The tickler file – then and now

I first encountered this very simple but effective system when working for a lawyer years ago.  Every time we worked on a file, we would reschedule it for follow-up after a certain time.  For instance, if we sent a letter of demand to someone, we had to proceed with further steps if the person had not responded within 14 days.

The tickler file is a system meant to tickle your memory, and to help you keep track of details you don’t want to think about or have lying around on your desk.

This is how we used it.  You have 31 folders – these represent the 31 days of the month.  In addition, you have 12 folders, one for every month of the year.

The daily tickler files help you organize the papers you need for projects that need to be done on a certain day during the current month. For instance, you have sent out a quotation to do work for a client, and you want to follow up within 3 days.  You just stick the quotation (or a small note) into the daily tickler file to be done in 3 days’ time.  Another way to use it is to track whether you need to remind someone about a payment due.  When planning your day, you consult the tickler file to see what you need to do.

As you do each item on the appropriate day, you discard the reminder.  If you cannot do it on a particular day, reschedule it in the file (but make it a top priority, so that it does not get postponed too long).

The monthly tickler files are there to remind you of long-term items.  You could, for instance, have an index card in each folder containing the birthdays for that month.  It is also for items like insurance that you update yearly, or when you’d like to follow up something, say, in six week’s time.

Of course, there is a paperless solution to the Tickler Files.  Best of all, it’s free.  Have a look at FollowUp.  Once you have registered, all you have to do is make a quick note of when you want to be reminded about something, along with the details (eg. Contact details, file details, etc).  FollowUp will send you an e-mail to remind you at the right time.

What systems to you use to remind you of what needs to be done?  Are there easier ways to do it?  Please comment below.

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