While not many would argue against the importance of personal organization, I feel that some fail to realize how much one could benefit from stronger organizational skills. Being in a profession that generally requires a ridiculous amount of work for very little tangible reward, accomplishing all one needs to succeed can often seem impossible. One cannot afford to miss an engagement or a class, however finding time to practice and do other work on top of everything is difficult.
I recently had a colleague compliment me for being extremely organized, which really took me by surprise. In high school I was the kid who never wrote anything down, missed plenty of homework assignments because I “forgot,” and procrastinated like crazy, starting assignments the night before almost every single time. This habit continued through college, though I would submit much higher-quality work, meaning that instead of my grades being lower, I just slept very little each night, starting my homework around midnight, going to sleep when it was done, then getting up at 7 for another day of school. As a 17-year-old this was fine, even with the occasional all-nighter, but as I got older it became more difficult to get through each day with this behavior, not to mention my classes were harder and the assignments much more complex.
The schedule for my final semester of undergrad was borderline sadistic, including classes such as 16th Century Counterpoint, History of the Symphony (which is notoriously difficult at my former school), Analysis of Symphonies from 1825-1925, Moral Philosophy, and then Percussion Lessons, Piano Lessons, Orchestra, and Percussion Ensemble. I knew full well that I could not afford to be a procrastinator, but I also had to figure out how to practice for weekly lessons on two different instruments, as well as handle the work load from every class I was taking. That was the semester my spiral-bound planner became my best friend. I planned out each day of the week around my classes, attempting to reserve regular time frames for practicing and homework. It ended up working very well. I remember that I would always have extremely productive Tuesdays where I would go to class, practice for an hour, have another class, eat lunch and practice piano for my daily hour, percussion another two hours, then walk home at 4 PM at which point I would make dinner and start my 16th Century Counterpoint homework, then head back to school for Percussion Ensemble, followed by finishing my homework and practicing for however long was left until midnight, when I would go home, rinse, and repeat.
I finished that semester with a 3.96 GPA despite all the hard classes, and since then I have never looked back. In addition to my planner I have a dry erase calendar on the wall of my bedroom where I write down everything out of the ordinary that will happen each day. When I wake up I am able to brief myself on exactly what I will need to accomplish in the following 24 hours.
I think of my effort to be more organized as similar to a professional massage – One does not seem to realize how bad something actually is until it is improved upon. The first time I got a massage I knew I was tense, but by the end of the session that improvement was far more than I could have imagined. As a student and musician, making a conscious decision to be more organized was an extremely important one. It feels good to never worry about being unprepared for a rehearsal or missing a homework assignment, and that is a feeling I would like to have forever.
Without my whiteboard calendar, I would have forgotten to write this blog.