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Monday, January 30, 2017

90-Day Square Goal Setting Update

goal setting square
90-Day Square for Goal-Setting
Here is the end of the first month of my new goal setting tool, the 90-Day Square, and I thought I would share an update. I have really enjoyed using the square, not only because of the visual appeal of the square when I complete a task and color in a segment of one of the square quadrants, but also because I have found that the square and its components facing me daily has helped me to focus my efforts on the things that I decided a month ago were important to me.

As you recall, I decided to use a square to set some goal challenges for a 90-day period. I aired a podcast episode (There Comes a Journey) that explained why I found the idea of a square more useful than a circle, and the episode described my plans for this 90-day goal-setting tool. I blogged about it as well and included pictures (blog post).

Now my first month has passed. I still use my square. A lot. The document sits on my desk on top of my morning pages journal, so I see it every morning. The act of reviewing each day reminds me of the items that I included, and little by little, I continue to whittle away at the tasks that I outlined.

The above picture of the square shows the square as it currently looks. I have several more areas that I could shade in with color, because I have done considerable work on them so far, but I set these few items as things that would be completed when the 90 days were up, and so these things will have to wait until that time. If I could indicate a portion of a square segment to indicate a portion of the item was completed, then I did so.

Back Side
The picture on the left shows the back side of my square document. I wrote out a breakdown of steps for many items that show on the square color page. As you can see, I have marked an "X" or a "*" on many completed items. I review this side of my square frequently too, as it reminds me of the "little steps" that I might take to reach my bigger 90-day goals. I find that I enjoy ticking off items as I complete them, so this page is fun to look at as well as the color page. It helps me to stay on track with all of the little details and building blocks.

Maybe I would have completed all my tasks without the square, but I feel more confident that by using the square, I have indeed accomplished much. I assure you, there are few things as exciting as the opportunity to shade in a segment of the square!

For those who are interested, this is the spread that I have designed for my bullet journal. I use a hardcover, dotted, medium Leuchtturm 917 (affiliate link) with Frixion erasable color pens (affiliate link). I used plain highlighters (affiliate link) to color in the square segments. Bullet journaling is fun!

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2017 by Paula E. Bird

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bullet Journals for Suzuki Parents (Taking Notes at Lessons)

Parents, take notes at lessons!

I go on and on about the importance of this, and still, it seems that parents have trouble with this advice. When I started out as a young teacher, I used to think the following questions to myself about this problem:
  • Do parents not understand how important note taking is at the lesson?
  • Do parents not realize that teachers have to steal lesson time in order to be sure that clear instructions and notes are put in the assignment book?
  • Do parents think that the teacher will leave thorough assignments when rushed for time to complete the lesson before the next student enters the room?
  • Do parents want the teacher to write skimpy notes about what happened during the lesson?
  • Do parents truly believe that the parents will remember everything that happened at the lesson and what the teacher expects to happen at home during practices?
Oh, I was so naive and young when I thought those questions. So arrogant and inexperienced. Today i look back and shudder at those questions. I do not really know what parents think. I hope that parents have taken my advice and are taking notes. Unfortunately, I do not always see evidence of this even in my own studio. I often wonder why this is. I know that many parents listen to my podcast (episode 6: How to Take Notes at the Music Lesson) and read the articles on my blog (10 Rules for Success for Suzuki Parents), and yet, I still find parents wandering into the next room and leaving me alone to handle the recording of lesson information and practice instructions.

I have a cluttered memory when it comes to what happens during a lesson. I find it very difficult to remember every step that I took during the lesson because I am quite busy thinking and evaluating and anticipating what the student will do, can do, and will struggle to do. I have not left much room in my head to remember all the steps that I took to reach my ultimate teaching place, and I would welcome help from an observer.

So I conclude that parents most likely do not understand how to take notes. Let me offer an easy solution, and one that parents may find to be quite popular. Let me suggest that parents start a bullet journal for note taking at lessons. Here is how it would work. I broadcast an entire episode about this subject, and you may find this podcast episode to be a great companion to this article, and vice versa (Episode 42: The Bullet Journal and Other Tools).

