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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How to Get Ready for the Fall

I sent out a newsletter recently that contained links to recent blog posts and podcast episodes. My theme was about getting ready for the fall. If you have not yet signed up for my newsletter, why not take a few seconds to do that Then you will get the newsletter issues (about 2 times a month) right away rather than a few weeks late. Here is the last issue:


Hello everyone! I hope your summer has been a time to relax, catch up on a few outstanding chores or family activities, and recharge your batteries, because the fall season is right around the corner. Are you ready?

I wrote a blog article about how to prepare for the fall. I thought about all the things that I want my studio parents to know or remember about their responsibilities as the home practice partners, and I put together a basic list of articles and podcast episodes that will help guide parents to start out the fall semester with the appropriate tools and motivational reasons to do a great job as their children’s home practice partners. I am enclosing my list of podcast episodes and article links here, although the article will be published Thursday, August 18.

If you are a teacher, please feel free to share this newsletter or the article links with your studio families. I hope that you have a great start to this next season!

Podcast Episodes

Get Ready for the FallThis podcast episode is devoted to helping parents (and teachers) plan for a successful start to the fall semester.

How to Teach Your Child (Practice)This podcast episode discusses how to practice with your child and offers the tools to help practices be more successful.

How to Take Notes at the Music LessonThis podcast episode explains how to take notes at the child's music lesson and offers reasons why parents will want to do this.

How Parents Can Help at LessonsThis podcast episode lists 8 ways that parents can help their children at music lessons. I talk about some of the silent messages that parents may unknowingly give to their children, and I talk about the importance of enthusiasm to help motivate children to want to practice and learn how to play a musical instrument.

Top 10 Things a Suzuki Parent Should KnowThis podcast episode lists my favorite top 10 things that I think Suzuki parents should know. I believe that these 10 things are the foundation steps to have a successful music education journey.

Are You Listening?: This podcast episode talks about the importance of listening to impact how fast a child may progress in learning how to play a musical instrument. Sometimes a slight tweak in the listening program at home will have an enormous impact on the child's progress. This episode relates several interesting research and personal stories that illustrate the tremendous power of listening.

The 6 Suzuki Philosophy PointsThis podcast episode sets out the 6 fundamental philosophy points to the Suzuki Method and discusses why it is important for parents to believe these points. This is an episode that parents and teachers may find helpful to review often.
Blog Articles

How to Recover from a Practice BreakEveryone takes a break now and then. The trick is getting back on track. Here are some useful ideas.

Back to School ChecklistA checklist that will help parents get back on track and get ready for the new school year.

How to Add More Music to Your DayIt is important to do a lot of listening in order to make good progress in learning how to play a musical instrument. Here are some suggestions for adding more music listening to your day.

Listening MagicAnother good article about listening. This one shows the power of the listening program and relates a personal story of one of my students and how he made extra listening work for him.

Music Listening Resource ListThis article lists several excellent resources to help add more listening to the child's environment.

The Weekend PlanHere is a suggestion for those tough weekends when it is difficult to schedule practice sessions.

Squeezing Practice Time into a Busy Family ScheduleSue Hunt wrote this article, and the information is always valuable for busy families.

Resolutions for Suzuki ParentsAnother post that offers valuable information that is pertinent all the time.

How to Get Started After a BreakA short article that offers quick, helpful advice about starting up a practice routine after a break.
Until next time,


Happy Practicing!



----- Paula -----

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Getting Ready for the Fall Semester

About this time, folks are planning the fall semester and getting ready for school to go back in session. Here are a few tools to help you:

Podcast Episodes

Get Ready for the Fall: This podcast episode is devoted to helping parents (and teachers) plan for a successful start to the fall semester.


How to Teach Your Child (Practice): This podcast episode discusses how to practice with your child and offers the tools to help practices be more successful.

How to Take Notes at the Music Lesson: This podcast episode explains how to take notes at the child's music lesson and offers reasons why parents will want to do this.

How Parents Can Help at Lessons: This podcast episode lists 8 ways that parents can help their children at music lessons. I talk about some of the silent messages that parents may unknowingly give to their children, and I talk about the importance of enthusiasm to help motivate children to want to practice and learn how to play a musical instrument.

Top 10 Things a Suzuki Parent Should Know: This podcast episode lists my favorite top 10 things that I think Suzuki parents should know. I believe that these 10 things are the foundation steps to have a successful music education journey.

Are You Listening?: This podcast episode talks about the importance of listening to impact how fast a child may progress in learning how to play a musical instrument. Sometimes a slight tweak in the listening program at home will have an enormous impact on the child's progress. This episode relates several interesting research and personal stories that illustrate the tremendous power of listening.

