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. 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. 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 entourage. Right now I have around 75 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 three folders on 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 entourage once a week at least.
4. Email inbox- I 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 my assistant 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. 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.
(portions of this post were taken from a previous post in 2010)