One of the great plights of being a school counselor: no one really knows what you do. When others don’t adequately value your time, you have to be your own time management advocate. Owning your time management means taking back control of your schedule and refocusing your efforts on what matters most. Namely, seeing students and doing things that are for students. Read on for some short and sweet time management tips that will make a world of difference in your role as a high school counselor.
1- Own your time management by going digital with your calendar
If you are one of those people who lives and dies by a paper calendar, hear me out on this one. Transitioning from a paper to a digital calendar can be an absolute lifesaver as a counselor. It not only boosts efficiency, but it can serve as a powerful advocacy tool that gets you back to doing what you love — serving families, students, and your school.
While a digital calendar takes time to set up and get used to, here are some benefits that will leave you wondering why you were so hung up on the paper calendar in the first place:
- No more paper on your desk. You already have stacks of transcripts, test date flyers, and sticky notes galore covering your desk. Plus, you know how fast-paced and ever-changing your schedule is. A digital system can keep up with the demand way better than a paper calendar.
- Use your digital calendar to set reminders. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hyper-focused on a task and a pop-up notification from my computer calendar keeps me on track for what’s coming next. With a digital calendar, I can stay one step ahead rather than scrambling from meeting to meeting.
- Boost your time management by balancing your work and personal life. You can use different calendars for work and home, but have them accessible from the same device. For example, I use iCal on my iPhone for a personal calendar (I share with my husband and we have color-coded calendars for all the things…”his” calendar, “my” calendar, “financial” to track bills, etc.). In my work life, our entire department uses Google Calendar; we can share our calendars and create a main and department-specific calendar.
2- Go public with your time management and share your calendar on your website
I am a huge fan of getting your schedule out there to serve as an advocate for you and your time. Put your shared department calendar on your school counseling website for others to access. I like to put anything program related on this calendar and give everyone on the team (including clerks) the ability to add to it. When people click on it, you can list more details and even sign-up links.
3- Go expert-status with your time management and sync a booking system like Calendly
Once you have fully committed to your digital calendar, a booking system like Calendly can be like having your own personal secretary. Let me explain.
You fill in your calendar with your personal appointments. When parents or students click on your unique Calendly link, they can see all of your available meeting times. They don’t see what you’re doing, but they can see your availability. They pick a time and it automatically pops up into your calendar. They get email reminders leading up to the meeting, and so do you. You can put the meeting sign up link where anyone is looking for you: on your website, on a QR code in your lobby, or in your email signature.
Another added bonus. The booking system helps foster responsibility in your students. They have to take ownership, pick a time, get prepared, and show up. Plus, this system will save you loads of time going back and forth via emails to find a time that works. Your inbox is already flooded as it is. Let’s take one more thing out of there and automate it.
Once you get the hang of it, it really is an expert-level tool. I’ve also heard of You Can Book Me and Acuity, but I don’t have experience with those. Linking those above so you can check them out (and if you do, shoot me a note to share your feedback!).
4- Use your calendar as a time management tool to nail down WHAT MATTERS
Fill your calendar with school counseling services that are going to make you love your job. Being a time management wizard means staying aligned with what you are trained to do. You’ll be checking things off your list and realizing the true impact you can have on students when your days are more focused on them.
Of course, you’ll still use your calendar to block off time for mundane paperwork tasks and email follow-ups. These are necessary things you should plan for during your workday so you aren’t taking work home. And remember this, taking control of your calendar and prioritizing your time is a form of self-care (more counseling self-care tips here)!
Go a step further and use your calendar to gather information and data. You may start to notice trends, good and bad, about where your time is going and how to be more efficient. Are you spending too much time on impromptu, non-counseling-related meetings and having to reschedule individual counseling sessions? Maybe you’re getting pulled into bus duty when you planned to run student workshops in the mornings. Take notes on where and how you spend your time. And because you know I’m a major fan of using data collection to amp up your school counseling program, don’t forget to snag my Data Collection Ideas Guide for 49 places to collect data in your school.
I’m all about helping you and your students stay organized in all aspects of the counseling world. Be sure to check out my High School Counseling Planning Mega Bundle for more resources that help you build a school counseling program that makes an impact on students.
And for access to a rockstar counselor community, exclusive counseling resources, and tips, be sure to join the Clique Collab Waitlist – doors open again in January! And for more ways to organize and take back your calendar, check out this podcast episode and be sure to subscribe to my podcast wherever you listen!