I've struggled for months to find a system that maximizes my productivity and keeps me focused on accomplishing my goals. I've tried dozens of paper and electronic solutions: apps, notebooks, sticky notes, you name it.... I'm writing about my latest system because I am far more productive now than I was with any of the previous attempts.
Workflow is very personal. This is not a prescription for success, just one guy's process for getting s*** done.
1) Write it down: This post (6 Things The Most Organized People Do...) makes a great argument for why you should write everything down. I spent a lot of time trying to hold information in my head. I'd used to take haphazard notes on Evernote, google docs, Post-Its, and notebooks. However, I never went back to the notes, and forgot many of the todos that were recorded.
I finally found a system that works for me. I have a single Evernote doc where I keep all my todos. I look at that document every morning and I move all the tasks that I want to accomplish that day into calendar events. Each completed item gets moved to the "completed tasks" section at the bottom. I create a clean document every month and only move over the items still on my plate.
2) Calendar it: I create a detailed calendar for each day, scheduling all the tasks that I want to accomplish that day. My calendar becomes my dedicated staff member, reminding me what I need to get done and when. I try to over budget time on tasks so that when I work efficiently I can get free time back. This allows me to go into the evening with a clear mind and focus on relaxing and spending time with the people I care about.
3) Email as an event: I fell into the trap of letting my inbox dictate what I worked on. I found myself reacting to other people's requests rather than progressing on my own goals. In order to minimize the distractions, I've transitioned to a system where I process email at set times during the day. I spend time with email first thing in the morning, sometimes in the middle of the day, and once in the late afternoon.
When I open my email, I go through each message and "process it." I use the two minute rule and knock out anything that can be handled immediately. For messages that require more time I copy the link and add the task to my Evernote document in the appropriate category.
This allows me to keep my inbox at zero and ensure that no important correspondence gets lost. I use gmail shortcuts to speed up this process (the big three being e for archive, r for reply, and tab-enter).
I'm always looking to improve my systems, send me a message on twitter if you have other tips and tricks that help you.