The 6 Suzuki Philosophy Points: This podcast episode sets out the 6 fundamental philosophy points to the Suzuki Method and discusses why it is important for parents to believe these points. This is an episode that parents and teachers may find helpful to review often.

Blog Articles

How to Recover from a Practice Break: Everyone takes a break now and then. The trick is getting back on track. Here are some useful ideas.


Back to School Checklist: A checklist that will help parents get back on track and get ready for the new school year.

How to Add More Music to Your Day: It is important to do a lot of listening in order to make good progress in learning how to play a musical instrument. Here are some suggestions for adding more music listening to your day.

Listening Magic: Another good article about listening. This one shows the power of the listening program and relates a personal story of one of my students and how he made extra listening work for him.

Music Listening Resource List: This article lists several excellent resources to help add more listening to the child's environment.

The Weekend Plan: Here is a suggestion for those tough weekends when it is difficult to schedule practice sessions.

Squeezing Practice Time into a Busy Family Schedule: Sue Hunt wrote this article, and the information is always valuable for busy families.

Resolutions for Suzuki Parents: Another post that offers valuable information that is pertinent all the time.

How to Get Started After a Break: A short article that offers quick, helpful advice about starting up a practice routine after a break.

These are just a few of the numerous podcast episodes and blog articles posted. I hope that everyone's new school year and fall semester start off with good energy, enthusiasm, and motivation! This is going to be a terrific year!


Until next time,

Happy 
Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird


Saturday, August 13, 2016

GTD for the Music Studio Teacher, Step 4: Reflect and Review

This article discusses step 4 of the GTD ("Getting Things Done") methodology and how it applies to the music studio teacher.

This next step is a crucial one because the system stands or falls with it. My first article in the GTD series for music studio teachers began with a brief look at the GTD Methodology. Up to this point we gathered and collected all the loose ends around us that have cluttered up our physical and mental spaces in step one.

Then we clarified what we had collected in step two. What does all of it mean to us in terms of what needs to be done?

In step three we organized what we gathered and clarified into various systems or holding places and we gave some thought to the tools and resources we would use for this purpose.

In step four, we now come to what I consider one of the most important steps: reflect and review. We review what we have, and we do that on a regular basis. At the same time we reflect on what we have, where we have been, and where we want to go. This step keeps us from going stale or getting stalled, and it prevents us from slipping and sliding back down the mountain into the old habits of cluttering our physical and mental spaces.

How Often?

GTD methodology tells us that the best review happens weekly, preferably the same time each week. How long the review lasts will vary from person to person. Review is not engagement, meaning that we do not act on the items that we review other than to make notes that clarify or clean up. We make sure that our list items are current and clear.

If I have any loose notes somewhere, I need to be sure that my system has gathered and collected those notes. If I have anything lying in my inbox (or electronically too), I need to clean that out and gather it, clarify it, and organize it appropriately. I will "engage" or act on these things later once I put them on my "next actions" list. For now, I note these items, clarify what they are and what needs to be done in order to be done with them, and I put them in the proper "containers."

How to do a Weekly Review?

So how to do a weekly review? First, I find it helpful to take a look around me to be sure that I have not forgotten to include something in my system. Is there something lying around that needs me to gather or capture it, clarify it, or organize it? I search around my physical locations and inside my head. I look for loose ends or things that I forgot to record or collect. I thumb through my weekly planner for the past week, maybe the week before that (just in case), and the coming week. Sometimes this act will spark a memory of something that I wanted to remember or accomplish, and I then include that item in my GTD lists.


One reason I like the Omnifocus 2 for Mac program, aside from it being available on my iPhone and my MacBook Pro, is that it includes a "review" feature. It reminds me weekly to do the weekly review. I open up the app, look through every item on the lists, and mark them "reviewed" when I finish. Simple! Quick!

If you are using lists on paper, sit down with your favorite beverage and start looking through your lists. Cross off tasks that you completed, add new items to your lists, and rewrite your lists if it helps you to gain a better footing on what you need to accomplish in the next days, week, or month.

Bullet Journal and GTD Weekly Review

My bullet journal serves a lot of my GTD purposes right now, and I find that I look through that journal much more often than once a week, although I think it is a terrific idea to set aside a specific time for this special weekly review. I think by setting aside a special time that we create a better focus. I thumb through many pages within my journal, not only to enjoy what I have written there -- the splashes of color, the notes I included, the new collection sets I created -- but because I look to complete items on the various pages so that I can "close out" the page as being finished.


