5 Productivity Apps I Use Every Day

5 Productivity Apps I Use Every Day

I hate to admit it, but my phone is my lifeline. I rely on it for communicating with my family and colleagues throughout the day, managing my calendar, consulting my to-do list, completing business tasks, and so much more.

I know I’m not alone here, which is why I want to share 5 of the apps I use daily when it comes to work and productivity. These have been game changers for me, so hopefully you’ll find them helpful, too.

1. Slack (free)

This tool has basically become the command center of my business. Katey and I started using it when we became overwhelmed by the DOZENS of emails we were sending back and forth every day, and now our entire team uses it to communicate with each other.

We share files, use the IM feature instead of text so that we have searchable records of our conversations, and take our meeting notes there. Slack is completely free, and you can access it on the computer as well as all mobile devices.

2. Word Swag ($3.99)

I used to create all of my social media graphics and images on the computer, but now that I’m opening my laptop less and less, I have become a HUGE fan of this app. Word Swag lets you add text and graphics (such as a logo or watermark) to their collection of lovely images and backgrounds, or you can upload your own photos.

The variety of fonts and styles is truly impressive, and you can customize the colors and layout however you want. It’s really fun to use, but let me warn you that it can be addictive! Totally worth it, though, for the end result.

3. Google Drive (free)

In addition to Slack, my team also uses Google Drive to share documents back and forth and collaborate on them. I have multiple Google Drives for the different areas of my work and life, and this app lets me manage and access all of them in one place.

I can quickly pull up spreadsheets of class rosters when I’m getting ready to lead a class, look over documentation my intern has submitted, check my team’s availability when I’m scheduling a new client, and the list goes on.

4. Music Teacher’s Helper (free)

For almost 5 years, I’ve been singing the praises of this software for managing my studio and private practice when it comes to scheduling, invoicing, billing, tracking expenses, and so much more. The app is so powerful that I can do most of those things right from my phone.

When I have a few minutes of downtime, I can input payments, reconcile sessions and lessons, email invoices to clients, and check the studio calendar.

5. Wunderlist (free)

I have experimented with SO many different ways to keep track of my to-do items, including pen and paper, documents on my computer, and a few different apps. But this one is my favorite, by far.

It’s a great list-making app, especially since you can set up multiple lists (I have one for all my different work projects and one for home) and you can share lists with people and assign tasks (I share one with Katey for business-related to-dos). You can also set reminders in your calendar for specific items.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of my favorite productivity apps, and I’m thinking there will be a Part Two to this post in the near future. Which apps are your favorite for helping streamline your life?

Simplify, Streamline, Self-Care

My Motto for 2016

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions or set any big goals for 2016. Instead, my business partner Katey and I came up with a motto. “Simplify, Streamline, Self-Care” are the three words that will dictate my approach to work and life this year, which will be quite a change from 2015.

I’m taking great care to identify my priorities and eliminate the noise, but that’s really hard to do when you’re dealing with a business, a toddler, and a baby. I feel like my life is a giant puzzle whose pieces are scattered all over the floor, and I’m trying to fit them all into place. It’s hard to even know where to start sometimes.

So I pick up a piece at a time, examine it, and try to figure out where it fits into the puzzle that is my life. Some pieces get tossed back into the pile because they just don’t have a place right now, which was hard at first but has gotten easier as I’ve dedicated myself to this motto.

I finally finished reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I want to devote a day in the near future to applying that method in my house. I think it will really help me simplify and streamline my life in general, because I am one of those people who gets anxious when the space around me is cluttered. And the act of tidying up my house totally counts as self-care, because I am a total organization nerd.

2015 was a rollercoaster year that left little time for considering my own happiness and well-being, and I’ll admit that it’s still not easy putting those things at the forefront. But I’m at least taking the first step by being more mindful about it, and continuing to come back to my motto when I start to feel overwhelmed.

Cabasa Bossa Nova

Cabasa Bossa Nova Album Cover

The cabasa is one of those instruments I use all the time, in both my music therapy sessions and classes. Its tactile qualities make it interesting and fun for kids to play, and doing so is great for working on those fine motor skills.

