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A tickler file is a great device to help you organise yourself. It's kind of like a rolling 3d calendar into which you can put not only reminders of things to do, but often the things themselves. I've been using one for only a few weeks now, but I've already seen huge benefits.

It's basically a collection of folders, files, pockets or whatever you'd like to use. When you know you'll need a reminder in the future you pop it in the correct folder and forget about it. Automagically, it turns up exactly when you need it.

Construction of a tickler file

My personal tickler file is actually a collection of plastic pockets in an A4 folder. You can make yours however you like, the idea is exacty the same. The example I'll use is using folders.

  1. Get hold of 43 folders

  2. Label thirty-one of them with the numbers 1 to 31. These will represent the next thirty-one days.

  3. Label the rest with the months of the year

  4. Now put them in order. The first folder will represent tomorrow. As I write this, the date is the 10th of November, so my first file is file 11.

  5. Follow this with the other day-folders from tomorrow to 31 in ascending order.

  6. The next folder will represent next month. So for me, that's the December folder.

  7. Then add the folders from one to today in ascending order again.

  8. Finally add the other eleven months folder, starting with the month after next (January for me) until you run out.

Hopefully, if you were looking at your folders on the 10th of November (like I am), they'd be in an order a bit like this:

11 12 13 ... 30 31 Dec 1 2 3 ... 10 Jan Feb ... Nov

Phew! So, how does one use such a system?

It's O.K. It is a bit of a job to set it up. Getting all the folders can be annoying and seems a waste seeing as there's nothing in them; but it's important that you set it up exactly like this or it won't help, and it's a lot easier to maintain afterwards.

The idea is simple. You have folders which represent the next thirty-one days and the next twelve months. Often you have things -- paper, forms, etc -- now, but you don't want them now. Unfortunately, you know you will want them in the future and you'll probably have forgotten. This is no longer a problem. If it's something you'll want in the next thirty-one days then pop it in the correct numbered file. If it's something you'll want in the next few months, pop it in the correctly labled month file.

Now, here's the important bit. Every morning -- and you really must do it every morning, or it won't work -- take one the front folder. This folder is full of all the things you wanted to have today. Dump it all out and put the folder back at the end of the numbered files before the months.

If it's the first day of a new month, you'll find that month's folder is at the front. Take that and the number one. It's quite likely that things that appear in a month file will simply want to be 'bounced back' to further down the month. Then you put that month file right to the back, and the number one goes behind next month's file.

So what should I put in my file?

There's all sorts of useful things you can put in your file and have it automagically turn up on the correct day.

  • Train / concert tickets appear on the day you need them.
  • Your pay or expenses claim form pops up when you are supposed to hand it in.
  • Reminders of someone's birthday a few days before.
  • Cheque receipts appear on the day they clear.
  • Last month's (paid) phone bill appears when you should be paying this month's.
  • Ideas you had about something pop up the day you have a meeting about it.
  • Something you want to deal with or read but don't have time right now? Move it back a couple of weeks.
  • Anything else your feeble brain can think of.

If you are a forgetful or disorganised person, I really suggest trying something like this. From experience I can tell you it really works; especially a portable version in a ring binder like mine that you can carry around in your bag.