As of this moment, I use my bullet journal as the "brain dump" area. As I begin a new month, I leave a page (or 3) open to allow me to collect any ideas, thoughts, reminders, or notes throughout the month. When I begin a new month, I add a new set of pages for this brain dump to continue in the next month. Meanwhile, during the previous month, I systematically check off things that I accomplish. At some point, I will reach the "almost done" point, and I will then decide to migrate any tasks that I still deem relevant to the next month's brain dump list, or I will cross off tasks as irrelevant, unnecessary, or no longer something I want to do. Then when the items on the page are dealt with, that means I can "close out" the page. It is done and never needs to be revisited again unless I want to reminisce about to do lists from the past. I put a star at the top of the page, and I can make that page a thing of the past.

Weekly Review for Music Studio

What are some things that we need to be sure to review in the music studio? Here is a list of things that I like to review each week:


Tuition Payments -- Are they current? Do I need to send a reminder to anyone? Have I deposited checks in the bank? Have I brought my studio's financial records up to date?

Physical Environment -- How clean is my teaching space? Do I need to put things away, run the vacuum cleaner, or organize the bookshelf? Does my space look clean, energized, and exciting for learning, or does it look tired, dull, and messy? Are there things lying around that remind me of things to include on my lists of things to do?

People -- I like to consider this category to help me remember to contact people that I need to connect with. I run through my student list to see if I recall anything. Was I going to send an email to a parent? Schedule a special parent-teacher conference? Suggest something helpful to a parent for a home practice? Contact another teacher about doing a joint performance? The people category can also refer to people I need to connect with, such as my accountant or bookkeeper, someone in charge of a venue where I want my students to perform, or someone associated with my local Suzuki community.


Calendar -- I like to look ahead by the month or two in case there is a holiday or special occasion opportunity. Since I have not been as good at this in the past, I have resolved to make notes about these sorts of opportunities and events for the coming year. As I note these things this year, I am also making a note of them for next year as well. When I look at the calendar, I also recall future plans I might need to add some next steps to take care of.


Other Reviews

There are other regular reviews that might be helpful, such as monthly reviews, quarterly reviews, semiannual/biannual (6-month) reviews, and end-of-year reviews. Just about any time frame you want to use would be appropriate for some sort of review process. I have not discussed goal-setting in the context of GTD, but goal-setting is certainly the sort of topic that would apply here.


Daily Review Focus

A friend of mine also follows an interesting review plan on a daily basis, which I find intriguing. She suggests that there be a particular focus on each day of the week. You are permitted to do other things besides that particular focus, but when you have a focus on a particular day of the week, you will visit that topic definitely once a week. Some suggested focus ideas might be to take the above topics and assign them to particular days. On those days, you will first and foremost give attention to that particular area.


You might also find a "weekly review" easier to accomplish if you do it in bits and pieces. I often do this, and the Omnifocus 2 for Mac allows me to review whenever I can. Anything I mark as reviewed is then set aside until a week later.

Make Review Your Own Creation

How you do your weekly review can be your own creation. There is no right way to do this. In fact, many people adjust things to suit their own personalities and needs. Everyone's review may look different from everyone else's review. The purpose of the review is to stay in touch with the things that you have gathered and collected and to make sure that you keep focused on what next actions to take to make forward progress.


The most important reason for doing a weekly review is to keep your system operating properly. If you neglect this aspect of GTD, then you begin to distrust the reliability of your system. You begin to hold things in your head again or leave them piled up in an inbox or on a corner of the desk. When I forget to do my weekly reviews, I find that my counter tops get covered up again with stuff.

So make a weekly appointment with yourself to review your stuff. With my bullet journal lists, I enjoy looking through things regularly. I have begun to highlight certain areas of my life with certain colors (personal is pink, writing/creating is blue, university/symphony/gig is orange, and studio is green). I also use splashes of color and sometimes some cute stickers here and there to make the pages more pleasing to the eye. My color pens really help me do this. I pick the color that suits me for the day, and because these pens are erasable, mistakes are a thing of the past.

At the moment I concentrate my thoughts on how I can turn the bullet journal into even more of a GTD masterpiece. For now, things work fine. This tool has really helped me stay focused, and it helps me to gather all my stray thoughts. I turn my thoughts into projects and special pages once I have captured the thoughts initially. All good. I hope to write a specific post in the future that is related to the bullet journal because it has really helped me.

Here are some links to the items I talked about in my articles. If you wish to explore further, click on the picture or link:







This page references affiliate links, which will help to support the time it takes me to write articles for the blog, research information, and write and produce the Teach Suzuki podcasts. You are never under any obligation to buy anything or to use these particular links. If you are in the market for any of the items I have listed, please consider supporting my work with the affiliate links I have provided. There is no additional cost to you, but I will receive a small benefit if you do use the links.

