I use a constellation of apps as my system, email, calendar and to do apps.
There are a couple of practices that keep these systems from going stale.
Set up some back burner categories
These usually go by the name of @somedayMaybe, @waitingFor, @moviesToSee, @thingsToDoWhenInTheCity, etc. You will only review these lists when you are in the mindset of looking down the road to decide what you want to bring to the front burner. Most apps have some method of tagging that will let you do this.
Separate your actionable items from non-actionable
Some of your items might be vague notions you wanted to capture. They may be project steps that are themselves sub-projects of a larger effort for which you have not yet clarified what the next steps are. Or the items might be reference material. Create separate categories for each type of these items. Again the tagging methods let you separate things into categories. You may consider different apps for different functions. Evernote is a great reference repository but not so great as an on-the-go to-do reminder.
The Delete key is your friend
A fast "No" to items that are no longer relevant is just as productive as moving forward on any given effort. Deleting what no longer matters frees up your mind to concentrate on things that still matter.
Schedule it for later or delegate
Time is the only resource we cant make more of. When you are faced with more to do than you have time to do, and it is all relevant work you can either reschedule what needs to get done or you can delegate. It doesn't hurt to get a little help from your friends. Whether it is personal work or professional work you will need to rely on your skills of persuasion to get things done. People appreciate a common cause and leadership. If this is in a professional workplace get buy in from your management. If you are management you will need to expand. This is how big things get done in the world. In addition to persuasion you will need to rely on your organizational skills to keep track of whats been delegated and make sure what you have delegated gets done. Rely on your calendar and your contact management tools for this.
Just like cleaning out the refrigerator on a regular basis keeps your foodstuffs in good condition, reviewing your productivity system keeps you in a constant state of balance.
Can't emphasize this enough.
But if you fall off the wagon, don't be afraid climb back on
If your system goes stale it's not too tough to keep the faith and get back on. There's a couple of things that will get you caught up.
- Do a quick mind sweep / brain storm / brain dump. If its been a while there's most likely a few things that have been bouncing around your mind for a while. Write them down on paper and pen. Capture as much as you can. Set the list down.
- Purge your digital systems of stale items. See above "The Delete key is your friend"
- Repopulate your digital systems with what you've collected during
your brain sweep. Separate out your categories between what actionable, project thinking, future consideration and reference material.