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You are here: Home > How To Get Organized > How To Set Up A Tickler File System

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How To Set Up a Tickler File System

In this section you'll learn what a tickler file system is, example uses, how to manage one, and what a Pending or 'Waiting For' file is.

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.

Example uses for a tickler file:

  • Concert tickets
  • Travel tickets (airline tickets, cruises, train passes, etc.)
  • Write checks for bills to be sent at the last possible moment to preserve cash flow
  • Birthday cards ready for mailing
  • Warrantee renewals (and/or put this on your calendar)
  • License renewals (and/or put this on your calendar)
  • Insurance renewals (and/or put this on your calendar)

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!

tickler file system

In the tickler file system pictured above, the current date is July 13, 2007.

How to manage your tickler file system:

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:

  1. First thing in the morning open your tickler file drawer
  2. Take out any contents in the current day's file (Jul 13 is the current day)
  3. Put that content into your In box/basket
  4. Move the hanging file labeled "13" to behind the "12" behind the month "Aug"

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.

Pending (or Waiting For) File

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.

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Where to go from here?

Definition of Time Management

Time Management Tips

Time Management Articles

Time Management Quotes

How To Get Organized Office a mess? House a mess? Need to de-junk and declutter? Need a filing system that works? Want to know what to do with everything that comes into your life? You'll find it all here.

How To Overcome Procrastination NOW How can this one habit determine if you succeed or fail in everything you do? Being a DO-er is the mother of all outstanding habits. Learn these powerful strategies that will enable you to motivate yourself at will.

Goal Setting Be in the top 3% of humanity who have written goals. Be in the top 1% of the 1% who have well crafted goals that are insanely effective.

10 Steps To Overcoming Perfectionism I used to have this problem. As a professional drummer, you have to be perfect — consistently, or you better find another job. I finally figured out that not everything has to be perfect.

Effective Delegation Quit wasting time and money trying to do everything yourself. Yes, you're losing money by doing things that should be delegated to others. Work smarter. Delegation is your friend.

Calendar Tips: Best Practices Low tech, mid-tech, high-tech? We've got you covered! These tips apply to any and all calendar options to help you improve your productivity.


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