School counselors are pulled in lots of different directions. There is always a crisis on a Friday afternoon. How do you maximize your time with students and minimize time spent on less necessary tasks? Check out ways to create routines, prepare ahead of time, and stick to your schedule.
Create Routines and Batch Tasks
My biggest time vacuum if I'm not purposeful is organizing and planning for small groups and individual counseling. To get back some of this time, I focus on creating simple routines and batching tasks that I do every time.
At the beginning of the year, I photocopy permission slips for small groups and color code them by grade level. This helps since I'm not printing off slips each time I need to start a group, and when slips are returned it's easy to sort them.
Almost all of my groups and individual counseling sessions have the same format for the first session. I typically introduce the topic, build rapport, and set some loose goals. I assemble the first session materials for a couple months at a time. Check this post for 3 parts of a purposeful first counseling session.
Students who see me for small groups or individual also have the exact same routine for coming to my office depending on their grade level. Younger students I get from their classrooms or the cafeteria. Older students receive a pass and are prompted by teachers to go. It's amazing how much time you save by not searching for students.
I regularly reflect on how I can create routines or get a lot of small tasks out of the way at once.
One of my favorite time saving tips, which may seem counterintuitive is to be as prepared as possible ahead of time. For me, Friday has always been a day that I have tried to leave as free as possible. I try not to schedule a ton of group or classroom lessons, and leave that time to plan for the next week. I plan as much as possible. I make all of the copies I will need, I make all of the lesson plans I need to make, etc.
I have found that the more I can have prepared ahead of time, especially if I can do it all at once, the less I have to scramble last minute! If I can do this, then I have more time opened up for crises and last minute needs.
Stick to Your Schedule
I think having a schedule and sticking to it is a HUGE time saver. We don’t realize how much time and effort it takes to plan out our day or week, and then to have to do it on-the-fly is incredibly distracting and takes even longer. For this reason, I have a daily and weekly schedule that I only let crises interrupt.
So, if a person isn’t having a “3 hurts”emergency (if they’re going to physically hurt themself, physically hurt another, or someone is physically hurting them), I keep to my schedule. I plan daily time to see students, talk with parents, work on schedules, consult with staff, teach lessons, run groups, etc.
It saves me so much time to be able to quickly look at my pre-planned schedule throughout the day to see what I am doing next, rather than having to stop, think about my pending tasks, and then plan out my next move. Also, if I do have to stop and handle a crisis (which happens frequently at my school), I can quickly glance at the time and then my schedule to know what I should be doing as soon as the crisis ends.
Here is a link to my scheduling templates and yearly calendars, in case you need to make some of your own. Happy scheduling!
What time saving tips do you have to make the school counselor job a bit easier? Share in the comments.