How To Be A Better Music Teacher, (Part 1 of 3)

“Focus!  Focus!  Focus!”

Have you ever heard that?  Perhaps from a teacher?   Maybe you’ve said it yourself. Maybe you’ve even said it this week.

We music teachers are all about focus.  It takes focus to teach, to practice, and to play an instrument.  We direct our student’s focus.  

And it’s all good — until it’s not.

The McDonalds Effect

When we are depleted and feeling like we have no more to give, we slump into our easy chairs and zone out to some mindless television, novels, or magazines.  The comedian Jim Gaffigan calls it “the McDonald’s effect” — it’s consuming stuff that we know is not really good for us because it’s mindless, distracting, and tastes good…for a while, at least.  

We need that sometimes.  My “McDonald’s” (aka, my guilty pleasure) is reading technology magazines about super geeky, cutting edge tech.  Most of these gadgets solve ridiculous problems that only the top 1% of the 1% even have, but it’s mindless. It’s a good way to blow off steam.

However, there is danger in taking our guilty pleasures too far. If we fall too far into our “McDonald’s,” we risk tumbling into a downward spiral, unable to accomplish anything we originally aspired to do.

Major & The Minor In Life

So, how do we know if we are moving ahead on the major — and not the minor — things in life?   

I wrote an article about it here.

Cool, right?

A Walk In The Woods

I recently took a little trip to do some hiking in the woods.  There’s nothing like nature to break the pattern, to rejuvenate and inspire.  No matter how healthy, strong, motivated or ambitious you are, you need to take time off.  Burnout is a very real thing.  The human brain is a muscle, and because of this, you can only make so many decisions in a day before you are just plumb worn out.  

The Woodsman

There’s an old story which goes something like this:

A hiker comes upon a guy cutting down a tree in the forest.  He’s sweating bullets and cursing under his breath.  The hiker waves hello, but the guy just keeps going harder and faster.  After a few more minutes he stops to catch his breath.

The hiker, sensing an opportunity to be helpful, says, “You know, you would cut that tree faster if you just took some time to sharpen your saw.”

At this, the guy turns beet red with anger. “Who asked you?  Can’t you see I don’t have time for that?  I’m trying to cut down this tree!”

The 7 Habits

In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , author Stephen Covey talks about this story and states that “sharpening the saw” is one of the seven titular habits.  

“Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have — you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.“

Managing Focus

This idea has resonated with me for decades.  Over the years, I’ve tried so many tools for managing my ability to focus.  I’ve read hundreds of books in the areas of psychology, self-development, spirituality, time management, productivity, and growth hacking.  I’ve used and discarded so many tips, tricks and tools.  But, over time,  I’ve figured out which ones work best for me and for managing the focus of others — namely, my students.

My Deep Focus Tool

In fact, at this moment in my life, I am feeling more productive and aligned-with-my-goals than I ever have before.  
What are some of the things you do to sharpen your saw?

What are some of the biggest obstacles you face when trying to focus on your longterm goals?

Would you be interested in learning more about my focus planning tool?  Let me know in the comments below.

Ready for the next part?

Read How To Be A Better Music Teacher Part 2


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