* CORNERSTONE #2: THE VALUE OF TIME
The one equalizing factor in this world is time. We all have twenty-four hours in the day - no more, no less. We can’t bank it or save it, we either spend it or we lose it. It’s not a matter of “trying to get more time,” but rather “managing the time” we have. What are the secrets to effective/efficient time management?
* MAKE “TEACHER-ONLY” RESPONSIBILITIES A PRIOIRTY:
We often confuse "busy" with "productive." All too often we are BUSY, but not we are not necessarily PRODUCTIVE. It is easy to get caught in escape activities and, in turn, lose valuable time. It’s important to focus on “teacher-only” tasks and develop a team of volunteers to take on other aspects of the work agenda.
Stuffing music folders, setting up the chairs and stands, taking attendance, etc., can be accomplished by a select group of student leaders and/or officers. It is beneficial to take the time to teach someone else the "right way" to prepare music folders and properly prepare the rehearsal hall/room for the upcoming class. The rewards are twofold; the students embrace more ownership of the ensemble's success, and the conductor/director is now free to spend his/her time learning-the-musical score along with other “teacher only” duties (areas where the educator expertise is wanted-and-needed).
All of this is so apparent, and yet most of us find ourselves (from time-to-time) living in a sense of urgency because we do not have enough time. Why does this dilemma exist in the first place? The world of psychology suggest we subconsciously avoid the more difficult responsibilities because:
1. Doing the less-challenging duties helps us avoid the disappointment we experience in unknown territory. In other words it is more comfortable and less taxing to stuff music folders and organize music stands than it is to analyze the thematic material of a new composition. We are not as likely to fail or feel as inadequate; it's an attempt to feed our sense-of-accomplishment, but the impact is short-lived. Avoidance is a human condition; it is not that we do not know what to do, rather, we simply do not want to do it; in turn we look for opportunities that will divert our focus and still keep us busy.
2. If we complete all the work there is to do, we might become dispensable...we will not be needed; therefore we must ensure we have a long list of responsibilities yet-to-accomplish. Subconsciously we really fear completion might jeopardize our perception of existence. Of course the irony is, the moment we finish one project, two new ones appear instantly. Every master teacher knows, the more we do, the more there is to do.
The review of these two described conditions suggests we are at the effect of our own choices. If so, we then have the wherewithal to shift our emphasis and dedicate our time, effort, and energy to the “teacher only” obligations/duties, so we can have the greater impact on our programs.
Acclaimed author and time-management consultant, Stephen R. Covey, offers several suggestions we can easily tailor to our teaching forum/s. The following checklist is adaptation designed to accommodate the music educator in supporting a healthy program.
1. What needs to be done right now? (What has to be accomplished immediately to meet a deadline and avoid a crisis situation?)
2. Does the task require personal attention or can it be assigned? (If it can be delegated to a responsible person, do so and move ahead to the next responsibility on the list.)
3. Is the energy being used within a personal sphere-of-influence to produce a positive result? (Beware of spinning your wheels; don't waste time if you don't sense forward motion.)
4. Is there an alternative way to create better results? (Avoid the "we've always done it this way" pattern-of-thinking.)
5. Does it feed the mission-of-excellence? (If it does not, do not do it.)
No, this prioritizing-template will not solve every problem, but it will clear up much of the confusion that prevents us from making logical choices concerning the investment of our time. It is also brings with it a tone-of-honesty so we are not tempted to fall in the all-too-familiar trap of: we don't have enough time.
* AVOID COMMUNICATION BOTTLNECKS:
In any ensemble (multi-person) class/rehearsal, we must measure quantum time. If there are fifty people in the room, and someone asks a question, the amount of time needed to respond (complete the conversation) must be multiplied by fifty. For example: Two minutes devoted to a verbal exchange concerning a misprint in the second clarinet part, is really one hundred minutes of used time. (2 minutes multiplied by 50 people = one hundred minutes of “product potential.”) This is not to say the problem should be ignored, but if it can be resolved outside the priceless ensemble time, it will be to everyone’s advantage.