How do you stay organised?

I am a terribly disorganised person. I’m not a messy person; my home is tidy, my desk at work is tidy. Despite this, I somehow manage to be completely disorganised – I forget to reply to emails, or return phone calls, and I am usually rushing from one meeting to the next with only a few minutes to mentally prepare for them. The problem is that I can get by this way. I’m good a skim-reading, and I can survive in meetings because I pick up cues from people pretty quickly. The problem is that my disorganisation affects others. My students don’t get work returned on time, or I fail to respond to their questions via Edmodo. My colleagues are impacted because I forget to reply to emails, or plan important meetings, and I lose important bits of paper like student work, or really any bit of paperwork given to me. (Just tonight I missed the faculty dinner because I’d double-booked.) My disorganisation also affects my family – we don’t have a routine for homework, or regular bedtimes, and rules set are often forgotten as quickly as they are set. My new job means that I need to be better organised, as there are many more goals to achieve.

I know I have a problem. That’s the first stage of being fixed, right? I’ve moaned about my stress and forgetfulness on Facebook a lot, and my mates on there (pretty much my edu PLN) are super helpful, providing me with tips from tech tools to keep me organised, to quick and easy dinner solutions. They really do rock. Over the last week, I’ve tried to start using a couple of the tips suggested by my mates, and I’ve noticed small differences in my stress levels (for the better), but still feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of things on my ‘to-do’ list. Here they are:

1. Allocated ‘cooking’ days to the whole family.

Typically I always cook dinner. I’m not a very good cook, so I just make the same meals regularly. I am a bit of a stickler for cooking fresh, from scratch meals most nights – we’re all vegetarians, so if we don’t eat fresh food, we’ll be stuck eating a diet of mostly carbs. Cooking tends to be an escapist activity – I use it to avoid catching up on pressing work. To avoid this, we’ve decided to set ‘cook days’ for everyone. We’ve negotiated days around the after-work activities we each have. Both my boys are old enough to cook dinner now – they have a couple of meals they can manage to do well, so that’s a start. Lee and I cook twice a week, and the boys cook once, leaving one night free for take away. It’s been really great so far this week.

2. Allocate ‘dog’ days.

We have two dogs. They take a bit of care. Typically we just tell the boys to feed them and clean up after them, which leads to a whole bunch of complaining and finger pointing. This week we established days that the boys were responsible for the dogs – Keenan does Mon, Wed and Thurs, Balin does Sun, Tues and Fri, leaving me to do Saturday. There’s been NO fights about the dogs this week. Gold. You might not have dogs, but some similar task your kids do in a haphazard way, or maybe it’s just me and I’m slow to put in these types of routines, haha.

3. The ‘hour of power’ work session.

This idea is stolen from one of my new colleagues, Fiona. She is year 7 advisor, and has encouraged the year 7 students to set aside one hour each day after school (always the same time) during which they do nothing but school work. I tweaked this idea slightly, based on a tip from the Gifted Children facebook page – basically the hour isn’t just for school work, it’s for studying. This means that your kids can’t say ‘I don’t have any homework’ and then go back to gaming. If they have no homework, they need to work on an upcoming assignment, or they do some revision work for a subject that might be causing some trouble. My ten year old does his homework really quickly, so we’ve been using the time for him to do some extra maths online using the IXL site. How does it look? At 4.15 each afternoon, my boys and I sit at the kitchen table with our laptops, or workbooks, and some afternoon tea. We then work for a solid straight hour. It’s been super successful this week – great for me to focus and not rush around the house cleaning or getting dinner ready. I’ve been able to help both boys with their work, and get my own emails and stuff done. Awesome.

4. OneNote for lesson planning

This is something that was suggested to me quite a while ago (thanks Paula Madigan), but finally I bit the bullet and gave it a go. Essentially I have created a ‘school’ OneNote notebook, and then sections for each of my classes. Each section is broken into pages and subpages. Each page is a ‘week’ in the term, and its subpages are lessons. The reason I’ve chosen to use OneNote is because you can embed all types of files into your page, so all my resources for a lesson can be held in the one space. I’ve been identifying learning objectives, tasks and homework for each lesson. Obviously not all lessons are massively detailed, because sometimes I’m not sure what students will focus on in my project based classroom. Also, some lessons are recorded after the fact, but that just means that I’m tracking what I’ve done and will help me next time I teach the same topic. Here are some images of what it looks like for me so far:

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 8.16.58 pm Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 8.16.35 pm Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 8.16.40 pm

I’m planning on using the Wunderlist app also, as recommended by Alice Leung. I’m a big fan of pen and paper lists, but they get lost and I need to keep them in one place, with reminders and stuff. I’ll be sure to write about it if it keeps me organised. Finally, I need a good diary, and my mate Megan Townes is going to give me some tips on how to use Outlook synced to my Mac calendar. I’m constantly on my phone, so I think that’ll be a real game changer.

So, do you have any tips for how to keep organised as a teacher? I came across this wicked list of what the schedules of successful people look like, I think I will steal some of these ideas… you might want to as well?

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4 thoughts on “How do you stay organised?

  1. I have found ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen incredibly useful. I like the book, but I find the audiobook (got it through the audible app) version even better because it’s like having someone right there giving me highly practical organisation advice…in addition to running a diary, I have also found a kanban board (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_board) for managing my projects a necessity. Hope that helps!

  2. Gah! Don’t be so hard on yourself?!? I don’t think you have quite summed up all that you do in your school role, professional work in developing others, wife, mum and carer of chooks, cats and dogs.

    I mean it’s great to be task orientated, get stuff done – but sometimes there is a lot to do with little time. Don’t burn out x

    To add to your list, I write down all that I do in my chronicle and play colour association games in my head to link tasks in the list to priorities – this helps when I look at lists to know what’s a now or later thing to do. I use the same strategy for classes when students ask questions and need help all at once – their names linked with colors said in my head. No idea where I learnt this?! But, I find it works also when put on the spot without my chronicle.

    My DT class has a Kanban board for their Major Design Projects – they love it. It helps in breaking down their projects into manageable tasks. Try TRELLO if you want a digital version.

    My bad habit is leaving my own stuff for later – I’m always last to fix my own IT problems! AND I could not survive without our shared Google calendar – colour coded and shared means I know what’s going on – but only works because Josh is awesome at keeping it updated I’m terrible at that! 😉

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