Awesome Teachers – 11 ways of coping with your paperwork!


Coping with your paperwork Information overload (seemingly encouraged by the availability of computers), is a fact of the life of staff in many educational institutions. Usually, the information flow seems one way—on to your desk! This paperwork may also appear to be not directly related to your own course and learner responsibilities. The following suggestions can help you to take care of this general paperwork.


Perform a crude sorting task on the paperwork. Most of the paperwork can be safely filed. Some requires action on your part, either in creating your own paperwork or as an item for action. Use this great resource to help you even further.


Prioritize your responses. Deal first with anything that directly affects the well-being of learners and/or colleagues. Deal quickly with financial and budget-related paperwork, too. Student records and assessment returns usually need to be processed by many departments and can have funding implications, so they also should be dealt with as soon as possible.


Use your secretarial/clerical support staff. Their job roles probably make them better than you at efficiently processing standard paperwork. They will be aware of any protocols about official stationery, house styles, etc. There may also, because of quality monitoring and a growing interest in litigation, be a requirement that all external and student (or student’s sponsor) communications be centrally generated and a file copy held. And for even more great tips and help join our f

Files NOT Piles

Keep files, not piles! Handle each piece of paper as few times as possible. Try to avoid the situation of repeatedly sifting through piles of papers, looking for the particular documents you need. Equally, piles seem to ‘lose’ the document you want. If you think how long you have spent on occasions looking for a particular piece of paper, you will know in your heart that spending just some of that time organizing a good filing system would have been well worthwhile.

Shred Shred

Learn to love your wastepaper bin and shredder! How often have you kept something to read later, knowing full well that you would never actually look at it again—except to remind yourself that you didn’t want to look at it? Allow a decent period of time to elapse and then feel free to ‘weed’ the files.

Labels everywhere!

Label your paperwork with post-its. These stand out easily from the papers themselves, and you can write on them short messages to remind you of exactly what you are going to do with each of the papers, and save you having to read them all again in order to work this out. You can make your own color codes with the post-its, maybe to remind you of the ‘urgent’, or the ‘important’, as opposed to the ‘routine’.


Use plastic wallets. These are invaluable for making sure that all the papers that need to be kept together stay together. How often have you spent ages searching for that last sheet which has somehow escaped from a set of papers —or (worse) the first sheet?!


Use alternatives to paper. Would a telephone call be a sufficient response? Can you use e-mail? Electronic communication is quicker, less protocol bound, avoids paper and saves photocopy costs.

Be Green

Save paper. Use notice boards for things you want everyone in your department or section to see. For non-urgent dissemination, circulate a single copy of a document with a ‘pass on to…’ list, rather than sending everyone a copy—people who want their own copy can spend their own time making one! Make sure that the single copy is destined to end up in a sensible place at the end of its circulation, either back to you, or preferably in the departmental office for filing there.

Take Away

Take your paperwork with you. Paperwork can often be done in odd moments between other tasks, and if you have it with you it is possible to make good use of such opportunities. But don’t carry too much around with you; don’t carry home more than you could reasonably expect to be able to do overnight or over a weekend. How often have you only had time to look at a fraction of the pile you carried home?

Keep It Simple

Keep your paperwork output to a minimum! You will earn the gratitude of your colleagues if you don’t add to the pile in their in-tray: use e-mail or the telephone. Keep any written work short and make it clear what you want them to do with it.

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