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.

 

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    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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    Marion Van Namen - last week Reply

    Love this. I’d love to hear more about using Asana to manage choir projects. And yes I too love using Canva to design post cards and flyers. The free version offers plenty of options.

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      Victoria Hopkins - last week Reply

      Hi Marion. I’m actually going to do a short course on using Asana inside Community Choir Professionals, so as a member you’ll be able to take advantage of that. I just need to find time in the diary :-)

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    Aisling - a few months ago Reply

    Thank you for all the information on your website! Do you have any suggestions, links or examples for designing flyers or posters?

    Aisling

      Christine Mulgrew
      Christine Mulgrew - a few months ago Reply

      Hi Aisling,

      Thank you for your message. We don’t currently have any flyer or poster templates on the site. This is actually something we’re currently developing for one of our Community Choir Professionals courses ‘Recruit and Retain’ launching this year which will cover everything from how to source new members to designing great posters and how to arrange a fantastic open rehearsal. If you’re interested in finding out more about the membership go to http://www.communitychoirpro.com

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      Victoria Hopkins - a few months ago Reply

      Hi Aisling. I can recommend Canva. It’s a web-based graphic design platform and you can use most of the tools and templates in the free version. It makes poster design really easy.

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      Victoria Hopkins - last week Reply

      Hi Aisling. I always recommend Canva for creating any printed material. The free account will be fine for your needs and there are tons of templates to inspire you.

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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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