School is back and so with it, the stacks of papers! Permission slips, homework assignments, medical release forms, volunteer sign-ups, field trips – you know it all too well. Backpacks and mailboxes inundate us with enough to wallpaper our entire homes, not to mention the time it takes to navigate through it all. Now that you’re drowning in the sea of paper, here’s some tips to help stay afloat this school year.
Everyone has heard of the one-touch rule, where you handle a piece of paper one time. As ideal as this is, it’s not always practical, so, I utilize the principle of the fewest touches. For example, when working through backpacks or incoming mail, basic categories help determine what to do with a sheet of paper. To reduce feeling overwhelmed, break big chunks down to small bite-size pieces.
One such method for this is the RAFT System (also known as TRAF). Set up a sorting system with four categories:
Place each sheet in one of these boxes/files. Then, take action according to the box/folder. Grab your Read stack when heading to the back porch or the doctor’s office. Grab your File stack when you’re headed to the filing cabinet. The Toss stack should go to the trash as you sort. A little trickier, the Act stack requires the most action – like, writing a proposal, inputting data, paying bills. Some break it down with categories within Act to overcome this obstacle.
Also keep in mind:
Time management is important – set aside time each day to tackle timely information and a day each week for things without critical deadlines.
Establish ONE spot in your home for ALL paperwork – easier to find that permission slip as you’re running out the door.
Designate a basket for each child for incoming papers, then RAFT the basket on your schedule.
Establish ONE calendar to coordinate family and work (portable) – a second one only for family viewing (on refrigerator)
Setup a “Landing Zone” - backpacks, lunchboxes, jackets, etc.
Prepare on the weekend for upcoming week – at least, the night before
Set up a study area, with supplies handy
Have extra supplies on hand, especially poster paper for those last minute projects
Just as cars require maintenance to keep running, the key to staying organized is maintaining your system. Evaluate it regularly for any problem areas and stay committed to the process. After all, your hard work will make the grade!