I use a Leuchtturm 1917 medium dotted notebook for my own bullet journal needs:

These journals come in many different prices and color choices. The one pictured here is one of the lowest prices right now (typically the usual price as well). This is perhaps the most popular choice for bullet journals right now, although some folks prefer moleskin notebooks, such as:

The original bullet journal concept was created by Ryder Carroll and you can find more information about how to use a bullet journal in general at www.bulletjournal.com. There are many videos and Pinterest boards that provide more information. There is a Facebook group about minimalist bullet journaling too. And, Pinterest and Instagram material abounds!

For my purpose here, a basic bullet journal is all that is necessary, although I myself use one pretty extensively. My purpose here is to show parents how simple note taking can be at a lesson with a bullet journal. Perhaps a parent will be able to use the bullet journal for other needs, but for now, a bullet journal for lesson note-taking may be all that a parent needs.

Step one: open up the journal and set up a few necessary pages.
  • Index: this is generally the first 3 pages of the journal. The Leuchtturm journal comes with a preprinted index.
  • Future Log: After the index, turn to the first two pages that are blank. Count the number of rows on the page and divide by 3. Count down that number of rows (1/3 of the rows on the page) and draw a horizontal line across the entire two-page spread. Draw another line 1/3 of the way down the page. When you finish drawing the lines, you will have 6 quadrants. Now label each quadrant as a month. If you start this journal in January, you will now have January through June months represented in this future log. You can start a future log anytime, not just in January. Now note important information in the appropriate month of the future log. Include such things as the dates of group classes, studio recitals and performances, and other special notes, such as holiday breaks.
  • Monthly Log: Although I do not personally use a monthly log very much because I prefer a regular calendar planner for the detailed appointment lists, I do maintain 1-2 pages for a month, and I use these pages as a brain dump of things that I need to do in that month. I just list anything that I want to do this month on those two pages. I put an open square to the left of the item, and as I complete these items, I will fill in the square. If it is an appointment, then I draw an open triangle to the left of the item and fill it in. I use my monthly logs as a place to capture thoughts that occur to me about things that I need to accomplish in the month.
  • Weekly Log: For me, this is the most useful part of my bullet journal. I have a weekly spread that I prefer to use, but there are many different ways, and the fun thing about bullet journals is that you can change how you use it every week, or even every day. As a teacher, I use the weekly log to help me plan and control how my week's workload unfolds. I keep track of my appointments and things to do. I maintain a list of my top three things to accomplish in the week, and I keep track of things that I am waiting for (people I have emailed, packages that I expect, or phone calls that I anticipate receiving). I also have a habit tracker in one corner of my weekly log and another little corner where I can note important items or events that will occur in the future, such as the following week.
  • Daily Logs: I do not use daily logs in my journal, but I suggest that this would be a useful tool for students and parents. I have written before about the benefits of using a practice journal, and since the advent of the bullet journal phenomenon, I think that bullet journals would be the best tools for this. I do use a page spread called a "time ladder." This spread sets out a day by the hour, and there is room on one side for appointments and the other side for things accomplished or planned. And the beauty of such a layout is that if you run out of room, you can draw a line to indicate the appropriate hour that the activity or event occurs.
  • Other Spreads: There are other possibilities for the bullet journal as well. Here are a few ideas:
    • tracking practice challenges, such as 100 days
    • tracking lists of supplies
    • tracking instrument maintenance
    • goal-setting
    • names and contact information of classmates and other parents
    • lists of music and recordings to purchase
I have one other suggestion to make, and that is to use a lot of color in the bullet journal. I have seen some amazing artwork done in the bullet journals that I have seen on Pinterest and YouTube. I myself do not have the time or patience to practice such things, and so I use erasable color pens. I highly recommend these pens because you can erase mistakes! I love the color splashes in the journal, and I change colors all the time to suit my mood.

How to Take Notes at Lessons with a Bullet Journal

Now, here is how parents can use the bullet journal to take notes. I suggest that parents use the weekly log and the daily log. The weekly log would be helpful to plan practices in advance. With my own weekly logs, I can see at a glance how busy my days will be, and I can plan appropriately to suit my weekly schedule.

The daily log would be the heart of a parent's note-taking. As practices progress, parents could note everything that occurred during a practice, along with observations about difficulties and suggestions for what to practice the next session. These daily sections could be as short or as long as the parent needed them. They also provide a written record that could be shown to the teacher or referred to as needed at lessons.

At lessons, the parent could start a special two page spread that would list everything that occurred during the lesson. I suggest bullet points to set apart each item or action that occurred during the lesson. If there was something that happened that was important and needed special attention later, use a special signifier such as an asterisk or an exclamation point instead of a bullet point to set apart the item.

