Do you wish for a miracle, or perhaps you are hoping that the “organizing fairy” will appear while you are sleeping, to deal with the ever-accumulating piles of paper on your desk? Let’s face it, for now; the paperless office is just a myth.

You may have thought that your PDA (Blackberry, Treo, iPhone, etc.) would take care of every detail of your life, but yet you still have the piles of papers. The PDA electronically manages: calendar, address books, mobile phone, personal contact software integration, shopping lists, electronic copies of documents, etc. The Tickler File physically manages paper: tickets to the game or theater, forms or paperwork needed for a specific day.

So what is a tickler file you ask?

A tickler file is a dated filing system that eliminates the piles, files and lists that clutter up your life. The system consists of 43 folders: one for each month, labeled January-December and one for each day of the month, labeled 1-31, which creates a rotating, perpetual paper and task management system. Visit your tickler file daily and you will never have to worry about forgetting to do something again.

The more ways that I find to utilize the system, the easier my life gets. It is not just a reminder, but also a place to put all those ever-present “to-do” but “not now”, papers.

Supplies needed

One box of 3-tab file folders
Labels for each month, January – December
Labels for each day of the month, 1 – 31
Seven alligator clips, labeled Monday – Sunday
Container for the 43 folders

The set up

The container can be anything you like to fit your office décor. It should be tall enough to support the folders, at least 5 or 6 inches high and 6 or 7 inches deep.

Use only the left side tabbed folders for the days of the month, and label them 1 – 31.

Use only the middle tabbed folders for the months of the year, and label them January – December.

Label the 7 alligator clips with the days of the week.

The daily files are in the front beginning with the file for tomorrow’s date. (If today is Sunday, June 15, then the first file would be “16” with the “Tue” clip on it.)
The subsequent daily folders, (“17” through “31”) represent the remaining days of the month. The next file behind the last day of the month will be the following month file, in this case “July”, and behind it would be the daily files “1” through “15”. The rest of the monthly files, ”August” through “ June” will be behind that.

How to make it work for YOU

Create a new habit. Every day check your tickler file. Do it first thing in the morning, or as next-day planning before you leave the office. Choose the best time for you and do it every day. If you know you will be away for a day, or a few days, just check all those day files before you leave, so that you can leave the office knowing that you have not forgotten to deal with any important, or time-sensitive items.

Each day pull the folder that corresponds to that day’s date. Act on those contents, pay the bills, send the cards, etc, or move them to another day’s file, if you cannot get to them right away. This is the key to keeping the paper piles on your desk from accumulating again.

Re-file the day folder behind the previous day’s folder, which will be behind the next month’s folder, and move the alligator clip to the back of the day of the week clips. You are creating a perpetual calendar that reminds you what you need to do, and when to do it.

Place items or events that extend beyond the current month, in the appropriate month’s file. When the next month file reaches the front, (July) take the contents and delegate them to the daily files for that month, so that each task will be done in a timely manner, without you having to think about it, or having all those items in a pile on your desk where you think you can see them.

What to put in your Tickler

The possibilities are endless, and the following list will give you an idea of how this system will simplify your life.

Bills to pay – Bills that you receive and send through the mail should be put it in the day folder 5 or 6 days prior to due date, to allow time for delivery. If it is an automatic payment you can have a perpetual note in the appropriate day file to remind you to deduct the payment from your checkbook.

Monthly Reminders – For example, a 3 x 5 card could say “backup computer files” and you would file it in a daily file every month to give you that reminder every month.

Follow-up phone calls – You no longer need to keep the entire client file on the desk to remind you to make that call. Just write yourself a note and file it in the tickler.

Airline tickets and travel papers – File everything you need for your trip, including your passport.

Items you need to take action on – Events you want to RSVP to, register for seminars in time for the early bird discount, schedule appointments.

Home maintenance – Things that need to be done around the house, such as replacing the heater and air conditioning filters can be scheduled in the tickler file, and when the task is complete, re-filed for the next scheduled time for the task.

Placeholder for larger items – If the item is too big to be stored in the tickler file, a “pointer” to that item can be created on a 3x 5 card, and placed in the tickler file.

Birthdays and other special dates – Again, the 3 x 5 card can be used with the person’s name and birthday and filed in the appropriate monthly folder. Tickle for appropriate lead-time to get cards, presents, arrangements made.

Review “maybe” actions – For those items that you are thinking about, but want to wait to decide on, such as an upcoming seminar to attend, or new project you want to begin. File a reminder, or the flyer to show up in a week, or two weeks when you have more information, more money, or more time to act on it.

Those pending items that you don’t want to forget – The tickler is the perfect place for the DMV renewal notice received in June that requires a smog check, but is not due until August, paperwork and tracking information for a FedEx shipment, a bill with payment issues that I you may be waiting for a response to, and yesterday’s items that did not get completed!

The beauty of the system is that it can be adapted any number of ways to make it suit you. Make it your own. Have fun with it. The Tickler is your new best friend!

Author's Bio: 

Sandra J. Carroll, is the owner, creator and chief organizer for Creative Changes, a professional organizing company. In addition to many years of business experience, Sandra found that living and cruising on a 30-foot sailboat for 4 years gave her unique training in space efficiency and organization.

Creative Changes specializes in simple solutions to clutter, space challenges, time management and ineffective storage. Sandra’s “Organize Your House to Sell” system is an effective and economical option to home staging.

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