For most of my adult life, I’ve been a morning person. Up until my son was born, I started every weekday with a workout, followed by coffee and a couple solid hours of productive work. I loved my morning routine, and I really did try to get back into it post-baby. But the lack of sleep that first year (thanks to said baby!) made it nearly impossible, and I fell into the habit of sleeping until he woke up.
However, recently I’ve been setting my alarm and taking advantage of those early morning hours while the house is still quiet. My son is a wonderful sleeper now, and since baby #2 will be here in just a couple of months, I figured I better take advantage of this short window of time.
I listened to the audio version of Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 am), which further motivated me to make the most of my mornings. And while I don’t employ all of the components of his miracle morning routine, I’ve adopted many of the tips in the book.
I’m definitely noticing a positive difference in my mood and overall well-being on the days I wake up early, not to mention a huge increase in my productivity levels. My biggest complaint in life is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but creating my own “miracle morning” is at least a start to solving that problem.
Someday — maybe in a year or so when I have (fingers crossed!) two good little sleepers — I would love to craft my mornings as outlined in the book, which would include exercise, journaling, meditation, and reading. But for now, having some extra time to tackle my to-do list while my brain is still fresh seems to be just what I need.
Are you a morning person, and if so, how do you spend those early hours? And if you’re not, maybe reading The Miracle Morning will inspire you the way it re-inspired me.
Sidenote: this isn’t a sponsored post. I just really enjoyed the book and wanted to share the positive impact it has had on my life.
You’d think that I would have gotten into podcasts a lot time ago, considering I’ve been co-hosting one for over 5 years now. But aside from checking out the other great music therapy-related shows* out there, I never really took the time to explore the wide world of podcasts.
Until I had a baby. And expanded my business shortly thereafter. It was then I realized if I wanted to consume any media outside of scrolling quickly through my Facebook feed, I would need to figure out how to do it while multitasking. Podcasts were the perfect solution, because I could listen while I exercise, get ready in the morning, drive, clean up the house, and so on.
Here are some of the podcasts I never miss. I would love for you to add your favorites in the comments!
- Being Boss – a podcast for creative entrepreneurs. This is a relatively new podcast hosted by two women who own their own businesses, and are also moms. They cover lots of relatable topics like work-life balance, daily routines, marketing, gaining new clients, online presence, etc.
- Elise Gets Crafty – a podcast covering such topics as blogging, business, creativity, inspiration and motivation. Elise Blaha Cripe is the host and a creative “maker” who interviews a different guest each week. I have learned a lot about small business and just being a creative professional in general.
- Creative Start – I’m always so interested in learning how people came to be in their creative careers, which is why I am enjoying this podcast so much. It’s inspiring to hear others’ journeys, and how they overcome various obstacles to pursue their passions.
- The Lively Show – I’ve been following Jess Lively for YEARS, and was so excited when she launched her podcast, which is all about living life with intention. She interviews guests about how they live their lives with intention, and I always feel so motivated at the end of each episode.
- The Sarah R. Bagley Podcast – I’m a self-admitted perfectionist, so this podcast, all about “recovering” from perfectionism, is right up my alley. Sarah interviews a different guest each week about their struggles with perfectionism and how they have managed to overcome it.
- Online Marketing Made Easy – As a small business owner, marketing is something I have no choice but to do. I actually really enjoy it, especially learning lots of different techniques and keeping up with all the changes as social media evolves. Amy Porterfield is the host and I really enjoy her friendly, conversational manner.
I have a few other non-music therapy podcast favorites, including Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn, The Tim Ferriss Show, Serial, and Pregnancy Perfect (this one might only appeal to those of you sharing in my current condition!).
*Even though this post is about non-MT podcasts, I can’t not share at least a few MT-centered shows with you. Be sure to check out The Music Therapy Show with Janice Lindstrom, Urban Therapists: Music Therapy, Culture & More, Music Therapy Research Blog, The Music Therapy Round Table, and my new podcast, Guitars & Granola Bars.
I’ve been thinking about work-life balance a lot lately. It’s a topic that I discuss on a weekly basis with guests on my new podcast, and it’s at the forefront of my mind as I start preparing for the arrival of baby #2 in three short months.
I’ve been emailing back and forth with a new friend (hi Amy!) who has followed my blog for a long time, and our conversation has been centered around — you guessed it — juggling the responsibilities of a career, owning a business, and being a mom. Amy posed some questions about how I divide my time and keep all the plates spinning at once, and since I receive these types of questions pretty often, I decided to lay out the details in a blog post.
Before I dive in, though, I want to add the disclaimer that in no way do I think I have found the perfect balance. In fact, I don’t think that exists for anyone (and if you disagree, I want to know your secrets). But after months and months of trial and error, the way I have organized my life finally works well for me and my family. Just in time for it all to go out the window with a newborn on the way…HA!
The “Categories” of My Life
I have color-coded calendars in my iCal to keep track of all the different categories in my little world, and they are my lifeline. If something is not entered into my calendar, it just doesn’t happen. Period. Going into each new week, I have a general idea of how my schedule will work and how my time will be divided, though the specifics may change based on my current project and obligations. Here is a breakdown of those categories and how they all fit into the puzzle.
Client & Student Contact Hours
The bulk of my work is direct service in the form of music therapy sessions, lessons, and early childhood music classes. I spend an average of 4 hours every day (3-7 pm) in addition to one morning per week and Sunday afternoons for several months out of the year. This schedule does not really change; it’s the one “category” I can rely on to be pretty consistent from week to week.
Business Development & Administrative Duties
As a business owner, there are things I have to do in order to keep it chugging along. These include invoicing, scheduling, returning emails, ordering supplies, planning, maintaining the website, and so on. I am super lucky to have an amazing business partner in my private practice who helps shoulder these responsibilities; joining forces with her in mid-2014 was one of the best decisions I have made thus far in my professional career.
Speaking of making good decisions, another one of those is the reason I am able to complete all of my business-related tasks and creative work (which I’ll talk more about in a minute). That decision was enrolling my son in daycare part-time, which I wrote about in detail here. In all honesty, my business and creative work suffered a little from the time he was born in June 2013 up until he began daycare this past December at 18 months old. I was trying to fit that work into the nooks and crannies in between being a mom, and it wasn’t working for anyone.
Devoting specific time only to my business and creative work has been a GAME CHANGER and has improved my life ten-fold. The 3 golden days I have each week to tackle that work are precious to me, but not as precious as the other days of the week when I can fully concentrate on being an awesome and attentive mom.
My creative work doesn’t actually feel like work at all to me. Songwriting, recording, blogging, podcasting, creating new programs and products — these are the the things that recharge me and keep me motivated. My version of self-care, if you will.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the aforementioned golden days, are when I plan out and complete most business/admin responsibilities and the bulk of my creative work. After my early childhood class on Tuesday mornings, the rest of those hours until 2:30 each day (when I leave to head to the studio) are mapped out according to my priorities for that week. I try to do the things that require the most creativity and brainpower early in the day, and save other things like podcast editing and returning emails for later when I hit that afternoon slump.
Although I get the majority of my to-do list done during those hours, that is not to say I don’t spend naptimes and post-bedtime hours working. Someday I would like to get to the point where I don’t have to, but the reality is that is the nature of being a business owner right now.
Grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and other household responsibilities are total nook-and-cranny activities for me. I’ll go grocery shopping on the way home from daycare drop-off, or if my husband takes Parker somewhere during the weekend. I’m kind of a clean freak, so I like to clean as I go and then find pockets of time here and there to vaccum, dust, and tackle bathrooms. Laundry is a never-ending task, so there is almost always a load going if I’m home.
I like to listen to podcasts while I do these things; it makes me feel like I’m being doubly productive and turns mundane activities into sort of enjoyable experiences. (Well, except for cleaning toilets. That is never enjoyable.)
Mondays and Fridays are mom days. Parker and I go to Funshop, meet friends for playdates, relax at home, and go on walks or to the park if it’s nice out. I so cherish these days, especially as Parker’s time being an only child starts to dwindle. I leave in the afternoons for work with students and clients, but eventually I would like to reduce my “work” days to 3 instead of 5 per week.
Weekends are all about family for the most part, too. Unless I have random obligations like playing a gig, working at an event, or attending a conference, my husband and I spend our time with Parker during the day and then relaxing at home after he goes to bed. Every Sunday we have dinner at my parents’ house, which is a nice way to end the weekend.
Delegation & Outside Help
My life wouldn’t work without the help of family, friends, and other essential people! I’m extremely lucky in that my parents and in-laws all live here in town, in my neighborhood no less. My mom helps with daycare drop-off/pick-up, and she also stays with Parker on Friday afternoons when I go to work. My mother-in-law also helps with Parker on a regular basis. Parker has had the same amazing sitter, Greta, since I returned to work when he was 3 months old, and she comes over on Monday afternoons.
I don’t currently have help with household tasks, but my husband and I are planning to hire a cleaning service once the baby arrives in May. That will take one responsibility off my plate as I add a HUGE (but at the same time, tiny) one.
Professionally, I just hired a project manager to help with my online business, which for the last seven years I’ve been running completely on my own. I don’t want my business to suffer again during maternity leave the way it did when my son was born, so I knew the only way to prevent that from happening was to delegate some of that work. In addition to the tasks she has taken over, she has helped tremendously with keeping me accountable and on track with all my projects.
A Well-Oiled Machine My Life is Not
As smooth as this all sounds, it doesn’t always work that way. There are bumps in the road: illnesses, stress, pregnancy-related fatigue, scheduling conflicts; but that’s life. I’m trying to learn not to let those things affect me too much, and to just roll with the punches. The lines between work and my personal life sometimes become a little blurry, at it’s in those moments when I’m super thankful that every once in a while, it’s okay to take my child to work :)
I’m so interested in hearing how others manage to strike some sort of balance between all the roles in their lives, and would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment, send me an email, or if you’re a music therapist, join me on the podcast. (And now here’s your virtual cookie for making it through this monster of a blog post!)
Happy New Year, friends. I hope 2015 is off to an amazing start for you. This year has already been a bit of a whirlwind for me — we ended 2014 by moving into a new house and started 2015 surrounded by lots and lots of boxes waiting to be unpacked. Needless to say, I’m just a little exhausted from my “vacation” as I head back to work today.
As I sat down to write this post, I started thinking about the big work-related goals and plans I’ve made in years past. A new song every week, a new blog post every day…yep, those were definitely in the pre-baby era.
Instead of making resolutions this year, I’m going to continue focusing on the goals I’ve been working toward over the last few months: 1) continuing to grow my early childhood classes; 2) establishing a new contract with our local hospital; 3) expanding the Music Therapy Connections team; and finally, 4) writing more songs and creating more resources for music therapists.
But in 2015, I’m going to give myself more GRACE as I work towards those goals. Last year was full of changes and growth and challenges, and I know that I stretched myself a little too thin at times. Now with a baby girl (!) on the way in May, I need to be kind to my body and soul both for her sake and for my own sanity.
I’m grateful to have a place to share my thoughts with you, as well as all my creative endeavors. Thank you for taking the time to read, and I hope this year brings you nothing but the best. Up next: a brand-new song for and all about 2015!
This month has been insane. Between changing my business structure, moving my office/studio to a new location, seeing a full load of student, starting new sessions of two different early childhood classes, and creating an online CMTE course, I’m lucky I’m still sane enough to type this blog post.
A few weeks ago, in an attempt to organize all the chaos, I entered everything into iCal. Then I used the Reminders app to make lists for each different area of my work and life that needed attention. I could access both my calendar and lists from my iPhone, iPad, and laptop, so I thought everything would be under control.
But I was wrong. Things were still slipping through the cracks, and whenever I found a free block of time to get something done, I would be overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. So one night I went old school and wrote out a list of things I had to do the next day.
Thanks to the list sitting on my desk the next morning, I knew exactly where to start and how to budget my time. I didn’t waste precious minutes with things that didn’t need to be done right away; instead, I went right down the list, crossing things off as I finished them.
You really don’t get the same satisfaction from check-marking an item on your iPhone as you do drawing a line through something with a sharpie, do you? It’s amazing how focused and motivated I am when I sit down to work each day, because I know that my goal is to have crossed off every single item before I go to bed that night.
I use these small notepads (of which I have several, thanks to giveaways at AMTA conferences!) so that I can’t fill it up with too many to-dos; keeping the list relatively short allows me to concentrate on the MOST important items. And if for some reason something doesn’t get done that day, I write it down on the next day’s list. This doesn’t happen often, though, because nothing irks me more than throwing away a list with items left uncrossed!
Thanks to these daily lists, I’m just about finished with content creation for that online CMTE course I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Early Childhood Programs: Create, Market, Make Music! is just a couple weeks away (or less, if I really get things in gear) from launching — I can’t wait to share it with you :)