Getting Things Done with David Allen: The Tickler File

Set up a simple reminder system that helps you get everything done by the date it is due

Credit: Flickr/kellysue

Pretty in pink: Set up a pretty tickler file you’ll enjoy reviewing every day

If you followed the instructions on David Allen’s commonsense system for personal productivity in my first post on getting things done, then you’re ready to move to part two: the tickler file

In part one, we bought file folders and a labeler, and went through everything that was waiting for a next action – all the old bills that hadn’t been filed, busted zippers and recycling waiting for a trip to the special depot, and odds and ends that inevitably find their way into everyone’s junk drawer.

Then, after dealing with those with the help of lists, files and labellers, Allen recommends a tickler file.

What is a Tickler File?

Allen didn’t invent the tickler file. It’s a simple system, consisting of 31 file folders labeled one through 31, and 12 more for each month. The file sits on your desktop, where tomorrow’s date is the first in line. So if it’s September 30, the tickler file will be set to 1, and the months after 31 will start with November. The file is always one day ahead.

Let’s say you have to RSVP for a party by October 10, but you’re not sure right now whether you’ll have time to attend. By the 10th, you’ll have a better idea, so rather than follow the two-minute-rule – sending the RSVP immediately because it’ll take less than two minutes to do – you’d like to file it and think about it on the 10th.

Like Mailing Yourself a Letter

I’m sure you’ve skipped to the punchline already: you slip the notice for the event into the folder marked “10”. Then, on October 9, when you review the next day’s file, you’re cued to make a decision.

This isn’t some oddball technique that goes against the grain, but a simple, workable system that everybody with 43 file folders can implement. Have you tried it?