This spread could also include anything that occurred to the parent during lessons, such as questions or other thoughts. The teacher could also include notes on these pages for the parent as well.

The bullet journal is a simple tool and a very useful one. Many people rely on this tool to help them stay organized with their lives. I suggest that parents would find this tool to be quite simple for keeping track of the information that comes from their children's music lesson experiences.

Please comment to let me know how this tool works for you. If you are already a seasoned bullet journal user and have some suggestions to make, please let me know about it. I will post pictures of these various spreads in the next posts to come, so stay tuned!

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2017 by Paula E. Bird

Friday, January 13, 2017

Teach Suzuki YouTube Channel now live!

Have you seen the new Teach Suzuki YouTube channel? I uploaded a video that talks about the importance of a consistent and regular review program, and the video sets out instructions for three possible review plans.

Check out the video, and be sure to hit the like button, leave a comment, and subscribe to the new Teach Suzuki YouTube channel. Click here for more.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2017 by Paula E. Bird

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Let's Do a Twinkle Challenge!

Most of us had a holiday break recently. Family outings, travel, and social occasions may have tugged us away from our good intentions of regular and consistent practice. I sympathized with any of my students who reported a dismal practice record over the holiday break. I struggled myself to find personal practice time and energy to accomplish anything other than staying on top of my performance commitments.

So, I propose that we find a way to get ourselves on track, and what better way to do that than a Twinkle Challenge! Here are some ways to do a Twinkle Challenge:
  • Play through the Twinkle, Twinkle Variations every day. Focus on correct execution of articulation and intonation while maintaining correct posture.
  • Play through the Twinkle, Twinkle Variations at the next lesson, or perhaps the first lesson of each month for the next three months.
  • As students progress through the Suzuki repertoire, add appropriate challenges for the students' levels. I will make a few suggestions below to whet your creativity.
Here are a few basic ideas for challenging violin students as they improve in skill and ability development.

Book 1:
  • Play the variations on different strings.
  • Play the variations in G major, as suggested in one of my earlier blog articles (click here to read more).
  • Play a new Twinkle variation by using a new bowing style. For example, try playing Variation D with down-up-up, down-up-up bows, as in the bowing style used in the first measure of Minuet 1.
  • Use left hand pizzicato to pluck all the open E and A strings and play the other notes with the bow. This is a great pinky strengthener.
Books 2 and 3:
  • Play the variations in D or A minor, to mirror the finger patterns found in "The Two Grenadiers" and Lully's "Gavotte."
  • Play the variations in Bb, starting on Bb, as in the middle section of Mignon's "Gavotte."
  • Play a new variation using a bowing suggested by Paganini's "Theme" from "Witches' Dance." This variation example is actually found in book 2 already.
Books 4 and above:
  • Play the variations starting with up bow. The variations should sound as good as they would if played with a starting down bow.
  • Play the variations in higher positions or with shifts to stay on one string.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list but one to get you started thinking. I have done Twinkle challenges in the past, and I was amazed at how well the studio students sounded when we revisited the Twinkle Variations on a regular basis.


----- Paula -----

© 2017 by Paula E. Bird

Monday, January 9, 2017

Coming Out of the Closet with the Kon Mari Method of Tidying

On a recent podcast episode (1/8/17) (episode 41) I wrote about my experience with the Kon Mari method of tidying up. I promised photos of my experience. Here are the photos and links of the process:

Kon Mari method of tidying
Clearing Out Floor Space
This is a picture of the pile of things that I needed to pick up off the floor and move outside my room, in order to make room on the floor inside the room where my closet is located. I dealt with this pile at the end after I had completed my Kon Mari process through the clothes and restocked my closet with what clothes remained. most of what you see here was discarded.

Kon Mari method of tidying
Everything Out of the Closet
Kon Mari method of tidying
Everything Piled on the Floor
These next few pictures are a shocking look at how the pile of clothing looked once I pulled everything out of my closet. As you can see, I had to stock many things on my counter as well during this process. The open books on the counter are my notes about the Kon Mari process that I was to follow.

