Are you a workaholic? Seven ways piano teachers can fight this damaging behavior
Authors note: They say it "takes one to know one," and I humbly submit this as someone who struggles with working too much, simply because I love what I do! I hope these thoughts and tips help you as much as they have helped me.
Workaholism is rampant in western culture, and, unfortunately, piano teachers are not immune. A significant study involving workaholism cites three underlying dimensions of this issue: work involvement, drive, and work enjoyment.1 Add the fact that piano teachers work from home, making it difficult to ever truly get away from work, and it is easy to see why this is a struggle in our profession. The long, typically second-shift hours on weekdays, along with the special events and lessons that often occur on weekends, mean that teachers find it difficult not to work. Second-shift work can negatively impact one's social life, which, according to research, can in turn have a negative impact on overall health. When we do not connect with others who care about us, we tend to become isolated and find it difficult to find ways of "sharpening the saw." While this certainly affects us negatively in the short term, there are also long-term implications of isolation, including a forty-five percent greater risk of dying earlier compared to individuals who feel connected with others.2 When teachers also charge a low tuition rate and have ineffective payment systems, it is easy to think that it is necessary to work more to make a decent living. This is one of the false narratives that can be eliminated (or at least helped) when teachers implement a yearly tuition structure and learn to charge a healthy rate of tuition.3
What is workaholism and why is it detrimental?
There does not seem to be an agreed definition of workaholism. However, workaholism can be seen as a continuum that ranges from generally working too much (defined by some as more than 50 hours a week)4 to a more serious compulsion to work coupled with perfectionist or compulsive-dependent traits.5 The key to determining if workaholism is an issue may be in identifying and weighing the negative consequences of work habits.
Some of the negative consequences that are often overlooked include:
• Poor nutrition habits (including skipping meals)
• Lack of exercise
• Emotional strain in relationships
• Failing relationships
• Lack of time for activities that give energy
• Missing memorable moments in family and friends' lives
• Shortened life6
However, it is difficult for a person suffering from workaholism to see these effects as the direct result of workaholism. And frequently, those who suffer from workaholism are often not aware that they suffer from this behavior or are in denial about the negative implications. Since piano teachers are usually very nurturing individuals, it is difficult to imagine that any of our behaviors would have negative implications on others.
So here are a few direct questions to consider that are related to the everyday life of piano teachers.
• Do you frequently find yourself thinking about and working on piano-related things on the days you are not teaching?
• Do you teach more than five or six days a week? Many teachers may be defensive about this, but it's important to think outside the piano teaching profession for a moment. Working five days a week is the norm for most professions, so a comparison here is at least something to consider.
• Do you rarely have large blocks of time during the week in which you are not thinking of music-related matters?
• Do you have difficulty finding time to do things with friends? Of course we are mostly secondshifters, but are your weekends also filled with so many piano-related things that you cannot get together with the people who give you energy?
• Does your family complain that you work too much?
If you answered "yes" to several of these questions, it's important to consider that it may be time to make positive changes in your life to promote health, prevent burnout, and live life to its full beauty.
Ways to fight against Piano Teacher Workaholism:
1. Schedule real teaching breaks.
It is important for piano teachers to have true vacations. These vacations are times in which you get away from your business and do not do piano-related activities. This means that you must schedule times that you will not teach! Several weeks between semesters is always a great (and normal) place to start.
2. Establish and abide by office/email/texting hours.
It used to be enough to schedule office hours, but since smartphones have enabled email and texts to follow us wherever we go, adhering to office hours is important. The "do not disturb" feature of many smartphones enables you to turn off all notifications for phone calls and texts except from your "favorites" (which you can choose). Therefore, if someone texts you at 10:30 p.m. to request a make-up lesson, you won't even hear the notification (and thus feel compelled to answer). Answering emails is slightly easier, as you can set your office hours to be "weekdays from 10-2," and then simply not answer email on the weekend. It is important to keep a balance here and to remember that when you are "courting" new families, returning calls and emails quickly is important. Even then, however, you can subtly teach prospective families to respect your boundaries when you respond later with, "I'm so sorry that I couldn't answer your text right away! But I'm very excited about meeting with you!"
3. Sharpen your saw.
It is easy to think that we do not have time to get together with teaching friends or attend our local music teachers' meetings. But we must admit that we usually make time for what is most important to us. And we often only realize the benefit and encouragement that comes from regularly connecting with our teaching friends (live, not just online) after the fact! Connecting live should be a priority in our lives so that we can receive and give encouragement, obtain new ideas, and keep in touch with the quickly changing world of piano pedagogy!
4. Find a hobby.
When asked what their hobby is, many people say music! But since music is our job, we're not always receiving the same hobby benefits from music that others do. Finding an unrelated hobby can help give your mind the break and energy it needs.
5. Say no to make-up lessons.
The May/June 2015 issue of Clavier Companion covers this in depth. But so much more time and happiness can be found in your life when you choose to deal with make-up lessons in a reasonable way. It is easy to see why giving up our personal time for unpaid work time (since the time they vacated was really what they were paying for) can lead to excessive working and burnout. 6. Unplug completely at least several times in the year. Our smartphones make getting away from work almost impossible. Harnessing our smartphone, texting, and email addictions is difficult, but some CEOs and others are finding that doing so increases their productivity, their creativity, and more.7 Completely unplugging from technology a few times each year can help detox those who struggle with working too much. 7. Remind yourself about what is important. In the grand scheme of things, what is most important to you? However you motivate yourself to reflect on your life and the future, it is important to ask if what you are doing right now is positively impacting the most important people in your life. Sometimes, making positive changes to reach that goal can take time, and sometimes it truly is temporarily impossible to do what we'd like to do. But regularly examining the issue of workaholism in our lives and being proactive about positive work habits can help us lead more healthy and productive lives.
3See the March/April 2015 issue of Clavier Companion and http:// composecreate.com/no-more-charging-lessons-by-the-week/
5https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-24/edition-10/workaholism- %E2%80%93-21st-century-addiction 6 https://prezi.com/53tveuaymore/the-workaholic-epidemic/ 7 http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2013/08/27/ceos-find-unplugging-canhelp- with-work/