As music teachers, we’ve all been there.
Exhausted, worried about a mile-long to-do list, and frantically jumping from one task to the next, you might start to wonder: “Is this sustainable? Am I burnt-out?”
When our schedules are so full that we never really finish checking off our daily to-do lists, it can start to feel hopeless. And when hopelessness sets in, it gets even harder to be productive.
But don’t worry — there’s a simple solution.
What might happen if you organized your day around only the most important goals? What if you could still accomplish your most important tasks while enjoying your teaching, gigging, and (yes, that’s right) even administrative tasks.
The GEARS Organization System
This system is simple. And simplicity is a big part of why it works so well. The last thing you need when you’re feeling overwhelmed is another complicated system.
When I first formulated the GEARS system, I tried it for 7 days to see if it worked. Within the first two days, I felt empowered to make positive changes in my life.
Now this system is a core part of my organizational toolbox. I can confidently say that if you try it, you will discover something new about yourself. You may even decide to use this as the foundation of a new, personalized system.
If you’re feeling burnt-out, frustrated, and overwhelmed, this system is designed for you. Even if you feel like you have a pretty good handle on your to-do list, this system will help you prioritize the self-care you need to maintain long-term success.
Grab your free copy of the 7-day GEARS Planner by entering your email address:
The GEARS system is designed for daily use. To get the most out of it, I recommend taking 5 minutes each morning (or each night, if you’d like to plan for the next day) to write down the most important items in each category for that day.
Begin by asking yourself: “What’s the one thing I could do today, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”
This concept was popularized by Gary Keller, author of The ONE Thing. By asking yourself this question, you’ll find it much easier to focus your attention on what’s truly important — making it easier to eliminate distractions.
Write down the *one* most important thing you could do today (such that by doing it, other things will be easier or unnecessary).
At first, a bunch of different “one things” might come to mind. Don’t worry – that’s normal! Give yourself a minute or two to sit with this question if needed. Your one thing for today will rise to the top.
As you go about your day, return to your one thing — your goal for today — any time you need to re-focus your attention.
When you accomplish your one thing, congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back, then take a moment to pick your next goal — your next one thing.
Events include: lessons, meetings, gigs, after-school activities – anything that’s “scheduled” in your calendar.
By writing your events down at the beginning of each day, you will gain confidence that you *will not* forget anything today. No need to worry about forgetting — you’ve already remembered everything!
Writing down your events in the morning will also help you discover if you need to adjust your schedule. You will quickly realize if you are double booked or if you won’t have time to get from one appointment to the next. Then you can confidently make any changes you need to make.
And finally, if new events pop up during the day, write them down too.
Actions include your typical to-do list items. Prepping for a lesson, practicing a piece, submitting an application, writing a blog post…
Try to limit the list of actions to no more than 12 things for a single day. If you have more than 12 actions on your list for today, just divide the list into “must do today/first” and “may accomplish later” (or feel free to add a time restriction, like “must accomplish this week”).
Rank your actions in order of importance. Your number 1 activity will likely have something to do with your ONE thing from the Goals section.
When you finish an action, check it off the list – woohoo! When new action-items come to mind, add them to this section. If something doesn’t need to be accomplished until later, but you don’t want to forget about it, you can add those actions to the list under “may accomplish later.”
This is the *most important* part of the GEARS system.
How many times have you found yourself working until late at night, only realizing at 10pm that you just worked for 15 hours straight? You drag yourself to bed only to wake up even more exhausted the next day…and the cycle repeats until you have very little energy left…
If you’re like many music teachers, this happens a lot more often than you’d like.
Rest is just like anything else, it’s important to plan ahead to make sure it happens. If you leave your rest time to chance, there’s a good chance it won’t happen.
Write down when you will take breaks during the day. Then, write down when you will finish working for the day.
Most of us don’t end our work days at 5pm (wouldn’t that be nice?). Even when we finish “work,” there’s always some practicing to do, some future presentation or lesson to prep for, a gig, or a volunteer activity.
Picking a time that your work day will “end” encourages you to step away when the time comes. Anything else that needs to be accomplished when your pre-determined “end” time arrives can be done tomorrow.
If this is challenging for you, you may have to be a little extra disciplined at first to actually go home and rest, rather than continuing to work late into the night. Just remember: sleep plays an important role in memory and mood.
Do you want a healthy memory? How about a positive mood? If yes to either of these, be sure to prioritize your rest time!
S: Satisfaction (& the Joy of Life as a Music Educator)
This is the second most important part of the GEARS system, second only to Rest.
Write down the things that you plan to take joy in during the day: the satisfying things that you expect to happen and the self-care activities that you will engage in.
For example, you might find satisfaction in taking a walk outside during a break, practicing your instrument *for fun*, teaching a favorite student or class, going to a gentle yoga class, meditating for 5 minutes, making yourself a soothing cup of tea or coffee…the possibilities are endless.
By guaranteeing that you experience some level of satisfaction each day, you will strengthen your commitment to excellence in teaching, prevent burnout, and enjoy a happier life (that sounds pretty good, right?).
Try the GEARS System Today
Want to make the GEARS system part of your daily organization routine? I made a free 7-day downloadable GEARS Organizer for music teachers. Type in your email address below and get this simple overwhelm-busting tool for free in your inbox today.