Practical Strategies, Professional Development, Service Coordination

10 Tips for Organizing & Prioritizing! – Part I

Do you ever feel like you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start?  Do you ever have one of those days or weeks where you feel likeshutterstock_108353639 everything is merging together and you don’t remember where you left off or where you should begin at the beginning of each day or week?  Have you ever had an IFSP review sneak up on you for one of the families you serve and you haven’t even begun to coordinate the meeting or prepare the progress report?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to know you are not alone and perhaps you can benefit from one of the following strategies to help you stay organized. Or better yet, maybe you have a tip you’d like to share with others!

Over the next few weeks we are going to provide several blog posts that give you tips for balancing priorities and the multiple tasks you have to complete on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. We know that there is not one right way for everyone to stay organized and therefore we encourage you to post your strategies along with us!

We will start with the first three tips to help you organize and prioritize!

Tip #1: Use multiple lists….if you think it then ink it… or better yet…plug it into your notepad, calendar or reminders on your mobile device!

  • Break your lists down into subject categories so there is a place for everything (i.e. 6 month review, annual IFSP review, phone calls to return, etc.)
  • Establish a focus for where the list and the items on your list fit with your current priorities (high priority/medium priority/low priority)
  • Review your lists often (daily/weekly) and transfer, add and purge as needed

Tip #2: Prioritize deadline sensitive items base on due dates (i.e. upcoming meetings) and periodically ask yourself:

  • If I can only do one thing what should it be?
  • How much time do I need to allow for each activity…and how much time do I have?
  • Is my environment conducive for what needs to get done?  Do I need a quiet place to work to accomplish the task at hand and if so is it quiet?  Do I need technology/internet to complete the task and if so do I have those tools available to me right now?
  • How much energy do I need to complete the task and is now a good time to start the task?

Tip #3: Use a tickler filing system (paper, electronic, or both)

  • Used to keep track of all children/families you are serving and document all meetings and activities that take place during the course of a calendar year
  • Can use a three ring binder or recipe card box divided by the 12months of the year and each child/family has a print out or index card that includes pertinent information (i.e. birthday, initial IFSP date, 6 month review due date, annual IFSP review due date, referral for transition due date, etc.) and the child/family information gets filed according to the next month that something is due
  • Takes time to set up but once it is set up it is easy to keep up as long as you review your current month and upcoming months frequently
  • Can be done electronically using an electronic calendar if reminders are installed for upcoming activities and due dates for each child/family you serve
  • Click here for an example of a Tickler File.

How do you stay organized in the midst of your busy job? Do you have a tickler filing system? Tell us what tips, tricks, tools, or systems work for you!

Don’t miss the next post in this series, Part II, about managing time!

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To read other posts in this series, click below:

Part II (managing your time)

Part III (taking charge of your communication)

Part IV (taking care of yourself)

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Resources

Visit the VA Early Intervention Professional Development Center’s Tools of the Trade page for more tools to help you stay organized, such as tracking charts, checklists, and excel calculators!

The Early Intervention Training Program at the University of Illinois’s Resources page is also a great place to find resources related to your work!

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Sarah 8.2012Sarah Nichols is an Early Intervention Consultant for the Early Intervention Training Program at the University of Illinois (formerly the Illinois Early Intervention Training Program).  She has been working in the field of Early Intervention since the year 2000. She was a service coordinator for seven years and she has been a training consultant for the Early Intervention Training Program in Illinois since 2002. Sarah assists in the development of web-based learning opportunities, manages the Early Intervention Training Program website, facilitates state and national webinars, and develops and manages online workspaces for early interventionists, training consultants, and members of the Early Intervention-Early Childhood Professional Development Community of Practice (EI-EC PD CoP). Sarah is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) and she is currently a Co-Leader for the DEC Professional Development Special Interest Group (DEC PD SIG) .

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12 Comments to “10 Tips for Organizing & Prioritizing! – Part I”

  1. Sarah: I read this and kept thinking, “yup, yup, yup!” In my work providing professional development to early interventionists, I continue to hear managing all the paperwork is one of the biggest challenges. Your strategies provide great tips. I think the key is to find the system that works FOR YOU. Sometimes you have to try multiple organization strategies until you find the right match.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more! What works for one person might not work for another which is why we would love to hear from other folks on some of their favorite tips for how they stay organized and prioritize all of their time sensitive activities.

