Transcript 103 – Andrea Miller on Time Management Reset
Transcript: 103 – Andrea Miller on Time Management Reset
Transcript for Episode 103 – Andrea Miller on Time Management Reset
With the school year coming to a close, I thought this would be a helpful time to talk about how I reset my schedule in times of transition.
This isn’t a process I use very often – maybe once every few years – but I find it really helpful in times of MAJOR transition. Like when going from being a full-time student to a full-time working adult or when going back to work after my first child was born – basically anytime my work or personal life changes so significantly that I need to get re-oriented and set a new normal.
I’m not talking about goal-setting today, although that might also be part of the “reset” process. I’ll share some episodes about that in the show notes.
What I’m talking about today is more about how I plan my days and weeks to create a rhythm in my life that is conducive to working on those goals.
There are FIVE steps to the process:
And like with so many other processes…when I describe them on the podcast they sound much more clinical than they are in real life. So don’t get too hung up on the formality of this process.
The first step
- Figure out where the time is going currently
I do this by conducting a time study. This is a fancy way of saying – I keep track of the things I do in a week and how much time they take. To do this, keep a notebook with you for a few days or even a week and write down everything you do and the time it takes.
Now, if you’re like me, you’ll be all ready to do this on Monday morning and then after a few hours you realize that you’ve gotten caught up in your day and completely forgotten to write anything down.
One strategy has helped me is to have a timer running at 30-60 minute intervals throughout the day and whenever the timer goes off, I make note of what I did in the last time period.
This time study does not need to be a perfect record of how every minute of the day was spent. A rough approximation of everything we’re spending time on is just fine.
There are digital task and time trackers – but I’ve found them to be overkill for this purpose and I know for myself that when I start exploring these, I’m really just trying to avoid something more important. So I stick to the notebook method.
If you’re just trying to optimize your workday, you might just track the work-related activities, but it’s worth doing a comprehensive time study that includes personal time at least once.
The next step is to evaluate. To do this, we’re going to take all the entries from the time study, categorize them, and add up the time we spend in each category.
You might have categories like: teaching, lesson planning, responding to emails, studio maintenance and cleaning, bookkeeping.
You’ll list all these categories along with the time you spent on each over the whole week. So it might be 25 hours of teaching, 2 hours of lesson planning, 4 hours of email, 1 hour of studio maintenance… you get the idea.
If you’re also tracking your personal time, you should have all your personal responsibilities on the list as well: things like sleeping, cooking/eating, walking the dog, household chores, etc.
And you’ll have all those random other things on the list like watching the news, scrolling through Instagram, reading, talking to your mom.
I’ll never forget going through the time study exercise with a college student and he had all the normal stuff – sleeping – 60 hours a week, meals – 7 hours, classes – 15 hours, and then he had a line that just read “zoning out – 14 hours per week.” Most honest time evaluation ever.
With everything categorized we can get a high-level view of where our time is going. At this point, it’s helpful to ask ourselves some questions about how we’re using our time.
What reactions did we have to the time study? Was anything surprising?
Are there areas where we’re spending too much time? Social media and TV time are the usual suspects here, but they’re not the only ones. Maybe our lesson planning is more detailed than it needs to be. Or our admin processes are too clunky and time-consuming.
Are there areas we want to spend more time? Maybe personal practice time, or family time, or sleep?
There are 168 hours in each week. This is our chance to reflect on whether or not we’re happy with the way we’re using them.
This brings us to the next step.
- Determining the ideal
This is where we take the insights from the time study and make practical decisions from them.
On the same paper you recorded the evaluation from the time study, write the targeted amount of time you’d like to be spending in each area.
Maybe our current schedule includes 35 hours of teaching and we’re feeling burnt out. Our ideal schedule might be to have 30 hours of teaching and 5 hours a week to just make music or plan fresh lessons.
Or maybe the teaching load is great, but admin work is taking over our lives, and we’d like to reduce it so we can unplug on the weekends.
Some of these decisions have financial implications. I’m not going to get into those topics today, but knowing what your ideal teaching load and workweek looks like is an important part of designing a studio to be sustainable financially and mentally.
- Create a model weekly calendar
Once you’ve set the ideal amount of time you’d like to be spending on each category of activity, it’s time to create a model weekly calendar based on the ideal.
To do this, I take a one-week calendar with the each day broken into 30-min blocks and I mark off when I intend to do each activity: teaching, podcast prep, social media, meetings, meals, sleep – everything down to routine admin work like processing expense receipts.
Without this step, I find that the insights from the time study don’t usually translate into any notable change.
Writing out a model schedule that includes everything we want out of our week is a good reality check for our expectations. It gives us the opportunity to imagine what each day will look and feel like and judge whether or not it’s realistic.
Important note: I do like to use my time efficiently and I have a tendency to want to do more than I can humanly do in 24 hours. I suspect I’m not alone in this. Creating this model weekly calendar is not meant to be a game of timeblock tetris where we try to see how much we can cram into a week. This part of the process is my way of making sure I have breathing room in my schedule. If there aren’t enough open blocks, I know I’m packing in more than I can sustainably handle and I probably need to cut back.
The visual aspect of the weekly calendar makes this more obvious than if I’m just looking at a list of goals or tasks.
- Practice – Execute, Review, Revise
The final step to a schedule reset is to practice the new routine.
And it does take practice, especially if you’re trying to adopt new habits or big changes.
Keeping the model weekly calendar visible keeps me on track and regularly reviewing my goals gives me energy and determination to stick to the plan on days when motivation may be waning.
After a week or two, you may determine that the model weekly calendar you created is way too demanding or optimistic.
That’s ok! Review what’s not working or what could be improved and revise the schedule.
We don’t have to keep to the schedule 100% all the time, but if our ideal week includes time to explore new materials for fresh lessons and it never seems to get done, it’s probably because we haven’t reserved a space for that activity in our normal routine or we’ve just got too much good stuff packed into our schedule and what we really need is some downtime.
So that’s how I do a schedule reset.
- I start by Doing a time study of how I’m currently using my time
- Evaluate those results
- Set an ideal time allotment for each activity – which may include increasing or decreasing time spent in different areas
- Create a model weekly calendar based on my ideal
- Practice and polish the new routine
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, I typically only do a comprehensive reset in times of big transition, but I will do smaller resets for small segments of my day. Sometimes I’ll just do a mini reset of the first hour of my workday or a single day of the week – anytime part of my routine just isn’t working as well as I think it could.
So, if you’re in a big or small transition, give this a try and see how it works for you. I’d love to hear what you discover in the process.
On another note…I’ve been doing more solo episodes this spring and I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you find these episodes useful, let me know! Are there other topics you’d like to hear about?
We’ll continue to have interview episodes, but sometimes it’s just fun to change things up.
We’ll be announcing the winner for this year’s $1,000 grant competition later this week on Instagram AND we’re already making plans for next year’s competition.
A full transcript for this episode and other resources can be found at musicstudiostartup.com/episode103.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening! I’ll be back next week.