business,  childcare,  teacher tips,  tips for teachers

Organizing all that paperwork!

If you’ve spent any time in a licensed child care program, you’ve seen all the required paperwork – lesson plans, daily communication sheets, medication forms, permission slips, pick-up lists, the forms are never ending.  If you’ve ever been a program administrator then you’ve felt the crush of the paperwork avalanche – add all those licensing forms to invoices, bills, staff forms, and all that mail!

If you’re like me you’re probably feeling your blood pressure rise just thinking about it, but I’ve got a few tips to help you handle all that paperwork. Whether you’re a classroom teacher or an administrator, I hope that some of these tips will be helpful because they worked for me (and I still use them daily).

  1. FILE SYSTEM – Yes, I’m shouting that.  A good file system is critical, i’d even go so far as to suggest color coding your files (these are the file folders I use).  Use one color for children’s files, one color for staff files, another color for financial paperwork, you get the idea. You can keep your files in a desk drawer, a file cabinet, or a plastic bin on the floor – it doesn’t matter as long as the system works for you. What does matter is that you label your files clearly so that are easy to find.  I like to use a fine tip Sharpie or a black flair pen so that the wording is bold enough to read without getting too close.  The other key to a good file system is using it.  Seriously.  If you have a file for completed attendance forms you have to put the forms in the file folder, or you’ll never find the attendance form that you want when you need to double check a child’s hours for that week. 
  2. Only touch a piece of paper once – This might sound crazy but it works because I never have piles on my desk any more.  When you open that mail and find a new bill take care of it immediately – pay the bill and file the statement right away, then move on to the next piece of mail.  If you come back to your desk and find a note asking you to call a parent back sit down and call them asap, then you can pitch the note right away.  If this just won’t work for you – because it can be a bit distracting – then try this: make one pile of all of the paperwork that you need to deal with that day, then set aside a half an hour every single day to tackle the pile.  This used to be my after lunch ritual and it saved me from scrambling to finish everything at the end of the day
  3. Clean off your desk at the end of the day – Put everything in it’s proper place so that you can see the top of your desk again.  There are two reasons for this tip; First, you want everything back in it’s place so that you know where to find it when you need it again. Second, When you come in the next morning your desk will be clear and you can sit down and get started instead of immediately feeling stressed over the state of that messy desk. I am vigilant about cleaning off my desk at the end of the day, especially because I know that the chances I will come in and start working on the same project the next morning are slim to none. 
  4. Let everyone else in on your systems – You can’t control paperwork left for you by others, but you can let them know where they should put these things so that they are cluttering your desk.  Have a bin or a file for paperwork that others need to leave for you. This will keep it out of your way and let you get to it when you have a chance. If you’re going to do this you have to make sure to clean out this bin regularly so that you aren’t hunting someone down for a paper that they’ve already turned in. 
  5. Make your space feel like home – My desk is where I need to be in the zone, so I made it homey, I have a fun mat for my computer to sit on, matching framed quotes, nice containers for pens and paperclips, and get this – I only use post-its that match the color scheme of my space.  I’m more likely to keep my space nice and neat because it is somewhere I want to be. The post-it thing may be OCD, but I can stick up as many notes as I want and they look like they belong – not like they’re shouting at me.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money, my computer mat was $5 from Ikea and I used spray adhesive to stick fabric to it, my pen holder was a vase that I had in my basement.  Look around and see what you can re-purpose, even things that don’t match can easily change colors with a little spray paint.  Here are some instagram photos of my work space so you can get an idea:
What organization tips work best for you?

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