As piano teachers, our life and work tend to be intermingled and mashed up together. This can actually be a good thing in many ways. But when that life balance gets off kilter, a piano teacher needs to re-adjust.
⬆️ Listen to the podcast above or keep on reading, whichever fits your style. ↙️
If your life balance isn’t feeling quite right at the moment, please know that’s totally normal for a piano teacher and to be expected. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed or lost the game, because there is no winning!
Your life balance is something that will need to be re-calibrated again and again. Now is a great time to check in and see if there are any issues you need to sort out to bring it back into line.
Common Work-Life Balance Bugs
The bugs wreaking havoc with your life balance as a piano teacher will be personal to you and your situation. The most important thing you need to do is to keep your eyes and heart tuned into what’s throwing YOU off.
That being said, here are a few common bugs I see popping up for many music teachers when it comes to re-balancing work and life.
The phenomenon known as ‘feature creep’ is something that happens to many apps and software programs.
- It starts with a simple idea. E.g. a calendar for vets showing the animal’s symbol on the screen so they can set things up correctly for each appointment.
- Someone asks them to add a feature to make it even better – maybe a payment processor for clients.
- Someone else asks for another feature – perhaps the ability to email the pet owners without leaving the calendar.
This goes on and on with each new idea being added until the calendar becomes unusable because of the plethora of widgets, doodads and options.
That’s feature creep. None of the ideas are bad, but altogether they’re terrible.
Feature creep can happen in a piano studio when we keep adding new incentives, projects, class options, payments choices and practice programs without taking any away.
- Each one of your recitals might be awesome, but do your studio families value all 7 in a year?
- It’s great to put together a memento of your students’ compositions, but do they need a CD, a book, a YouTube video and a Sound Cloud page?
- It’s nice to be accessible to families but is it essential that they contact you through Facebook messenger, text, email, Tonara, phone and post?
Take a minute or two to think about what new features you’ve added to your studio recently which were additions rather than replacements. See if there’s scope for streamlining to allow your studio families to really appreciate the things you do offer.
You’re probably familiar with a 404 error, even if you don’t know it’s called that. This is what happens when you follow a link and the website has nothing to show you on the other end because the page has gone on a walkabout.
404s happen for your studio families when you assume they know something they don’t.
You think it’s obvious that practice should happen every day, or that a light up keyboard is just a toy or that pianists can’t have gigantic acrylic nails. But maybe your studio families don’t.
This affects your life balance as a piano teacher because you end up chasing your tail trying to figure out these issues. You assume the parent knows something, they assume everything’s fine, and neither of you can find the broken link because it’s cropped up in a surprising way.
You can alleviate so much of this back and forth by checking in with your assumptions. Lay things out clearly for all parents upfront so you have less work to do communicating later and more successful students who stay in your studio longer. (So less marketing, too!)
The final issue I see cropping up most commonly for teachers and disrupting their life balance is outdated code.
If you built a studio for MS-dos and your student’s brain is running on the latest a Mac M1, there is going to be a disconnect. You old policies and procedures just might not work for the latest generation.
But there’s a bigger story here, too. They might not work for you.
We evolve. Our lives change.
It might have been totally fine to work Saturdays before, but now you’ve joined roller derby and you want to attend the group trainings that day. Maybe you were happy to take cash payments before because you walked past the bank anyway, but it just shut down and now you need to trek across town.
There are many difficult things about running a business. But we make it much harder on ourselves when we don’t take advantage of the perks!
It’s your business. If it’s not working for your life, then change it.
Speaking of business, my centralised Studio Business page has loads more articles and resources targeted towards the needs of today’s music studio teachers.
How to Debug
Once you find the bugs, it’s time to squish them. (Or carefully pick them up and release them outside, if that’s more your thing.)
Prioritise, for Real This Time
Don’t you dare head off right now to make some giant priority list. Stay with me.
When I say you need to prioritise, I mean you actually need to choose your priorities. You can’t take everything out of the box and try to find a new Tetris-master trick to fit it back in.
What are the most important things to you? If the scales feel unbalanced right now, what are you going to remove from the other side so you can lift these things higher?
It’s not an easy solution. But until you get this straight, nothing else will help.
Set New Rules
Protect those priorities with some rules.
If you want to go to bed earlier because health is a priority, turn off your phone at 9pm and go to bed or head off to have a lavender bath.
If becoming more profitable in your business is a priority, set an expense budget you can stick to.
Write your rules somewhere you can see them and don’t include wiggle room. They’re rules – not guidelines or suggestions.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Even though you set rules, it might be hard to stick to them. If you know you’re going to struggle with this, find a way to make yourself commit.
You could tell a friend and ask them to check with you regularly. You might set alarms on your phone with messages from your past well-intentioned self. Or you could find a way to make it a rule you can’t break, such as putting your profit in a separate bank account you can’t easily access.
You need to know yourself here. If you’re the kind of person who responds to camaraderie, team up with someone. If you work better with affirmations, do that.
And if you don’t know, experiment and keep track of the results. This is a lifelong journey, not a destination.
Your One Thing.
Identify one bug in your life balance and make a plan to fix it. Keep it small and manageable so you can see success and will be more motivated to squish another bug once this issue is solved.
What feels out of balance for you right now?
I’d love to hear your bugs and thoughts on this in the comments below or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers Facebook group. 🙂