Ever get that overwhelming feeling when you look at ALL you have to do and think, “My brain is exploding; how will I ever get this done?” It happens to all of us, but for a teacher it’s compounded 20-fold because you’re keeping yourselves, maybe your families, and also your students heading in the right direction. And that can sometimes feel like herding cats!

We asked TpT’ers how they stay organized because, let’s face it, only teachers know the demands on teachers. Consider taking a page out of these pros’ books and save yourself time and (hopefully) some sanity.

10 Tips to Get and Stay Organized

everything just so1. Unclutter

Jennifer of TpT store everything just so is a super organizer: “At home and at work, I could never function well until the space around me was uncluttered and organized. I live by the mantra, ‘Everything has a place and everything in its place.’ In fact, before starting work today, I completely reorganized my work area. New bins for sorting papers, holding books, and even a little mini colander for holding sticky notes and flags.

I realize not everyone comes hardwired this way and for some, living in organized chaos is much more comfortable. However, I’m firmly convinced that the job of teaching can be made so much more manageable if organization is incorporated into each aspect of your daily routine. It will take some grunt work in the beginning that will force you to question ‘what’s always been done,’ but I promise it will be worth it in the end.”

Read more of her 5-part blog series here.

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 2. Use a Planner

Shelly Rees’ advice: “When I started teaching over 20 years ago, there was definitely a lot of paperwork associated with the job. As the years have progressed, the paperwork has increased. There is SO much to keep track of!

How does a teacher manage to keep afloat? By getting organized and staying organized! A little bit of organizational effort before the school year begins can pay off big-time for the rest of the school year.”

Read more about how Shelly uses her planner.

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 3. Begin at The End

Try this tip from Room 213: “I always begin at the end. I think about what skills I’m going to assess at the end of the semester. Ehen I plan each unit, I figure out the best way to scaffold these skills, so the kids can practice them. I like to build in as much formative assessment as I can, too. Before the semester starts, I do an overview of the whole course that I’ll keep at the front of my planner, so I can easily refer to it when I do my weekly planning. That keeps me focused on the end goal so I’m not just doing things randomly.”

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Try Room 213’s 2015-2016 Secondary Teacher Binder

4. Prep Early

What a great idea from The Bright Rewriter: “Ask your principal to put this on the agenda for the end of the school year, so you can have the information for the following school year:

Before school is out for the year, my principal has a big meeting where known events are placed on the calendar for the next school year… annual school events, guest speakers, testing dates, report card dates, etc. All teachers get a finalized copy. SUPER helpful!”

5. Keep Everything in One Place

Secondary Teacher-Author Julie Faulkner says, “I am definitely a ‘type a’ personality. I plan just about everything from my lessons to my weekly outfit choices! Some of the best ways to stay organized are to keep everything in one place, have a system that you stick to, and take time to reflect and make notes as you go. I even have a system for organizing my students. I guess you could say ‘planners gonna plan!'”

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Read more of Julie’s suggestions in her recent blog post, “A Teacher’s Guide to Having a Stressful School Year” and check out her Student Data Tracking, Individual and Class Goals, Evaluation & Reflection Pack, too!

6. Evaluate and Simplify

“I plan, and plan, and plan lessons, and everything else,” says Elementary Ali – Teacher’s Workstation. “I keep all of my teaching resources in binders organized by unit so I can easily flip through and make copies when I get to each unit. I plan lessons at least three weeks ahead of time, and I make copies for the following week each Thursday. On my back counter, I have labels for each day of the week to stack copies and materials. This is part of my time management for the week.”

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Read Alicia’s blog post, “3 Simple Steps to Streamlining Your Lesson Planning” for more great ideas.

7. Leave Wiggle Room

I Heart Grade 3 plans for the unexpected. “The best thing I do when I am planning my daily, weekly, and monthly lesson plans is that I always leave some wiggle room for the little unexpected things that pop up throughout the school year. That flexibility in my planning alleviates a lot of stress and panic when those unexpected events happen!”

8. Step Away from The Sticky

OK, this one is probably controversial — we know a lot of folks are addicted to their sticky notes (there’s definitely still a time and a place for stickys!).

The Candy Class offers some great suggestions. “Plan digitally! Digital planning offers you some convenience when you need to access it from home and work. Not to mention, cutting and pasting makes it 20 times easier for any repetitive information that you need to include. Also, using a teacher binder that includes table formatting, instead of full dependency on text boxes, makes it so much easier to cut, paste, and jump to the next area of text.” Check out her BFF Teacher Binder that includes editable planners and forms.

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Or check out Presto Plans‘ suggestion for a dry-erase option: “My desk started to be consumed with post-it reminders of things I needed to do. To declutter my desk and still have reminders in sight, I created a dry-erase desk planner. You simply print, laminate, and attach to you desk. When I finish something, I just wipe it off! I have it for free in my store in two styles.” Get your own here.

9. Color-Code and Label

Sandra Naufal’s strategy is to teach her students to be organized by knowing where to find (and return) everything. “All notes and books are organized by color code. For example, shared and guided reading activities go in a yellow folder, math in a blue folder, and so on. Students have no problems locating their work. My curriculum documents and resources are also placed in color-coordinated folders to match subject areas. Things are always clearly labelled.” Pick up Sandra’s Free Classroom Labels to get started.

10. Become Friends With The Binder

Retta of TpT store Rainbow City Learning writes a hilarious blog post about having the best of intentions and how to get organized using binders for all of your different teaching needs. She concludes by saying, “Anyway, organization: necessary. But I don’t believe in overdoing it! That should be obvious by now! The single best tool that I have ever found for organization is BINDERS!” Read her entire post for terrific binder-use suggestions, and be sure to check out her Teacher Evaluation Binder while you’re there!

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Welcome back to school, everyone! We hope this year is one of the most smooth and organized yet!