Until next time,

Happy 
Practicing! (or GTD'ing)

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird




Friday, August 5, 2016

Teaching Resources for Parents and Teachers

Parents and teachers often ask me where I get the items that I sometimes mention in my blog. I had some spare time this past month to put together a list of my most favorite teaching tools and resources in the studio. I have made an entire page of the goodies with links to find them too. Please visit this page:



This page references affiliate links, which will help to support the time it takes me to write articles for the blog, research information, and write and produce the Teach Suzuki podcasts. You are never under any obligation to buy anything or to use these particular links. If you are in the market for any of the items I have listed, please consider supporting my work with the affiliate links I have provided. There is no additional cost to you, but I will receive a small benefit if you do use the links.

Thanks!

Paula

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

GTD for the Music Studio Teacher, step 3: Organize!

I am in the middle of a series about GTD and how it might work for a music studio teacher. Here are the previous articles if you care to read those:

GTD for Music Studio Teacher: Introduction

GTD Step 1: Gather & Capture

GTD Step 2: Clarify

My GTD Tools and Resources

If you have followed along with the previous articles, you now have a lot of stuff piled up around you, and you have a great deal more clarity about what there is to do. You might have gotten excited about a trip to the office supply store or a visit to amazon to look through some bullet journal possibilities. Some of you needed a filing cabinet or an inbox. Some of you might be more visual, like me, and need a set of clear plastic drawers so that we can see everything we put away. Binders with sheet protectors are good too.

Step 3: Organize!

So what is the third GTD step? Organize! It is time to put your stuff where it belongs. It is time to come up with action reminders that show up on the right lists so you know what you should do, when you should do it, and where you should do it.


It is at this step that you will begin to make a few more deep discoveries about yourself as you begin to sort through things. Are you someone who needs to put things out of sight, like I am? I need visual reminders, but if I do not put things away in general, then I clutter. And if you are one of those people who claims that you "know where everything is" in that giant stack that you affectionately call your "inbox," then let me encourage you to give this method a try. I used to believe that I could find everything in my stacks of clutter, and in general, I really did kind of know in which stack I had put various things. Let me clarify that statement. At least I knew where to go hunt and look for a missing something. I had a rough idea where I might have last seen something.

Since adopting the GTD method, I have a much simpler time. Instead of using my mind to hold that location information, I now have my mind free of that "clutter" and open to more creative pursuits. Once I figured out the system that worked for me, I was just fine. You can be too.

What Exactly Does it Mean to "Organize"?

To organize is to know where you put things and what "buckets" you set up to keep things in. When you organize, you make decisions about how and where you will put things, with an eye on the future and how you might need to retrieve the information. Let us take a closer look at what this means.


Let us start with what kinds of things will you need to organize. We need to organize our projects, which are those things that will require more than one step. We need a place that lists what our next actions will be. We need reminders of things we need to do, perhaps by context, such as phone calls, errands, or things to discuss with certain people. We need lists of things that other people need to supply us, such as a waiting for list, which is something to remind us that we are due some piece of information from someone else or we have delegated something and need to check in to see how things are going. Then there are the calendar items.

How Does This Step Work?

So how does all this work with a music studio situation? First, I keep my appointments and other schedule-related items in my calendar. My article about tools and resources discussed my need for both a digital and analog system. My schedule changes a lot and is different from week to week. I need the power of using both these types of systems: analog because it is easier for me to see what needs to be done in a day or week, and digital because of the need to communicate information with others via the internet.


Many people have notebooks that list the various projects that they are working on, and they maintain an index in the front of all their projects. For example, this notebook could contain pages of current projects for a music studio teacher, such as:
  • group classes project list, which could include subcategories for things like lesson plan development, supplies, or scheduling
  • studio maintenance list, which could include cleaning schedules or tasks, items to be repaired, issues related to the landlord, or revising studio policies
  • financial items list, such as tasks related to record keeping cleanup, sending out tuition reminders, sending emails, depositing checks
  • a people's list, which could be a page devoted to one student or family in which you list things that you need to discuss with that student or parent when you see them next
  • errands list, such as trips to the accountant, office supply store, or bank
  • phone calls list, such as a call to the piano tuner, calls about lesson reminders or rescheduling, or calls related to parent conferences
  • waiting for list, such as a list of information from a parent to include in a recital program, tuition payments that are overdue, or studio library books that have been checked out
These lists are merely suggestions. The beauty of GTD is that the system will be your own and designed to accommodate your needs.

What Tool do I Need?

What you need to do this GTD step is a simple tool. There are many tools out there, but I recommend that you experiment until you find the tool or set of tools and resources that you will stick with. I also encourage you to find something simple that you will be able to do quickly and easily no matter how busy or burned out you become. You need to develop a system that will be fun to use and easy to access when it comes to reminders or reviewing all the projects you have in the works.

