10 In Caseload Management

How I Cut My Paperwork Time in HALF

Guys. This is a game changer. Seriously. Have you heard of a text expander? If you’re tired of paperwork, then you need to check it out!

Do you LOVE writing IEPs? I didn't think so. Read all about a tool that could potentially cut SLP paperwork time in HALF!

A text expander allows you to create your own shortcuts. For example, if I always write “I love chocolate,” then I can enter a shortcut (e.g., .choc). Every time I type .choc, it will automatically “expand” to I love chocolate. Although I love chocolate, there are a number of slightly more functional ways to use this. Think frequently used phrases in evaluations/IEPs, evaluation/IEP templates, e-mail addresses, your credentials (all those fancy letters!), and so forth.

I used a text expander when I was in school, but I recently started using it to boost my productivity at work. Today, I’m sharing how this simple little tool can cut your writing time in HALF! As an added bonus, it might also reduce the number of typos in your reports.

Note: Some of you lucky ducks might have a paperwork program that already has this feature built in. If so, you can jump right ahead and start thinking about how else you might use this tool to save yourself some time!

What are the options?

I downloaded aText, because I’ve been using a Mac to write my reports. It was $4.99, but it is totally worth it. Trust me. You can also get a free 14-day trial to make sure it’ll work for you.

Windows friends? You’re in luck. You can try Texter for free. (Caveat: I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I will let you know as soon as I do.) They have paid options out there, but I’ve heard that this one will do the job.

I tried a Google Chrome extension (Auto Text Expander), because I reeeeeeally wanted to be able to quickly sync my “codes” between multiple computers. Unfortunately, the expander wouldn’t work in my school’s IEP program, so I had to find a different option. It could work for you, though!

So, let’s hop to it. How do you use this text expander?

STEP 1: Review Your Paperwork

Go through your evaluation and IEP paperwork. Make a list of the things you are always having to type.
I already had a template made for the redundant phrases in my paperwork (e.g., student considerations, prior notice, etc.). I also went through and created templates for frequently administered tests (e.g., a test description and placeholders for test scores/interpretations). Before I started using the text expander, I would open my document and go back and forth to copy over the information. This was kind of annoying, and I didn’t even consistently use the templates I made.

Yes, this may take some time, but I promise it’ll be worth it!

STEP 2: Add Your Phrases

Add your “template” phrases into aText or Texter. Here is an example of how I did this in aText: I made up an abbreviation, put in the content, and made a label (optional). So easy!

Check out the video above for a tutorial on how to get this set up! You can also enter your name and email at the bottom of this post, and I’ll send you a FREE step-by-step guide.

Another tip? I use “***” as a placeholder for the student’s name (or appropriate pronoun). When I’m filling in the report, I can hit CTRL+F (Windows) or COMMAND+F (Mac) to quickly find all the stars.

STEP 3: Make a Cheat Sheet

You won’t need this forever, but it’s helpful to have a list of your “shortcuts” at your fingertips. Having a list can also help you make sure you don’t miss any important parts of the IEP. Anyone else always forget to mention the oral mech exam?

Better yet, just open up the program and make the window smaller. I pull it up next to the program that I use for my IEPs for easy reference.

STEP 4: Write Your Evaluations and IEPs at Record Speeds!

Now that you are completing paperwork at record speeds, what will you do with your time?

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Do you already use a text expander, or do you think you might use one? How else might you use this simple tool?

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Emily Roberts
    March 29, 2016 at 3:37 am

    I am excited to try this! Does this work for inserting tables or just plain text? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Marisha (Road to Speech)
      March 29, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      It looks like the Mac version (aText) does! You just have to change it from “Plan text” to “Formatted text” (see attached image). It should work if you create a template table in Word first, then copy it over to aText.
      aText Table

  • Reply
    Emily Roberts
    March 29, 2016 at 4:14 am

    Just googled and discovered a free way to do this on a Word (Mac or PC)! Go to preferences–> autocorrect and type in replace with a short cut (.slp) then include what you want in the with (e.g. .slp=speech-language pathologist). You can also include tables if you select formatted text!!

    • Reply
      Marisha (Road to Speech)
      March 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Haha ignore my last response. You got it all figured out! Thanks for sharing! ^^

  • Reply
    How to Survive IEP Season
    April 4, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    […] more tips? Check out this post to see how I cut my paperwork time in […]

  • Reply
    Kelsey
    July 22, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    Looking forward to trying this.

    • Reply
      Marisha (Road to Speech)
      July 23, 2016 at 1:00 am

      Let me know how it goes!

  • Reply
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    January 25, 2017 at 8:00 am

    […] 6. Paperwork: Text Expander […]

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    January 27, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    […] Q: What is a text expander? How do I set this up? A: I wrote a blog post here. […]

  • Reply
    Jennifer LaCroix
    February 14, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    This looks great!

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