Organizing your day with the Yellow Sheet


Proverbs 14:8 “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways”

*Fight Back With The Yellow Sheet*

Being a teacher means you have countless things to keep track of and remember.  But with one sheet of paper and a few minutes of your time you can stay ahead of it all.  The Yellow Sheet will keep track of all those pesky to-dos for you, which will free up your mind and allow you to prioritize and do the important things first. You’ll also enjoy being able to focus on one thing at a time, and that will make you more effective. Here’s how it works:

Get Yourself Ready

  1. Arrive at least 10 minutes early and find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
  2. Take out a sheet of plain yellow paper.
  3. Write today’s day and date at the top in pencil.
  4. Divide the bottom into an oversized “T”. Now it has three sections:
  • The large upper section, for planning today’s lesson.
  • The small lower-left box, where you will list urgent things that have to get done before your first class arrives.
  • And the lower-right box, for your less-important things that need to get done sometime today.

Get Set

  1. Chances are, you’re head is already full of things to do. So before anything else, write them all down. Write the urgent ones (those that have to get done before students arrive) in the lower-left box. All the rest go in the lower-right. Use just 2-3 words for each- that’s all you need to be reminded.


  1. With your head clear, you can now give your full attention to the most important thing- your lesson. Below the day and date write down the first thing you’re doing in class.
  2. Whatever it is you just wrote down, stop and think about it. Look around your empty room and imagine it happening. Think through it completely, from beginning to end. When you realize there’s something you still need to do, write it down in the lower-left box. See it working already?
  3. Now the important part- DON’T GET UP AND DO ANYTHING! It’s written down, so it will get done. Trust yourself. Do your running around later when noise doesn’t matter (or better yet, put a student helper to work).
  4. Keep thinking through that first activity until you have thought all the way through it.
  5. Do the same with the next thing you’re doing in class- think completely through it- and so on until you’ve got your entire class planned.
  6. Always finish by deciding what the homework will be. If there isn’t any, write “none”.


*Feeling Better?*

Congratulations, you did it! In just 10 minutes you have taken control of your entire school day. Besides having the most important ingredient to a good lesson- a plan- you’ve also got the second-most- confidence!  With any leftover time, get to work on your list in the lower-left corner.

Some suggestions:

  • Only use yellow paper to plan your day, and for nothing else.  That will make it easy to find, and hard(er) to misplace if it’s the only yellow paper around.
  • Another thing you’ve got to do to stay ahead is to set out all equipment and materials you need the day before. Running around gathering materials in the morning of an activity causes stress and is a waste of the most important time of day when your mind is actually clear and working.  Just try it and see how you feel coming in the next day.
  • Finish every task in the lower-left box (“urgent tasks”) before starting anything in the lower-right box.
  • Arriving 10-15 minutes earlier than your usual time might be the hardest thing to do.  You already know that doing a better job planning will result in a better lesson, but it won’t happen without sacrifice.  10 minutes is a small price for the peace and certainty and confidence you’ll get for the rest of the day.  (30 are even better!)
  • Don’t check your email until everything in the lower-left box is done.  This is a tough one to resist!  Email is the easiest way to lose 10-15 minutes. Tell that little voice in your head “No” a few times and it’ll eventually leave you alone.
  • Before beginning a task that will take you a long time to do, go on a 10 minute spree and knock out a bunch of small tasks. That will help keep you from being bothered by everything else you’re not getting done.
  • Don’t list obvious to-dos like “eat lunch” and “check email”. Those make your list look fuller and busy, which is what you don’t want.
  • If you’re human, you’ll occasionally not feel like doing one of your tasks. Try starting the dreaded task, and you’ll almost always feel fine after you’ve begun.
  • Leave your desk halfway organized when you leave school at the end of the day so you can jump right into the new lesson tomorrow morning.
  • (Get ready to be mean) Don’t stop what you’re doing to do a “quick” favor for someone who drops in unannounced while you’re planning your day, unless it’s critically important. Your priority is to your students and not your visitor; plus these quick favors never take less than 10 minutes, do they?  Put this person’s task on your list and tell them you’ll help as soon as you can.
  • Grading papers is a low priority and should not be done before school, unless you have nothing better to do. Do this later in the day when distractions don’t matter.
  • Keep your old Yellow Sheets around for a year so you can refer to them next year when you can’t remember exactly how you did a certain lesson.  I always keep my old ones in a bottom drawer of my desk, so they stack in order, which will make it easy to find individual sheets in the middle of next year.
  • When you’re having a class discussion, don’t ever assume it will just take care of itself. Give every part of it consideration as you think through the lesson. Ask yourself things like:
    • How will I open?
    • How long will this take?
    • What’s a good series of leading questions?
    • What’s a great question I can’t wait to ask?
    • What will I do when Johnny interrupts?
    • What visual aids will I use?
    • What will I do if my technology fails me?
    • …And so on

Click ‘Play’ below to see a walk-through of all this.