How to Organize: Papers + Digital Files + Email for Virtual Learning

Dozens of Problems… One Solution

Ever have a set of horizontal blinds go all wonky… tilting sideways, individual slats facing every different direction? 

Yet, with one careful tug on a string, they all conform and neatly snap right back into place…

Satisfying feeling, isn’t it?

That’s what we do with learning, organization, and soft skills… find the unifying “string” that snaps everything into alignment. With only one “thing” to know and understand, students are infinitely more successful!

That’s what we’ve done with the process for organizing papers, digital files, and emails for virtual learning…

Learn ONE structure… and they all snap into place!


We Are Swimming in this Soup -as Parents & Educators- Right Along with You!

Currently, one child is starting 6th grade and was introduced to virtual learning with the pandemic. Another child is starting 10th grade and was introduced to virtual learning a few months earlier, at the start of 9th grade. Brian & I jumped into virtual learning along with him, as parents and educators, when we helped to launch the hybrid secondary program he attends.

Speaking as a parent…

I CANNOT keep track of my own email, let alone this sudden FLOOD of emails that comes along with virtual learning for TWO children…

OHHH. EMMM. GEEE! It pushes me waaaaay past my edge! 

Brian already picks up my email slack because people have learned to simply contact him, instead. Obviously, he cannot manage email for all four of us. 

Something has to give.

That “something” was to make our children responsible for their own email. 

So, they got to be the guinea pigs for our new module, “How to Organize Papers + Digital Files + Email.” We sat them down at the table in our office and projected the lesson on the big screen. To be honest, that was like trying to harness squirrels! I was wishing for bungee cords to strap them into their chairs (as if that would actually hold them still…)

It was painful!

Until our daughter caught a glimpse of the title on the screen and came to a sudden halt…

“Wait! You mean… 

There’s actually a way to organize email?!?!

Ohhhhh, thank God!!!”

It’s been two weeks. We are still supervising their inboxes once/week. But…

OHHH. EMMM. GEEE… it’s already a relief!  

Speaking as an educator…

The minute we launched into virtual learning, we could see that our students needed help organizing their email. Heck, they needed prompting to CHECK their email because they are NOT acclimated to that routine. Yet, email is the life-line of virtual learning. 

However, we were drowning in the layers of our own learning curve. It was literally “on our list,” but addressing the issue was constantly bumped due to other “fires.” 

I bet you can relate…

This school year, our role has returned to curriculum support (vs “active instructional support”), so we were finally able to make time to dive into email organization… to first tease-out a simple-as-possible system for organizing email (+ paper + digital files), then craft the instructional materials to share them with students.

Organizing Papers for Virtual Learning

We start by introducing a system for organizing papers because it is simple, TANGIBLE, and perfectly translates to digital. 

In virtual learning, it’s hard to say how much paper a student will have. Some virtual experiences are more “paper-centric” than others, depending on: the curriculum, teacher/student preferences, and access to printing.  

Regardless if it’s three dozen or three hundred papers over a school-year, students must have a system for tracking them. Afterall, if it’s only three dozen, we can bet those are going to be very important papers!

So, we extend our infamously simple binder system to virtual learning, with a handful of minor adjustments… making it even more simple.

Organizing Digital Files

From there, we set up the framework for organizing digital files. It is a digital version of the SOAR Binder System; we demonstrate the 1-1 correlation so that students intrinsically understand the rationale and the structure.

We then walk students through a naming convention for digital files. After one year of working with students in virtual learning, we discovered that naming conventions are CRITICAL. 

SIDENOTE: Developing a “file-naming convention” is something I’ve wanted to establish within our company and for my own, personal files, for years. But I never got around to “figuring out” what would make most sense for us. However, the moment I figured out what would work best for our virtual learning students, it was immediately MUCH EASIER to name my own files. Without even trying, I am proving to myself that all skills for virtual learning are truly the single greatest “workforce preparation” students will ever have.

Organizing Email

The first thing students need to know is how to properly use an email inbox; the inbox is NOT for storage! It is a holding place for processing. Ideally, it should be cleaned out (zero messages) daily. 

Yeah, I know… none of us do that. (Hence… “ideally”…) But every single email in your inbox right now has only six possible options: LATTES.



Two-minute resolution




Narrowing down to six options (vs infinite) makes the entire process very simple. The structure of email labels matches the digital file + paper-management structure. And the Task/Event/Snooze options correlate with the calendar process we introduced them to in a prior lesson.

Our first two “guinea pigs” are proving that the system works! Our kids are just like yours… their default mode is to RESIST school advice from Mom and Dad; they will forever-and-always be our toughest critics, but they’re learning how to pull the one string that snaps all of into place!

If you’re ready to teach your students virtual learning skills, we’re here to help!  We can guide you to explore the curriculum (for a sneak peek, click HERE), arrange for a trial, schedule a brief call, provide a quote, or all the above.  Simply contact us with any questions or requests you have.



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