Now that the school year has started back up, most of us are experiencing something that we all do when school and work start back up:
It seems like in an instant, we go from the relaxing time of summer vacations and minimal school and work commitments to one of the busiest seasons of the year. When you factor in the fact that fall means the start of the college year, and that means new first-year students across campuses across the country. Not only is it back to school season, but when you add in things like marching band, fall sports and the additional errands and such that come with this time of year, and pretty soon, we are all wondering where all the relaxation went from the summer.
I am experiencing this as well, both with my students and with myself. As I have added more college teaching to my schedule, I have been often wondering where my time went for relaxation, exercise, shopping, and other tasks that I'd like to get done. I'm very fortunate that work never quite feels like work to me, as I truly am loving all of the teaching, performing, and other musical activities that I do every day. However, there are moments that I struggle with keeping up with everything I am doing.
My number one suggestion to anyone struggling with the stress of being busy is to get more organized. When I started to get busier, I made the decision that I would spend a fair amount of time (sometimes as much as an hour) everyday to focus on organizing and scheduling all of the activities I want to get accomplished in a day. My schedule, which I have synced between my laptop, phone and tablet, is very detailed. I will schedule the hours that I spend working on e-mails, practicing, shopping, and just about everything else, down to about a half hour.
Yes, there are times I leave open each day, but I also think about things that I could get done in that time. For instance, I've got a solo performance coming up on October 5 with the Triangle Brass Band, my open slots on my schedule will lean a bit more towards practicing and away from errands and such. I may have to get a bit behind on laundry, working out, or watching football, but I know that I must give that up in order to have a successful performance as a soloist.
Too often, younger students want everything, and they want it now. Spend some times with your students and have them come up with a list of what their priorities are, and in an order of importance. Follow this up with look at their schedules, and make them start to put more into their schedule. It has helped me tremendously to see what I have to get done in a day, so I hope it helps you and your students as well!
Andrew Smith currently serves as the Director of Athletic Bands at and Assistant Professor of Low Brass at Campbell University and is Principal Tuba of the Fayetteville Symphony. Andrew also maintains a low brass teaching studio in the Triangle region of North Carolina.