Between student appointments, faculty meetings, school presentations and parents’ nights, the day (and night) of a high school counselor’s life can be booked solid.

Nobody knows that better than other school counselors, and they — along with a few people familiar with the counseling life — are primed to share the productivity tips that make their days infinitely easier.

Here are five ways to save time and speed through your day while being the most effective counselor you can be.

1. Plan Ahead

“Each night, I fill out a log that helps me pre-plan for the next day. I organize it by classroom period — we have seven in our day — and I add in individual appointments with students, conferencing with staff and parent meetings. Some days, my schedule gets interrupted by situations outside of my control, but having a sense of things helps me feel proactive, in control and available for my students.”
—Leslie Goines, guidance counselor at Massac County High School

2. Make Meetings Effective

“Never go into a meeting without knowing what you want to accomplish. Even if it’s just scribbling down a few words or making a mental note, keep top of mind why you’re in the room and what you need to get through. It might be following up about something or communicating a bit of information, but whatever it is, make sure it doesn’t get lost in the chatter.”
William Meyerhofer, LCSW

3. Make Email Work for You

“My inbox has become my to-do list. If something is unread, it’s an action item. This way I can email myself tasks and mark them as unread, which reminds me what I have to accomplish when I get to work. I also configure the settings in my work Gmail account to always display only unread messages on top of my inbox, and I use my “drafts” in my email as “projects in the works.” At the end of the day, my email is a one-stop shop to organize tasks and projects.”
—Matt Liberatore, president elect-elect of the Illinois School Counselor Association

4. Embrace the Wonders of Group Work

“There were 2,100 high school students in my school district, and I supervised eight school counselors at the high school level. Each had a caseload of 260 to 280 students, and as much as we would have liked to do individual counseling every time, it was virtually impossible. When that’s the case, you really want to look for opportunities to do group work, such as going into classrooms to walk students through the application process. That way you’re getting the same message out to maybe 30 students at a time, as opposed trying to message it individually.”
—Dana Karas, former president of the New Jersey School Counselor Association

5. Ditch Handwritten Notes

“Have some kind of electronic note-taking method. It can be as simple as a Google spreadsheet, but you want something you can search in easily. For example, if you use a spreadsheet, you can key in a student’s name, and it will find the places where you wrote notes on that student.”
—Jennifer McGuire, president-elect of the Massachusetts School Counselors Association

Read to apply a few to your day? Soon, it’ll be you doling out advice.