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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.

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Until next time,

Practicing! (or GTD'ing)

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

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