When people ask me what I do for a living, I should say ‘I’m a juggler’! Planning and running rehearsals, making sure weekend performances don’t clash with any key family dates or even just squeezing the amount of prep and planning needed into the school hours – sound familiar? Pleasing everyone is a hefty task. Whether you’re a parent, a wife, husband, partner, carer or friend, we all have responsibilities in our working and our personal lives.
The conclusion I’ve reached is that I can’t do it all, and do you know what? I don’t want to! Here are my top tips for getting the balance right.
Being realistic about what you can achieve in any given week sounds obvious, but so often we set ourselves up with unrealistic goals that commit us to failure. I’m a convert to the ‘less is more’ approach. I’d rather get fewer tasks done well and retain a reasonable level of calm than get lots of tasks done not so well and feel completely stressed.
The tasks you focus on should be important and moving you forward in some way. Whether that’s setting up a performance for your choir, learning a complicated score to teach or creating a plan to develop your choir business. If you are just doing admin or replying to queries and not getting around to the big stuff, you won’t get any satisfaction from it.
Look at the whole picture
Planning work and family life week by week can create a certain level of chaos, especially if something unexpected comes up. Looking ahead is a great way to promote calm and keep the chaos at bay. Make sure that all your dates for family and work commitments are stored on one calendar. This will minimise the chance of last minute clashes!
Encourage any adult family members to remember to contribute to the calendar or tell you about their commitments so these can also be included. Also, when you plan performances and other events, consider what dates you need to avoid such as family birthdays. Traffic jams of events close together end up stressing you out.
I’ve definitely improved at this over the last few months. The weekly task of creating rehearsal plans, score preparation and coming up with fresh warm-ups can start to feel like groundhog day when working week by week. Instead consider batching! It’s a genius plan whereby you allocate a slot of time and create multiple things. For example, rather than planning your rehearsal each week, plan rehearsals for the whole month. Okay, they may need tweaking depending on how your choir is doing but the nuts and bolts will be there and you won’t need to touch rehearsal planning again until the following month.
Also get ahead with relaying information. Send your choir clear emails with any dates or information they might need. That way you will avoid a constant stream of people asking the same questions leaving you more time to work on exciting projects.
Get the balance right
You need to be really strict with yourself. Ever had that – ‘but if I just work a little longer I can get x, y and z done’ feeling? Before you know it you’re working every hour of the day – particularly dangerous if you’re self-employed and working from home.
Now that my son is a bit older, I’ve found myself on some occasions collecting him from school then letting him watch TV or giving him some other activity whilst I just carry on working. After a while I realised that I was missing out on so much quality time with him.
I now plan my working day around the time he is at school and what I don’t finish in that time I avoid touching either until the next day or sometimes in the evening when he’s in bed.
Remember life should be enjoyable
I think it’s so important to remember that life shouldn’t be about constant stress and chaos. We shouldn’t feel guilty for taking some time to enjoy a hobby or time with our families. Having some tried and tested systems in place to slow down the pace can only be beneficial to ourselves, to our families and also to our choirs who look to us for inspiration.