by Kristin Yost

Photo by matsuyuki

Have you ever been so busy with parents, students, technology and more students where you wished you just had three minutes to use the restroom or you forgot to pay your phone bill and could use five minutes to log in and pay online?  I think it’s safe to say that we have ALL been there, done that and some of us still continue to commit to ridiculous hours of teaching sans breaks.  But, are these hours so ridiculous or are we the ones that are ridiculous?

The reality is that we do this to ourselves. We have created an unrealistic schedule.  Where in our Piano Teacher Employee Handbook does it state “teacher must not schedule fifteen minute breaks?”  Or, “teacher must dehydrate so as not to ‘waste’ precious lesson time.”  I have said before, and will say it again, I have no shame in starting my Music Flash Class app, walking away while it quizzes my students for three to five minutes while I take care of business.  I also don’t mind starting a lesson five minutes late or ending five minutes late.  Anything past ten and I start to feel bad but when nature calls or when I forget to pay a bill, Armageddon is not going to happen. However, all this could be avoided if I would just schedule a little extra time midway through my six-hour teaching day.  I personally don’t feel bad using the restroom while a student is warming up or practicing – do you?

If we are really doing it right, tuition dollars are going to so much more than our minute-per-minute lessons.  Why do we as piano teachers feel so guilty when our students don’t get all 2,700 seconds of our undivided attention?

Do you have the chatty parent that likes to talk your ear off on a weekly basis?  Sometimes I have time to chat, and enjoy it when I do, but other times I don’t.  A lot of parents enjoy getting to know their music teacher, but if I have a few minutes and have something I need to take care of, I make a point of saying, “I enjoyed our lesson, but I have to take care of something really quick before my next student arrives…looking forward to hearing you next week!”  I get to take care of my business, and everyone leaves happy.

Office Hours are something I also firmly believe in, you know, like college faculty members.  I have tried to train my families to respect my time, and alas, it has (mostly)worked!  My office hours are prior to lessons starting each day (I personally give myself 2-3 hours) so each day is different and I have the hours posted on my door.  I don’t answer/return work phone calls unless it is in that timeframe.

To maximize my efficiency year round, the two programs I absolutely cannot function without are QuickBooks and StudioHelper.  QuickBooks saves TONS of time when tax season rolls around, in addition to giving you a penny-for-penny analysis of your business accounts.  StudioHelper saves a significant amount of my time on all other administrative tasks such as scheduling, invoicing, record keeping and keep up-to-date student rosters.  It exports and prints beautifully.  You might look into MusicTeachersHelper as well.

In addition to all of these things, I do my best to keep my website up to date so parents and students can just visit and get all the information they need at any given time.  It cuts down on my emailing, certainly.  If I do need to send out emails, StudioHelper allows me to select which group(s) of people I need to email, and I can do it relatively quickly.  I read about a “two minute rule” in a wonderful book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity, that recommends if a task can be completed in 2 minutes or less, do it right away.  If not, put it on a “next action” list.  Much better than a to-do because the next-action is for items that need to be completed within a 24 hour turn-around.  I have two separate lists: one for next-action and another with projects that have deadlines.  The challenge for me, is getting in the daily habit of double checking my lists – but when I do, it works beautifully!

Creative Time Management recap:

  • Schedule short breaks
  • Three to five minute measurable-progress activity (e.g. Flash Class app)
  • Schedule Office Hours to accomplish administrative tasks
  • Set and keep Office Hours!
  • Scheduling/Accounting programs
  • Next-Action list


This post is by Kristin Yost, an active performer, author, teacher, and lecturer.  Kristin is widely known for her conference presentations on business issues including “How I Made $100,000 My First Year Teaching Piano.” Kristin is the founder of Centre for Musical Minds in Frisco Texas and will be launching the Piano Teacher School (covering especially business issues related to teaching) in the summer of 2011.  Visit her other articles in the Dollars and Sense category on the blog: