in the NACWPI Journal several years ago (citation below).
BASIC TIME MANAGEMENT By Michael Dean
“Captain, I need more time!”
Mr. Scott often exclaimed these words to Captain Kirk on the old Star Trek television series as he was hurriedly trying to repair the ship before it blew up or crashed into a planet. We in the music business often find ourselves feeling the same way. However, we almost always have enough time to do everything we need or even want to do. The problem is usually with our time usage or management. The following are some ideas that I believe will help a musician (or a person in any field) to manage his/her time better and accomplish more. I have grouped these ideas into three categories: Background & Approach to Time Management, Practical Applications (“Do These Things”), and Ten Time Tips.
Background & Approach To Time Management
Time Management is Important. This is probably the most important concept in this article. A commitment to ongoing improvements in time use can produce spectacular results. Just thinking about managing time can be a real breakthrough for many who constantly “fly by the seat of their pants” time-wise.
Goal-Setting. This vital area deserves an article of its own; however, for our purpose here I will only briefly mention it. The setting of short, middle, and long-range goals is a critical factor in time management. Without a target, how can you hit the bull’s-eye?
Planning: Get a plan and follow it! When planning our time use, it is often difficult to decide on the best schedule. This difficulty can result in inertia and failure to follow good time management principles. Some may never plan at all! It is my conviction that results come from activity not inactivity. Further, it is easier to change direction if you are moving than if you are standing still. Therefore, I suggest devising a good (or even so-so) plan and DO IT! I have found that having a plan and following it (even if it’s not the best) results in great success.
Ruts are Good. We live our lives in a routine. When was the last time you looked at the number on your house? The key is to make sure you have a good time-using routine. Also, it is imperative to continually improve on a good time routine. Left alone, most things get worse not better. (Does the house get cleaner by itself with the kids at home?) We need to constantly work on good time habits.
Practical Applications (“Do These Things”)
The following is a practical way to organize your time.
Get Tools: For years I used a paper one-page time sheet that showed all the waking hours (6 a.m. to midnight or so) for one week. When I moved to Texas a few years ago, I went with an online cloud-based calendar. I use Google Calendar that includes a Task List. I access the calendar on my home computer and my mobile devices. (FYI, I also use Music Teacher’s Helper.)
Fill It Out: Put your normal weekly schedule on a paper time sheet or an online calendar. Fill in every place you have to be – classes to teach or attend, rehearsals, faculty meetings, etc. If you use an online calendar, set up repeating events. Once you have your basic schedule set, you will be able to see pockets of time for various activities, such as practice, studying, etc. Also, you can adjust each week as special events, such as concerts, baseball games, dentist appointments, etc. come up. (If using paper, transfer appointments, etc. from a pocket calendar to a new weekly time sheet.)
Make a “To Do” List: FOR PAPER: On the back of your time sheet make a prioritized list of all the tasks you want to accomplish. Put each task, or action item, into one of three categories: A, B, or C. A is for things that “must be done, no matter what.” B is for actions that “need to be done, maybe not right now, but soon.” And C is for tasks that “should get done, but can wait.” There are many different ways to do a prioritization; however, the key is to use some kind of system and adjust it as you go. FOR ONLINE: Use similarly. On my Apple i devices, I use the app GoTasks and sync it to my Google Calendar Task list.
Urgent vs. Important: Be sure to know whether an action item is urgent (must be done NOW!), important (has great benefit), or is both. Good time users spend their time doing important things and not just putting out fires.
Ten Time Tips
1. Handle mail only once. Read it now or read it later (not both!). Emails should be answered within 24 hours. Extra Teacher Tip: If you use your school’s email, make sure that your school’s email storage server does not have a limit.
2. Practice/study/work where you cannot be interrupted by the phone. If possible, turn off your cell phone.
3. Learn how to quickly (and courteously) get rid of visitors when they drop by your practice room or office to just “chat.”
4. Always strive to improve your time management skills: Google it, read a book, attend a lecture, etc.
5. Exercise/Eat Right/Sleep 7-8 hours every night. “Every hour of sleep before midnight counts as two” is a good old rule to follow.
6. Recruit help. You do not have to do every chore yourself.
7. Carefully consider goals and goal-setting. Remember the Chinese proverb: “A journey of
a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
8. Just do it! Be disciplined. The more you are disciplined, the more disciplined you will
9. Failure: If you fall down, don’t just lie there and complain. LEARN, get up, and keep going. Remember the words of John Wooden, “Don’t whine, complain or make excuses – just do the best you can.”
10. Television is your enemy (at least as far as time is concerned). Now there is a another
enemy – the COMPUTER, especially FACEBOOK and the INTERNET (when that page is “loading” your life is going with it!).
Thanks to NACWPI for kind permission.
Original Article © by The National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors NACWPI Journal, Vol. XLVI, No. 3, spring 1998.