Many of my clients are anticipating the start of a new school year for their children. Some are even returning to school themselves, either to teach or to work on earning a degree. This post is for those who are looking to map their route to success by putting an organized plan in place for the year.
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I am a huge fan of these, and I recommend them in various forms to virtually any client who owns and desk and uses it!
How do I get organized by using letter trays?
I’m glad you asked. For most adults, I suggest having three trays and labeling them as follows: 1) urgent, 2) mid-term, 3) long-term.
As you may have guessed, the labels indicate the immediacy of the deadline by which you must address the items within each tray. Bills that are due within less than a month should go into urgent. Permission slips for next week’s trip to the zoo? Urgent. Choosing a new cable provider before the contract expires three months from now? Mid-term. A reminder that your yearly donation to your favorite non-profit is due by the end of the year? Long term. However, as a long term deadline nears, you should continue to move the item to the more immediate letter trays until the item is addressed.
I have seen this system work extremely well for even the most disorganized among my clients and those who absolutely hate structure. The key to staying on top of this system is to address the letter trays EACH time you sit down at the desk for the FIRST time within a 24-hour period, i.e. you should visit the letter trays once per day. If you follow these directions meticulously, I guarantee your desk will not overflow with paper.
This system also works well for older students who tend to have mid-term and longer term projects.
For young kids who have homework, I suggest using an inbox/outbox system. When the child arrives home from school, he or she should immediately place all homework in a letter tray labeled “inbox.” Ideally, the tray should remain on the child’s desk or work table. If the child works at a kitchen or dining room table, the inbox may be brought out when the child arrives from school and stored on a shelf or in another location out of the way once all the homework for the next day has been completed. Once completed, homework should be placed in another letter tray labeled “outbox.” The outbox tray should be placed near the home’s entrance (also a good location for the child’s backpack once packed) to ensure the child and parent will not forget homework on the way out the next morning. One tremendous advantage to using this system is that it provides a very natural way for parents to monitor their child’s progress in school and to ensure homework completion.
Okay, sign me up!
Here are some letter trays:
A dual wall file also works well for a simplified inbox/outbox system when attached to the child’s door or in another prominent place in the home.
Organizing Letters from School, Permission Slips, and Miscellaneous Papers
Younger students often bring notices, conduct reports, permission slips, and artwork home from school to show their parents. For parental notices, I recommend using a wall file or letter sorter with multiple compartments. Each file or compartment can be labeled by document type (i.e. one for permission slips/things that need to be signed and returned, one for PTA announcements, one for artwork/completed work the child brings home, and one very clearly labeled for signed items/notes that are ready to be returned to the teacher).
Stay tuned for follow-up Back-to-School posts on lunch boxes, backpacks, and school supplies!