Practical Strategies, Service Coordination

10 Tips for Organizing and Prioritizing! – Part III

The last two posts in this series covered strategies for managing your time and organizing and prioritizing your work. Now, let’s think about howshutterstock_113206777 to take charge of your communication and your calendar!

Tip #7: Take charge of your phone calls

  • Set the tone with your outgoing message
    • Manage caller’s expectations by letting them know when they can expect a return call time (i.e. within two business days)
    • Request information you need such as their name, a call back number, what they are looking for and the best time to reach them for a return call
    • Learn to control your conversations (avoid and/or tame “time robbers”)
      • Give an established time you have to talk or suggest a time to talk later
      • Ask close ended questions and use statements that signal end of call
      • Plan accordingly for return calls to those who you typically know require additional talk time
      • Use a phone/message log to document messages and establish a system for noting when the call has been returned and documented into your case notes

Tip #8: Take charge of your email

  • Set up an automatic reply that manages expectations for a return response
  • Set up filters so your messages get organized and stored accordingly
  • Set up groups so you can communicate with groups easily without searching for email addresses
  • Use the 3 minute rule to determine what you have time for
  • Mark items as unread and/or flag them for follow up if you don’t have time to respond or follow through in the moment
  • Consider cc or bcc yourself in on an email response if you think receiving a new message in your inbox will prompt you to complete any follow up activities
  • Clean up your inbox at least once a week (delete trash/junk emails and sort/file other important messages that did not get filtered automatically)

Tip #9: Take control of your calendar

  • Use a week or a month at a glance so you always know what is coming up
  • Build in enough “office” time each week to make sure you can follow through on administrative tasks
  • Schedule appointments in a way that will minimize your drive time (i.e. group neighborhoods and regions as best you can for home visits and meetings)
  • Don’t book back to back meetings or appointments if it will jeopardize your ability to fully participate in each meeting or create a challenge for you to complete necessary documentation and administrative tasks
  • Consider required time and emotional energy needed for each home visit/family meeting and don’t over extend yourself

Don’t miss the last post in this series about taking care of the most important aspect of your work – YOU!

What strategies do you use to keep caught up with phone calls and emails? How do you manage your calendar? What kinds of electronic devices or apps do you use to keep organized??


To read other posts in this series, click below:

Part I (getting organized and prioritizing your work)

Part II (managing your time)

Part IV (taking care of yourself)


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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4 Comments to “10 Tips for Organizing and Prioritizing! – Part III”

  1. I love these tips, Sarah, b/c they are a good reminder of some practices I need to keep in the forefront. One thing about the phone and email automatic messages is to keep them current. I always feels frustrated when I get someone’s automatic response that says “I’m on vacation February 11-15” and it is currently SEPTEMBER! UGH!

    • You are absolutely right about that Cori! Depending on who you use for your email it may or may not remind you every time you go into your inbox when there is a vacation reply on…so if that isn’t something that is obvious to you then it may require another reminder in your calendar to turn it off when you return to the office. Another tip that I use to give myself a “cushion” when I am playing catch up after being out is I set the reminder to say I am back a day after I am really back…so I have a day to catch up on phone calls and emails before people expect to hear from me.

  2. This is a resource on time saving tips for managing emails that I came across a few weeks ago through another blog that I am a member of. I thought I would share it in case others found it helpful:

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