After years of this searching for the holy grail of productivity, I have found that what works best for me is simplicity. As long as I have a basic system that is easy to maintain I stick with it. My current system is a testament to that. It is completely paper based and designed to take as much of the “thinking” out of the way of the “doing” as possible.

Here it is:

* I always have pen and paper with me for capturing all the random bits of stuff that pops into my flighty little head. I generally use my Levenger Pocket Briefcase loaded with their 3×5 cards. That being said, it is not unusual for me to use Simplenote on my iPhone or (tisk, tisk) send myself an email from same. The point is not the tool. The point is to get that thought captured somewhere before it leaves my brain forever.

* I have a master list of all of my tasks and next actions for projects in my Levenger Junior Circa notebook. This is just one big dump of stuff culled from all of the input sources I capture to. I have a “trigger list” with all of these sources listed so I remember to look there. I create one big list, no contexts, no projects, no order. Just a big pile of stuff. I use my dash/plus system to track the status of items on the list. Also, the Cornell Ruled style of the Levenger pages allow me to keep notes in the margin (especially for “waiting for” and “delegated to”) if needed.

* Now, at this point I know you GTD purist types are shaking your head in disbelief. “What about contexts?” – I don’t need them really. I am a tech consultant by trade so I am either in my home office, where I can work on my master list, or at a client’s, where I am working on their list. The closest I get to ever using a context based list is writing down errands I have to take care of on an index card and sticking it in my pocket briefcase. “What about projects?” – If I have a project that requires breaking down into actions, I will do that on a separate page. Then, I put the next action on the big list.

* Every day I take out a 3×5 card and write the date at the top of it. I then pick three things off of the big list I would like to get done that day. I then place this card next to my computer and focus in on getting these things done. That does not mean I might not do anything else on the master list. It also does not mean that I wont get distracted by other “firefighting” that comes up during the day. That being said, I have found that having just three items on there makes it possible to clear that card every day. This makes me feel like I am moving the master list forward little by little despite the fact that for every one thing done, two may be added.

I admit that this system may not scale well if you have a lot of stuff coming your way. With that said, perhaps the larger lesson to take away is to always look for ways to simplify your system to the basics of what it really needs to be. Far too many people feel the need to build in complication that is unnecessary. This system is simple and, more importantly, it works for me.