Before you start wondering how I came to that outlandish comment, allow me to explain. If you’re like me and haven’t been to the circus since you were 5, hopefully the picture above should refresh your memory and give you a better idea of what I’m referring to: JUGGLERS! Jugglers are responsible for keeping multiple objects airborne, while at the same time reacting to the object currently closest to crashing to the earth so they can adjust, catch the object, and throw it back into the air. This isn’t so different from what most music education majors experience on a daily basis.
But I Don’t Want to Work at a Circus!
Not to worry! Your future as a music educator is safe. Let’s look at the act of juggling in terms of studying music at the collegiate level:
Jugglers: are responsible for many objects
Music Ed Majors: have many academic and extracurricular obligations
Jugglers: throw these objects in the air each night
Music Ed Majors: throw all their obligations onto their ‘plate’ at the beginning of each semester
Jugglers: react to the object closest to falling, adapt, and throw it back into the air so they can catch the next object
Music Ed Majors: figure out what their most pressing obligation is at a given time, take care of it, and move it aside so they can deal with something else
As you can see, music ed majors really do have a lot in common with jugglers! However, jugglers at circuses are very relaxed about the way they go about their job. Do you think you would be as calm the first time you tried juggling? Not likely. These jugglers are so relaxed because they are extremely prepared and organized in the way they go about their task. Let’s look at some ways we can keep ourselves relaxed as we juggle our different responsibilities as music education students:
Your calendar is one of the resources you will use the most over the course of your time in college, and over your life in general. The first step, of course, to having an organized calendar is to keep a calendar! So many students still “wing it” with their schedule, and undoubtedly find themselves missing deadlines and forgetting appointments. Once you have your calendar set up, here are a few tips for keeping it organized:
- Put EVERYTHING in it! Do you have routine times during the day where you practice? Study? Put them in your calendar! These times are imperative to your success, and you are much more likely to adhere to them if they’re set in stone in your calendar
- Categorize – However you do it, separate and categorize your responsibilities. Some electronic calendars allow you to color-code each event, while others use separate color-coded calendars overlayed on each other. If you use a pen/paper planner, using colored highlighters or pens is helpful. Regardless, categorizing helps you see what basic activities (class, field experience/teaching, meetings, rehearsals) you’ll be taking part in at a glance.
- Plan in Advance – Before the semester begins, put your classes into your calendar for the entire semester. As soon as you find out you have a commitment somewhere, write it down. This way, if you’re approached about an event far in the future (a gig or a trip, for example), you know right away if you’re available.
E-Mail is becoming an increasingly popular means of communication in the era of technology. Many people send/receive dozens ore more e-mails in a given day, and unsorted or unanswered e-mail can pile up quickly if care isn’t taken. Here are a few suggestions for ways to keep your email organized, so you never fall behind:
- Use Folders – I cannot even count the number of people who I have seen that have over 2,000 emails in their inbox. While search features will help you locate what you’re looking for, keeping emails organized in folders by topic allows you to easily view multiple emails that are related at once. It doesn’t take much time to sort an email once you receive it-take the time and put it in a folder!
- Keep Your Inbox Clean – Once you have folders, keep your inbox clean by using them! There are a few ways to do this. Some people (myself included) use the Inbox only as a “to-do” list. Anything still in the inbox needs to be replied to/dealt with, and then promptly sorted. Others choose to not use the inbox for anything except unread email. Once they read an email, they move it into one of three folders (Follow-Up, Archive, Hold), as described by LifeHacker. From there, they can deal with it when they have time.
- Save Everything – Some people disagree on this point, but I have a few reasons for suggesting you save every email you send/receive. Firstly, in the technology era, many professors ask assignments to be emailed to them. If you’re like me and your computer crashes and you didn’t have a back-up, saving these emails can be a great way to recover important school work that you may want to refer to later. Also, any time you receive an email, especially one regarding a project or event, it’s good to have saved in case you need to refer back to it later for some reason. Most email providers offer enough storage space that this isn’t a problem.
What’s the best way to deal with the large number of different assignments being thrown at you? Here are some ideas for staying organized about your school work:
- Write it Down!! I cannot stress this enough. The mind only has the ability to store so much information, and with the number of stimuli your brain processes in a day, you simply will not remember all your assignments if they are not written down. In addition, make sure you write them down as soon as they are assigned! Waiting until later is also risky-there’s no telling what could come up “later” that would cause you to forget to write the assignment down.
- Keep Your Planner With You – Some people put their homework assignments on their planner/calendar. Others have separate places where they store homework. However you track your school work, it needs to be with you at all times. This way, if you come up with a thought about a project, or need reference what work you have to do, you have it. I use the iHomework app on my iPod Touch to store my assignments. It also lets you track your grades on the assignments you enter.
- Break it Down – If you’re assigned a large project, don’t just write the due date down in your planner and be done with it. That evening, take some time to separate the project into a list of tasks you need to complete, in order, to finish the project. Then, assign a due date for each task! This way, you won’t wind up looking in your planner at your week on Sunday and realizing that you have an assignment due the next day that was assigned three weeks ago. Be sure to stick to your schedule and complete each task on the due date you assigned yourself!
Feeling More Relaxed?
Hopefully these tips should let you “juggle” your responsibilities more easily, while staying more relaxed. Sometimes, though, it’s important to take a step back, and rest! One evening (or even a few hours) of rest and relaxation before getting back to work can leave you re-energized and less stressed when you return. Hey, maybe you could go see a circus!
How do you stay organized? Does one of my tips work well for you? Do you do something different? Do you secretly have the dream to be a circus performer? Whatever your thoughts are, leave them in the comments so we can continue the conversation!