How To Tackle Teacher Paperwork

Reports, letters, memos, rolls, notes, permission forms, mail, brochures, lesson plans, exams, curriculum documents, announcements, to-do lists… These are ‘all in a day’s work’ for a teacher.

Our ever increasing mound of paperwork consumes not just our precious time, but our desk space also.

So, how do we tackle this? What can we do to get our papers more organised?

Here’s 5 steps for tackling your teacher paperwork:

1. Plan to have a plan

The first step to organising your paperwork is to think about organising it in a way that suits you and your needs. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Where will you be doing most of your paperwork? At an assigned desk, in a particular classroom, at a shared desk? The physical location will determine how your plan unfolds.
  • Do you teach more than one subject? Or are you a primary school teacher and you teach only one class? The number of classes/subjects you teach will influence how you set up your organisational space.
  • What level of organisation do you want? Are you happy with a few basic piles and a minimum level of neatness, or are you a neat-freak (like me) and you want everything perfectly laid out in your workspace? Your levels of organisation and systems need to reflect who you are. After all, you have to be able to maintain the systems you put in place.

2. Determine your ‘zones’

I personally recommend that you sort paper into a variety of zones or piles. This is part of your ‘plan’ for organising your space. These are the five I use (and please create your own that will work for you):

  1. To Do
  2. To File
  3. To Recycle/Shred
  4. To Photocopy/Laminate
  5. To Take Somewhere Else (e.g to school office or another classroom etc)

3. Commit to: ‘Touch It Once’

When it comes to paper, as much as you can, follow this rule: touch it once. Once only. Pick up the piece of paper and deal with it straight away. Put it on the filing pile, put it in the correct folder, recycle it, shred it, deal with it immediately. NB: I only put papers on my ‘To-Do’ pile if I really can’t deal with it straight away.

4. Utilize ‘Batching’

Batching is simply this: grouping similar tasks together. Having your various zones really helps this. For example, I try and do all my photocopying at one time. I literally have an appointment in my calendar that says ‘photocopying’. Obviously, there are always times when we have to run to the photocopier to quickly do something, but I try and batch this task together. It keeps all those loose papers in one place. NB: I also try and do this with emails, but the topic of emails I will save for a future A Teachable Moment. 🙂

5. Use helpful stationery resources

Ok I admit it, I am addicted to stationery. I absolutely love all things nifty and colourful and stationery-like! When it comes to tackling your paperwork, make use of stationery resources to help you do that. I use a variety of things: colourful folders, pins, paperclips, post it notes, labels (I love my label maker), plastic trays… whatever works for you. Again, this has to be in the context of your plan, as I outlined in the first point.

6. Determine regular times for dealing with your zones.

After you have chosen your zones (piles/trays/baskets – whatever you decide), put a regular time in your calendar for dealing with those piles. This is simply scheduling what you are batching together. Some of these will be weekly times (like filing) and others might be daily, like taking things to the school office. Whatever you decide, make sure you do it. And stick to it.

This week’s assignment:

Start at step 1 and begin the journey of tackling your teacher paperwork. Then work your way through each of the steps. You’ll notice how you start to feel more organised, and how your space will look more organised. That’s because it IS more organised!

Enjoy the journey,

And more importantly,

Enjoy the moments.



P.S. I would really love to hear your comments. How do you tackle paperwork? What works for you? It’s super easy to comment. Just click here.