As I have written before, I have used several "list manager" tools, and I discuss these in my tools and resources article. However, I have recently begun using a bullet journal because I have found that it makes a great tool for organizing GTD projects. I maintain my calendar, and I make notes about things that have specific due dates. My stumbling block with digital task managers is that I take longer sometimes to enter projects and other information into my digital list manager systems, whereas I may take a few seconds to jot a short note, reminder, or memo to myself in my bullet journal.

Bullet Journal Index
I find that my bullet journal works ideally for these sorts of things. I have an index at the beginning of the journal so that I can reference my ideas and thoughts. If I have a task that is really a project in disguise, then I start a new "collection" on a page in the bullet journal, put that page number on the index at the beginning of the journal, and then I develop the various steps that I need to accomplish to complete the project. Because I review my bullet journal frequently (did I tell you that my bullet journal is beautiful to look at because of the spashes of color?), I see when things need to be expanded, finished, or added to a list of actions for the day.

Bullet Journal Weekly Spread
I have also suggested that a notebook binder be used and individual projects added to the binder with a separate page for each project. You can index these pages in the front of the binder or place individual steps to be accomplished on a particular day on a special "actions list" for the day. I find the bullet journal easier to carry around, which is why I have been so excited about it. If I had one office location, maybe it would be a different story. Right now I have three working areas: university, private teaching studio, and my home work area. So a notebook would not be feasible for me; the bullet journal is portable.

Integrating GTD With a Bullet Journal

I recently watched two videos by Boho Berry that might help this area:
  1. She maintains a separate journal notebook system for her GTD projects, and her video shows how she integrates her GTD lists with her bullet journal. You can watch that video here.
  2. She uses color coding for her tasks and her time. She color codes her list of things to do and uses a particular color to indicate what area of her life these various tasks will fall into. She will use a particular color to block off areas of time for certain areas of her life or work that she does. For example, she might use purple for certain tasks related to certain areas of her business. During those blocks of color, she will do tasks that she has designated with that same color. You can find that video here.
As you can see, there are many possible ways to structure your organization system. Start small. Keep it simple. Be creative. Be sure to leave a comment here or on the Teach Suzuki Facebook posts page about your favorite tools and systems for organizing your stuff.

If you are interested in the David Allen book, click here. This is an affiliate link, which means that there is no additional cost to you. I already own the book and highly recommend it, and if you are also in the market for this book, I ask that you consider using this link. Doing so will give a benefit to the blog and help me continue to podcast and write.


Until next time,

Happy 
Practicing! (or GTD'ing)

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

GTD Tools and Resources

I have been writing a series devoted to how to use the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology developed by David Allen in the music studio. We have covered some basic introductory information and the first two big steps in the process (gathering/collecting and clarifying). Before I move into the next big step -- organizing -- I thought it was time to discuss the various tools that are available to studio music teachers for these next phases.

There are as many possible capture and organizing tools and resources as there are different styles of people. I myself enjoy using both analog and digital tools, and although my history has shown that I favor using digital items because of their portability and convenience (Palm Pilots, original digital calendars), I have found myself gravitating and appreciating anew the beautiful simplicity of using analog tools also. Here are a few ideas, and please feel free to comment below with some suggestions of tools and resources that you prefer.

Calendars
calendar planner and frixion erasable color pen
Leather Gallery Planner & Frixion Pen

I have worked the gamut when it comes to calendars. The problem is compounded for music teachers in that we maintain a schedule that impacts several people at once. Many folks prefer digital or online calendars or programs because of the convenience of scheduling across the board for a number of students. Digital calendars allow others to swap lessons, sign up for offered makeup times, and receive reminders. There are several programs that music studio teachers might subscribe to for the purpose of running the studio, but for many of us, we prefer simpler models. I find that the smallest number of "gadgets" and "tools" that I can use are best for my situation.

I have tried to use a Google calendar, but since this calendar does not integrate well with my iPhone calendar (iCal), I find I do not use it much. I still experiment with a studio calendar, but frankly, I find it easiest of all to send out calendar invitations from my iPhone calendar. I do not find it helpful when parents have so much control over makeups and swapping because this also affects me, and if the parents have this power then I am not able to control or schedule things in the way that I prefer.
Leather Gallery weekly calendar spread
Weekly Calendar Glance

So what do I use? Frankly, I use too many things. I use the iPhone calendar because I am able to enter events years down the road. Also, it is handy for a quick check of things, and it integrates with my Apple Watch. However, I prefer using my Leather Gallery weekly desk planner. A colleague recommended this to me, and it took me two years to finally try out this antiquated paper calendar system, but I am so glad that I did. There is something so elegant as using a planner where I can see an entire week at a glance. I do not use this planner as anything other than a calendar though. It shows me my appointments. If something is tentative, then I put it in parentheses. I have a pencil attached in a pen loop, and I also have an erasable color Frixion pen that I use to mark things a little more permanently and colorfully. Occasionally I actually plan things, but generally I use this as the place to schedule fixed appointments, students, rehearsals, and other time sensitive matters. I know others use planner systems, and in fact there is a huge planner community on Pinterest, YouTube, and Facebook, but I need to stay focused on my business as much as I can. A colored pen and occasional highlighter is about all the distraction that I can afford.