This is only the second dedicated cabasa song I’ve written (here’s the first), though I definitely see more in my future since it’s such a frequently used instrument. I will warn you, sometimes I get this song stuck in my head…and it’s reeeeally hard to get out ;)

The cabasa makes a great passing instrument, which is how we use it in our classes since we don’t have enough for every child. It’s an excellent exercise in sharing, since most kids aren’t too happy to give it up — we may need to invest in a full set of cabasas eventually.

Members of Listen & Learn Plus! have access to all of the above in our shared Dropbox folder. Membership includes just about everything else in my resource library and collection — come over and join us!

Learn more about Listen & Learn Plus

Making CONNECTIONS Every Day

Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month 2016

I used to be self-conscious of the fact that my company offers other services in addition to music therapy. As much as I loved providing typical and adapted lessons as well as early childhood classes, I wondered if that somehow made Music Therapy Connections less than other music therapy practices.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that providing those other services in and of itself was a hugely effective way of advocating for music therapy. Families who brought their children for piano, voice, or guitar lessons would often ask what music therapy was all about, and they were responsible for the bulk of my referrals. The awareness of music therapy in my community was growing as a result of their word of mouth.

This started happening in the early days, when my studio was still located in my home. Moving our business into the music store in 2014 was a gigantic step for music therapy, because now the store management and employees were witnessing and referring our services.

But the game-changer was having a sign — easily visible from a highly trafficked street — with the words “MUSIC THERAPY” on them.

For my partner Katey and I, our role as “connectors” when it comes to advocating for music therapy has increased tenfold since turning our private practice into a brick-and-mortar operation. At least a few times a week, people walk through our doors wanting to learn more about music therapy and how it can help their family member.

Our families who are there for services other than music therapy are seeing and learning about what we do as music therapists just by being in the building, and they in turn are connectors as well.

This is Social Media Advocacy Month in the world of music therapy, and I’m proud to be playing my part by spreading the word not only on a local level just by going to work every day, but also by blogging and posting on social media about our field regularly. You can help, too:

If you’re a music therapist yourself:

  • Develop your music therapy “elevator speech” and give it. Often.
  • Share information about the work you do with friends and colleagues in related fields.
  • Give our your cards and brochures to anyone and in anyplace you think might benefit from music therapy.
  • Seize every opportunity to participate in fairs, expos, and other public events.
  • Take to social media! Use and follow the #mtadvocacy hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay current with the latest happenings.

If you have benefited from music therapy or know someone who has:

  • Spread the word about what music therapy can do.
  • Share music therapy success stories with your healthcare providers and other professionals.
  • Support and attend music therapy-related events and programs. Invite your friends.
  • Give referrals to others who you think may be able to benefit from music therapy.

Be sure to visit the Music Therapy State Recognition website for more posts about #MTadvocacy throughout the month of January.

Out of Reach from Little Hands

Early-Childhood-Music-Class-Storage

One of the biggest frustrations we faced during early childhood classes at our previous location was the placement of our instruments and equipment. We were constantly redirecting our students away from the guitar, which sat in a floor stand when we weren’t using it, and trying to keep little hands out of the drawers of our rolling instrument cart.

So when we moved to our new studio and had complete control over how the room was designed, our first priority was to structure the room in a way that instruments and equipment were out of reach and no longer a distraction for everyone.

We considered a few different solutions, and then one day Katey sent me a photo of the slatwall that was hung all over the walls of the music store in which we were previously located. Why didn’t we think of that sooner!?

So we picked up sheets of slatwall from our local hardware store, which were easy enough to drill into the walls and then stock with accessories for hanging and storing, which were purchased here.

We also installed guitar wall mounts in our group rooms and in our individual lesson/session rooms so that our guitars and ukuleles could be kept out of reach.

Our storage solutions have not only allowed us to keep our instruments and equipments better protected, but they have also made lots more floor space for our students and families during classes. This has come in very handy as our numbers have grown quite a bit since moving to our new studio!

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