Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Forty-three Folder Tickler File

I am splitting this out from the post that follows. This is a "Tickler File" that you use to keep track of things that should be done on a particular day.

This is a simple and amazing little tool. It is made up of forty-three manila folders -- one folder for each month (12), and one folder for each day (31). I have 12 side-tabbed folders with a label on each for each month, and 31 center-tabbed folders labeled with a number for each day. It becomes a rotating file system. You start with tomorrow's day number (say "10" since today is July 9), put "August" after "31", put "1" through "9" after "August", and "September" through "July" in back.

The folders contain anything that should be done on that day - a sheet of paper or 3x5 card with "do X" on it, or a bill that needs to be paid on that day, or a reminder to review locations for a vacation. For example, if you want to call your sister on her birthday August 5th, put a reminder card ("call sis") in the number "5" folder. If you need to do something in, say, October ("Check out where to buy pumpkins"), put it in the "October" folder. Then, when October comes around, either do it, or put it in the day that makes sense.

Tomorrow morning, the 10th, I look in the number "10" folder (the one in front), take out the things that need to be done, and place the "10" between the "9" and "September" folders. Now, "11" is in front. I do the things I pulled from the file (or defer, or whatever). Thus, it is an active file, each day rotating to the next month. When the month folder comes up (as in the "October" example), do or re-locate the items in the month folder.

Now, you could put these onto a regular or electronic calendar. The key is physicality. For example, I have my auto registration note in there on a particular date. This is the note from the DMV. Sure, I could have a reminder on the calendar to "pay registration." Then what? I see the reminder, and now I have to find the note. With the tickler file, the note is there. Or, if I want to call someone I met at a conference next week, I put their card in the folder for that day. When the day comes around, I see the card, and call the person. It is deceptively ingenious.

I did "Google" for a good link to create a tickler file - there are a few examples and entries. However, the ones I found seemed a lot more complicated than just the basic forty-three folder setup I have. My set ends up at about 1.5" thick, which makes it portable. I take it with me in my laptop bag, and place it between two metal L-shaped bookends on my desks.

The key, as mentioned in the book, is that it must be a trusted system. You must check and process the contents of the tickler file daily. If you are going away for a few days, check all folders until the day you get back for things that need to be done.

This is a really good tool.