Running an independent music studio can be complex, and the start of the school year is the perfect time to look at your organization practices. The physical organization of your studio is important, of course. Where you keep music books, sheet music, files and folders, etc. makes a difference and can impress (or conversely dismay) students and parents.
Yet these days, the electronic organization of a music studio is just as important. There are so many things to track – electronic scores, links, marketing documents, practice assignments, website content, audio files, financial records, and much more.
In my experience, three of the most important facets of the electronic organization of a studio are:
- Organizing and prioritizing tasks
- Organizing electronic files and folders
- Organizing email
I’m something of an organizing nerd. (If I hadn’t become a music teacher, I might have become a professional organizer!) Of course, there are many ways to organize tasks, electronic records, and email. The following are some of the strategies that work for me.
Organizing and Prioritizing Tasks
I don’t feel organized unless I have a “to do” list. Rather than make a new list every day, I keep a Word document that is my dedicated to do list. (I even have a keyboard macro which opens it with a single keystroke.) In this document I use a Word table to keep track of projects and tasks, which looks something like this:
At the end of each day, I reprioritize the table for the following day. The cool thing about Word is that after I prioritize each task, I can select the table and instantly sort it by priority (first column).
I do have a guilty secret. My life and studio have become so complex that my to do document includes multiple links to other Word documents, some of which themselves are to do lists! Yet, even though I occasionally feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks I could or should be getting done, I rarely feel disorganized.
Organizing Electronic Files and Folders
Even though computers index files to make it easy to search for them, I find that it gives me peace of mind to organize my studio’s files hierarchically in folders and subfolders. That way, I rarely have to search for a document, the results of which might include multiple documents. It’s more efficient to know exactly where each document is.
On my computer, the top level folders for my studio include:
Each of these top level folders contains its own subfolders. Happily, Duet Partner also offers this feature in the File Area, so all Duet subscribers can easily be this organized! Plus, if you keep your files in Duet, you can easily attach them to the emails and communications you send through Duet to your students and parents.
While not specifically related to studio organization, something that every business should do is to regularly back up the studio computer. There are many “cloud backup” services, but they never worked well for me. I simply use Windows’ “File History” to regularly back up my hard drive to an external drive. I have two external drives. For additional security, I keep one at home and the other in a bank safe deposit box. (Another benefit of Duet is that they store your files for you.)
These days, email is as important as ever, yet it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by it. I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling of being overwhelmed by email! Here are my top strategies for staying on top of it:
Only keep emails in your inbox that you need to refer or respond to soon. Archive or “snooze” emails you don’t need in your inbox now. You can always search for them later.
Regularly endeavor to completely empty your inbox.
Use your email provider’s organizational tools. I use Gmail, which allows me to sort incoming email into various folders (which Gmail calls labels). I also “snooze” less important emails, which makes them disappear from my inbox for a specified time. I mark and delete spam immediately.
Again, Duet’s email feature lets you keep all of your studio communication within your Duet account if you choose. So you could use Duet for your studio communication and a separate email account for your personal communication, which would also add to organization.
One of the most important email strategies is to unsubscribe from mailing lists immediately (these days, most companies annoyingly add you to their mailing list without your permission). By doing so I assume this makes it less likely the sender will share your email with others, which could multiply unwanted email all too quickly.
So there you have it. Running a music studio is more complex than ever. But it’s possible to stay on top of things. Keeping electronic files, folders and email organized serves you well as a studio owner, and ultimately your students.
Doug Hanvey is the founder of Portland Piano Lab, which offers piano lessons for adults in Portland, Oregon.