Today, I helped Alan set up a simple system in his office for getting ready for meetings. I use a similiar system at home and at work, so i thought I'd share. I've probably mentioned it already, but I call it my Launchpad.
Basically, you should designate a space for THINGS that are leaving the house/office and a briefcase/tote/folder (whatever works for you) for PAPER that is leaving the house. I'll describe my work solution, Alan's work solution, and our home solution so you can steal whatever ideas work for you.
At work, I have a cheap rolling cart that is my launchpad. When I arrive at work and unload my laptop, my open laptop bag goes in the rolling cart. That way, I can't forget to bring my laptop home. My work tote is unloaded (to the extent necessary - if something is only used outside of the office, I don't unload it) and left open in the rolling cart. In my tote bag, I have a brown, drop-in folder labeled ERRANDS. As the day goes forward, I put anything (or have my secretary put anything) that I need for out of office meetings in the errands folder, with a post-it note serving as a label for the document which notes the date and time of the meeting (so that I can have the items for the nearest meeting in the front of the folder and meetings a long time away in back of the folder). If I have court coming up, I pull the relevant folders and put them in alphabetical order in the cart. If I need to bring something home (like a printout of my calendar for Alan), I put it in the launchpad. At the end of the day, all I have to remember is what is in the rolling cart. If it's a lot of stuff (say, because I have court), I bring the whole cart with me.
Alan has an area (a shelf) that will serve as his launchpad. His laptop case and briefcase are on the launchpad. Anything leaving the office goes in his briefcase. He actually goes to a lot of meetings, so he has a meetings folder (like my errands folder). He also has fairly regular meetings with a number of people, so he has folders nearby his launchpad with their names on them. That way, if something comes up that he wants to discuss with someone, he can drop a note in their folder. When he leaves to meet with them, he just grabs their folder.
At home, it's a little bit more thing oriented and the launchpad takes up more space, but it is REALLY IMPORTANT to a smooth life. We have a two-tiered shelf in the coat closet. The bottom tier is for stuff that is leaving the house later, like a wedding present for a wedding next month. The top tier is for stuff that is leaving the house tomorrow/today, like my purse, work bag, keys, bags for grocery shopping with a list attached, or a tote with errands to run in it, like my skirt that needs to go to the tailor. Finally, the top shelf of the closet contains seasonal items that are only used outside of the house, like hats and scarfs and gloves.
Having and using a launchpad is so simple, but saves so much time in the morning and keeps the counters from being cluttered with things that will be leaving the house "later."