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Accomplish Your Work and Enjoy Your Life

Our mission is to help individuals and organizations
eliminate the physical, digital, emotional and spiritual clutter
so everyone can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives.

Tickler File System: The Old Has Become New Again

In order to lead effectively, you must have some system for managing all the incoming papers that require action on your part.  If you don't have a system or if the one you're using is not working for you, listen to this podcast as I discuss the tickler file system.  The tickler file system has been around for awhile. But don't let that fool you into thinking that it won't work in the digital age.  Listen as I share show some tips on how to use it effectively.  Podcast Duration: 04:36 (MM:SS)

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What are some of your tips for using tickler files? I would love to hear your comments. Click the following link: Add Comment

Podcast Transcript

Hello, I'm Barbara Hemphill. My passion is helping you accomplish your work and enjoy your life, and I'm so glad you've joined me again today!

I am a huge advocate of moving to a less paper-intensive environment -- in fact, I even trademarked a name for it "Almost Paperless." But the reality is that many people still have (and in many cases "want") paper! Even for those of us whose ultimate goal is paperless, it's the papers that are really important to us that need a system -- whether it's to keep moving forward on a big project at work, pay a bill or send a birthday card.

As my father taught me many years ago on the farm in NE where I grew up, "Half of any job is having the right tool," -- and a highly valuable tool for people transitioning from paper to paperless is what is often called a "tickler system." Other names have been used through the years -- pending system, bring up system, holding system -- but regardless of what you call it, it's a simple system of 31 file folders for the current month and 12 folders for the months of the year.

A key principle for effective paper management is "Clutter is Postponed Decisions©." The good news is that there are only three decisions you can make about any piece of paper: File, Act, or Toss. The SwiftFile is for those papers that require action. Many people have tried using such a system, but were unsuccessful. Based on my experience, in most cases it's simply because they didn't get the appropriate training on HOW to use it.

Here are tips for using a ticker file:

  1. A crucial component of your success with a tickler file will be easy accessibility. I keep mine in a beautiful handmade cherry wood box in a prime location on my desk so I see every time I go to the desk. People who use it for personal papers often keep it on their kitchen counter. In any event, choose a container that fits the setting in which you plan to use it.
  2. Keep the folder for the current day in the front. For example, if it is July 25, the files will be in this order: 25-31 for the remaining days of July, followed by 1-24 for the days of the month that are passed, followed by folders for January through December.
  3. Whenever you come across an item you need to retrieve on a specific day, place it in the appropriate folder. If it's for this month, or a day in the next month which has already passed, place in the day folder. If it's for an upcoming month, place it in the month folder.
  4. At the end of the day, take any items in the folder that you haven't completed and "re-decide"! Will you do it tomorrow? Next week? In three months? Or, not at all???
  5. At the end of the month, take all the items in that month's folder and distribute them in the appropriate day folder.

Several years ago I was approached by a company in Lancaster, PA about being a spokesperson for a product they were selling called SwiftFile -- it's a specialized version of a tickler system. I agreed, fell in love with the product, and bought the company. If you're interested in learning more, you can see it at: tickler file system

So here's my challenge for you this week! Listen to your self talk -- do you hear yourself saying, "I need to take this with me when I go to." or "I sure don't want to forget this." If you do, a tickler file might be just the tool you need -- but be sure and give it time to work.

Post your comments or questions in the comments area of this episode. Next week I'll talk about different ways I have seen clients use them.

If you like this podcast and think a friend or colleague can benefit from it please share it with them using the Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn buttons on the podcast page on my website." Until next week, I'm Barbara Hemphill. Thanks for listening!

What are some of your tips for using tickler files? I would love to hear your comments. Click the following link: Add Comment

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