Kon Mari method of tidying
Smaller Pile After Sorting?
This picture shows how large the pile remained after I had completed my sorting process. The laundry basket in the background is where I placed my T-shirts, with the misguided plan of hanging on to them. As my podcast episode relates, I discarded almost all of those T-shirts after one month, and I explain how that came about.

Kon Mari method of tidying
Sweeping Up to the Right
Kon Mari method of tidying
Finished Closet

This is an amazing transformation, yes? The left picture shows how my closet looked after I finished the Kon Mari process on my clothes. The picture on the right shows my symphony clothes (black) tucked in the back of the right side of the closet. I have since moved them to the left side of the closet.

Kon Mari method of tidying
Winter Running Clothes

The picture on the left shows a different closet that houses my dresser at the moment, although my husband and I have tentative plans to move the dresser out of the closet to a different location. The long-sleeved shirts pictured here are my winter running clothes. I have discarded many of the hangars now and kept the specialty hangars because they look so nice.

Kon Mari method of tidying
The Other Side of the Closet

The picture on the right shows the other side of my dresser closet. This side houses my winter coat, jacket, and sweater, and my short-sleeved running shirts. I did not discard many of my running clothes or winter coats.

My dresser drawers were great fun! I enjoyed folding my clothes find great joy in admiring my handiwork each time I open a drawer. I have improved my clothes folding skills since I took this picture, and my drawers look even better!

Kon Mari method of tidying

See the little packages of folded items? See how nice my running clothes look? It takes me seconds to get ready to go for a run.

Kon Mari method of tidying
I have a lot more socks than I realized. And I found some socks that were still in there original packaging, which is definitely a no-no to Marie Kondo.

Kon Mari method of tidying

 These last two drawers are even better organized now. Because of the vertical storage idea, I can find what i need in seconds. And an added plus is that my drawers all shut completely closed now. No more drawers slightly ajar with clothes spilling over the edges. All neat and tidy!

Kon Mari method of tidying

The entire process did not take as long as I expected. I allowed myself an entire weekend, but I took part of one day. I was worried at first that I might backslide, but I placed my faith in Marie Kondo's promise that I would not. And, I have since discovered that instead of backsliding, I have continued to discard and sort other areas of my life. In fact, every time my hand touches something now, I intone out loud whether the item sparks joy or not and sort accordingly. My trash and recycle cans overflow with the evidence!

If you are interested in a video of the pile, somewhere in the middle of my Kon Mari experience, click the links below for short video explanations of my process:

Please comment below if you have your own Kon Mari experience to share. I will tackle my book project next. As you can see from the photos below, I have my work cut out for me!

If you are interested in Marie Kondo's books, click on the links here, or you can find these books (and others) in the Teach Suzuki Resources Store, located at the top in the right sidebar of the blog:

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2017 by Paula E. Bird

The above book links are affiliate links (Amazon), which means that I may receive a small benefit at no additional cost to you. As always, you never need to 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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

90 Day Square Followup

I released a podcast recording on January 1 about my new twist to goal setting, and I posted a blog article the next day with pictures to explain my system. I thought my readers might be interested in how the process went so far this week.

I love the new system! I look through the form every day, so the items that I have listed on my 90-day plan stay fresh in my mind. I put copies of my completed plan in various places in my home so that I would bump into it on a regular basis. That plan seems to work also.

Here are the main lessons I have learned so far:
  • If I look at my plan daily or even more than once during a day keeps me focused on the things that I want to achieve.
  • The four quadrants help me recall that the four areas of my life need to be balanced. I need to do something in each quadrant and not work in one area alone.
  • The three columns of 30-60-90 days remind me that time passes all too quickly if I do not pay attention.
I have not yet put the finished product in my bullet journal because I am near the end of my journal. I would rather wait until I have a new journal to include the new plan. I may not even put the plan in my journal at all because it is all set out in a fine manner so far. I do not need to copy it once again. I did use my bullet journal quite extensively to create the plan, and I plan to use my bullet journal -- a new one -- when I formulate my next 90-day plan.

It is commonly said that you get what you focus on. I find that having my plan before me has encouraged me to keep my focus on my plan.

I hope that whatever system you have formulated for yourself this new year helps you to stay focused on your goals.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2017 by Paula E. Bird

Monday, January 2, 2017

There Comes a Journey

Recently I published a podcast episode entitled, "There Comes a Journey," in which I discussed companion tools for the Suzuki journey. If you would like to hear about some of the tools that I use to help guide me as I plan for the coming year, listen to Episode 040 of the Teach Suzuki Podcast. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (Teach Suzuki Podcast) or on Google Play (Google Play).

