Life used to be simple (or so we like to think). Those who worked in an office had an “in” box. When the in-box was empty, you were up to date! The organized teacher could adopt the same idea. Incoming paper went in the box. Phone messages were jotted on slips of paper and dropped in the box. Ideas could be jotted on a scrap of paper and dropped in the box to be handled later.

In the “old days,” work did not show up in many places. Check the mailbox at home (and dump the contents into your in-box at home). Check your mailbox in the teacher’s lounge and dump the contents into your in-box at school. When you saw the bottom of the in-box, you could relax. Getting “in” to “empty” was the name of the game.

Getting “in” to “empty” is still the state you want to achieve. What has changed is how many “ins” you have. Before you can get a handle on everything that calls for your attention, you have to first get a good idea of just how many “ins” you have. Ask yourself if you have:

…a mailbox at home for U.S. mail?

…a box at school where your receive mail and paper messages?

…voice mail at home?

…voice mail at school?

…voice mail on a cell phone?

…e-mail at home?

…e-mail at school?

…e-mail on a smartphone?

…more than one e-mail account at either home or school?

…a notepad that lives by the phone that must be checked?

…a fax machine that must be checked?

…a bulletin board at school where information is posted?

…a school website where information is posted?

…a legal pad where you take notes during meetings?

…a memo pad in your pocket?

…a brief case or purse that collects papers?

You may have more in addition to what is listed above. I ask you to sit down with pencil and paper and list the “ins” that you have. Use this list as a starter. Before you can organize all of your “ins” and have any hope of getting them to “empty,” first you have to know where they are.