I like to think of myself as an organized person….
Other people think I’m organized as well….
I believe that all things should have a home….
When I’ve finished with something I like to put it back in it’s home….
If all of this is true….then why have I been feeling so overwhelmed at home and work lately?
I think it is because I’m not as organized as I like to believe I am. And the systems that I thought were working, just aren’t!
For Christmas I received a voucher to a kikki.K workshop. They have a few different type of workshops that are on offer, but I decided to try out the organization one, to see if it could help me with this overwhelmed feeling.
I’ve got to admit, I was quite sceptical that I would learn anything. In principle I knew what I had to be doing to get on top of things….I was just having difficulty actually doing anything!
Well I was pleasantly surprised and I learned so many great ideas….and that I’ve already started to implement.
Before we get into the system, there are a few things you should know first…
1. Everything must have a home
Okay so I knew this. But there were a couple of extra bits that I found out which I’d never really given much thought to.
- First do a review/inventory of the space you want to organize.
- Look at the areas where you dump things.
- Work out if you need to create new homes for stuff.
When looking for spaces for homes for all of your bits and bobs, whether it’s the stationery in your class, or reading books or student work books; keep like items together as much as possible.
So in other words don’t have 5 different areas in the class for the student workbooks. I know this is tough if you have a small space, but keep them all in the one location if possible.
Think about how you can easily access things to avoid double handling.
2. Look at how things are positioned
Some of the important points to remember here are:
- Have your everyday stuff in arms reach.
- Put your rarely used things in a cupboard or on a shelf.
- Completely clear the area you’re organizing and only put back the things you use all the time.
And the 3 things to help you not feel overwhelmed
- Declutter and only keep wanted possessions.
- Create homes.
- Put things away.
The main focus of the workshop was how to stay organized with your paperwork. Now I think this is particularly relevant for us teachers as we receive all types of paperwork on a daily basis that needs sorting out and attending to.
The 4 step system
1. Incoming paper
First, you need a tool to receive all of the paper. You could use a tray or a box, but as long as it’s not too big. I’ve got an A4 box with a lid, that’s quite shallow.
Now you need to keep the box/tray in a place where you usually dump all of your papers. So that may be on your desk.
When paper comes in that is not for the bin straight away, place it in your new box.
You will also need to set yourself a schedule for how often you want to empty your inbox. It could be weekly, but if you’re in the classroom and getting permission notes etc, you may need to empty this daily or every few days.
2. Paper to action
When you’re at your allocated time to sort your inbox, take everything out of the box. Next you move it to your action station.
You can use a step file with manilla folders for your action station. Mine is below.
Label each file with a specific action, that allows you to put like paper together. This allows you to batch process when you action your paper.
Some categories you may have for your action station could be:
- To pay: this is pretty straight-forward, bills to pay etc;
- To correspond: this could be phone calls you need to make;
- To claim: if you have vouchers to use or insurance to claim;
- To read: this could be notices from your administration, or notes from parents/students; and
- To file: paper that you just need to file for future reference.
You could also have some generic files, such as event or project files. These would be quite handy if you have an assembly coming up or other event where you have paperwork coming in, such as an excursion.
Now sort all of your paper into the files in your action station.
The most important part of this step….schedule in your diary when you will empty each file in the action station. At your allocated time, take each file and complete all tasks in that file. Then decide if you need to keep the paper or if it can be trashed. If keeping, try to file all the papers straight away, or if you don’t have time then add it to your ‘to file’ tab to do later.
3. Paper to reference
This part of the process has 3 bits to think about when keeping any of the paper from step 2.
a) Frequently referred to paper
These are the papers that you look at most days/weekly. It could be your timetable, planner, to do lists or diaries. So you need to have easy access to these.
I have a magazine holder on my desk within arm’s reach that keep these things.
b) Occasionally referred to paper
This is probably the bulk of what you will file. Have one lever arch file for each category of paper. The closer these files are to your action station the better.
At home I have a file for finance, car, health, household. And within each file I have dividers to split it up into the different bits, such as utility bills, insurance etc. See the picture above, I have the lever arch files next to my action station, so easy to file away after the paper has been actioned.
c) Rarely referred to paper
These are the pieces of paper that you only look at every now and then. An example could be your past tax returns.
Bundle the like papers together and clearly label it. If it can be disposed of after a set amount of time (such as with past tax returns), then write the year it can be destroyed.
I’ve got an A3 archive box that I’ll use to store these types of papers. And then I’ll probably just use A4 glad bags to put the like papers in together, which is then easy for labelling.
The final part of the system is to think about how you will then take the paper out into the world. It’s easy with the rubbish and recycled paper as you add that to your bin or recycle bin.
But what about paper that you need to give to someone?
The suggestion was to have an out bag, such as a tote bag. This could also include a 5 tab pocket in there so that it’s easy to add in any bits of paper.
The tabs could then be labelled with categories, such as: to post, work, printing, to read and miscellaneous.
Then again it’s important to leave the bag in a place you will see it to grab as you leave the house or classroom.
Another important thing to remember is: start with any new paper coming in. Don’t put pressure on yourself and start sorting all of your other paper. I think that would be overwhelming.
So I’ve begun the process. I have my inbox, I have my action station and I’ve started scheduling times in my diary to complete the tasks.
I suppose we’ll see how long it lasts and if it helps 🙂 But I do already feel in control and the overwhelmed feeling has eased for now.
But I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a similar system? How do you stay on top of your paperwork and other areas?