How To Set Up A Tickler File

Posted on January 30, 2009 @ 2:08 am
by Dojo Kuhn

As part of my ongoing GTD Thirty Day Challenge, I wanted to talk about how you should set up a tickler file.

After listening to some of David Allen’s conversations, I think he uses 43 folders for his tickler file. The 43 folders are 12 for each month and 31 for each day. If it is January, I’d have 31 folder into the January folder of my months. After each day, I’d take that day’s folder and move it behind the next month, in this case February. If it’s the 20th, the previous folder for days 1-19 would be behind the February folder now.

What happens when I use my tickler file? If I get a bill that is due on February 3rd, and I want to remember to pay it on that day, I would stick the bill in my February 3rd folder. On February 3rd when I look at my tickler, I’d see the bill and remember to pay it.

I really do not like using 43 folders for my tickler file. For starters, it’s hard to remember to check it every day. People then have to remember to check it and they’ll start to ask themselves “how do I remember to check my tickler file?” The next reason is it is very bulky and not very portable. Finally, when you move the daily folders behind the next month, you have to remember to move the items in that months folders to the proper day.

The tickler file is essential to your GTD set up, however, because you have to remember future items. If you have a lot of physical items then the tickler file is the way to go. In my case, I don’t have tons of physical items and so here is my solution to the above problems with a tickler file.

How To Set Up A Tickler File

Step one is to create a plastic folder that I carry in my briefcase labelled “Waiting For” and all the things I need to remember on future dates go in there.

Next, I created a folder in my email account called “Yahoo Reminders”. You’ll see this folder if you look at the image of my email folder structure in How To Set Up Your GTD Email. I then set up a filter for all Yahoo Reminders to go into this specific folder and not in my inbox for processing.

The last component is Yahoo calendar. I put any item I need to remember and enter it as an all day event. I attach and email reminder to it that sends me a reminder 2 days ahead of the day I need to remember it. As a second reminder, a text is sent too.

In the above example, the bill I got needed to be remembered on February 3rd. I enter the all day event on the third like “Pay very important bill” and by default it sends me an email reminder two days before it occurs. The actual physical bill goes into my “Waiting For” folder in my briefcase.

When February 1st rolls around, I get an email from Yahoo that tells me I have to pay the bill on the third. This email goes directly into my Yahoo! reminder folder. I also get a text message as a back up. I do both text and email because it’s a good backup for when I don’t have access to my Yahoo! Reminders folder from my Blackberry, I’ve got a text as well sitting right there. Each day, I review my reminders folder or my Blackberry for ticklered items.

This system is an extremely portable and streamlined tickler file. Everything reminds me on it’s own and I don’t have to move items around in my tickler file. Email reminders are awesome to remind you of things you have to do and you have no idea how much this helps your productivity until after you use them. If you use 43 folders, I’d still suggest using email reminders 100% to improve your GTD setup.

That is my version of how to set up a tickler file for maximum effectiveness.

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