My system for getting things done

in leadership,Misc. 8 Comments

To start with, I’m a big fan of David Allen‘s Getting Things Done, and Scott Belsky‘s Making Ideas Happen, and Michael Hyatt’s tips on his blog.

Over the years, I’ve established my own system that seems to work for me. Thought I would share it. Let me admit- I don’t necessarily recommend the system I’ve instituted for myself. I would recommend implementing a system the experts recommend, and ultimately just some kind of system, whatever it looks like.

Again, whatever your preference- just establish some kind of system! That is the key in my opinion… having a system that works. For you.

But for me, the following system works.

1. I keep a “to do” list in my drafts on my outlook (for Mac). Right now I have around 125 items on this list. This is where every task, to do item, action item, or follow up is recorded. If not at my computer, I will record in my moleskine or iphone and then put in the to do list once a week.

2. I keep at least three folders around my desk – Action items folder, Reference folder, and Backburner folder. This is taken directly from Scott’s book and his methodology. These folders are for papers, documents, printed emails, etc that need to be kept in physical format, not just digital format.

3. Moleskine for capturing ideas, taking notes and thinking/dreaming. Any to do items are transferred to my to do list on my computer once a week at least. The key on this is capturing big ideas and thinking/dreaming- have at least one place you capture those kinds of ideas.

4. Email inbox- I try and keep my inbox to under 20 emails daily. If it gets to be more than that, it becomes too much of a distraction. I don’t use my inbox as a “to do” list. Anything that can go on a “to do” list goes on the “to do” draft in #1 above.

5. Evernote to capture notes from meetings, cool websites, videos, etc. Mainly use evernote for capturing things from the web.

6. I receive all of my email. But in terms of responding to email and other requests, I try to forward as much as possible to my assistant. Not because I don’t want to respond personally, but more because it frees me up to focus more of my time on items that only I can do- speaker selection, programming, strategy, planning, new business development, strategic partnerships, etc.

7. I keep a very detailed system of folders in my inbox. But more for reference, and not for follow up or action. Emails only go in these folders once they have been completed or followed up on. But having them in folders for reference is incredibly important, especially when trying to remember what’s been done in the past.

8. One excel spreadsheet that is a “catch all.” Your name is probably on it!! I have a spreadsheet for capturing names, speakers from the past, speakers for the future, bloggers, influential leaders, young leaders, etc. It drives Michelle my assistant crazy and our entire team crazy, but it works for me, as this is the place where I can braindump every name or idea or new relationship.

9. Creative boards for planning and programming. I’ve mentioned the creative boards before. They are instrumental in programming events, as well as planning for the future. Provides a visual strategy that is easily changeable.

10. A few Physical Folders around major areas of organizational focus. I keep a few folders in my office tied to different projects, events, and areas of organizational focus (for example, “staff reviews”), but try and limit these folders as much as possible. The goal is digital storage whenever we can.

11. Our team does very FEW meetings. We don’t meet “just to meet.” We meet only if needed. This helps tremendously in allowing time to move things towards completion and ultimately getting things done. I’ve found that many organizations put meetings on the schedule just because it’s been done that way before. Not with us.


How about you? What is your system for getting things done? 



  1. Rodney says:

    Two words Brad, EverNote, technically that’s one. It sounded more dramatic in my head. And the Mailbox app. Changed my life.

  2. Michael says:

    Instrumental for me is to take a notepad app on my phone or Kindle Fire, and throughout the day, as I’m doing random things (which is where my best thoughts come from), I just add, add, add to that list and then at a certain point, I email myself that “To Do” list, and review it at home. At this point, I am sorting the list, as you say, by reference, action, follow-up, etc,..

    I believe it was John Maxwell that said, and I will butcher the quote, that a leader keeps a perpetual action list each day and checks off at least 70% of that list on a daily basis.

    Thank you very much for your very detailed insight to your system. Much of what you do is very consistent with my methodology and it will be fun to experiment and try some of your ideas!

  3. Chris says:

    For number 8: One excel spreadsheet that is a “catch all.” Just wondered if you used something like Dropbox so all of your team gets the info when it’s updated.

  4. Randy Willis says:

    Thanks, Brad! I love learning how others manage their time/tasks!

    I use the 2do app for my to-do list. Works great for me!

    I use Gmail. LOVE the keyboard shortcuts. I star and archive emails I need to keep, but I keep my inbox empty (most of the time). I don’t do folders/labels anymore. I either put items on my to-do list or review (and clean out) my starred email periodically.

    I also use my iPad for a lot — reading, stuff I’m working on (if not on my laptop).

  5. Tim Schurrer says:

    Would you be willing to list the column titles on your “catch all” spreadsheet? I’m curious more than anything.

  6. Dan says:

    I would recommend checking out Gtdagenda .com for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.

Leave a Reply