Digital Organization for the School-Based OT

Keeping organized as a school-based OT can feel overwhelming! Yet it is so necessary to being efficient and successful in our jobs. Since most of us are itinerant employees, meaning we cover multiple schools, good communication and organization are necessary to serve all of our students as well as work within multiple teams. For me, digital organization has been my lifesaver – especially with all the tumultuous changes that distance learning brought. I’m happy to share the tips that have worked for me so that you will be able to utilize them as well. As my district uses Google, the tips will revolve around those programs, though the broad strokes will be relevant no matter what system you use. 

Google Drive

  • Explore the various file types Google Drive lets you create.
    • You can make documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, and more!
    • You can also upload pretty much any type of document, such as a PDF or a picture. 
  • Experiment with creating folders.
    • You can create folders for treatment materials, and then subfolders for specific skills, like cutting or pre-writing. Then, use these folders to store worksheets that you can print on the fly for a treatment session. 
    • Try color-coding your folders to give your brain a visual cue.
An example of one of my Treatment Materials folders
  • Name your files clearly.
    • Use names that will be easily searchable, with dates included in the title if you have multiple copies of a similar document.
  • Use the search features built into Google Drive.
    • Try looking on the “recent” tab if you know it’s a document you had open today or yesterday.
    • If not, try using the search bar by typing in 1-2 words that might pull up your document.
    • If all else fails, navigate to the folder where you believe you saved the document.
  • Use Google Drive to share and collaborate.
    • You can share with students or staff.
    • It’s possible to share specific documents or whole folders.
    • Google Docs allows multiple users to type at the same time on the same document.
  • Shared Drives allow you to create a space for files that are commonly accessed by a group of people, such as all SPED staff or all OTs.
    • Any document placed in a shared drive will automatically be accessible to anyone else who has been added to that drive.
    • It’s a great place to store policies and procedures, common forms, shared resources, etc. 


  • Try creating folders in Gmail, too.
    • I make folders for different schools and topics.
    • I also have a “Waiting on Followup” folder that I use for emails where I’m waiting for a reply from someone. I check this folder periodically and follow up as needed.
  • Use forwarding, carbon copies, and read receipts within Gmail to share information.
    • If emailing multiple parents, it’s best practice to use BCC to protect student confidentiality. 
    • Read receipts will give you a notification that someone read your email.
    • Use Smart Compose and Spellcheck within Gmail.  
  • Use email threads to continue a conversation instead of starting a new email.
    • If you’re talking about the same thing, it can be confusing to keep track of multiple emails.
  • However, if you need to discuss a completely different topic, it’s probably best to start a new email.
    • This keeps things organized and more easily searchable. This is also best practice when discussing private student info – it’s best not to include info about multiple students on one email chain.
  • Pay attention to who you are emailing.
    • If you received a mass email and want to thank the sender, don’t use “reply all,” just use “reply.” This prevents everyone else from getting an unnecessary email. 
    • Double-check who you are emailing, especially if you are going to be discussing a student, and especially on emails with multiple recipients. 
  • Model appropriate email etiquette – especially when emailing students.
    • Use an appropriate greeting and closing.
    • Make sure you spell names correctly.
    • Use paragraphs to format your email.
    • Use appropriate capitalization, punctuation, and grammar, using spellcheck as necessary.
    • Re-read your emails before sending them to catch any mistakes.
    • Consider the tone you use in email – Grammarly also has a plug-in for this.
    • It’s normal and natural to be a little less formal in an ongoing conversation with coworkers – greetings are okay to drop if you’ve been emailing back and forth within a short period of time. 
  • Don’t allow your email to be your main place of storing info.
    • If someone emails you giving you a task to do, write it on your to-do list and then move that email out of your inbox.
    • If someone sends you a good PDF, save that PDF to your Google Drive in the appropriate folder and then delete the email.
    • If someone emails you instructions that you’ll want to refer back to later, copy-paste that information into a Google Doc and give it a name that you’ll be able to find by search. 
  • Consider if email is the best format to deliver the information you want to convey.
    • Some things are much easier to explain verbally or by screen-sharing on videochat. 
    • You can always email instructions, and then offer to set up a time to chat via phone or video if anything is unclear. 
  • Control the volume of emails you have so as to not get overwhelmed.
    • Unsubscribe from any lists that you don’t read. You can always look this information up again if you need to.
    • Set aside a chunk of time each day to read, respond, and organize your emails. Block it off on your calendar and stick to it. This might need to initially be a bigger chunk of time if you have a lot of old emails to sift through. 
  • Ideally, your email inbox should be empty except for things that you need to respond to.
    • Everything else should be sorted into an appropriate folder, or the relevant information converted to another format and then deleted. 
  • Try using search tools on Gmail to find emails more easily. 
    • You can search by email address, keywords, or both.

Google Calendar

  • Fill out your Google Calendar with your schedule.
    • You can block out time spent on paperwork, office hours, lunch, travel, and any time scheduled with students.
    • You can color-code your appointment types here, too!
A snapshot of my Google Calendar
  • Send calendar invites that are clear and include all of the relevant details an attendee would need to know.
    • If the meeting will be held via videoconference, make sure to include clear instructions on how to access it.
  • Respond to Google Calendar invites!
    • This is professional and lets the event host plan appropriately. 
    • If you’re able to attend for the full time with no conflicts, click yes as soon as you can.
    • If you’re able to attend for partial time, click yes and add a note on the event that states your time constraints.
    • If you’re not sure yet if you can attend, click maybe. Remember to update your RSVP as soon as you are certain. 
    • If you can’t attend, leave a note stating why.
    • If you can’t attend but can’t be excused, leave a note offering some alternate times, following up by email as necessary. 
    • If you’re just RSVPing to an event, just use the buttons. It’s not necessary to respond via email as well. 
    • You can review your calendar in the weekly view to look for any invites you might’ve missed in your email. 

General GSuite Tips

  • Navigate through G Suite using shortcuts. 
    • Use the Google App Launcher Icon (also known as Google Waffle) to open up different G Suite applications. 
    • You can also bookmark or pin frequently accessed pages in your browser.
  • Review the settings page of each program within G Suite and play around with the options. Settings of note: 
    • On Gmail, you can set a signature and an away message, as well as turn on Smart Compose. 
    • On Drive, you can allow offline editing.
    • On Calendar, you can set working hours and reduce brightness of past events.
    • On General Google Account settings, you can (and should!) add a photo of yourself – not your pet or a landscape.

I hope these strategies will help you organize your school-based OT practice more efficiently! I really do credit my ability to stay organized as the number one reason for my success as a school-based OT. Do you have more questions? Something I missed? Let’s continue the discussion at my online group.

You can also join my mailing list to get access to resources just like this one!

Scroll to Top