When I first heard about tickler files, I thought "What in the world is that?" It sounded a little weird. Anyways, if you are wondering what they are (as I was), they are files that are meant to "tickle" your brain to remind you of things that aren't immediately urgent but will be if you forget! If, in the process of sorting through your papers this month, you came across some papers you will eventually need in the future and they have a deadline or RSVP date, then you may want to create a tickler file for yourself. There are a couple main ways you can do this.
1. Create a physical filing system.
As a mom, I don't need the 43-file system. Maybe in a business, yes. Home, no. For me, a simple filing system is not only less bulky, it is easier for me to use. I already have a husband, four kids, school papers, a home and a website to manage. I don't need to make it more complicated than it needs to be.
I know I'm not the only mom who feels that way. April Perry has a simple one that just takes 12 files and your working calendar (you do have one of those don't you?). All you do is take those
- wedding/birthday party invitations,
- sales fliers from your favorite stores,
- coupons with expiration dates (e.g. I have a Kohl's Cash coupon that expires on July 14),
- concert tickets you don't want to lose,
- renewal notices (e.g. car registrations),
- routine maintenance for home, car, etc.,
- book club fliers from school
- event announcements
---anything that has a date that you don't want to forget but don't need to deal with right away. Your tickler file then becomes your storage location for all those loose bits of paper that you don't want to lose. Having one place to look instead of ten is much easier.
All you need to do then is to put that paper in the monthly file in which you need it. For example, if you need to RSVP to a wedding and can't do it right away, put the invitation in the month of the deadline (or if it's due early in the month, put it in the month before). After you RSVP, move the invitation into the month of the actual event so you will not have to hunt all over the house for directions to the church. In your calendar, write down the date of the wedding. The post I reference also suggests putting a "T" in your datebook or Google/electronic calendar to remind you that the hard copy is in the tickler file. All this can be done in a few minutes, if that, but can save you hours of hunting and searching or save you from embarrassing apologies and explanations! (Not only that, it can make you look uber-organized!)
If you have to schedule routine maintenance in your house or yearly health exams put a note for yourself in the monthly file for the preceding month. I like to do that so that if they are booked up for that month, I have a bit of a cushion for myself.
The physical file helps me with actual paper notices that I have. It may also be a good option if you are still transitioning from paper to digital.
The other way?
2. Create a digital reminder.
Now, I am new in this area. I am one of those who is still trying to make the switch. There are many others who are way more savvy on how to create tickler files with Evernote and their Google Calendars. If you are up to it, you can probably do a search and find what you need.
I'm more basic. I am still working off my to-do list with Remember the Milk. Nothing fancy. If you have another list-making app you use, then use that. This is how I usually handle these:
- Deal with it promptly or set it next to my laptop if I can't.
- Create a task in RTM with a date to accomplish it. I usually just leave it in my inbox but if you want to put it in a "tickler file" list you can do that too. For example, I made a note to myself to use my Kohl's cash coupon on the Wednesday before it expired, as that is the day I could get out and do some errands.
- If it is something that is recurring (e.g. monthly blood draws, annual health exams, or a membership that is due every two years), then I set it to repeat at the appropriate interval.
- If there is a paper attached to it, place them all in a single file folder and keep it with your home management binder. Just have a section in it to house just these types of papers. Having one place to look for these pieces of paper is better than having to hunt through a bunch of piles or worse, all over the house.
That's my simple method and it works for me, but if you need something a little more robust, you can check the link above or do a little research. There is no end of help out there. If I figure out something in the future, I will write about it but for now this works for me.
The Bottom Line
For me, the important thing is to have one place for all this type of paper, and then check it regularly. It helps to write "Check tickler files" as a to-do item on the first of the month so I can see at a glance what is coming up.
This file differs from the home management binder in that it has a date that you don't want to miss on it. The binder is good for things that are more informational in nature or for things that aren't going to kill you if you forget (e.g. coupon fliers for 2-for-1 at your favorite restaurant---optional but not crucial). If you don't have a lot, it may just be easier to keep your tickler file in your binder and you'll have one less thing to manage! I like that. And I hope it will help you too.