Written by & under Program Development.

Secret Weapons for ProductivityI’m on maternity leave this summer, so my studio is currently closed and I’m not teaching students. However, I’m still running my resource website for music teachers and therapists as well as doing lots of planning for the fall session, so that in combination with a brand new baby means I have to be super productive when actually have a few minutes to devote to my work.

Luckily, I have a few tricks and tips that I rely on when it’s time to get into gear, and since I know that running a studio involves lots of administrative work, I thought I’d share some with you.

  1. Coffitivity – I discovered this website while reading one of my favorite lifestyle blogs, and it is now a daily staple while I’m writing, brainstorming, and completing administrative tasks. So what is it, exactly? Well, you know how some people like to do their work in coffee shops? There’s something about the ambient noise that can actually increase your creativity without distracting you, and there’s actually research to back that up. But sitting in a coffee shop is not always feasible, which is where Coffitivity comes in. I keep this website open in my browser, and the ambient “coffee shop” noise it provides sort of just fades into the background as I dig into my work. In fact, I’m using it as I type this very blog post.
  2. Hiring Out – I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no superwoman. Not even close. There are things that just aren’t my forte, or that I really just don’t enjoy doing…and one of those is notating the songs I write. I can bang out a lead sheet in a few minutes, but I quickly lose patience when it comes to writing out the melody line, adding dynamics, and making it look pretty. So when I decided to create a new songbook, I hired someone who is amazing at this particular task. It took that person about 1/3 of the time it would have taken me, and I was able to launch the songbook much sooner for that reason. In cases like this, I am happy to spend the extra money in order to save my time and sanity!
  3. Being a Morning Person – by no means have I always been one. But a few years back, I started getting up super duper early to work out and get a jump start on my side work before heading off to my job, and that’s when I realized that my brain works best during those morning hours. Even now that I’m self-employed and have until 3 pm (when my students arrive) to get my work done, I always tackle the most challenging work first thing in the morning. I like to be at my desk no later than 7 am, at which point I’ve already worked out and made myself a fruit smoothie. I save more rote chores, like sending out invoices, cleaning up around the house, and running errands, for later in the day when my brain doesn’t have to be as fresh.
  4. An Inspiring RSS Feed – I love reading blogs of all kinds (home decorating, music education, business, marketing, lifestyle), but they all must have one thing in common in order for me to add them to my RSS reader. If I don’t feel inspired by reading a particular blog, I simply remove it. I only have a few minutes per day to get my fix, so I’m pretty picky when it comes to deciding what stays and what goes. I like to peruse my RSS feed right after sitting down at my desk, because it usually gives me an extra boost before I get started on my work. Oh, and for those of you who haven’t heard, Google Reader is going out of biz in July, so I moved my feeds to The Old Reader (there are step-by-step instructions for doing so, and thus far I am really digging it).
  5. To Do Lists – Okay, this might sound stale to you, but honestly, every time I feel my productivity slipping, I realize it’s because I have done away with list-making. I used to craft these looooong lists with 30 items and then toil away at them for weeks, but my new approach has been working much better. Instead of a long list, I write out 5-6 top-priority items that I want to complete each day. That way, I have a game plan without being completely overwhelmed. It feels awesome to cross off each item (I write my lists in Sharpie marker, highly recommended!) and then throw away the completed list at day’s end.

I hope at least one of my secret weapons can work just as well for you, too. Do you have any of your own that you’d be willing to share with the rest of us?