The ONE complaint I hear from practitioners doing testing is, “I’m always behind on reports!” I’d say this is the main downside to an assessment-based practice. Over the years at times when I’ve been particularly buried, I think to myself, “This is just like grad school…HOMEWORK. ALL. THE. TIME.”
Making time for writing reports should be a top priority as you build or grow your testing practice. Otherwise you’re at risk for getting overwhelmed, burning out, delivering a late product, and wrecking your reputation in the process. Here are some things that have worked for me and others I know:
Set Aside Time in Your Schedule
How much time you need will depend on your personality and stamina for writing. I’ve talked with psychologists who can finish a full neuropsych report in 30 minutes, which is just mind blowing. The average seems to be one to three hours, or more if you’re writing everything from scratch with no templates. I personally cannot get any meaningful writing done unless I have at least an hour, and that’s even a stretch. I found that I need big chunks to really get in the zone. Variations I’ve tried at different points in my career include: having one full day each week, blocking off a couple of hours each day, and writing on the weekend (terrible). I finally found my favorite variation last year…now I do a full week “on” when I have 35-40 face to face hours (interviews, feedbacks, testing), then take a full week “off” when I only write reports and do other administrative tasks. My favorite day of work is getting in the zone and knocking out 6-8 hours of writing, but I didn’t know that until I tried it.
Don’t Overbook Appointments
This principle is the flip side of the first one, but it bears explicit acknowledgement. We’ve all probably heard of, or worked at, or maybe even directed that practice where interviews, testing, and feedback sessions dominate the schedule, but reports don’t get delivered for months. Don’t be that practice. Have a realistic idea of the time needed to get reports written, and schedule that time right along with the face to face appointments involved in the evaluation. Yes, it’s tempting to fit in as many folks as possible, but not at the expense of delivering timely reports.
Use a Timer
I’m always writing reports on my computer, so I use the Tomato Timer, a free version of the popular Pomodoro app. A timer helps keep me on task and gives me a fun game to play. How much can I get done before it goes off? Can I finish this section before it buzzes? Something about the timer also limits distractibility. I put the Tomato Timer at the far right of the browser window, so I have to look at it any time I go to open a new tab. Instead of following every impulsive internet search, I just keep a sticky note pad and write down all of my distracting ideas so that I can look them up during breaks in work.
Have Realistic Expectations
Optimism is a curse in some cases. How often have you said, “Oh, I can easily get this done in X amount of time!” only to find that it takes double that? Yep, guilty. Over and over. When you’re budgeting how much time it will take to write your reports, be conservative and overestimate. If you get done early, great! Otherwise, you again run the risk of allocating too little time to reports and falling behind.
What tricks and strategies do y’all use to make sure you get your reports done?