Time-Management Tips for Seriously Busy People

We are in the first few days of February 2020, and I haven’t blogged since November of 2019! But that doesn’t really surprise me. I know that I haven’t been writing simply because I haven’t been making the time for it, or committing to getting a blog out on the same day each way, or operating with a “done is better than perfect” mentality, and several other things. Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, the rush of joining a new board and board-related travel has slowed, and now that my students have completed the performance we began preparing for several months ago, I am ready to start focusing on creating again, which will require me to manage my time in a different way.

I’m writing this post in the wee hours of the morning, after awakening from a… power nap? I decided write this because I’m currently in a great position with work, business, and life, and I’m working hard to manage all the responsibilities that currently take up my time so that each day feels better and less overwhelming.

Here is a little background: I left my full-time job as a classroom teacher back in May of 2019. This was probably about 9 months later than I should have left teaching full-time, but I didn’t want to pass up my chance at finally being a kindergarten teacher. (Previously, I had only taught second grade.) And, for the record, I absolutely loved being a kindergarten teacher. Also for the record: I don’t love having a full-time job with no flexibility. Many people don’t understand this about me, and I’m not one to over-explain things to the masses (I leave my over-explaining to my students and loved ones). But I’ll say this: With every fiber of my being, I am a creative and an entrepreneur. My mind is buzzing with ways to create the things that I love dozens of times per day (I would say “hundreds of times,” but I have to leave room for all of the anxious thoughts that interrupt the creative thoughts….). I love doing things on my own terms. I’m highly motivated by a sense of responsibility. Little fulfills me more in life than generating income from original thoughts and ideas that I have put into the the universe–whether that’s a new business venture, curriculum for a dance program, a podcast, music playlists for dance studio owners, a social media marketing plan, or even a blog. With that said, again: loved teaching, but felt extremely stifled (see also: unhappy, confined, controlled, cranky, unfulfilled, like I was living the wrong life, etc.) by the 9:00 to 5:00 way of living.

Today, I am working as a full-time entrepreneur with many, many projects in the works. Those projects include running two dance education organizations (Dance Daze, Inc. and Dance Daze in Schools), managing a recently-born digital marketing agency (SociallySaumirah.com), hosting a podcast (The Happy Dance Podcast), and designing digital courses and printable resources for early-career dance educators and dance business owners on my platform DanceEdStartup.com. Additionally, I’m a brand new board member for a statewide dance education organization, a third-year doctoral student trying to hone in a research topic that combines dance educator preparation, the psychology of learning, and experiential learning theory, a committed dog mom (as in: my two rescue dogs have their own strollers, their own overnight bags, and about six dog beds between them), a partner, and a bonus mom. Oh, and I also have a couple of part-time gigs, to financially support the part of me that loves foreign cars and frequent travel.

What’s my point? My point is that I have very little time in my days and weeks. So I’m working on working smarter so that I can play harder.

Here are some of the tips I’m currently applying in my own life so that I can effectively manage my time and get everything (read: most things) on my to-do list done each day of the week and feel productive and successful:

TIP #1 – WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN: If I don’t write it down as you’re telling me something, I’m probably going to forget it. I have to put everything on both of my wall calendars (found in my kitchen and living room), in the Google Calendar on my iPhone, on my To-Do List in my iPhone Notes, and in my $3 daily planner from Target so that I don’t forget it. Additionally, I recently started re-using a free website and cell phone app called GetBusy.com specifically to help me manage projects at one of my part-time gigs. (I also use Buffer.com to manage my social media postings for my digital marketing agency; I use GroupMe to communicate with staff for one of my part-time jobs; and I use Slack to communicate with my doctoral cohort.)

TIP #2 – IF YOU FEEL THE URGE TO DO IT, DO IT: This might seem counter-intuitive to productivity. But let me explain. If we’re being completely honest, I don’t write everything down. (My mom says I should write down even the smallest things, but, what can I say? I’m still living on the edge in some ways.) For example: I don’t write down that I need to do the dishes or walk my dogs or take out the trash and recycling. For me, seeing dishes piling up or broken down boxes shoved in the corner is typically aversive enough for me to handle those situations so that they’re not just sitting there, unresolved, for more than a day or two. However, I have to give into the “urges” to take out my trash, or else I have this really annoying feeling in the back of my mind while trying to work on other things. So, in short: Clean when you feel like cleaning because it might relieve some stress and allow you to focus more on your actual work.

TIP #3: DO SPECIFIC WORK ON SPECIFIC DAYS: The idea of taking out the trash and recycling makes me think of how much clarity it gives me to know that I have to do certain things on certain days! Then they’re done! Probably since my days as a young graduate student at Pacific, when I was renting a room in a house in Stockton, CA, I believe I’ve always put out the trash bin on trash day–even if the bin wasn’t full. Even if there was only one bag in the bin, the trash went out. Even if there was almost no reason to put out the trash, I put out the trash bin because it ensured that it got done! It ensured that I didn’t have to take time out on another day to check all the waste bins inside of the house, fill up the large bin outside, possibly cause the outside bin to overflow, then have to re-think my entire trash-taking-out strategy. I’m still working this schedule of doing certain things on certain days out in my life (because, really, it is quite possible that I have too many things going on to only work on certain things on certain days… but if there’s a question, then there’s room for an experiment!). However, the idea of reserving certain tasks for certain days is one that I think might better help me manage my current schedule.

TIP #4: STOP WITH THE GUILT TRIPS, ALREADY: I’m actively working on not allowing myself to focus on the things that I’m not getting done each day or each week and to focus on being happy with what I have accomplished. I’m entirely aware of how easily people who live for feeling successful and productive and who run on high speed most of the time, like I do, can easily forget to acknowledge all that we have done and focus on what we have not done. This generally causes us to feel completely terrible internally, while the world wonders what our problem is. So, again, I’m working on re-framing my thoughts around my ideas of success and achievement so that I can focus more on what I have done and actively feel good about this. Which leads my to my final tip for this blog….

TIP #5: CELEBRATE EVERY WIN BECASE YOU EARNED IT, HONEY! I’m not sure what the exact formula is that “works” for me, but I know that at the end of some days I feel absolutely great about all that I’ve done. Other days, this is not so much the case. So, again, I don’t have this down to an exact science yet, but I do know that I love relishing in the thought that I’ve used the hours in the day that has just passed as effectively as possible to move me closer toward attaining my goals and toward living my ideal life. So I’m trying to feel like that more.

That’s all I have for now, friends. Let’s chat again soon!

 

What Is Your Primary Responsibility As A Dance Business Owner?

If you are a dance studio owner, if you run a dance education program that serves children in your local community, if you run any kind of business that provides the service of dance to clients, what is your primary responsibility?

Some might say their main responsibility is to introduce students to the art of dance and to help foster a love for dance for all students.

Some might say that it is their responsibility to properly prepare all students for professional careers in dance, including careers in dance performance, dance education, arts marketing, arts fundraising, dance research, and more.

Some might say they are focused on using dance as a tool to empower their students, giving them a lens through which to see the world and a voice for self-expression.

Perhaps your primary focus is social and restorative justice. Maybe your programs are focused on repairing and uplifting the people in communities that have been forgotten and neglected.

Maybe you feel that you’ve moved on from all of the above. Now you’re focused on making money. It is a dance business after all, right? If you don’t meet your bottom line, the business ceases to exist.

Maybe you love the marketing, the digital content, the UX design, the social media. Maybe that’s your primary focus and responsibility. Because, no matter what you’re doing, if you aren’t bringing in clients, you can’t really do what you want to do anyway, right?

Is your primary focus simply being organized? Handling registrations, hanging those flyers, getting those dance team jackets out, directing rehearsals, overseeing end-of-semester surveys and technique progress reports, making sure every student has the correct front-stitched leotard or slip-on jazz shoes, ensuring that all students and their parents know how to correctly sew elastic onto their ballet slippers?

Maybe you have mastered the art of delegation, and you are now primarily responsible for making sure your team does all of the above. Your team has to know and live out the values of your organization, manage the day-to-day tasks, communicate effectively with students and families, be a positive representation of your dance program in the community, ensure that regular outreach is happening, manage the social media accounts, teach the classes, keep students engaged and challenged, and more.

So what do I think? What is the primary responsibility of someone who owns or directs a dance business?

All of it.

Yes, when you’re running a dance business, your primary mission is to make sure that all.the.things are getting done, every minute of every day, by any means necessary.

I talked about how challenging finding balance can be in Episode #7 of The Happy Dance Podcast. I also talked about how we may sometimes be doing really well with doing the things that naturally bring us the most joy, while simultaneously failing (yes, failure is a thing… it’s just not a forever thing) at doing all the things that are the most tedious, the most time-consuming, or the most stressful.

So how do we do it? How do we stay motivated? How can we keep worrying about things like performance costumes or even on innovating within our established programs when we are in the middle of a slow season and we want to dedicate all our time and all our funds to marketing and outreach?

We can leave for a while, but we have to come back. This is a paraphrasing of some advice I got from my world religions teacher in high school, by way of my mother. I remember my mom told me that, during a parent-teacher conference, my former teacher mentioned to her that I spaced out during his class sometimes. He was fine with me letting my mind wander, as long as I always brought myself back.

This is what I believe we need to do as dance business owners.

We literally are some of the people in the world who DO IT ALL. (See also: women, moms, stepmoms.)

It can be daunting. It can be exhausting. It can be overwhelming in a terrible way. It can be impossible.

But impossible is nothing.

If you’re a dance educator reading this, you likely already know that huge responsibility that we have in the world as well as the great opportunity that we have to make an impact.

Follow your dreams. Model your educational philosophy. Develop great dancers and great citizens. Live your business mission and see the vision through.

Do it all. And if you ever just can’t do it all, then leave it for a minute… then get up and get back to work.