Photo source: www.myuntangledlife.com, www.cultureofyes.com, www.cozylittlehouse.com
It doesn't happen overnight, but with practice, diligence, and lots of organization----> you CAN be perfect.
Okay, not really :-) You won't be perfect, but you will be able to get an amazing amount of things done in short periods of time. And if there's one thing BCBA's have in limited commodity, it's time.
Over the years, I have learned this skillset the easy way and the hard way. I have watched and learned from other BCBA's that I admire, and definitely had some trial and error situations that didn't go so well.
Below are some of my top tips or strategies I regularly use to maintain my sanity, starting off with my absolute must haves: The Top 3.
MY TOP 3 TIPS
* Know your limits and set your boundaries, or other people will constantly test your limits and push your boundaries
*Set working hours (I am including all the work you do at home for free) and stick to them
*Delegate whenever you can, to appropriately qualified individuals. You won't get a glittery cape for trying to be Superman/Superwoman, just a tension headache
- Calendar/Scheduling: Keep a copy of your schedule in whatever format is easiest for you. I use an oversized wall calendar, but I also store my schedule electronically in case I need to update it on the fly. As much as you can, schedule things in advance. I usually schedule out a month at a time and I block out certain days each month as "catch up" days. This is where I turn off the phone and focus on paperwork, or if I need to schedule something out of the ordinary (like meeting a client's new speech therapist), then I always have free spots to do so.
- Traveling Office: Formerly known as your car. Make sure when you head out for the work day that you have your car loaded up with any odds and ends you or your staff may need, such as extra pens, extra data sheets, supervision notes, clipboards, etc. I also carry a large therapy bag, which is loaded with my clipboard and feedback forms, pens, post its, highlighters, etc.
- Make a Supervision Binder: This is one of those tips I had to get from trial and error. It changed everything once I put it in place. Make a binder where you store all client information and important documents, such as: a map of the area (I found this most helpful when I was working in new states), client contact information, each client's schedule, recent notes for each case, To Do list for yourself, client school/daycare calendars, progress report due dates, etc. Put your supervision binder in your huge therapy bag, and carry it with you from one client to the next.
- The To Do List: I make To Do lists of things to add to my To Do list. That is how much I love having a checklist. Before heading out for supervision sessions, make a To Do list for each client. This will help keep you on track once you are there with the client, the parent, and the staff. New things will pop up (of course), but get in the habit of saying "We can talk about that in just a second, but first let me run through this checklist". This was one of the best timesavers for me, and it helps me fully optimize my face to face time with the client when everyone is pulling me in 10 different directions.
- Get a Nice Clipboard & Make Your Own Data Sheets: This one is the most helpful for going into schools or in the community. Places where you can't drag your huge therapy bag behind you. What I used to do is write copious notes on 50 little pieces of paper, carry that around with me, and then have the fun task of wading through that when I got home. What I do NOW, is I have a clipboard that I can store things inside. Especially when visiting a new school, always bring your ID/employee badge just in case they ask for it (stick that inside the clipboard, along with your keys and a few pens/pencils). Make simple data sheets instead of using large amounts of paper. This keeps your hands relatively free, keeps you from awkwardly asking where you can put your purse/bag, and when you don't need to take notes just tuck your clipboard under your arm, have a seat, and observe your client.
- The Home Office: Your home work space needs to be neat, free of clutter, and use a storage system that makes sense for you. For me, I keep all my learning resources together, I keep my client files together, I keep my assessment kits together, etc. Everything has its own tub, and is labeled by category. Then inside each tub, items are stored in baggies and documents are stored in file folders. I use a similar system for my computer files, everything is divided up by category. I have categories for general resources, for insurance/billing, for employer required forms/data sheets, and each client has their own file system with identical subfolders. This way when I move quickly in between various clients, each folder is set up the same way (saves lots of time when I need to find something quickly). I also insanely love templates. So I have Client Master File templates, Supervision Feedback Form templates, Parent Training Handout templates, ABC Data sheet templates....I will stop there because we'd be here all day. When I need something, I just open up a template and edit it depending on who it is for. Saves an amazing amount of time.
- Give Up 1-2 Hours Each Night: This tip may not be as helpful for you, depending on your schedule and how many clients you see in a day. For me, I don't see more than a few clients a day. What that usually means is I work a few hours and then I am done. Once I get home, I pull out my supervision binder, flip to each client's section, and I am looking for: program changes I need to make, reminders/emails I need to send to the team, data I need to transfer to my computer, materials that need to be purchased or made, etc. I plan this time into my schedule, and do not consider my work day done until this is completed. By adding this step, I avoid getting to the middle of my work week and staying up all night catching up on things I didn't get done earlier in the week. Or worse, spending all weekend furiously updating programs or revising data sheets before I go see the client again the next week. This was such a timesaver for me! I don't work in an office setting, but this is the equivalent of not leaving the office for the day until your desk is clear ;-)
**Resource: Some nice ideas (complete with decorative photos) for staying organized as an ABA practitioner.