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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: Checklists for the New Year

Good morning and welcome to the new year 2012!

Like me, you have probably been recently inundated with emails and articles about goal setting and resolutions. You do not need me to add another level of information to a topic that we have discussed repeatedly throughout the year. Of course, if you do want to revisit those blog posts, just search for goal setting or goals in the search box above.

Today is the first Monday of a new year. For my recent readers, I devote my Monday blog posts to more general topics that will aid us to become better teachers. In the past my topics have sometimes included goal setting. Other times I focused on organizational tools, practice planning, or anything that crossed my mind in a general way and which I thought might help us to improve our effectiveness as teachers.

Weekly Checklist

Since it is Monday morning, let me start out by asking whether you have done your homework for the week? Have you thought ahead to what your schedule will be this week, and have you figured out what you need to accomplish? Here is a general checklist to consider:
  • Have you scheduled all your necessary appointments or lessons for the week on your calendar?
  • Is there anything you want to accomplish this week that needs to be broken down into manageable steps over several calendar days?
  • What major projects or goals are you working on this week?
    • What materials do you need to gather to complete a particular project this week?
    • What steps can you take this week to move yourself forward on your goals?
    • What can you do today to make some forward progress on your goals?
    • What phone calls do you want to make this week? Do you need to schedule time to make those calls?
    • What emails do you want to make this week? Do you need to schedule time to write those emails?
    • Are you waiting to hear back from someone? Have you scheduled the day when you will follow up with that person?
    • What errands do you want to do this week?
      • Have you scheduled time to do those errands?
      • What materials do you need to gather together to complete those errands?
    • Have you sent out your tuition bills for the month?
    • Have you done your record keeping from the previous week (or month)?
    • Have you scheduled your practice time for the week? Maybe I should move this item further up the list, because I think it is an important daily item.

    Monthly Checklist -- January

    Because this is January, and we have just completed 2011, this is also a good time to begin gathering your documents and records to get ready for tax preparation season. So here is a checklist to begin the tax records process:
    • Gather your income records into one folder.
      • Make a list of the next steps you will need to take to put this information in a form that you can easily use or access when you prepare your taxes.
      • Since I maintain a simple income register log with a new page for each month, I simply add up each month’s figures and ultimately add up each month for the yearly total.
    • Gather your expense records into a master folder.
      • Make a list of the next steps you will need to be able to access this information easily when you prepare your taxes.
      • I have several subcategories related to the main studio category, and I have a folder for each of those subcategories. To get ready for tax preparation time, I go through my master folder and sort out these various receipts into their respective folders. Ultimately I will total up the subcategory figures.
    • As part of the new year, I make sure that I have set up the studio record keeping system for the coming year. This involves adding new monthly sheets to my studio notebook for the year.

    The Japanese have a tradition of cleaning their homes on New Year’s Day. This might be a good time to consider whether there are any areas in your studio that need attention aside from general housekeeping:
    • Are there any piles of music that need to be refiled?
    • Are there supplies or teaching aids that need to be sorted, cleaned, or put away?
    • Are there any toys or books that need to be repaired, cleaned, or put away?
    • Does your piano need to be tuned?
    • Do you need to buy any new supplies or equipment?
    • Do you need to replenish any studio necessaries, such as paper towels, drinking cups, or toilet paper?
    • Do you need to repair anything or do anything to maintain your instrument?
    • Are there any student records that you need to update?
    • Are there any new students that you are beginning this month?
      • Do you have a record for the new student in your income register?
      • Have you updated the new student's contact information?
      • Are there any other places that you need to update your student's contact information (such as your phone, computer, or website contacts list)?
    • Have you set up your budget for the month?
      • I highly recommend YNAB to help you get your finances in shape so that you learn to live on last month’s income.
    • Have you arranged to pay your bills at the end of the month?
    • Have you planned for your quarterly IRS payment?
      • 4th quarter for 2011 is due January 15 (maybe January 16).
      • While you are thinking about this, go ahead and calendar the other quarterly payment due dates:
        • April 15 (maybe April 16)
        • June 15
        • September 15
        • January 15, 2013
        • Check with http://irs.gov for the exact due dates, because sometimes a payment date is extended a day or two to accommodate a weekend
    • Have you set up your semester teaching schedule?
      • Have you put your teaching schedule on your calendar, including any semester break or vacation?
      • Have you notified your students and their parents of the semester’s teaching schedule?
    • Have you determined the group class dates for the coming semester?
      • Have you notified your students and their parents of the semester’s group class schedule?
    • If you maintain a studio newsletter:
      • Are there any news items or event information to include?
      • When do you plan to publish the next newsletter issue?
      • Have you calendared the dates related to publishing the newsletter?
    • Look ahead to the studio’s next recital date and put that on your calendar.
      • Make a list of the items that need to be addressed for the recital and schedule dates on your calendar for those items.
      • When is the deadline for securing a recital location?
      • Who will be the accompanist?
        • When do you need to contact your accompanist?
        • When do you need to provide music to the accompanist?
        • When do you need to schedule rehearsals with the accompanist?
      • Will you need to schedule a recital dress rehearsal?
        • Have you notified your students and their parents of this date?
      • When do students need to have their music selected, learned, and memorized?
    • Now is a good time to think about what your summer plans will be. Add a page to your notebook, label it “Summer Plans,” and start making a list of ideas, including:
      • Attending an institute
      • Setting up a summer camp or workshop
      • Visiting with another teacher and his or her studio
      • Organizing a studio event-performance-trip
      • Planning a vacation for yourself
    • Schedule time to review the systems you have set up. One idea is to consider your lists on a weekly basis. Why don't we plan on this every Monday morning? [See below].
      I am a big fan of checklists and systems and project notebooks. I draw up a plan, type it up, and stick it inside a plastic sheet protector. I use a dry erase marker to check off items. The dry erase marker is easily erased, and the checklist can be used again. If I need to include some new item I had not thought of previously, I just add it to my checklist. At some point I will retype my original checklist if it has gotten messy.

      Something I would suggest we add to our list of weekly things is time to think about the things I have listed above. We need to remember to schedule time to reflect upon our lives. Consider scheduling 15 minutes every Monday morning for the purpose of checking in here with our blog community of teachers and parents and committing to the next week or renewing your commitment to growth as a teacher.

      I love setting goals. I love accomplishing things. I enjoy the feeling of satisfaction I get when I turn around and contemplate what I accomplished in the past, whether last week, last month, last year, the last marathon I attempted, or the last long hike I trekked up a mountain. I enjoy the journey better if I have a good sense of where the starting point is. I need a record in order to remember. So I create checklists that can be used again and again.

      I have many goals for 2012, as is customary for me in every new year. Some may fall by the wayside as I discover on my yearly journey that a particular goal is not as important to me as I had anticipated on January 1. That is okay too. One goal that I think would be good for all of us to adopt is the goal of simplifying our lives. Making checklists and project notebooks will go a long way to help us to simplify our lives in the future.

      I hope in this next year that we will build a sense of community together. Please comment with your ideas or questions. I hope you will  contribute to our checklists.

      And, if I have not said it before, I hope your holiday was a blessed one, and that your new year is fruitful and prosperous.

      Happy New Year!

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