So between these two items -- the iPhone calendar and the Leather Gallery planner -- I am covered about the calendar schedule thing. There is an entire planner community out there on YouTube and Pinterest that can offer even more planner suggestions. I run a business and really do not have the time to spend on too much creativity. I will offer a creative idea near the end of this article if you want to hold out to learn about that.

Digital Tools and To Do Lists

I also use several other digital tools for GTD purposes. I used Things once upon a time, but it did not quite do all that I wanted it to do. I currently use Omnifocus 2 on my iPhone and my Macbook Pro. It may also be on my iPad, but I only use it on my iPhone mostly. Sometimes the laptop but rarely. This tool allows me to add thoughts instantly as they occur to me with the touch of a digital button. I can tell Siri to remind me about a task, and the task will instantly move from my iPhone's reminders list into my Omnifocus 2 inbox. I can also forward emails to my Omnifocus 2 inbox. From this point on, I do a series of things that I find helpful when done regularly:
  • I assign each inbox item to a "project" file (if this is part of a series of steps to take), or I assign a "context" to the item (if this is a one step item).
  • I assign due dates if applicable.
  • I can assign deferral dates, if this is an item I want to be reminded of at a later date but is not necessary to remember now.
  • I can assign the item to show up on a repetitive basis, such as weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annually.
  • The program also provides for a weekly review, and this is the best feature of all. It reminds me to look at each item at least once weekly.
I also have Evernote. I use this program to clip things from the internet, such as articles or information that I want to remember. This is the program that I use as a reference storage area or digital filing cabinet because it is easy to search my iPhone for this information. If I want to reference a document for later, such as a warranty or set of instructions, I can take a picture with my iPhone and store it in Evernote. Many people use Evernote in a way similar to the way I use Omnifocus 2 or Things.

There are many other digital programs that help with the clarification and review-remember stages of GTD, but these are my main programs for my personal use at this time.

The Bullet Journal

bullet journal monthly and task list
Monthly Bullet Journal Spread
Now I promised a look at another type of system, and that is a bullet journal. I recently began using a bullet journal at the beginning of July 2016 because I needed some sort of analog system that helped me get a handle on paper and helped me with tickler systems. A tickler system is a reminder system. Law offices use them regularly as a way to stay on top of items on a court docket. I tried a notebook tickler system, but it was too cumbersome. I needed a way to store paper in the filing cabinet but still have a way to visually see what I needed to see at a glance.

Enter the bullet journal. I use a Leuchtturm1917 dotted A5 with Frixion clicker erasable color pens. This little journal notebook is about the size of half of a regular sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper,and it has been wonderful for planning, reminding, and scheduling. Although I will always use my calendar planner as the official calendar, the bullet journal will help me to plan my weeks, my months, my quarters, my goals, my editorial calendars, and just about anything else I can think of.

bullet journal index spread
Bullet Journal Index
Although there are many digital options out there for to do lists, and I have tried many of them, I still find it more helpful to put things down on paper. The bullet journal helps me to gather my thoughts and keep my notes in a permanent place that is easily referenced in the future or that I can continue to augment. And it all fits in my purse!

bullet journal weekly spread and habit tracker
Bullet Journal Weekly Spread
I promise that I will post something with more detail, perhaps a video, about my bullet journal system later. For now, I will tell you that I have used over one-quarter of my journal in one month alone. It goes everywhere with me, along with my indispensable calendar, and I love, love, love using it! The color pens (erasable) add just the right amount of color to make the whole thing a pleasure to look at. If you would like to learn more about the bullet journal, visit the original site and video at: bulletjournal.com.

In my next article, I will spend some time talking about the third step in the GTD Methodology, which is organizing or putting things where they belong. I needed a great deal of help with this step, and there may be other teachers who stumble over this as well. If you are interested in looking into David Allen's GTD book and how his methodology got started, click here.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing! (or GTD'ing)

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

Some of the links listed above are affiliate links, which means that there is no additional cost to you. I already own the book and the other items and highly recommend them, and if you are also in the market for this book or the other items, I ask that you consider using this link. Doing so will give a benefit to the blog and help me continue to podcast and write.






Saturday, July 23, 2016

Inappropriate Bow Usage (Humor)

It all started one day when one of my young students tried to scratch her back during her lesson with the tip of her bow.

