As I "power-walk" back to the house adjacent to the Montessori preschool, I think to myself, "I am so busy, but I never feel like I'm getting anything done." Every Tuesday, I come to the home of the owner and operator of a Montessori school to teach ten of the preschoolers how to play the violin. Her home neighbors the school, and I teach each of the students individually and in a group setting. I actually teach all ten preschoolers in one day; this includes walking the students back and forth from the school to the teacher's home as many as twelve times. Sometimes I feel like all of this "busy-ness" is meaningless!
Although, I enjoy and appreciate teaching those preschoolers, my teaching at the Montessori school is a great example of how truly busy my life is; I feel that my Tuesdays at the school are just a snapshot of the chaos that is my life. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching and being involved in several activities, but I hate feeling unproductive. So, lately, I have been asking myself the question, "How can I stay just as busy, yet feel productive?" Inevitably, the first order of business is to define the words "busy" and "productive."
Here's what Webster's Dictionary had to say about the word "busy":
1. Engaged in action; being in use.
2. Full of activity.
3. Foolishly or intrusively active.
Take a second look at the third definition given; this is in reference to the word "meddling" or "meddlesome." Upon discovering this connection, I was almost ashamed that, in the past, I had used the word "busy" so often; however, my eyes were opened to the fact that I can be "full of activity," yet be "foolishly or intrusively active."
Now, here's how Webster's Dictionary defines the word "productive":
1. Have the quality or power of producing especially in abundance.
2. Effective in bringing about.
3. Yielding results, benefits or profits.
4. Yielding or devoted to the satisfaction of wants or the creation of utilities.
Now this is a word I would love to be used in conjunction with my name! However, when I simply look at these definitions, I feel overwhelmed! My brain spins with the question: "How can I, Meghan King, live these definitions?"
Let's begin with the mind. Our minds are the most powerful tool we have in our possession--they are at our command. When we tell ourselves to do something with our bodies or to think something in our brains, we do it in such a small amount of time, that it is nearly immeasurable. Yet, why is it so difficult for us to control our minds with daily tasks or creating habits? You would think that with all of this power in our grasp, it would be easy to create new habits! The key here is focus. In order to reign in the power we possess, we must encourage our minds to focus. This means making lists of things to do and goals we would like to achieve. Next, below each item "to do" or goal, write down a task you need to complete in order to check that item off the list or achieve the goal. In some cases there may be many tasks you must complete in order to achieve a goal, however, start with first things first, then add more to the list as you check the initial tasks you identified off.
"Baby steps" are also helpful in this process. For those of us who haven't seen the movie "What About Bob?" starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, "baby steps" are in reference to setting small, attainable goals that you are certain you can achieve and be successful in, in order to reach your larger goal. Bill Murray's character, Bob, helps illustrate this concept quite well as he says the words "baby steps" in conjunction with his small goal; for example, Bob, who has a phobia of public transportation, yet desperately wants to see his therapist, Dr. Leo Marvin, that can only be reached through the use of public transportation, says to himself, "Baby steps onto the bus," and proceeds to step onto the bus. You see, Bob is not focusing on how overwhelming the journey to see his therapist will be, but rather, on the small goal of getting on the bus. How does this illustration apply to music you ask? Dr. Suzuki set small, attainable goals for his students throughout even their private lessons to illustrate how one student could enter the lesson with a larger goal that they were struggling and feeling overwhelmed with, yet leave the lesson with the larger goal either achieved or much closer to being achieved.
Then, there's attitude. Once, I read the saying, "Attitude is the crayon that colors your world." I am not sure who coined such a phrase, but they must know the significance of attitude in motivating you to act and do certain things. When I compare the way color and stroke effect the impression and tone of a painting and the way my attitude and outlook on life sets the tone for how effective I am in setting and achieving my goals, I am taken aback at how negative and pessimistic I am when setting out to obtain my goals and live a productive life. Try asking yourself some of these questions when you are looking at a piece of music that is challenging or recital program you feel overwhelmed by:
"How do I feel about this music? Does it make me happy or sad?"
"If I were to convert my feelings into color, what color would best describe the feelings I have about this performance or piece of music?"
"Do I believe that my goal is attainable? Have I surrounded myself with people that will both, have a positive influence on me, and encourage me, in order to propel me towards my goal?"
"Do I believe that I can focus?"
Please answer honestly. You are answering to yourself, and you need to be honest to yourself before you can make any headway on your journey to your goal(s). I have made reference to "music specific" challenges in these questions, however, you can fill in the blank with whatever you are facing in life--relationships, etc.
Lastly, there is action. Go out there with focus and a good attitude, and you'll be amazed at how productive you become!
Although, I wish I could take back all those times I used the word "busy" as an excuse, all I have is today to make the word "productive" a part of my everyday life and vocabulary. :)
I live Carmel, Indiana. I have been married to my very supportive and loving husband, James Matthew King, for four years. The most important things to me are God, my family and friends. I am a violinist and violin instructor by profession; currently, I teach for three music programs, perform for weddings and with various orchestras around Indy, attend graduate school at Butler University, and work as the GA for the Butler Symphony Orchestra. My favorite color is purple and my favorite animal is the elephant.