Tickler Files Are a Perfect Way to Stay on Top of Paperwork, Tasks, and More

Example of a colorful tickler file with folders numbered in boldAjFile / Shutterstock

The tickler file is a curiously named filing system that dates back to the early 20th century but remains an extremely useful organizing tool today. Here's how to create one.

What is a Tickler file?

If you want to simplify your life and keep control of daily tasks, we suggest you create a tickler system, often called a tickler file. The name is a play on words, as you use the system to send reminders to your future self and "tickle" your memory.

The system itself, which we will examine in detail in a moment, is incredibly simple to configure as it is simply a collection of physical folders with labels. You place in the records of objects (bills to pay, concert tickets, your child's educational exit form or any other sensitive document on the date) that you monitor at the time of the approach, all thanks to the reminder provided by the system. . Basically, you spare your brain the stress work associated with a specific detail that needs to happen in the future. You also reduce the risk of forgetting important tasks or loss of recall in the digital ether.

In today's high tech world, with a wide range of applications and calendar reminders, the use of a tickler system seems almost archaic. But believe us, having a visual grading system, with handwritten notes and touch-sensitive documents, activates your brain extremely efficiently.

How to create a tickler file

You need at least 43 ranking folders to start, as well as a way to keep these files. We suggest using an open box or hanging coat rack. Do not use a traditional filing cabinet because away from the view, it is often far from the mind. Keep your tickler system handy and visible!

Records should be labeled from 1 to 31, taking into account each day of the month. You then tag the remaining folders for the months, from January to December. The use of bright color folders will help you catch your eye.

You must first position the folders with the next days, then the following months. For example, if we are on August 10, put this folder in the foreground, with the number 11-31 directly behind. Then, the months would be filed after the numbered days.

example of simple Manila folders with labels labeled by the label makerThe simple Manila folders with printed labels that our editor Jason has been using for years. Jason Fitzpatrick

As you lift the folder, open the contents and complete the items it contains. At the end of the day, move today's backrest to the back of the stack. If your task list requires that tasks be performed in the coming months, you can archive them in the corresponding month folder. Then, at the beginning of each month, you can divide all the content into designated days. So, for example, everything related to Halloween should be placed in October, but when it does, you can organize the Halloween items in the different folders of the day accordingly.

Some people like to create additional folders for specific categories, such as "bills to pay," "holiday ideas," "gifts to buy," etc., but it's easy to dilute the simple power of the tickler system with too much of files. We suggest that you keep things simple until you have the basic routine.

For events that occur regularly, write them on cards or post-it notes. For example, if your child has to bring a snack to kindergarten once a week, write it on a card and pass it on to the next week after it is completed. Make sure to put it in a folder a few days before the end, to allow enough time to do your shopping.

You can also create labels for the days of the week, attaching them to the first seven folders.

If you do not want to create your own tickler system, you can buy a numbered folder or one monthly file online. There are many options on the market.

Keys to success

Once your ticketing system is up and running, the hardest part is to make sure you check it every day. Here are some keys to success.

Place it near your workstation: Make sure you set up your tickler system right next to your desk. We do not recommend storing it in a sliding filing system or storing it in a closet. Visibility is the key here.
Use numeric reminders: Even though the tickler system works because it is a paper system, you may need to set numeric reminders at the beginning. Set up a daily reminder on your phone, email or any other means that's right for you, saying, "Check Tickler!" And do not worry; over time, this will be part of your everyday life, eliminating the need for digital reminders.
Add rewards: Sometimes a system of tasks to do can be overwhelming, we inadvertently avoid doing it because we feel overwhelmed or exhausted (or we are just procrastinating). But if you receive rewards throughout the month, you'll be a little excited to see what every record of the day brings. It could be something as simple as "Spend 10 minutes without guilt on Facebook" or even put a small piece of chocolate on it.
Do not throw a lot of tasks in a day: Try to break down your tasks by making sure your to-do list all week is not in the one-day folder. Maintain manageable life with tiny tasks.
Stick to tasks sensitive to the date: The beauty of the tickler file is that it is intimately married to the date. If something does not take into account the date (you can do it when you have the time, but you do not need to do it the first week of September or even in September), resist the desire of the put in the tickler. You want to train your brain to understand that if something is in the tickler file, it must be done now and not be repulsed perpetually.

The most important thing, as when using a calendar or to-do list, is to check it religiously. A tickler system works by magic, but only if you look at it everyday in the files.

Staying organized in today's busy world is a challenge! But once your tickler system is running, it should help you relieve your brain of all the buzz and stress associated with trying to memorize everything. Just classify it, confident that you will process it at the right time thanks to the file.

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