"You're not doing it right," I told her. I showed her how much more effective her bow would be as a backscratcher if she turned it around and used the frog of her bow.

student uses violin bow as backscratcher
Violin Bow Backscratcher

I have been using my bow in this manner for years during symphony rehearsals. I am notorious for having an itchy back, and I have a lot of backscratchers around my house. Unfortunately, this ample backscratcher supply does not help me during symphony rehearsals, so I learned how to improvise with my bow.

My students and I then began to think of other inappropriate uses of the bow as an exercise in humor and creativity. Here is what we came up with. Before you proceed though, let me be sure that you are clear that this is all supposed to be humorous. Please, please, please do not do this at home. I assure you that no one and no bow was hurt during this photo shoot.

I imagine that we will come up with many more creative ideas. Join me in a photo challenge in the next few weeks on my Facebook page: Teach Suzuki. We would love to see what fun and creative ideas you and your students and children come up with for inappropriate bow usage! Click here for the Teach Suzuki (Facebook Page).

Student uses violin bow as dagger at mother's throat
Bow Dagger
student uses violin bow like chopsticks
Chopsticks

Student using a violin bow to hit a teacher
Don't Hit Your Teacher!
student uses violin bow to play music stand shuffleboard
Music Stand Shuffleboard
students use violin bow as fencing epee or sword
Violin Bow Fencing
Student uses violin bow as an eating utensil
Eating Utensil

student uses violin and bow to shoot like an arrow
Violin Bow and Arrow
student uses violin bow as ski poles
Ski Poles
Students use violin bows as swords
Violin Bow Sword Play
Student uses violin bow as golfing iron
Violin Bow Golfing Iron

Monday, July 11, 2016

GTD for the Music Studio Teacher, step 2 -- Clarify

GTD Processing questions to clarify next action and successful outcome
My Clarification Questions
In my previous articles, I introduced the GTD concept and discussed the first step -- capturing and gathering. If you have not read those articles, click here for the introductory article explaining what the GTD Methodology is and how it would benefit a music studio teacher. The article about the first step in GTD -- Capturing and Gathering -- can be found here.

Today I will discuss the second big step of the GTD "Five" and demonstrate how this step can benefit a music studio teacher. This is the "clarify" step.

What is Clarification?

In the clarify step, we look closely at all the stuff we gathered and captured, and we decide what each item means and what we should do about it. If you have a cluster of sticky notes and lists of things to do, as well as reminders strewn about in your planner or bullet journal, then you may be suffering a blockage in this second step of clarifying what it is you have and what you need to do with it.

Many folks mistakenly believe that they have adequately dealt with something once they have written it down somewhere. They write down things like "recital program" or "group class theme" and think that they have done all that is necessary to capture these items on the "to do" list. They may also mistakenly believe that their clutter problem is that they are procrastinating or are just too busy to deal with all the things that clamor for their attention.

Yes, that may all be true, but there may be a more important reason underlying all of this turmoil, and that is that you have not clarified what you have written down. For example, there is an art form to writing things down, and both of the two examples I gave above do not fit the criteria. "Recital program" and "group class theme" seem like good things to write down, but they fall far short of indicating what the final outcome really is and what you need to do next to get there.

Outcome Thinking (Thinking for Success)

I developed my own little system to handle this processing step. I followed David Allen's former GTD flowchart and the newest one, and I found that I could simplify some of the steps to fit my situation as a music studio teacher. First I realized that I had difficulty making myself decide what "done" looked like. I would pick up something and think about it for a few seconds and come up with things to do, but I had not mastered the art of "outcome thinking." That came later after much trial and error, as I contemplated why I gathered and captured well in step one but seemed to have such a big logjam at step 2 and clarifying.

Instead of spending more time dealing with my piles of gathered stuff, I thought about my thinking. As a teacher, I completely understand the need to know what goes on in a student's head during instruction. So, I began talking aloud and figuring out what my thinking was. I discovered that I was doing some sloppy thinking about clarification, and in fact, my type of thinking was not doing very much to clean up or deal with the pile of things I had gathered and collected before me.

My Clarification Questions

I studied David Allen's flow charts and found a way to rephrase the questions to fit the sort of language and questions that I would find understandable in my personal situation. I simplified this clarification step to these questions when I picked up an item, whether it was a file folder, an item in my mail pile, or a receipt I had just removed from my wallet:
  • What is this? [I write an answer]
  • Do I need to do something with this?
    • No, then trash it, defer it (and decide when that would be), or give it to someone else to do.
    • Yes, proceed to the next step.
    • [I actually circle "no" or "yes" so that I actually answer this question.]
  • What is the successful outcome? In other words, what does "done" look like when I have finished with this thing in my hand?
  • What is the very next step?
  • Are there other steps? Make this into a project.
  • Where to put this?
I actually needed to speak aloud each question listed above and give my verbal answer. In fact, I made up a sheet of these questions (as pictured above at the beginning of this article) to help me. I staple or clip one of these little sheets of questions to each item in my gathered pile, and then I write the answers to the questions on the paper. Later I transfer these notes to a different system to help me keep track of the progress on these items, but that is another future article to come. For now, I process and clarify.

