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Is your task list stressing you out? Does it feel like your task list is never-ending? In this episode, we’ll talk about how we can identify three different types of tasks and separate them in a useful, practical, and sustainable way because it’s true – they’re not all created equal!
I don’t know about you, but I find my personal work-flow changing and evolving a little each year. Sometimes the change is in reaction to things life throws at us, such as, when we had to all move online in March of 2020, sometimes it has to do with new tools we discover such as a new productivity app, and sometimes it simply has to do with the fact that what we’re doing in the moment is not working or serving us well anymore.
One thing that was a struggle for me for quite a long time, was finding a way of managing what always felt like a ginormous list of tasks and projects I had going on at any one time. Not only were there daily life-related tasks, but then was the studio business as well as other professional and personal endeavors.
Today I want to talk a little bit about how we can identify and then mentally and physically separate tasks out in a useful, practical, and sustainable way because it’s true, they’re not all created equal.
Welcome to the Piano Pantry Podcast where together we live life as independent music teachers. Hey, everyone, I’m your host, Amy Chaplin. As a piano teacher and independent studio owner myself, I love talking about all things IMT-life related from running and organizing a studio business to getting dinner on the table and all that comes between. You’ll get loads of easily-actionable tips on organizing and managing your studio while balancing life and home.
Do you keep a “to-do” list? If so, pull it out and take a look through your list. What kinds of these are there? Maybe your list includes things like:
- Return phone call from voicemail left while I was teaching
- Wash bedding
- Research and buy a pedal extender for your studio
- Take Johnny shopping to get items for a school project
- Practice for Sunday services
- Write the first chapter of that book you’ve been dying to publish
- Call insurance about the simple doctor’s office claim they denied
- Change out the studio word of the week
- Overhaul studio website
What do you notice about all of these tasks?
Several years ago, as I was still struggling through managing my to-do list, it started to occur to me that I was combining too many types of tasks for too many areas of life into one physical and mental list. In the example list I just gave, notice there are three levels of tasks.
First are one-off tasks such as returning a phone call, taking Johnny shopping to get items for a school project, or calling insurance about a claim.
The second level are tasks that are recurring tasks such washing bedding, practice for Sunday services, or changing out your studio word of the week.
The last level are tasks that are longer-term items that either require research or are tied to a bigger project such as researching and buying a pedal extender, writing the first chapter of a book you want to publish, or overhauling your studio website.
Notice also there are not only three different types of tasks but there are tasks related to different subsets of life. Personal – studio – and professional.
Next, we’ll consider how we can separate out these types and categories of tasks and consider using formats or tools for tracking that are most conducive to the type of tasks at hand.
I’m going to put a disclaimer before we get any further that this is one of those things that could potentially sound complicated – separating out to-do lists into multiple lists with different types of tasks and different categories. It’s really not though – or, it doesn’t have to be, so stick with me here.
First of all, in my opinion, tasks that are one-off items such as calling insurance, ordering a book for a student, or taking your kid to the store, can all be part of your immediate to-do list no matter what part of your life they’re impacting.
Maybe you keep this list in a small note tablet, on a daily post-it note, or in a simple note list app. These are items you need to do fairly quickly in the short term. I hate to admit it, but sometimes for these types of items, I often send myself an email or even take a picture as a reminder – just a heads up that using your photos app for tasks will be the subject of episode #7.
The second level of tasks – that is, items that are recurring either an a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis – consider getting these out of your “to-do-list mind” and use a reminder app. I like using the “reminders” function in Google Calendar for these. Every day when I look at my calendar, I see lessons and events for the day as well as a list of reminders. Sometimes there’s one reminder, and sometimes there’s 10 – all of which are easy and quick to cross-off.
Example items include:
- A daily reminder to practice both the piano and my French (I know, crazy, but it helps)
- A weekly reminder to change out my “word of the week” in my studio
- A weekly reminder to do my shoulder stretches for a mild injury I have
- A weekly reminder to water my house plans
- A twice-weekly reminder to sort through my photos and schedule out social media posts
- Annual reminders with annual payments will be coming due (both so I can make sure funds are available and so I have a heads up if I want to cancel something)
Our third and final level of tasks are the bigger ones – such as single items you want to research, courses you want to complete, or projects you want to develop and tackle.
Examples for me in the past have included things like writing and publishing my Christmas by Ear book, planning and developing this podcast, writing new proposals and updating my speaking sessions page on my website and so forth.
These are the types of projects I have separated out into more details. I keep one note for projects related to three areas of my life: personal, studio, and piano pantry. I like seeing all of my long-term big project ideas in one location no matter what part of my life they’re for. Within each area then I break them down even further.
Under personal, I keep a list I title “relationships” and I write down people I want to have over or new restaurants we want to try. I keep a “health” list of tasks such as going to get a cholesterol check or looking into and starting a new exercise routine. There are travel-related tasks such as getting passports, researching for our next trip, or next items on our house project list.
For my studio, I keep a list of new resources I want to develop such as a technique book, and business or marketing projects such as creating a series of testimonials on images for social media.
These are all longer-term projects that I do best with when I have chunks of time and inspiration.
Rather than deleting these items once done, I make a note when I completed it and check it off. At the end of the year, it serves as a nice look back then I start a fresh note for the next year.
I hope this episode has made you think a little more deeply about how you treat and manage different types of tasks on your to-do list. Are you managing them in in a way that’s healthy, productive, and efficient, or they managing you? Take some time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not.
Whatever categories you choose to split your tasks into, find a pattern that feels natural to your life, family, business, and workflow. Experiment for a month or two and if what you’re doing isn’t working, tweak it or try something different and move on.
If you have any questions about this episode or just want to say hello, you can send me a voicemail through the link at the bottom of the show notes.
I would also love to connect with you online. You can find me at PianoPantry.com/podcast, on Facebook @PianoPantry, or on Instagram, my social media happy place @amychaplinpiano. That’s “Chaplin” with one “A” and one “I”. For more on where that came from, check out episode #5.
If you’re enjoying this podcast, hit the “subscribe” button and then jumping over to Apple Podcasts to share a review – thanks in advance. You’re a great audience!
Alright you guys, we’re about to get a little personal here with today’s fun fact about me, your host. Are you ready? Never have I ever…sung in the shower.
It never even occurs to me! Kind of crazy considering my first career was as a choral director – oops – I guess I just gave you two fun facts in this episode. Anyway, I guess I’m too much of a get in and get out type of shower taker. Fits my personality I suppose now that I think about it but yep, never have I ever sung in the shower.