- easy to create
- never expires – you can use it over and over again
- easy to use – little decision making involved
- no categories
- challenging to find one set – up for you to jump into using
- requires regular routines – probably new ones which can be challenging
- with the full system, might be quite cumbersome
- no categories
- files could get overfilled
First, let’s get it out of the way – the name is just funny – Tickler File, or maybe it’s the idea of tickle that makes people giggle. That seems to be part of the idea – these files are meant to tickle your memory so you won’t forget all the various things you are supposed to be doing. And you can’t argue with that as a goal – to help you track what’s important and stay on top of things. If only it was that simple.
Since many people I’ve mentioned this idea to have no idea what it is, let me begin with explaining what it is. Ideally it seems to be a set of files that sits out on your desktop or some other surface for easy access. You need hanging folders for each month of the year and some empty ones for the all the file folders. Then you need file folders numbered 1-31, one for each day of the month generally. Therefore, since this is February 20th, the front folder is February and the first file would be the one with the number 20 on it. Behind the file with 20 is 21-28. Then you’d see the March folder with 1-19 and then 29-31. Next would be the folders for April, May etc. At the end of today, you would move 20 to its spot in March.
The idea is that you put your various papers into the date that you need to deal with that specific paper. Therefore, if you have to RSVP by the 28th, you might put the invitation into the 21st file, and make the decision and mail it on that day. Or a bill that you need to pay on the March 5th goes into the 5 file. Or you need to call that person on the 23rd. When something comes up that you don’t need to deal with it in the next month, you drop it just into the correlating month folder and just as that month becomes relevant, you move the papers into their appropriate day.
You can probably see that for this system to be useful for anyone, they would need to check that day’s file daily. As with any and every system, you have to use it. And remember to use it. Consistently and regularly use it. This is often easier said than done. It can be challenging anytime you try to implement a new way to handle your tasks – creating new routines – and with this system it isn’t necessarily obvious. I think this system also requires that you have enough paper coming in that can get delegated to various days.
It’s easy to create and set up, including labeling – you need 31 file folders, a minimum of 16 hanging folders (one for each month and as many extra to hold all the file folders), and a container to hold all of them. It will always work – since you simply move the old to the back. The only decision that you need to make is when you will handle that thing you are putting into the system. Of course, then when that day arrives, you do need to make decisions. This system works for any papers – regardless of what action you might need to eventually take.
I got a lot of amusement out of the expressions I encountered when I would ask clerks if they happened to carry a tickler file system. So, it’s not something that is readily available in local stores, even the national chains. There appears to be a number that you can purchase online though I would be wary of any accordion styles (though I’m not a personal fan of accordion files in general).
For me, I simply don’t have enough paper to warrant files for each day of the month. Though it occurred to me that it could be simplified by eliminating the daily and instead doing a weekly file folder – either 1-7, 8-14, 15-21, etc. or week 1, week 2, etc.
One of the most common struggles people face is trying to do too much on a given day (or even week). It would be easy to drop papers into this system and not realize until the day of that there’s too much to realistically accomplish.
It also doesn’t break things down in any other way which means that I might end up working more that day when I had actually thought I would be home to make phone calls and check things on the computer. It’s not often, although sometimes I want to get through all of one type of task – non-time sensitive phone calls is my prime example – and with this system they’d likely be divided up among various days since I limit the number of tasks for a given day.
Obviously this system has some great features and can be a good solution for some people. Yet, it also would fail miserably for other people. This might be an ideal example of how we each need to find what works for our situation and personality. As well as an example of how you might need to tweak it to make it work better for you. Nothing else really matters if it works for you!