Get things done: easy productivity tips for choir leaders - Total Choir Resources

Get things done: easy productivity tips for choir leaders

Many people, including many choir members, think that a choir leader’s job consists of waving their arms around at rehearsals and concerts. We know there’s much more to it than that. Being a choir leader sometimes feels like a complex juggling act. Even if you’re not involved in the day to day management of your choir, you still have to handle repertoire, rehearsal and concert planning. If it occasionally gets to be too much – if tasks are getting forgotten and mistakes are being made – here are a few tips to get things back on track.

Create a safety net

The most important thing I’ve learned about my own productivity is that I have to have a system to capture ideas, tasks and appointments as they arise because I’m not that great at carrying things around in my head. Ideas occur to me when I’m out walking. Choir members approach me during rehearsal breaks with questions or requests. I receive emails with offers and suggestions. All these things have to be gathered and noted down before I forget them.

These days, we have a wide range of note-taking options: voice memos, Evernote, Asana etc. You could even go ‘old school’ and use a pen and notebook. The essential thing is that everything gets captured, so you don’t have the stress of thinking ‘when I get home, I must email that thing to that person’.

Check the net

As well as creating a safety net that will grab your ideas and tasks, you need to develop a method whereby you revisit those items to either do them or plan to do them. I’ll give you an example of a system that’s not quite working for me at the moment. I use the Safari browser on my Mac, which has a fantastically easy, single-click way to save web links for future reference. I come across fascinating content all the time that I want to read later, so I click the button that sends the page to my ‘reading list’. And there it sits, untouched and unread, for days and weeks. The first part of the system, the capturing part, is flawless. The revisiting part is random, so the system’s not working.

My system for choir management tasks works much better. I capture things on my phone (voice memos or notes, usually, plus ‘flags’ on emails), and every morning when I start work, I check my phone for items that I either do straight away (if they’re super-quick) or put into Asana to do later. Having a system that doesn’t rely on my memory to ensure that things get done takes some of the stress out of my job and gives me the chance to stay focused on what I need to do right now, not be distracted by the things I mustn’t forget to do later.

Think things through thoroughly

Regular readers will know that I like to dabble in graphic design to create posters, flyers and tickets for our choir events. You wouldn’t think there was much that can go wrong when you’re designing a poster, but it’s embarassing how many times I’ve omitted something important like the date or the venue (even after Christine has had a look at it too – I’m not taking all the blame here!). Nowadays, even though it seems rather pedantic, I have a ‘poster checklist’ to make sure I’ve put all the necessary details on before I go to print.

When you embark on a new project, there’s a lot to consider. Rehearsal seasons, performances, auditions and workshops all need careful planning. Have a checklist for each project that you can work through methodically so that you can be confident that you’ve addressed all the issues. It can save a lot of emails, phone calls and apologies if you can get everything sorted up-front, which then frees up your time to do something else.


Victoria Hopkins

Victoria is a founder and director of Total Choir Resources. She leads Total Voice Chamber Choir in the UK.

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Albert Hartkamp - last year Reply

On productivity (and on keeping a calm head while having a lot going on) I have only one recommendation, which I can’t recommend enough: the Getting Things Done methodology by David Allen (his book is called Getting Things Done). It makes many of the main points that you make, but completely worked out in a system that can’t go wrong once you learn to stick to it.

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