1. Write It Down
It's one thing to remember someone's lesson time when you have a handful of students. But once you have over twenty students, it's not going to happen. Instead, I keep my students' relevant information and lesson times in a Google Drive spreadsheet. I use the spreadsheets to keep track of how many lessons a student has had, when their last payment was, and how to get in touch with their parents. I also note write down my schedule, including where I'm supposed to be at a particular time and name of the student I'm teaching. It's the only way I know to keep everything straight without going crazy. Of course, I make sure to back up my information, and if I know I won't have internet access, I often print a copy of my schedule to carry with me.
2. Set Reminders on Your Phone
I often use my iphone as a timer when I'm teaching. It helps me stay focused on the lesson, since I'm not looking at my phone or watch to check the time. You can also set reminders on most smart phones for important dates or times. The reminders help me remember what day my daughter has her check up, or what weekend I have orchestra rehearsals.
3. Save All Relevant Emails
I get quite a few emails from parents, orchestra directors, and other teachers filled with important information, like the dates of standardized tests or other occasions when students can't attend lessons. It can be easy to scan through these emails, then forget about them a few minutes later when the next important info email arrives. So I always keep them, and make an effort to revisit my email stockpile at night when I can log relevant info into my schedule.
It's so much easier than constantly collecting check and cash from everyone. I've had parents hand me wads of cash to pay for lessons, which is nice, except at the end of the day when it's hard to remember who gave it to me (another reason I prefer to make notes of payments on my phone the second I receive them). Paypal allows parents to pay online at their convenience instead of remembering to send a check every Thursday and hoping their little violinist remembers to give it to me. Also, while it's rare that parents write me a bad check, that has happened. Paypal prevents awkward conversations about why the check they wrote me bounced.
5. Open Lines of Communication
Of course, for all of this to work, it's important that parents, students, and other teachers communicate with me regularly. If a student can't make their scheduled lesson, I want to know that. If a rehearsal time or location gets changed, I want to know right away. For this reason, I encourage parents to touch base with me regularly. I make a point to never check my messages or answer my phone during lessons so I can stay focused on the student in front of me, but I'm otherwise available, and I try to respond quickly to emails or texts from parents.
By following these guidelines I've been able to stay on schedule and keep organized with relatively few mistakes.