31 Achievable New Years Resolutions for Piano Teachers

Don’t set a typical resolution to join a gym, lose weight or start eating right…those get forgotten by January 10th anyways. Pick out one of these great resolutions for piano teachers and make a real difference to your business instead.

This post contains some affiliate links. Buying from one of these links does not cost you anything, but I do receive a small referral fee for sending you which goes towards the cost of running this site.

1. Organise music books

Get those music books in check! Nothing clutters the mind more than piles of music books all over your studio.

Tim Topham and I talked about this as part of the Piano Pivot we ran in the first week of December (get on the waiting list for the next one here!) and teachers shared some very honest and in some cases extreme examples of out of control music libraries.

If this is you – make a date to get it sorted.

Books that aren’t organised will not get used. And what’s the point of music that doesn’t get played?

2. Better parent communication

Do you have trouble staying in contact with piano parents and keeping them up to date? Perhaps you frequently run into misunderstandings that cost you time and/or money?

Then you need to rethink the way you communicate.

Communication is a skill just like any other. You can learn to get better at it – and you can put systems in place to make it easier and more efficient.

3. Rejuvenated recital

If your recitals are feeling a little lack-lustre lately, then take the time to make your next one exciting!

You can find great ideas to do this on Pinterest, blogs and right here on Colourful Keys.

You could add a theme, compliment cards, games or even just new decor. If YOU are enthused this will probably carry over to your students and families too.

4. Own practice

As teachers, it’s really easy to let our own practice fall by the wayside. But it’s essential to keep us connected to why we’re in this profession in the first place, and to keep our skills sharp.

Why not make a commitment to learning a piece you’ve always wanted to play, just for yourself? Or set a (realistic) minimum amount of time you want to spend at the piano each week?

5. Studio wind down routine

If you have trouble decompressing at the end of the day, what you need is a good switching off routine.

Many of us work from home, and may not have a dedicated studio space. This makes it hard, but not impossible, to separate our work from our downtime.

The key is to establish habits that make it easier to set the work aside. Make a checklist of things you will do each day when you finish teaching such as:

  1. Write a quick to-do list while your students are fresh on your mind.
  2. Put away all games, books and resources.
  3. Plug in your iPad to charge and switch off your studio computer.

Whatever goes on your checklist, you’ll get into the practice of knowing that when this list is complete you don’t need to touch any work for the rest of the evening.

You’ll notice I did NOT put “reply to emails/texts/calls” on this list. Trust me, those things can all wait ‘til the next day.

There’s no such thing as a piano teacher emergency –  and you’ll be a better communicator when you’re fresh the next morning anyway.

6. Lesson planning

Lesson planning can be very valuable for piano teachers, if done the right way. If you want to try out a new lesson plan system, check out this post on 8 lesson plan styles for piano teachers to try.

7. Practice incentive

Are you sick of constantly coming up with little incentives? Do you feel like you’re just putting bandaids on top of the real problem of practice motivation in your studio?

Try implementing a permanent wall of fame like my challenge poster, or revisiting how you teach practice by reading my book.

8. Improvise

Once upon a time, I was completely intimidated by the idea of improvising with my students. But I did it – and you can too.

If you’ve never taught improvisation before, make it your resolution to try it with one student each week. If you just don’t do it often enough, try starting every lesson with improvisation this month.

9. Compose

One of my favourite times of the year in my studio is when we do our composing projects in March/April. Although students are welcome to work on composing at any time, this unified project brings the experience to everyone.

Perhaps it’s time for you to do this with your students this year? Try using my Animal Menagerie or Spring Themes templates to get you started.

10. Fill the last spots

It’s Murphy’s law that no one wants Tuesdays at 3:30pm when that’s your only open spot…

If you’d love to fill those last remaining openings in your schedule, it really is a numbers game. Put in place some more marketing ideas to give yourself the best chance of a full timetable in 2018.

11. Referral incentive

Speaking of filling those last spots, the best opportunity you have to do that is word of mouth. Assuming your teaching is fantastic and amazing already, your piano parents might just need a little nudge to refer you to others.

Consider bringing in a small referral credit or incentive – or even just sending out an email to let them know you have spots open. You might be surprised how just mentioning that you’d appreciate them spreading the word can make a difference.

12. Raise fees

Maybe…just maybe…you would be better off raising your fees instead of packing more students into your schedule.

If you haven’t raised your fees in a while, or ever, then it’s definitely time to start planning for it. Make a date with yourself to sit down a research other rates in your area, as well as the rate of inflation since you last revisited your fees.

Even if you won’t actually change your fees until the summer, it’s best to plan for this early so you can do it in the smartest way possible.


13. No make-ups

If you’re still giving make-up lessons for any and every reason under the sun, please make 2018 the year you stop. There’s no reason to do this to yourself and encroach on your own free time.

There are so many options out there to look into but here’s a here to get you started:

  • Just stop doing make-up lessons altogether.
  • Limit the number of reschedules per semester.
  • Bring extra bonus group lessons and use this to “soften the blow”.
  • Give the option of a swap list for those that want to organise reschedules amongst themselves.
  • Detail several options and make sure parents know what they are so they don’t feel they’re missing out. (Here’s the page I direct parents to in my studio.)

Whatever you do, at least set some limits. It makes such an enormous difference to your week and most parents will understand.

14. Flex weeks

Now what about lessons that YOU need to miss? Do you have a system to allow you to take holidays, account for snow days or for if your sick?

You can include a few flex weeks in your year to prevent messiness down the road.

15. Monthly billing

Flat rate tuition (whether monthly or by semester/term) can really help to offset the make-up lesson mentality, improve your income reliability and overall sanity. Here’s how you can move to monthly billing in your studio.

16. Time for yourself

Do you take any time to yourself during the week? Many teachers put everyone before themselves, again and again.

If that’s you – make a plan to do something you love each and every week. Whether it’s a 5k hike in the woods, an hour of knitting and listening to audiobooks or a yoga class on a Sunday morning…just make sure you take care of you.

17. Learn something new

I say it time and again: all teachers should be lifelong learners. You need to stay in touch with what it’s like to have to try, practice, fail and try again.

Resolve to learn something completely new and different this year and you and your students will benefit.

18. Explore a new method

Even if the method book series you use with your students works pretty well, sometimes it can get a bit stale. It’s always a good idea to spend some time exploring something new and inspiring.

And, if you land back at your original method because that’s just the best? You’ll still have learned a ton in the process. 🙂

19. Schedule PD

Continuing professional development is just as important for private piano teachers as for everyone else – but you don’t have a boss to force you to do it. That’s up to you.

Make a plan to find time for professional development this year to reinvigorate and expand your teaching.

20. Revisit policies

Your studio policies are not something you should set and forget. Even if they were perfect for you three years ago – they might not be anymore.

Set a date to revise your policies this year and make sure they’re really, really working for you.

21. Get a handle on accounts

I know, I know. Piano teachers aren’t always a fan of the numbers side of their business.

But here’s the thing: Stuff like bookkeeping or organisation tend to snowball.

If you have a great system and habit in place you’ll barely notice it. But if you don’t the headache last weeks when you finally have to deal with it.

Research software and methods such as excel templates, Xero, Wave or My Music Staff – find something that works – then stick to it.

22. Improve your schedule

Did you make a mistake when you made the schedule this year?

We’ve all done it. Whether it’s scheduling four hours of back-to-back lessons, or not leaving yourself enough time to get back from picking up your kids and get ready for the day – you don’t have to stick to it all year.

See if you can do anything to rework the timetable and give yourself some more breathing room.

23. Go paperless

Personally, I deal with a lot of paper in my studio. I’m not interested in going completely paperless…but you might be.

It definitely can be done with a mixture of Google Docs, receipt scanners and iPad apps like ForScore. So if the clutter is getting you down, why not set this as a fun ambition for the first quarter of 2018?

24. Reports

Sending reports to your piano parents can make a massive difference to retention rates, practice habits and overall satisfaction. It can also help you to clarify your thoughts and celebrate your students’ amazing progress.

See how I make parent progress reports in Google Docs in this post.

25. Newsletters

Another fantastic way to acknowledge student accomplishments is in newsletters once a month, semester or year.

These can be done pretty simply in Microsoft Office or Pages. Start your’s now and you’ll thank yourself at the end of the year.

26. Take lessons

What about returning to piano lessons yourself? Just because your teaching, doesn’t mean you can’t be a student too.

Find a great teacher in your area or seek one out online, perhaps in a speciality you haven’t explored yet.

27. Attend a conference

I mentioned professional development above but conferences deserve their own category.

One of my big ambitions last year was to make it over to NCKP for the first time. This was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend setting a savings goal, booking the time off, or doing whatever else you need to do to get yourself to a conference this year.

28. Get insured

If you don’t have insurance, this is an easy fix and so, so important. Spend a morning calling around to get the best rate you can and just get it done.

29. Reduce expenses

Perhaps one of the ways you could save for that conference or other P.D. is to reduce your expenses.

Keeping a firm grasp on how much you’re spending on your business is one of the key things you can do to be more profitable.

Sure, sometimes you need to invest. But sometimes we’re really just throwing money away that could be better spent elsewhere if we really paid attention.

30. Daytime hours

I know many teachers (especially those with kids in school) don’t relish the evening hours of teaching.

There are ways to teach more during the day such as preschoolers, working in schools or daycares, and teaching homeschoolers. Branch out and explore these this year if you want to free up your evenings.

31. Side income

Maybe you’ve been wishing you had a second income outside of teaching, so that all your eggs aren’t in one basket.

2018 could be the year you start selling resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, create a course, or get a “day job”.

Which of these resolutions for piano teachers are you going to try?

Just pick one and tell me which one you chose in the comments below or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook.

16 thoughts on “31 Achievable New Years Resolutions for Piano Teachers”

  1. This is one of my most favorite of all your posts, Nicola! So many of these goals resonate with me. Thanks for taking the time to organize everything in one place. I’ll definitely be returning to this article again and again!

  2. So great yes we need teaching goals for 2018. I never thought of writing them down but after Piano Pivot… I am super excited about becoming a better piano teacher. Thank you

  3. Thanks, Nicola, you are such an inspiration and really model how to be a great teacher, not just a good teacher. You have opened my eyes to the hundreds of possibilities that can make piano teaching and learning exciting! Thank you so much! Merry Christmas and have a wonderful 2018. Leabeth from Calgary, Canada

  4. Wonderful ideas. I’m definitely going to try using your composing resources, and look into Google for organizing certain studio info. Thank you, and happy Holidays!

  5. Nicola, the idea of parent reports is very foreign to me. I have only read about it–but never known anyone who actually did it. Do you make a report card several times a year for each student? Do you have parent teacher interviews? Thanks

    • No not a report card. I make a Google Doc which is much more informal than anything a school would send home. At the top I put the goals for the semester, and the current books or other resources the student is using. Then I write a few bullet points every 10 weeks with an update about how they’re going so far.


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