Do you feel in control when it comes to your schedule? Maybe you start a new teaching session feeling clear, confident and organised but very soon after things get a little out of control. Wouldn’t you love to regain control of your schedule and reign in the overwhelm?
The problem most of us face is when tasks stack up and you seem to “lose time”, chasing your tail to get on top of the things that have to get done. Soon you’re feeling overwhelmed and you play switcheroo with tasks before you complete them, so you feel like you never achieve anything.
With a bit of planning, you can stay on top of tasks and keep control of your schedule.
Step by Step Guide to Planning Your Schedule
The first step is to to do a TASK AUDIT – this is where we list all the things that “usually” happen during a set time frame (year, semester, term, month etc..).
Here’s how to get started.
#1. Set Aside Planning Time
Set aside a dedicated patch of time to do this planning. It could take a few hours to up to a few days depending on how much detail you want to get into.
But the more you plan, the more time you will free up down the line and the more in control of your schedule you’ll be.
#2. Set The Planning Period
It’s important to decide on a set period that you want to plan for. It could be a year, a semester, a term or a month. You’re in control of how far ahead you want to plan and what sort of regular planning interval you want to maintain.
#3. Start With A Brain Dump
Before you get to work planning the nitty-gritty the best way to start is to just do a brain dump of all the tasks or events you can think of.
List all the things you HAVE to do and all the things you WANT to do. Don’t hold back!
Get it out of your head and on paper so you can look at it, assess it’s importance, and then assign it to where it needs to go. We don’t need dates or any extraneous information, just the basics to clear the mess from your mind and make it easy to quickly see which events are fixed and which are variable.
#4. Schedule All Fixed Events
Get out your calendar and start by scheduling any task or event that is fixed. That is, it cannot be changed. These should ONLY include all the essential items that you MUST do to keep your business or family life running.
First up you will schedule your fixed personal events such as:
- Regular family days
- Family holidays
- School pick up/drop off times
Next, you will schedule the fixed work events such as:
- School Holidays and teaching sessions/days/hours
- Teaching related events such as recitals, workshops or exam periods or eisteddfods.
- Professional development events such as conferences, workshops, courses you have signed up for.
- Student management events such as a regular parent progress report, or regular goal planning sessions.
- Administrative events such as billing periods or bookkeeping days.
- Marketing events such as Ad spends for new enrolment periods, for example, I tend to do an ad spend a month prior to a new session and this is a fixed event in my business
- If you do any sort of regular social media content, newsletter, or blog posts mark up the ‘minimal’ requirements to keep this going consistently. Ie. 1 post per week or 1 per month. Not the amount you want to do or feel you should do. It needs to be easily achievable to stick to the schedule.
#4. Schedule All Variable Events
Now we need to list your potential variable events.
These are the tasks or events that usually happen but are not date or time locked. The amount of time spent on these tasks is unknown or changeable so this can sometimes get people stuck because we’re playing a game of guesswork.
Work out an hourly total for each week such as:
- Lesson planning – 1 hour per week
- Sourcing student resources/repertoire/games – 2 hours per week
- Composing – 4 hours per week
- Professional Development – 2 hours per week
- Practice – 5 hours per week (I wish!)
If you’re not sure of timings just do estimations and as you go and you can keep track of how much time each task “actually” takes and gradually refine the number.
It’s now time to fill up your schedule with the variable events. You can now see how much time you have leftover in the week from the fixed events and so you should be able to see where the spaces are. You can now go to town assigning the variable tasks into these spaces.
#5. Honour Your Schedule
Now that you’ve gone to all this effort to plan your schedule you need to honour it.
If you can stick to your schedule you’d be amazed at how much more productive you can be.
Of course, stuff always comes up that you can’t predict and you have to change things up. Don’t beat yourself up about these. Just try to get back to your schedule as soon as possible. You can add anything you’ve missed to your do-to list for planning in your weekly review session (see next step).
#6. Extra Steps To Help You Stay In Control Of Your Schedule
Weekly Schedule Review Sessions
Have a set time each week (like Monday mornings or Friday evenings) to review your schedule for the upcoming week. Create a To-Do List for the most important tasks so you can start each day with a plan and avoid spending your time procrastinating about what you should or could be doing.
It’s easy to forget what’s coming up so make sure you keep in touch with your schedule by creating reminders for all your important tasks and events. Set them at a time that you know you will be able to take action, like adding to your daily To-Do List.
For example, don’t set them for first thing in the morning when waking up or when you’re making breakfast and getting the kids off to school. You’re more likely to ignore and forget them.
Do A Task Deep Dive
We all know that any given task may have numerous other tasks associated with it. To make sure you don’t get sidetracked and completely lose track of your schedule, it may be a good idea to break down the probable tasks and subtasks associated with each event and then plan those tasks as well.
It’s also a great idea to work backwards from fixed events such as recitals or exams and set preparation start dates and create tasks to help meet certain goalposts.
Whenever you launch into a new teaching session without any planning you could be setting yourself up for possible overwhelm as you chase your tail trying to fit it all in.
Take the opportunity to stay in control and plan your schedule as far in advance as you can manage. Maybe once a month is all you can do at first, but once you get the hang of it you may find you can plan for longer periods.