In podcast episode 40, I mentioned Jinny S. Ditzler's Your Best Year Yet! book and program. You can read my previous blog post about that program here, including several previous articles that explore various program questions in more depth.

I also discussed Hal Elrod's The Miracle Morning book:

This is an interesting book about how to set up your days for more productivity by structuring the morning routine to include several things that help build productivity. I found the book interesting in that it confirmed my own observations and experience about how to use morning time effectively. The book also presents information about the "Circle 10 Life," which is a visual representation of a set of life goals that are designed to provide balance.

You may also find these book resources in my Teach Suzuki blog resources store, which you can find at the top of the blog in the sidebar on the right side of the blog.

In the podcast episode, I discussed the difficulty I had with the circle 10 idea. I had two main issues. First, I found it difficult to create the circle representation of my life. Second, I had trouble dividing my life into ten segments. Although I liked the circle representation idea, I found the process too difficult and cumbersome to be very useful for me and my busy life. I need something that is quick to set up, follow, and maintain.

I came up with a simpler solution, which I wish to share with you: the 90-day Square. My program is different in that it focuses on two main areas in my life -- my personal and my professional sides. I further divided these two areas into individual and other people. With these four simple divisions, I was able to create a square representation.

dividing life into personal and professional categories
Personal & Professional
Two of the quadrants are related to my personal life. The other two quadrants are related to my professional life. I titled my four square quadrants:
  1. Personal: activities that focus on me alone, such as my health, fitness, and personal development goals
  2. Home/Others: activities that focus on my personal life and involve others, such as family relationships and my home environment
  3. Creative: activities that focus on me alone and are related to my professional side
  4. Work/Others: activities that focus on my professional life and involve others, such as my employment with the university and the symphony and my private teaching studio
I further divided each of the four quadrants with 8 dissecting lines that vary horizontally and vertically for visual appeal. These 8 segments will represent 8 goals that I intend to accomplish in the next 90 days.

4 Quadrants with 8 Goal Lines
I also made up a blank template of these items and categories for ease of planning in the future.

I set to work on my template and made a list of 8 results or outcomes that I want to achieve in the next 90 days in each of the four areas represented by a square quadrant. I limited myself to 8 items in each of the four quadrants in order to keep my life balanced. I will admit that I found it difficult to come up with 8 items in some areas and to limit myself to 8 in other areas. Such is the difficulty of balancing life priorities.

I added three columns on the right side of my lists and labeled the columns: 30 -- 60 -- 90. I went through my lists of outcomes and results and determined which items would be completed in 30, 60, or 90 days. To my surprise, the tallies appeared to be balanced as well.

As I set about my next 90 days, I will color in the square segments as I complete items for a visually appealing representation of the work that I accomplish. There will be a few instances when an item on a list has some subtasks or subparts to complete. I will most likely partially fill in segments of the square to represent these subparts. The coloring process does not need to be exact or perfect. The color square is to be a helpful tool, not another life burden.

What's on the back side? A few items in my list needed further breakdowns or notes, and I used the reverse side to do this planning:

At the end of my 90 day period, I have set aside the subsequent month as a time to consider and plan for my next 90 day push. That means that I have basically divided my year into three larger segments of 120 days, and this breakdown seems to follow my usual routine of the year:
  • January-April: This period follows the general university semester calendar.
  • May-August: This time period finishes the school year and covers the summer break.
  • September-December: This time period includes the fall school semester.
As you can see from this breakdown of the year into 120-day segments, the three segments seem to coincide with natural break points in the year. For the first 90 days of each 120-day segment, I plan to achieve the goals that I have set to accomplish in those three months. The fourth month will be a time to celebrate what I achieved, evaluate how well the process worked, and consider what new outcomes or results I want to achieve in the next 90 days.

I have designed my template to fit my bullet journal. I will provide more information about the bullet journal in a future article. I used my bullet journal to help me make my goal lists and plans for the 90-day square.

I hope that you will join me in this 90-day twist to goal setting. If you are interested in trying the 90 day square idea, you can find the template here.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2017 by Paula E. Bird

The above book links are affiliate links (Amazon), which means that I may receive a small benefit at no additional cost to you. As always, you never need to 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.