Life Hacks for Stressed-Out Music Teachers

Mike Lawson • MusicEd: Mentor Minute • September 2, 2020

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When things feel crazy and out of control, one of the best things we can do to make us feel better about the situation is to take control of the things we can.

Challenging yourself with some of these life hacks may be just the thing to give you the feeling of power back in your life. I’ve gleaned these life hacks from things I’ve done myself to be more efficient, and from many of my hero entrepreneurs. Take which ones sound interesting to you, give them a try, and feel how empowering it is in your life.

Streamline Your Wardrobe

If you haven’t worn a certain article of clothing for more than nine months, why do you still have it in your closet? Go through all of your clothing and sort them into three piles: keep, give away, or trash. If it doesn’t fit, be rid of it. If it’s no longer a style you wear, be rid of it. If it’s a bunch of old band shirts, cut them up and sew them together into a quilt (I’ve done this and it’s awesome!). See if you can get down only to your favorite items, and let the rest go. Too often we hold onto things we don’t need or use or even care for anymore because we think “someday that might fit” or “someday I may want to wear that.” Someday never really comes. So, live for today and purge your wardrobe!

Cut Corners

For one day, go through all of your daily routines and think, “How can I do this faster, better, or with less energy?” When I went really extreme with this, I cut my hair. A year later I really went for it and shaved my head. I removed any need to wash, blow dry, and curl. I started prepping dinners so they would cook while I was at school and be ready for dinner when I got home. I’d plan those meals on Sunday, do the shopping, and prep everything for the week all on one day, batching the workload so throughout the week I had more time. If you can take fewer steps and use less energy, you’ll be one more step ahead.

Pare Down Your Menu

Many of my entrepreneur friends subscribe to this particular life hack and it’s one of my favorite as well. The trick here is to have the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, then have a small menu of rotating dinners. Doing this saves you from one of life’s great challenges: decision fatigue. Oh yes, it’s a thing. Just think about all of the decisions you’ve had to make over the last six months, decisions that have required massive intelligence, strategy, and adaptability.

If you can take out some of the decisions you have to make throughout your day you’ll find yourself feeling more confident and relaxed from dawn to dusk. This also prevents you from eating unhealthy food on a whim because you’re being more intentional. Paring down your menu also simplifies your shopping list and your budget. It’s one of the most impactful hacks you can implement for your health and happiness.

Plan Your Day the Night Before

When asked how I’m able to manage all of the things I do — recording and publishing my podcast, writing for SBO magazine, working for Conn-Selmer, conducting my community band, acing my doctorate of education classes, being primary admin of a Facebook group with 45,000 members, taking care of my physical fitness, raising three awesome kids — my first response is this life hack. You have to plan your day the night before. It takes out all of that on-the-spot decision making, which in turn helps you have a more restful sleep, feel better prepared, and sets you up to meet all of the challenges you may face the next day. Time management studies have shown that for every minute you spend planning you save 10 minutes in execution. They also say that on average it only takes 12 minutes to plan your day. Is it worth these few minutes of your time as you wind down the day to set yourself for an even better experience tomorrow? Give it a try for a week and see how it fits you!

There are even more things you can try, like implementing intermittent fasting or poly-phasic sleep, should you opt to go next-level in your life-hackery. Whichever one you choose, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how empowering each of these can be.

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