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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Paper Work Sanity Check -- Set "OFFICE HOURS"

With the start of each school year comes the avalanche of paper work!  Field trip forms, newsletters, supply lists, lunch money notices, returned homework, mid terms.....the list goes on and on.  Most schools have a Friday folder system meaning the majority of paper work comes home on Friday but there are still stragglers from day to day so how do you make sure that everything gets the attention it needs?

In my house we established OFFICE HOURS.  I have a comfy chair and ottoman in my kitchen and a little table next to the chair that makes a great in box.  Each evening I sit down after dinner and I go through the mail and papers.  My kids know that if I need to look at it, it needs to go in the in box by dinner time.  This has been a great sanity saver for all of us.  Here are my tips for setting up your own office hours:

1.  Pick a spot that is comfy and centrally located.  If your office is in the corner of the basement, chances are they aren't going to make the trek downstairs to put stuff in your in box.

2.  Identify an in box -- whether it is a side table, a tray on the ottoman or an actual in box from the office supply store, make sure your kids know where to put the STUFF.

3.  Stock it up!  Make sure that you have all the supplies you might need.  I keep my check book there along with some different color pens, some envelopes, post it notes, etc.  This way if there is a field trip form I can use the pen to fill it out, write the check, put it in the envelope and seal it up....all in one spot.  A trash can near by is also good and maybe a paper shredder for shredding unwanted mail.

4.  Set a Time -- in my house it is "after dinner" which is pretty vague but basically means that before they put their evening meal in their mouth the papers need to be in my box.  Sometimes I get to the in box right after dinner but some evenings it is more like 9 or 10 at night.

5.  Last but not least, identify a PICK UP LOCATION.  So where do they retrieve the signed forms, checks, etc.?  In my family that is the kitchen table.  Since I often don't get to the paperwork until after they are in bed or at least up in the showers, I put anything they need to take back to school on the kitchen table.  They know in the morning they need to pick anything up from that spot and put it in their backpacks.

I hope this system is helpful for you.  Honestly, I have had kids in "school" of some type for 11 years so this has been a work in progress but I think it works really well and will say that it is a very rare occurence in our family for something to be late or missing due mostly to this system.  So give it a try this year!

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