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How To Set Up a Tickler File System
What is a tickler file system?
A tickler file is a temporary file system that contains 43 (or more) files — one for each day of the month, one for each month and two (or more) for the next two (or more) years.
Think of it as a Post Office exclusively for you. You get to mail stuff to yourself and it will show up on the exact day that you need it.
It's a great tool that can be used for many purposes. However, I wouldn't recommend using one unless you're willing to be consistent with it. It literally only requires a few seconds to maintain it every day. But if you don't see yourself being fairly consistent with it, I wouldn't recommend it.
IMPORTANT: You can note on your to do list / action list or calendar a circled (or in parenthesis) "T" for tickler or a circled (or in parenthesis) "P" for pending or waiting for, so you will know where to find the related material.
They sell them in accordion style file gizmos. But you can make one yourself very easily using hanging files. Finally, a good use for those green hanging files!
In the tickler file system pictured above, the current date is July 13, 2007.
It's very simple to use and might take a total of 10 seconds if you really slow.
It's not a lot of work. All you have to do is check it first thing in the morning to see what's in today's file. If there is something there, take it out and put it in your In box/basket. Then move the current day's hanging file to the back. Here's the process in a nutshell using the example in the picture above:
Notice that by doing this it's constantly 'rolling' into the future.
If something needs to be filed that is beyond 30 days into the future, write the date on the upper corner of the document(s) and put it/them into the appropriate month (or year). Notice the future months and years in the back of the tickler file system in the above picture. When that month (or year) arrives, take everything out of that file and move it/them into the appropriate days for that month (or appropriate months for that year).
You'll want to keep the tickler file system in your A zone. I keep mine in the large file drawer in my desk so that it's very close at hand when I'm working.
WARNING: If you don't keep your tickler file system in your A zone, you'll be forced to have to get up to file something/anything. So you're more likely NOT to file it and instead set it down somewhere "for now," which starts — or adds to — a pile somewhere, which defeats the purpose of getting and staying organized.
Also, unless you're willing to commit to being consistent and following through with it, don't waste your time setting up a tickler file system.
I love my tickler file system. It's a wonderful tool that has many useful applications. In fact, drop me a line ( info (at) DavidSpeaks dot com ) and tell me what you use it for — or could use it for. I'd love to hear from you.
A Pending or 'Waiting For' file is simply a temporary storage place for files/projects that need to be paused until more information or documents can be collected. You don't have to have or use a Pending file. You could file it back into your personal files in your B zone (credenza). But it might be a little more expedient/convenient to use a Pending file. It's totally up to you.
I use a Pending file and keep it in front of my tickler file system. You can see it in the picture above.
Where to go from here?
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"Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else."
— Peter F. Drucker
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