If I identify more than one step to be completed in order to reach the state of being "done," then I turn the item into a "project." I set up a projects folder for the item and make sure that a lot of the steps are written down.

If you would like a copy of my processing questions form as pictured above, click here.

Remember when I said that there was an art form to writing something down in order to successfully process or clarify it? There is. It is called associating a verb to the item. When I scribbled "recital program" down on my list of things to do, I did not envision what exactly I needed to do about the recital program. Throw it in the trash? Take it to the printers? Draft it? Figure out what would go into it? And why did I scribble "group class theme" on my list? Because I wanted to send an email to my studio families about it, organize a party or special event, or brainstorm some ideas for group class lesson plans this fall?

Do you begin to understand how important it is to decide what the final successful outcome is -- what "done" will look like when you get there -- and what action you need to take next to make headway? Pick a verb. Describe the action.

For many of us, picking a verb or deciding what action to do next will be a learning process. I know because I have spent much time in that land of clarification limbo. I found the entire experience worthy of the time I spent learning how to do this correctly. It took me a while to think about verbs and actions, but I found in the end that this solved most of my log jam problems just by clarifying what I needed to do when I wrote down the to do item.

Two Minute Rule

There is one other magical rule to follow in the GTD system, and that is the two minute rule. This is the rule that says, if the next step you have identified will take two minutes or less to complete, then go ahead and do it right there and then.

The reason for this rule is that it would most likely take two minutes or longer to actually do anything else with the item, such as make a file folder or log it on a reminder projects or next actions list. Most of my students are surprised to discover just how long a time period of two minutes actually is. I routinely set a two minute timer for myself to remind me of how much I can accomplish in that short time frame: clean an appliance, take out the trash, run through my basic scale routine, briefly answer an email, send a text message, draft an outline for an upcoming article, mind map a creative project, clean up the books that students pulled from the bookshelves, or just file away the music that got stacked up during that day's lessons. There are so many things that could fit within this two minute rule.

Lessons Learned as a Music Studio Teacher

The biggest lesson I learned in this clarification process was that I failed miserably at first in outcome thinking. I procrastinated and dithered about things because I did not have clarity about what the finished project would look like. I also thought that this type of thinking would just take too long, so I avoided doing it.


What I learned from following the GTD methodology is that this type of thinking is crucial to just about everything I do and teach as a musician and teacher. I want my students to learn how to be "outcome" thinkers. I want them to be able to think about what the finished product will look like when they learn that piece to the mastery stage, and I want to guide them into uncovering the steps that my students will need to follow in order to reach that final result. I discovered, much to my surprise, that outcome thinking is exactly what I taught my students! How ironic that I failed so miserably at doing it when I dealt with my personal clutter!

A Learning Process

Many people have tried the GTD method and given up on it. I speculate about that and think that perhaps one reason is that the method does not happen overnight. There is a learning process, and what I mean by that is not that it takes a long time to learn. In fact, quite the opposite. The GTD method is quite simple and can be learned quickly in terms of knowledge.


What trips people up, I believe, is that there is a learning process for each individual. Most of us have taken a long road to get to the land of clutter and confusion, and so for us to expect to instantly or quickly arrive at a different place may not be the most realistic expectation to have. It took me many attempts and a great deal of soul searching and observation for me to realize that I was not actually completing this clarification step with any -- um -- clarity. I stuck with it. I reviewed the book and the materials several times, and finally one day, the light bulb went on over my head, and things have taken a decided turn for the better ever since.

So if you have tried GTD before and had a less than happy result, give it another go. Read the book again, as I did. Think about things. Ask a friend for help or guidance. The lessons you learn about yourself will be valuable. And the final result -- the GTD "mind like water" -- is gold! When I finally "got" how to do GTD, I began having so many creative ideas because I had so much more room in my head. I also found that I had more time to actually engage with my ideas and with others, because I was productive and unstressed about what I had to do.

If you are interested in David Allen's book, here is the link again. This is an affiliate link, which means that there is no additional cost to you. I already own the book and highly recommend it, and if you are also in the market for this book, I ask that you consider using this link. Doing so will give a benefit to the blog and help me continue to podcast and write.

Again, if you are interested in the previous articles about GTD and the Music Studio Teacher, you can find them here:

GTD for the Music Studio Teacher

GTD for the Music Studio Teacher, Part 2 -- Gather and Capture

Until next time,


Happy Practicing! (or clarifying!)

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird