In late November, I began my yearly reflection on what did and didn't worked for me in the last year and started considering adjustments for the new year.
In 2020, I used a single planner for the following categories: Finances, Business (work)/Blog/Store, and Fitness/Health,
This year I'm keeping some things the same and completely overhauling others in my quest for organization and planner peace.
I plan to follow up quarterly, so I'm writing this post as much for my own accountability as I am sharing my reflections and ideas with you. :)
Let's start with usual the elephant in the room. Finances.
In December 2019 I decided that 2020 was going to be a "no spend" year. I wrote out a sheet in my planner of the rules and guidelines for my spending.
I budgeted and tracked my business expenses digitally using My Music Staff for general bookkeeping and a P&L for my studio.
For my personal budget I used a Numbers spreadsheet.
So I set my goals and then just tried to not spend money. You can probably guess how well that worked out.
Some of it had to do with it being 2020 (hello Amazon!), but most of it had to do with my system.
I wasn't able able to clearly see what I was and wasn't spending my (and my studio's) money on, so I get to the end of a quarter and be WAY over budget in some areas and WAY under in others.
Then I made two discoveries. The first was Dave Ramsey's EveryDollar app. This app does everything my spreadsheet did and more. It's clearer, does the math better, it's easier to use...overall it's really a much better system.
I've been using it for the past couple of months and I LOVE IT! My favorite feature is the "fund". A fund is a way for you to budget for big expenses over the course of the year.
Here's how they explain it: "Imagine you have a $300 insurance bill due in three months.
Set $100 as the "Planned" amount. In three months, you'll have $300 when you need it."
Side note: did I really just say "nifty"? Ooph, I'm getting old.
The second thing I discovered was Mike Michalowicz's book Profit First. I won't be going through all the details of the book in this post, but I highly recommend reading the book.
I will be implementing the Profit First system - in addition to using the EveryDollar app - in my business beginning this month and will update you after the first quarter. #accountability
I love the flexibility and creativity that The Happy Planner products offer, but trying to plan 2 businesses and a personal life in a single planner just wasn't working for me.
I've been using a Happy Planner for almost 2 years and I've seen a lot of people purchase 3-5 planners for a single year.
I seriously thought the were crazy. Honestly, who needs more than 1 planner?
Turns out, I do!
It's not that I have a lot to plan every week, it's more that keeping everything separate makes more sense to me. When things make more sense, I don't overthink as much and am more productive.
I've decided to take the year one quarter at a time.
For the first quarter of this year I will be using a combination of my own 2-page monthly calendar and Elizabeth Caldwell's Teacher Entrepreneur Planner for my blog/store planning.
For my music school planning, I'm sticking with a vertical Happy Planner and a new daily page that I created a few days ago. (I'll update you on that as well)
Near the end of the quarter I will evaluate my systems and decide what needs tweaking and what works as is, then adjust accordingly.
Let me know if you're interested in seeing more about my planner set up. I've been considering a flip-through video.
This is where I failed the most.
I had it in my head that if I wrote down my weight every day and if I planned what my workouts would be for the week that I'd have success.
I used the long range planning pages of my Happy Planner for my workouts and created my own version of it for my weight.
In theory it all sounds great, but practically speaking it just didn't work for me.
I got discouraged when the scale when up - even though I know there are so many factors that are out of my control - and on days when I physically didn't feel up to to the workout I planned, I either did it anyway and ended up feeling like garbage for the rest of the week or I beat myself up for not "sticking to the plan". Neither of which was healthy.
This year, my fitness goals are different than they've ever been. This year, I simply want to be active.
I'm not a naturally athletic person, but I used to be active. Teaching elementary and middle school kept moving, but now that I spend so much time sitting for work, driving and my other hobbies, I'm not so active anymore and it's time to change that.
I'll be using my own 2021 At a Glance Calendar planning pages, but instead of tracking weight and workouts I'll be journaling what I did and any new skills learned that week.
I'm also looking for new active hobbies, so if you have something that you love please share it in the comments! :)
What are your favorite organizational systems?
How are you going to plan your awesome year?
I LOVE to bake.
Whoa, totally got some deja vous as wrote that statement.
I think I've started 6 posts this way, but it's the truth! I love to bake!
Know what I love to bake the most? Okay, yes you're right it's cupcakes, but my second favorite thing to bake is cookies and cookies are a Christmas staple in my family.
Today I'm sharing 3 my favorite (easy) Christmas cookie recipes.
These are delicious and so easy that you can totally make them with your kids or just enjoy them yourself.
At one point Nestlé changed the recipe on the back of their chocolate chip package and my mom wasn't impressed. She dug out the old church cookbook and found the original recipe which made for much better cookies. Thankfully there are others who felt the same way and stored it in their online cookbook. :)
I've make this sugar cookie recipe every year with my nephew since he was 3. While the recipe doesn't specify it, this cookie is perfect for cutout cookies. We've done everything from Zombie Santa (cookies that we touched too soon and created deformed shapes), to Christmas trees, angels, and ornaments. Add a little colored icing and make it an afternoon of baking and decorating. We weren't able to make them together this year, but it'll make next year's cookies even more special!
Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
I came across this recipe a few years ago when I was doing an elimination diet to identify potential food allergies & sensitivities. I didn't want to completely give up chocolate cookies and I loved this flourless cookie so much, it has now replaced my regular chocolate cookie as a Christmas staple.
Picture this: You've opened your new brick & mortar studio and had your first week of lessons. You straighten up your lesson room then head to the office to shut things down for the weekend.
On your way you glance at the waiting room...the floor is filthy.
You poke your head into another lesson room...there's dust everywhere.
You look in the bathroom...did they even try to aim, how are we out of paper towels already and why is the sink covered in bubbles?
You're exhausted and really want to go home, but if you leave it you'll still have to deal with it Monday morning.
So you spend the next 2+ hours scrubbing the entire place. Your husband calls to make sure you're okay and asks why you're not home yet. You burst into tears because you're completely spent and aren't even half-way finished cleaning.
Welcome to business ownership.
The realities of owning a business with a brick and mortar location can be overwhelming at times. We need the most help with "menial" tasks at the beginning, while we're still getting our bearings in the business world. The problem is that's the time we need help the most is the time when we typically can't afford to hire said help.
This is where I was a couple of years ago. I did (still do, but not for long) EVERYTHING for the business side of my studio and I was on the verge of burning out.
I hired teachers to help me teach new students, but couldn't afford to have someone come clean, or take phone calls while I taught, or run my social media accounts, or handle advertising. It was all on me. And I was at the end of my rope.
That's when I discovered how important it is to have solid systems. I carved some time out of my day off and did some research. Once I got past the "a business owner should never clean the toilet" advice, I found that the most successful system for me would be a cleaning schedule.
A cleaning schedule? Like a chores chart? Really?!
Yes, really. And yes, it really helps.
I tried a few "premade" schedules, but found them either lacking or overwhelming, so I created my own schedule.
I divide each day's tasks into two categories, before teaching and after teaching. I should note, this is a mental division of tasks. They're all just written out on the schedule. When I come in, I get my self unpacked and start the firsts thing on the cleaning schedule. When I'm done teaching, I finish the list and we're ready to start again the next day.
I'm still tweaking the schedule to suit my needs, but I have to say, the academy stays clean and I get to keep my sanity.
Want to get your hands on an editable version of my cleaning schedule? Click here to download your own free editable copy.
I started my career as an elementary band director. A far cry off from where I am today, but not far off from where I wanted to be (or so I thought).
Sadly, those first two years of teaching in public schools were the only two really good years for me. This is not at all a reflection on my students or the programs.
When I graduated, public schools were at the beginning of their difficult times and music and art teachers were bearing the brunt of it. Needless to say, I got out.
One of the things I took away from that experience was how much kids benefit from little snippets of information combined with instant gratification.
We all know how long it takes to get to the point in learning an instrument where you can make music that's fun and recognizable.
To encourage my students along the way, I decided to start posting a "Music Question of the Week" on the white board in my band room. Students would come in for their lesson and get a piece of candy (something I hear you can't do anymore) for knowing the answer.
I've altered this for the academy to "Music Symbol of the Week". It works the same way as the question, but is a little more focused on music symbols rather than general knowledge.
And if they don't know the answer because they haven't learned it yet, students write it down and learn about it before going into their lesson.
Get your copy of the 2021 Music Symbol of the Week Calendar here.
Last week I shared a composition activity about Ralph, the Smelly Elf. I had so much fun creating that activity that I found myself singing my own version days later.
I got so into it, that I note only wrote a song, but I also wrote it in 4 different arrangements, as well as a second verse and a teacher duet!
What can I say, Ralph stayed with me and when creativity strikes, I cannot ignore it. :)
The Smelly Elf, is an early elementary song that can be used in piano lessons, guitar lessons, ukulele lessons, voice lesson, orchestra string lessons and wind lessons. (whew!)
How does it work for so many instruments? There are 4 versions in this bundle to make this piece accessible to a variety of instruments: Grand Staff in C position; Pre-reading in C position; Treble Staff in C major; and Treble Staff in G major.
The Smelly Elf can be found here in my store.
This is it. The last composing activity of the year.
If I'm being totally honest, my heart wasn't in this one when I first started it. There's so much Christmas music out there and my goal with these composition sheets - in addition to giving my young students a different kind of creative outlet and teaching them about composing - was to highlight holidays that don't get as much attention in the musical world.
But I do love Christmas and the further into creating these cute lyrics, the more excited I got about this project, so I present to you today: The Smelly Elf.
His name is Ralph.
Now before you get concerned and start judging poor Ralph, he is not a bad smelling elf.
As music teachers we are in a unique position. Especially those of us who teach privately. We see our students for longer than most teachers do and we are more than teachers to them. We're friends, confidants, & role models.
So, in addition to teaching pick ups and syncopation, this 12-measure piece also gives us the opportunity to teach our students about caring for others by not judging them before we know more about them. Ralph is a smelly elf, but as your student will quickly learn he smells SO good!
This activity will be FREE for a limited time in my store!
Looking for more Christmas activities for your lessons or music classroom? I created a Pinterest Board with many other games, songs and activities!
Hanukkah is a little under a month away and I have a fun little composing worksheet you can use in your lessons today!
"My Dreidel" was inspired by - you guessed it - one of my students. :)
Before I opened the academy, I was a traveling in-home piano teacher. Every year around this time I would say to my new students in hushed-excited tones "I have an exciting surprise, Today, we're going to pick your Christmas song! Then I'll bring it next week for you to start learning!"
And everybody cheered!
Until Jenna. (student's name has been changed for privacy)
Jenna put her head down and barely whispered, "I think Hanukkah is cooler."
My heart sank. I had no idea she didn't celebrate Christmas. I had taught Jewish children before, but they all celebrated Hanukkah AND Christmas, so I never thought twice about offering a Christmas piece. In hindsight, I should've checked with mom first, but you know what they say about hindsight.
I quickly recovered from my embarrassment and said, "You do? That's awesome, let's find you a Hanukkah piece to play! What's your favorite Hanukkah song?" At that her face lit up and her excitement returned. I later discovered that she always felt left out at school because they didn't do much for Hanukkah in any of her classes, so my offering her a Hanukkah piece was a special moment.
Since then, I've built up my Hanukkah song library and created this composing activity.
This activity will be FREE for a limited time on my newly opened TopMusicMarketplace Store!
Looking for more Hanukkah activities for your lessons or music classroom? I created a Pinterest Board with many other games, songs and activities!
I don't know about your students, but mine love composing, so I try to incorporate a composing activity as much as possible in my private lessons.
Today I'm sharing a new composing activity just in time for Thanksgiving!
"I am Thankful" gives your pre-reading students the opportunity to think about what they're grateful for and express it in song.
Usually for composing activities I write the lyrics and choose the rhythms for my students then they plug in the notes/finger numbers then play the song.
This composing activity is special because students get to write what they're thankful for and figure out the rhythms to go with it!
Note: There are guide notes in some measures - which can easily be changed - and others are left blank so your students can create their own rhythm to match their lyrics.
This activity will be FREE for a limited time on my TpT Store and my newly opened TopMusicMarketplace Store!
Looking for more Thanksgiving activities for your lessons or music classroom? I created a Pinterest Board with many other games, songs and activities!
Today I'm sharing one of my favorite slow cooker soup recipes. It was given to me by the mom of some former students who, very kindly, fed me one October evening when she heard my stomach growl over her daughter's piano playing. (that's not embarrassing at all!)
This recipe is my spin on the original based on our personal tastes. I've included the things I personally leave out at the end in case you do like mushrooms and cheese. :)
Slow Cooker Italian Sausage Soup
1 lb hot or mild Italian sausage, casings removed**
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth
1/2 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8oz homemade tomato sauce (or 1 can)
1 can (19 oz) diced tomatoes, drained - reserve juices
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 8-10 minutes or until browned, stirring to break up the meat
Transfer to slow cooker with a slotted spoon
Add onion, carrots, broth, seasoning, salt, pepper, tomato sauce, tomatoes, and zucchini to slow cooker
Cover and cook on HIGH 3-4 hours or on LOW 6-10 hours, or until vegetables are tender
Add parsley to slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 15-20 minutes
Ladle into bowls and serve immediately
Optional, top with Parmesan and more fresh parsley