Tough subject, paperwork. It’s a necessity, it’s not going away, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.
There are no easy answers, but I’ll share what’s been helpful to me through the years as a school speech-language pathologist (SLP).
Put Paperwork in Perspective
I’d become an SLP to work with kids yet here I was focused and stressed over “the paperwork.” Seemed like I was always under-the-gun, just making deadlines, and literally got an ulcer from trying to fit it all in. So one day, out of shear desperation, I sat down and analyzed my paperwork situation.
I came to the realization that although the paperwork wasn’t difficult, I always felt like I didn’t have TIME to do it. I always felt like I was having to squeeze it in, or squeeze out seeing my kids, and THAT didn’t sit well with me.
Here’s what I discovered: The writing of the paperwork was just a piece of my problem. I realized that
when I did the evaluation, and
when I scored the tests, and
when I organized and completed all the pre-meeting forms and communications (if it was my obligation), AND
when the meeting was scheduled,
ALL IMPACTED MY SITTING DOWN AND TYPING UP THE LENGTHY FORMS AND REPORTS.
It’s wasn’t just “the paperwork”—IT’S WAS THE ENTIRE COMPREHENSIVE PROCESS, and the paperwork was part of it. Therefore:
I carved out some time during every day to do some of the tasks, i.e., a little each day. (I actually scheduled in an “open” half-hour before lunch, every day; see details on how I did this inTherapy Matters #19, CLICK HERE.)
I created a detailed chart that listed all the kids, tasks, due dates, and documentation that needed to be done and kept it in my face and updated.
I endeavored to start the eval process as quickly as possible, i.e., not to procrastinate on getting eval permission, as well as doing the testing and scoring (since those had to be done first). An aside: If getting parent permission is difficult (they don’t sign it and send it back in a timely manner), then enlist help from the teacher and/or office staff to send the parent your way, in person, if they see him/her. Do what you have to do to get it back quickly. Stalled parent permission backs-up the rest of the process.
If someone wanted to schedule the meeting sooner rather than later, I pushed back. I coveted my time to fully complete THE PROCESS.
I continued to maintain my first priority: See my therapy-kids.
Suggestions to Streamline the Writing Process (in no particular order)
Use a Cheat-Sheet: There are common phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, that we SLPs use in our forms and reports. Type them up on a Word doc on your computer and when typing your report, pull up the reference page and copy and paste.
If you include a chart of all the subtests of let’s say, the TOLD-P, then create the chart on your cheat-sheet, and copy and paste it into the new document and change the numbers. Personalize your content and reduce your writing time.
Proofing: Writing takes time, proofing can take up to 50% of the time that it took to write it. Proofing-time adds up.
I know people say to write your content and not worry about the errors as you go, then go back and correct them. This is advisable if you’re writing a book, or even a blog where intense concentration is needed to create and craft the content. Writing a report or an IEP, on the other hand, is not as creatively demanding. (Plus, just how many hundreds of these have you written?) If you are able to do so, write it and correct the errors the first time, then scan-proof it once after you’ve written it; saves time.
Add Sprint-Time: It’s said that the most productive time is 15 minutes before you head to a meeting or right before you walk out the door at the end of the day. Why is that? Basically, they’re deadlines. So, set yourself some simulated deadlines. Set a timer (on your phone) for 5-, 10-, or 15-minutes and use these “sprint-times” to crank out the work. A few sprint-times throughout the week can yield amazing results. Shut your door and turn-off your emails.
Just WHO are We Writing For? When writing a report, etc., keep in mind WHO will be reading it—IF ANYONE. Maybe, the parent. Maybe, teacher. Maybe, another SLP if the kid moves. Maybe (and this is a longshot), a lawyer. Maybe, nobody. All of these individuals—if they read it—will be looking for content germane to the child, that they can read and understand. Write with that in mind. Every detail is not needed….
Perfectionist Tendencies, Anyone? This is a tough one for me; I’ve had troubles with this all my life. I’m a recovering perfectionist. All I can say is, ease up, as best you can. TALK YOURSELF THROUGH IT. Tell yourself that not everything you write (or do) has to be, or will be, perfect. If you discover errors, keep it in perspective and realize that nobody died.
Don’t sweat over it; be kind to yourself. Just do it and get it done!