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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Year Yet

Are you disappointed with last year's results? I look forward to inviting my annual guest to visit at this time of year. I do a Best Year Yet analysis in the month of December as I anticipate the start of another year. The results always surprise me.

The Best Year Yet analysis comes from a book I read back in 1994 by Jinny S. Ditzler:





This book sets out 10 important questions, and the answers will help to shape and guide you as you plan for your next fabulous year of accomplishments. As you consider and answer the ten questions, you will celebrate your accomplishments, consider your disappointments, identify honestly the way in which you limit yourself, explore your personal values, determine which roles you wish to include in your life, and create a new empowering paradigm to achieve your goals for the year for each of the roles.

This is a very thorough process and is not an activity that I do quickly. I begin in early December by pulling the book off my shelf and skimming the parts of the book that I have outlined over the years. Sometimes I read parts of the book again, because I find that each year I discover new things within the book that appeal to me in different ways. This year is no different.

If you turn to the goal setting process at this time of year, as many of us do, and you seek a different perspective from the goal-setting hype and noise that shows up daily in our email inboxes, consider exploring Jinny Ditzler's 10 Questions. I am certain that you will discover some very surprising things about yourself in the process.

I have written about this subject in previous years. If you would like to review those articles for more inspiration, here are some links to help you get started:

Your Best Year Yet!: This is an updated article about the BYY program and the 10 questions.

Just Desserts!: This updated article focuses on the first question, which looks at what we accomplished during the year. This is a step that many people ignore or forget, and yet the answer to this question may provide the necessary power to fuel goals for the next year.

Disappointments and Life Lessons: This updated article focuses on questions 2 (disappointments) and 3 (what did I learn).

Limits and Complaints: This updated article focuses on question 4 and any beliefs that may be limiting goals progress.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

The above book link is an affiliate link (Amazon), which means that I may receive a small benefit at no additional cost to you. As always, you never need purchase anything, but if you are in the market to do so, consider using the provided affiliate links in order to support the time and efforts of writing and producing the Teach Suzuki blog and podcast.

Friday, December 16, 2016

8 Things to Do Before the New Year

The end of the year already? Yes, and it is time to get things ready for next year. If you are like me, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all that needs to be done before the year ends and by all that needs to be readied for the coming year. Here is a list of eight things that I find helpful to address this time of year:
bookcases, music books
Teaching Materials

Clean up the studio area. This is a great time to put away music that has found its way into the teaching space. File music away and gather up old papers and notes and file them or dispose of them. Be sure to make a note on your master list of to do items if the item has an action step associated with it. Then once everything is back where it belongs, give the space a dusting and the floors a vacuuming or mopping. You will be so happy once you return to your teaching area to find that it is ready for you to start teaching without any extra steps. Everything will look so nice and clean. If things are in crooked disarray, take a minute to square everything up with nice straight lines. Try to get rid of all your piles of things. Put everything away somewhere. Do not spend too much time on this. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and be done with it!


Clean up the toy area. I keep an area for quiet toys for students or their siblings to play with while waiting for lessons to start. Some students play with the toys after lessons are over as a reward for the hard work during a lesson. This holiday season is a great time to look through the toys and identify broken items. Do not be too quick to throw away "broken" toys, however, as children's imaginations can still invent colorful games with these "broken" items. When the tinker toy has a stick that clearly cannot be used any longer, I throw it away; when the action figure is missing one or two small items on the figure's super powers belt, I retain the figure in the toy area. I make sure that the toy area is clean, and finally, I wash the toys. No need to spread germs from one year to the next when it is a simple thing to wash everything.


Order new supplies. Take inventory of the supplies you have on hand, and order anything that is in short supply: wedge sponges, violin polish/cleaner, rosin, stickers, tape, counters, etc. Anything that you use in teaching, make sure that there is enough to supply the next semester of teaching. You may need to make a few box violins to get ready for new students. I usually need to buy packages of pencils and pens, as I seem to lose them pretty easily. I sharpen what pencils are still in the studio and make sure to throw away pencils that have used up their effectiveness.


Plan the coming semester. Sit down with a cup of your favorite beverage and plan the upcoming semester. I use my bullet journal for this, and I map out a rough outline of a six-month calendar to help me get set for the summer months as well. Then I add important dates to the planning calendar:

calendar, planner, bullet journal, sketchbook
Planners & Bullet Journal
  • studio recital
  • graduation recitals
  • institute dates
  • special performances
  • holidays or vacation weeks or days
  • any conflicts that I anticipate due to my performing schedule with the local symphony or my teaching responsibilities with the university
  • group class dates
Rearrange the furniture. You do not have to rearrange the furniture, but I find that this simple thing really brightens the look of the teaching area and students seem to respond to it. I know that I enjoy the "new" feeling that I get from a rearranged space. It may be just a chair or bookcase here and there, but these simple things can make quite a difference. Even a new plant or piece of artwork will help to spruce up the place. I remove any leftover holiday decorations and take down any student signs or other items that have outlived their novelty and sentimental value.

Organize the teaching materials. Take a few moments to review your teaching materials. Generally this happens because I am also putting things away or refiling music that has been taken out of music cabinets. I make new lists of possible group class themes and activities as well as special themes to incorporate in my teaching for the coming semester. When I select a particular theme for a semester, I find that teaching and group class activities may be simpler to plan. In any event, a reorganization of my teaching area, materials, and methods will help to keep my enthusiasm levels high and charged.

Email students about the coming semester. This is a great time to send out reminders to students and their parents about the upcoming semester schedule (which is why we took time to plan the semester earlier!). Over the years I have learned that parents are more apt to read shorter emails, so I might "divide and conquer" my messages. I might send one email about scheduling issues and another email about special events to consider. It might take a few minutes of extra thought to email in this way, but I think this method is more likely to encourage parents to read all my email messages.

ledger sheets
Bookkeeping System
Put bookkeeping matters in order. Tax season is upon us! Time to collect any outstanding tuition payments or other reimbursements due and make bank deposits. Gather the tax records and begin the process of getting ready to meet the accountant or other tax professional. I use this time to also get my next year's bookkeeping system ready for next year. I set up new financial record folders and review my previous year's systems to make sure that I am satisfied with how I ran things last year. If there are any problems, then I address them in the new system.

This a simple list of items to address before the new year begins, but this is a powerful list that sets the tone for future success. Spend a few minutes here and there before this current year ends so that you will be ready and prepared for the coming year when it begins.


Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird