Tips & Tricks for Tackling Your Email Inbox

Tips & Tricks for Tackling Your Email Inbox

I’ve set boundaries on my email before, but they’ve never stuck for the longterm. Can you relate?

Somehow, I always find myself back to that place of constantly checking my email on my phone throughout the day (sometimes, without even thinking about it). It’s the first thing we reach for when we wake up in the morning and one of the last things we do before we fall asleep at night.

But why check it if you’re not going to respond right away? Why let those messages take up valuable mental space?

You see, I’m one of those people who tends to overthink things. I’m a slow processor and sometimes, it takes me a lot of time to craft the “perfect" response. So, if an email lands in my inbox that needs a thoughtful reply, I let it sit. I tell myself I’ll think about what to say or how to say it. And so, I do. All afternoon. While I’m trying to work on other projects. There’s that email in the back of my head, using up mental energy as I write and rewrite and edit a response in my head. 

How I Organize My Finances As a Freelancer

How I Organize My Finances As a Freelancer

As any freelancer or small business owner will tell you, managing your finances is a huge part of the job. From the ebbs and flows of self employment income to keeping track of all your deductible expenses to paying quarterly estimated taxes, managing your personal and business finances is no small feat. But, having a clear, organized system for keeping track of everything is a great place to start.

We've found sorting our money into different places helps us manage multiple income streams and work toward our savings goals. It's also makes paying quarterly taxes much easier. 

Here's how SD and I organize our finances as freelancers, teachers, and small business owners:

Professional Update: November 2011

The beginning of a new month always seems like a good time to step back, reflect on the last month, and plan for the weeks to come.  Also, it's been a little while since I've given y'all a professional update!  Here we go:


We just passed the midway point of the semester and all seven students are doing great!  I had three new students start lessons this summer, which was great but there were a few students from last year who were unable to continue this semester so it sort of evened out.  Our next recital will be sometime in the spring so for the time being, we are working through new repertoire and technique exercises.  I am hoping to put together some type of assessment for maybe January or February.  I'm envisioning a low-key jury week where each student is asked to perform a solo piece or two and maybe a few technique exercises.  This would give me the opportunity to evaluate their progress and give more formal feedback to the students and their parents.


We are in the off-season for the Westminster Chamber Music Workshop but that doesn't mean we're not working on next year already!  Steve and I just finished applying for two Cultural Council grants and we're beginning to plan some of the events.  Speaking of events, we've also been maintaining a monthly "Community Concert Calendar" on our blog.  If you're in the area, check out our November calendar of events.  We're hoping to really focus on the musical events for the community this year and we'd like to keep everything free (as much as that is possible).  We're also talking about adding a new element this year but that's all I'm allowed to share with you!  Check our website in the coming months for more details!


This semester I am teaching one section of MUSC 2500: Class Piano I at Fitchburg State.  I have five students enrolled and all are doing well.  Our second quiz is tomorrow!  A few weeks ago, the Humanities Department Chair asked me if I would consider teaching a 3-credit course called "Commonwealth of the Arts" (in addition to two sections of Class Piano I) next semester.  There are several sections of this course offered each semester and many students are required to take it to fulfill their Humanities requirement.  Each professor takes a different approach: some focus on art, some focus on music, others focus on theatre.  The Department Chair recommended I use a particular set of textbooks (6-book series) but it was up to me what time frame I wanted to cover, what assignments I want to give, and what area I want to focus on throughout the semester.  After flipping through a borrowed set of books, my first instinct is to focus on books 4-6.  Book 4 starts in the Baroque period and book 6 is all Modern.  Each book includes elements of art, music, and theatre.  I am still in the early planning stages but I am very excited for this new teaching opportunity!

In 2010, a few Humanities faculty members started the Foundation Music Lesson Program at Fitchburg State.  Steve and I were both asked to join the faculty - lessons are offered for a variety of instruments to faculty, staff, students, and community members alike.  Over the summer, one of the co-founders asked me to consider the role of Program Coordinator, responsible for student registrations, coordinating with the teachers, arranging lesson facilities, and overseeing recitals.  I said yes.  I am now several months in to this position and am enjoying the opportunity to teach and work administratively in this program.  I organized a faculty recital back in September and we had a very interesting, very diverse program.  This month, we will begin marketing for the Spring semester - lessons, group classes, a student recital, and hopefully, another faculty recital!


The children in Singers & Scholars, our joint choir and Bible study program for 1st-8th graders are loving our around-the-world adventure!  We just finished the Africa unit with songs like "Siyahamba" and "A Ram Sam Sam" and are gearing up for our month in the Navajo Nation.  The Sanctuary Choir (our adult choir, though many of them are still children at heart) is preparing for a special Thanksgiving Eve service and a Christmas Cantata in mid-December.  The Thanksgiving service is combined with the Catholic church down the street.  We alternate hosting the service (this year, it's at their church) and the choirs combine for a special anthem.   My choir refers to them as "the BIG choir" - they can't believe the number of tenors!  Last year, we had about 45 between the two groups.  While re-organizing the Choir Room a little bit this summer, I came across 15 copies of a 1997 SAB Christmas cantata by John Purifoy.  It's not half bad!  I decided it would be just right for our group this year.  It's about 30-35 minutes in length, includes a narrator, and incorporates several of the favorite carols.  And besides, the choir hasn't done a cantata in over 15 years (or so they tell me).  There is no better time than the present!


Steve and I perform together every few months, though we haven't done anything big since our lecture recital back in April.  See clips here, here, and here.  Our most recent gig was in August at the church's annual Yankee Street Fair.  We played a 45-minute set under a yellow- and white-striped tent just hours before Tropical Storm Irene came barreling down Main Street.  We were asked a few months ago to prepare a short program for young children in town.  We're hoping to do something similar to the Musical Memory Game which we premiered at this year's WCMW.  As a way of engaging such a young audience, Steve and I will play short clips of music and the children will be asked to decide which ones matched.  Stay tuned for more info on this - we're aiming for early 2012!

Image Credit: Jen Shenk, personal, personal, personal, Nicholas Garofalo (last two)