  2. As a developmental specialist who also service coordinates for many of the children I work with, I have found it absolutely necessary to be organized! I created a “Monthly To Do” checklist in a Word Document and print it out each month. Now I use Evernote so that the info syncs across my iPad, iPhone, and laptop. The checklist includes the following categories:
    Insurance Checked- in my EI program the SC verifies the child’s health insurance each month so my list includes the name of each child I SC and a check box
    6 Month Updates- child(ren) due for an update that month, the date it is due, when it is scheduled, who I scheduled it with, and when I sent out the Prior Notice forms
    Annual Evals- child(ren) due for their annual eligibility evaluation that month, the date it is due, when it is scheduled, who I scheduled it with, and when I sent out the Prior Notice forms
    School Referrals- child(ren) who is due to be referred to the public school (done at age 2.6 in our area) and the date we did it
    Discharges- name of child(ren)that are scheduled to be discharged that month
    Additional Consults- place to record what additional services are being requested, therapist they were requested of, when the request was made, and the date it is scheduled for (when I know that information)

    *Please note that I only list first names and maybe the first initial of the last name, if needed, in order to maintain confidentiality.

    I have a document that lists, by month, what children are due for specific service coordination tasks such as updates, evaluations, etc. This is helpful for my long term planning to know which months might be busier for me in terms of SC.

    I also have a template for my case load that includes each child’s ID #, DOB, parents’ names, address, phone #s, date of initial eligibility eval, IFSP being signed, when the 6 month update is due, and services being received.

    I am happy share the templates if there is a way they can be uploaded here or sent via message to someone to post them.

    • Wow, I’m really impressed, Kim! When I was a SC I did the same thing – a daily To Do list plus ongoing templates to keep up with my timelines and events. I love how you use them to try to do long-range planning too. Seems like that is key to managing the stress that can naturally come with providing service coordination too!

      Thanks for offering to share your templates. We have something similar posted on the VA EI Professional Development Center site on our Tools of the Trade page here in case you or other readers are interested: http://www.eipd.vcu.edu/tools_trade.html

  3. Kim,

    Thanks so much for your additional tips. I think the Evernote resource sounds like a great one and I am glad you included some important things to remember about confidentiality/privacy practices.

    I would love to see any resources you have developed to help you stay organized and perhaps we can include them in a resource page we have developed for service coordinators that is on the Early Intervention Training Program at the University of Illinois’ website found here: http://www.illinoiseitraining.org/page.aspx?item=269. This resource page includes a section dedicated to organizing information and if we are able to get your resources added to this page then maybe we can get the links to them posted on this blog post as well.

    My email is snichols@illinoiseitraining.org if you would like to email them directly to me.

    Thanks!

    Sarah

  4. Sarah,
    I sent you an email with the templates. I also included guidelines I came up with to create a 3-ring binder system to organize and manage the paperwork. In my EI program the SC is frequently a regular home visitor working on the outcomes and strategies in the IFSP so in addition to the SC dates to keep track of, we also need to keep our progress notes organized to be turned in each month. We have providers from outside agencies for specialty services (autism, deaf/blind, etc) but the majority of our children and families are seen by therapists from our agency.

    • Hi..I would love to have all of this information as well… I am struggling to find the right system for all of my paperwork!!! Thank you!!!!

      • I use a Adams single page format 12 columnar pad, the first column is first initial and last name of child, the rest of columns are label such as Assessment date, parent forms mail, chart review, documentation completed, I need something visual instead of the typical spreadsheet on the computer.

      • Kelly,

        I just posted a comment in response to your first comment but the link I pasted went to the main resource page on our website. I am going to try to post it again here and if it doesn’t take you directly to the service coordination resource page then know that you can use the drop down menu to find the resource page on service coordination and that will lead you to the resources we have put together on organization. Here is the link again: https://illinois.edu/blog/view/6039/114592?count=1&ACTION=DIALOG&sort=asc

  5. Kelly,

    I received the resources Kim shared a while back but am waiting on some revisions to them. Once I have them back from Kim I can post them. Please feel free to email me directly at snichols@illinoiseitraining.org if you would like to connect on the drafts that Kim shared with me. Please also remember that you can access additional resources related to organization and prioritization on the Illinois EITP website on a resource page dedicated for service coordinators. Here is the direct link to that page: https://illinois.edu/blog/view/6039/114592?count=1&ACTION=DIALOG&sort=asc

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