Dance studio owners typically wear a lot of hats. The to-do list can get overwhelming. Many dance studio owners have little to no additional staff to assist in the myriad of tasks that must be accomplished. In addition to teaching classes all week, there’s the marketing, collection of payments, communication with studio parents, recital planning, competition weekends, and the list goes on. So how can a savvy studio owner organize their to-do list into a plan that doesn’t create overwhelm? How can a dance studio owner have a studio and still have a life?
After spending several years feeling overwhelmed by running my dance studio, I made it a priority to study how effective people managed to get so much done and still be sane. The 2 greatest assets in this journey were Stephen R. Covey’s books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and its follow up, First Things First. I cannot recommend these 2 books enough. They are 2 of the very valuable resources that have helped me fine tune how I prioritize tasks, organize them onto the calendar, and become efficient enough to have time left over to enjoy my life and the people in it. So here are some quick tips that I learned about planning my work and working my plan for both my studio, and my personal life.
First, plan in reverse. One of the biggest mistakes that I was making in my era of overwhelm was spending too much time creating my to-do list. It took me so long because I was trying to plan my day before I had planned my week, my month and my year. That also created a reality where I was always stuck in a state of having to be reactive, which equals always being stressed and overwhelmed, as opposed to a state of being proactive, which allows one to feel in control and at ease.
Plan Your Year
Start by putting your biggest events; your yearly or bi-annual events onto the calendar first, I.e., first day of classes, recitals, large marketing events, competitions or conventions that you plan to attend, and family vacations. Once you have all of your big events on the calendar, create a list of things that need to happen to make each of those events successful. When your list is complete, go back through it and note how much lead time before the event each task will need, and use that to put the tasks in a sequence that makes sense. For example, if I am hosting an open house at my studio to promote the start of a new season, I want to advertise it for a month leading up to the open house. That means that I need my open house, and the advertising for it, completely planned before that month begins. So, I will put “plan open house” on my calendar 2 months before the date of the event, and “start marketing sequence for open house” on my calendar 1 month before the event. Of course, we know that other studio events, like recitals, have many more steps leading up to them, but the logic of reverse engineering our timeline remains the same.
Plan Your Month
Next, make a list of all of the things that must happen monthly. Think newsletter, billing statements, tuition collection. Again, list any smaller tasks that have to happen to facilitate these events and how long they will take/ how much lead time is needed. Let’s use our monthly newsletter as our example. Obviously, we have to write the newsletter before we can send it, so we put that on our calendar a week or so before we want it to go out. Use your list to add all of your monthly tasks to the calendar.
Plan Your Week
You guessed it. We are going to repeat the process of the yearly and monthly planning with all of our tasks that happen weekly. This may include our teaching schedule, a class that we take every week, getting our kids to their activities, a date night with our spouse, etc. Each of these events may also have smaller preparatory tasks that we need to account for in our planner, like creating lesson plans, or accounting for drivetime to activities. Don’t forget to add a time for planning your week to each week.
Plan Your Day
At this point, with the events and related tasks for yearly, monthly and weekly occurrences added, our calendar will be getting quite populated. It is important, however, that we leave room in our daily plan for things that are important like good habits that lead to good health, keep us moving toward our goals, and help prevent emergencies and overwhelm. Generally speaking, these good habits fit best early in the morning before anything else can get in their way. Add your good daily habits to your planner first. Then add the other things that have a set time they occur, like your classes. Designate one specific hour each day for checking email and social media and returning phone calls. Include a break somewhere in your day to eat a meal and do at least 15 minutes of nothing. (I know it may sound silly to actually add that to your planner, but trust me on this one.)
Now our days have a structure and we can add the tasks that will move us toward the larger events into hourly time slots in our daily plan that will make sense. With the yearly, monthly, weekly, and recurring daily tasks already in place on our calendar, scheduling them into our hourly plan should be a quick weekly chore, easily accomplished over a glass of wine or cup of coffee, that invokes a sense of excitement and adventure for the week to come.
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