Piano teachers burnout is real – and very common. I see it all the time in piano teacher groups and on forums, and I’m not all that surprised.
Teachers are trying to do everything and be everything. This leads to stress, overwhelm and then complete exhaustion. It’s no wonder that piano teacher burnout has become so prevalent, with teachers trying to do it all.
Piano teachers want to be great business owners and fantastic pedagogues. On top of that they’re trying to stay up to date with all the latest and greatest resources, printables and activity ideas that they see online.
In this respect I may even be part of the problem. Which is why today I wanted to take a second to talk to you about piano teacher burnout, what I do to prevent it, and how you can bet it look after yourself so that you can run your studio in the long term.
This might sound counterintuitive in a way, because perhaps one of the things that overwhelming you right now is trying to stay on top of everything and keep it all organised. But if you put systems in place that are easy to maintain it means less time and stress for you in the long run.
This suite of organisational systems will take a while to build up. Don’t try to do all of this at once.
Each time you do get a free hour here and there think about setting one of these things up:
- Student folders
- Better assignment sheets
- Games and activities library
- Good book keeping
- Studio year planners
- Draft newsletters
All of those systems should help you to feel more on top of everything if you make a habit of keeping them up to date. Do that and you’re one step further from piano teacher burnout.
It doesn’t have to stop there either. Keep your eye out for anything that could use better organisation or a new structure and schedule a time to tackle it.
You’ll thank yourself on your next teaching break when you don’t have that customary stack of loose sheet music to put away – and you can just put up your feet with a glass of wine instead.
Just one new thing
With all the wonderful and exciting resources out there for piano teachers, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
But here’s the thing, each one of those blog posts or social media humblebrags, represents one thing one teacher did. You don’t have to, can’t, and shouldn’t, try to do all those things.
Even the teacher who first posted them is not trying all of those ideas at once. Most successful, creative and innovative teachers that I know only make one change at a time.
And most teachers who feel overwhelmed and get burnt out are trying to change too much all at once.
So this week or this month just pick out one thing that you want to try. You can save other ideas for later but don’t try and implement them until you’ve really given that first idea a good shot.
I’m a big fan of technology I use it extensively in my teaching, my business, and of course right here on the blog.
But it is taxing on your brain. Screens can lead to information overload for your mind. For most of human existence we would never have had this much text and visuals come at us all at once.
Your brain needs a break from this barrage of stimulation.
So whether it’s no screens in the bedroom rule, a certain chunk of the day where you go without your phone, or weekend break where you leave all the devices at home – make sure that your mind does get a screen respite from time to time.
You won’t realise how much of your stress and strain is stems from technology until you try it.
Do the things you love
What do you love to do?
It seems like a simple question, but many of us forget or neglect to do the things that we really love to do. Whether that means playing your instrument purely for pleasure on a Sunday afternoon, or taking a picnic with your best friend in your favourite park, are you doing enough of it?
There’s a quote from Annie Dillard that I really like (even if it is a little cheesy). In her book The Writing Life she writes:
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
I think most of us forget this most of the time. So have a little think today about what it is that you love to do – that you want to spend your life doing – but you haven’t done enough.
Then make a plan to do it. This goes a long way to avoiding piano teacher burnout.
I was recently watching some videos from a free course on Coursera called Mindshift. Although the presentation of the course is a little wacky at times, it definitely has some valuable insights into the way we learn and how we can learn better.
In the course Dr Barbara Oakley describes the active and diffuse modes of learning. The active mode is just what it sounds like. It’s the mode our brain is in when were actively trying to learn something or understand something.
The diffuse mode is what comes into effect when we switch to a different task. This is what happening when we suddenly figure something out while our mind is on something completely different. For example understanding a science equation when you’re doing the gardening.
If we never do anything except work, we aren’t giving our brains a chance to use the diffuse mode to gain clarity about problems or think of new ideas. Issues we have with our students or in our businesses can suddenly seem a lot less dire if we take a step back.
So get distracted today and do something that has nothing to do with teaching.
Questions to combat piano teacher burnout
The next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed out or worried about something in your piano studio business – I want you to ask yourself these three questions before acting or reacting.
- Is this worth my time/energy/money?
- Can I do this in a way that faster/easier/cheaper?
- Will this really improve things for me or make my students’ educational experience better?
If those answers were anything other than…
….then you should sleep on this and see if you can come up with a better solution tomorrow.
There will always be things you could do differently and more things you could be doing for your piano teaching business – but remember you are your business. So investing in your own well-being and preventing yourself from burning out is more important than any other investment you could make in your business’s success.
What do you do to avoid piano teacher burnout?
How do you look after yourself and stay focussed on what’s important? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook.