Postponed Decisions Find New Life in Tickler Files

Do you have piles of papers cluttering your desk, table or countertops? Paper piles are often the result of postponed decisions. There are many reasons why you may put off a decision. Do you need more information and need to make a phone call or send an email? Or do you need to check your calendar, check with another person or just need time to think about it? Rather than making the decision do you set these papers aside “for now?” The more postponed decisions you have the higher your pile of papers becomes.


A Tickler File can serve as a holding place for those papers waiting for the next action or a decision that you are not ready to make right now. It can also be used to hold information for a date in the future. For example, tickets to the theater next month can wait silently in the tickler file until they are needed. Birthday cards, reminders, directions to that party, and other date specific items can be safely kept in a tickler file until needed. Want to place an online catalog order but don’t have time until the weekend? Then place the catalog in the tickler for Saturday and it will be there when you are ready.


The most common type of tickler file is made up of 43 pockets or file folders. The numbers 1-31 are used for the days of the month and the other 12 are used for the months of the year. The ready made ticklers work well when placed in a desktop file. This holds them upright and keeps things from slipping out of the open sides. If you prefer to set up your own you can rotate the file folders so the current day is in front and you can use a desk drawer or file box of your choosing.


The key here is that for the next 30 days you will need to remind yourself to look in the tickler file and to put things into the file. Connect the time you want to look in the tickler file to something else that is already a habit. Do you sit down with your second cup of coffee and plan your day? Then place the file near the coffee pot until it becomes a habit. If you use Outlook or a PDA then set a reminder. Then remember when new items show up that you will need in the future you can file them and forget them until they show up again. Remember the tickler can’t tickle your brain if you forget to use it or check it each day.


So if papers are taking over your life and you find yourself revisiting papers over and over again before making a decision then try using a tickler file. David Allen of Getting Things Done and Elizabeth Hagen of Fearless Organizing are just two of the many successful people advocating use of a tickler file system.  If you Google it, you will find over 89,000 entries with more information. Let me know how it works for you.

Leave a Comment