Tools and Practices Teachers can Use to Get Organized

I have found that if I’m not organized, I can’t find the balance I need to maintain in order to be a good teacher, wife, or even a good person.  I have really had to force myself to get my organization under control this year.

We just finished week six of school and it’s been a doozy.

This year I have my plate stacked a little high: I’m teaching one section of Public Speaking, two sections of English 11 and the rest of my day is spent as an instructional coach. I am so excited about this opportunity; however, it’s taken me about six weeks to get used to my schedule. Even now, I struggle a bit.  Additionally, two of my colleagues and I applied to be part of a new grant process and were accepted. The process has been amazing, but also demanding. Outside of school, we’re building a new house and had to move into a rental with our three dogs. I’m pretty sure I’ve said all of this in a previous post (or two), but the point is, I have been a mess for the first month and a half of school.

All of this was causing me to be extra stressed and unbalanced, not only at work but at home as well. I think it’s important to be all in, whether I’m at work or home, and I just wasn’t able to keep up with everything and give everyone my all.

Something had to change.

After complaining about everything pretty regularly, I finally kicked my own butt and told myself to get it in gear!

finally getting organized with these tools

Getting Organized

I consider myself to be a pretty well-organized person. But this year, none of my systems seemed to be working for me. I usually keep a paper planner where I schedule meetings and plan lessons and a “records” binder where I keep all of my student-related paperwork: grades, parent contact, behavior notes, etc.

This year, with the addition of my new role as an instructional coach, I created an additional binder to organize notes, teacher meetings, coaching cycles, etc.

Add to all of this the fact that I’m out of my room during 1st, 3rd, 4th, and half of 5th period, and let’s just say my system was not working.  As a matter of fact, it was failing miserably.

So I created a new system using the following tools and practices.

The Tools

Google Keep:  

  • You already use this, right? If not, just stop reading and go start your lists! I finally decided that as much as I love paper todo lists, I just couldn’t decide where to keep them, plus there was a chance that I wouldn’t have which ever notebook/binder it was in at any given point in the day. So I had to turn to technology to solve this problem. Some of my favorite features of Keep include the ability to color code notes, rearrange lists easily, pin certain notes to the top.
  • I keep two sets of lists pinned to the top: General to do lists for different aspects of my job (Instructional Coaching, English 11, Grading, Admin tasks, etc) and notes for each day of the week.  This way, as I go through my day I can add tasks to the general to do lists, and then I can prioritize them and assign them to days of the week.
  • There are additional features including adding (and organizing by) tags, sharing notes with teammates, adding pictures, drawing notes, etc.  As usual, one of the benefits of Google tools is that you can access them on any device.  This year, since I’m moving between my classroom and an office, plus traveling to meet with teachers, I always have my to do list with me.  (Side note: I use Keep for my home life too.  On the iPhone app I can quickly switch between my different Google accounts).getting organized with google keepGoogle Keep helps me organize all of my tasks for the week.

Google Calendar: 

  • As an instructional coach, I have a lot of meetings with teachers (all of the red notations on my calendar below). On any given day, I have at least one meeting with a teachers and somedays I have three or four. At first, I was scheduling meetings in my IC binder; however, I often left the binder in the office and didn’t have it when someone asked to meet. This meant I often double booked appointments or almost forgot them all together.  Obviously, this wasn’t a great start in my new role.  Not to mention, the meetings and due dates that I was struggling to keep up with.  Google Calendar was the obvious (I mean, what took me so long?) solution. 
  • I now look at Calendar all day long–I start and end my day by checking Calendar. As soon as someone asks about a meeting, I can check Calendar on my phone and easily schedule appointments. I’ve also added my personal calendar and the school-wide administrative calendar so I can see all of my demands for the week.
getting organized with google calendar

Google Calendar makes it easy to schedule my entire life in one place.

Bullet Journal for Planning: 

  • Like I said, I’ve always used a paper planner for actual planning. In the past I’ve used Erin Condren’s Teacher Planner, but quite honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to pay $50+ for a planner this year. Plus, there were a lot of unnecessary features that didn’t do me any good. I’ve seen a lot about bullet journals but I didn’t think I’d want to spend the time setting one up, but I was wrong! I am using a May Designs bullet journal to organize my English 11 class and I’m loving it. I’m so obsessed, in fact, that I bought two more journals (one for blogging and one on standby for whatever I might need later).


The Practices

  • Prepare for Easy Transitions:  I won’t re-explain this because I wrote about it last year, but I will explain how using multiple Google Chrome windows has saved my sanity this year. The first thing I do when I get to school and log into my computer, is open three Chrome windows. This process has made moving in and out of my classroom all day significantly less painful.
    • The first is “administrative”: email, iNow (grade and attendance book), Google Keep and Calendar.  I keep this window is open on my MacBook too (since I am on it for half the day).  This window allows me to stay on track. Who am I meeting with today? What do I need to accomplish?
    • The second window is for Public Speaking: I open the PS Drive folder, open the slides for the day and have it in presentation mode so as soon as I get in my room for 2nd period, I can login and have my presentation ready to project on the screen.
    • The third window is for English 11: Again, I open the folder, the slides and any other necessary handouts for the day.
  • Turn off Distractions:  I have a confession: I might be addicted to my phone/computer and all of the apps and social media thingies on both of them. It’s bad. I’ve tried forcing myself to take a break, but in all honesty, my willpower is not super. So I downloaded (and bought the premium version) of Freedom. This app/program allows you to turn off anything that distracts you: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, email, etc. You can adjust the list as necessary. You can also schedule specific times of day to turn off apps on whichever devices you choose. I’ve found this has really helped me to focus. Once it’s running, I literally CANNOT check any of my distractions. It won’t let me, and if there’s a way to override it, I don’t know what it is (and I don’t want to). If you want to check it out, here’s a link (affiliate) to Freedom.
  • Set the Tone to Focus: I love the Noisli Chrome extension. I use this extension, which allows me to getting organized and working with noisli in the backgroundchoose different sounds and combinations (coffee shop, fireplace, etc.) to act as background noise. I find that I enjoy having some sound to block out small, distracting noises while I work.


If you’re struggling to get yourself in gear this year like I have been, first, know you are not alone. Next, get your butt in gear! 🙂 I hope one, or some, or all of these ideas help you get organized and find some balance like they have helped me!

I’d love to hear your ideas for getting organized!

3 thoughts on “Tools and Practices Teachers can Use to Get Organized

  1. Great post! I’ve already been using Keep, but not consistently. I think that setting up a routine for checking all that in the morning and opening x amount of windows will keep me organized this year. Thanks for sharing!


    • Yes, I was using Keep before, but not consistently enough for it to be really helpful. The windows thing has been a life saver, above all else! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Pingback: Lessons from my First Year as an Instructional Coach | Louden Clear Blog

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