Back to school: GTD is the solution for parents

A Community Contribution from April Perry

The first day of school started out great. My three oldest children dressed in their new clothes, laced up their new shoes, ate a healthy breakfast, and then headed off to school with homemade sack lunches and brightly-colored, fully-stocked pencil cases. I felt like a wonderful mom.

They returned home seven hours later, happy but tired, toting folders overflowing with paperwork, and that’s when MY work started (I mean…continued). As I shuffled through more than 50 sheets of fliers, forms, and date-specific notices, I started to feel a little dizzy. The pile on my counter harbored a LOT of information, most of which needed my attention right that minute. I was tempted to break into tears or bury my head in a carton of Rocky Road, but then I thought, “Wait a minute. I’ve been trained in GTD. I was MADE for situations like this.”

Within 30 minutes, the papers were completely processed, and I was ready to move on with our evening. And since I had such a glorious experience with my paper party, I thought I’d share some ideas that might help other moms manage the near-constant influx of papers that comes flying from their children’s backpacks.

Shall we begin?

Step #1: I did a quick initial sort, pulling everything out of the pile that belonged in the trash. That was actually half the pile, since all three of my children received identical copies of each handout (maybe they’ll go digital someday?). By removing the trash at the beginning, the remaining stack looked much less daunting.

Step #2: I went through the stack again and processed everything that would take two minutes or less. I typed the teachers’ email addresses into my Contacts list, noted the date of the school’s 5K, and recorded all of the holiday breaks onto my calendar. That eliminated seven or eight more sheets of paper.

Step #3: I gathered all the sheets I wanted to keep for reference (bell schedules, classroom rules, details about the school exercise program, etc.) and put them immediately into my filing cabinet in a clearly-labeled folder…just in case I need to find them quickly in the future.

Step #4: I made a decision on the school picture order form and then wrote a reminder on the next day’s calendar page to order the photos online (doing so enabled me to receive a few extra photos free of charge. Wasn’t that a nice of them?).

Step #5: I got out my Next Actions list and recorded the three extra school supplies my daughter needed in the “Errands” context.

Step #6: I spread out all nine of the emergency cards and a few extra forms on the table, and my children and I filled them out together. They wrote their names, address, phone number, etc., and then I added a few additional pieces of information and my signature.

That was it! Piece of cake, right? There’s no need to stress when you’re a “black-belt” at paper processing.

There was one little boy in my daughter’s Kindergarten class a few years ago whose mother NEVER emptied his backpack. I’m serious. Every morning, he came to school with a bulging backpack–full of paperwork that had been piling up for months. I knew his mom a little bit, and I don’t think she was trying to be neglectful. I think she just felt overwhelmed with her own paperwork and problems, and unzipping a backpack of “stuff” would have thrown her over the edge.

I feel like part of my mission in life is to help the moms of the world to get organized. It takes some work, but it’s not that complicated, and the basic ideas presented in Getting Things Done have the power to make life much, much easier–whether it’s the first day of school or simply the first day of the rest of your life.

April Perry is the mother of four children and co-director of www.powerofmoms.com. She is a regular contributor to GTD Times.