Early last year (2008) I listened to David Allen's Getting Things Done and started applying the practices he lays out (here's the original book) . The system works great for me in many cases. I've gotten caught up on some stuff at the dentist, I've taken care of a lot of really boring jobs that I've put off for a long time. I've been able to keep track of little bits of information that I have to follow up on or pass on to someone. I've also been able to decide to not do a lot of things that don't fit in with my long-term goals. The one bit of advice that I'll give to anyone trying GTD is to read the material or listen to it over and over. Each time I get a little more out of it and I refine my system. I haven't done it all and it's not perfect but the improvement in my ability to finish projects has been immense.
Today is the first day of 2009 - Happy New Year ;). That means I have to do something I haven't been good at yet. I have to review my 2008 files and start on the 2009 ones. I don't intend to do it today but it's on my list. The plan is to go through the folders I've been actively using for filing and either archive it or add "2009" to it and keep using it. For example, I have a folder titled "Telus 2008." I don't deal with Telus anymore (thankfully) so I'll archive that one. Another folder is titled "Car - Ion." I still drive my Saturn Ion and that folder's not very full so I'll just change it to "Car - Ion 2008, 2009" and keep using it for this year.
I'm also going to move my active folders to the desk drawer. David recommends that active files be in arm's reach - same with the inbox. That makes filing physically easier so filing happens more often. I wanted to do this in the first place but had a letter/legal size conflict. So the 2009 iteration of GTD for me will have that improvement. By improving my system iteratively I've been bootstrapping myself to better organization and less stress. I keep the iterative changes small when I can, like moving file folders closer. It'll be a little improvement and it won't disrupt me. Other changes, like switching from a stupid simple 5 column spreadsheet to a dedicated GTD application, are too risky for me. Little changes, another trip around the calendar, and just keep plodding through doing the real work that I want to do while my system keeps me on-task.