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Is a tickler file really needed? Do you use one?

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  • Is a tickler file really needed? Do you use one?

    hey everyone.

    So I setup my tickler file about 1 year ago.

    However, I don't use it consistenly at all. i go in spurts, where I will use it for 1 month, then stop for 3, then use it for 2 weeks, then stop, etc.

    I don't like to put things in there any longer, because I know I will probably just forget about them. So I know I don't trust it.

    Do you guys use a tickler file? Do you think we should have one, or should I just get rid of it?

    What I was thinking of doing was if I say a flyer advertising a sale on TV's, and it was going to happen on a specific saturday, I would just put a notice of that in the "all day section" of the calendar on my iphone. Would that work?

    But then where do I put the actual physical flyer?

    What do you do to make sure your tickler system is running smoothly?

  • #2
    I don't check mine daily, but it's still a great place to store date-related papers (such as the flyer you mentioned). I also put birthday/wedding invites in there, hotel confirmations, concert tickets, etc. It's not so much to remind me of what I need to do, and therefore I don't check it consistently, but I never misplace those kinds of items anymore.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by shane_k View Post
      I don't like to put things in there any longer, because I know I will probably just forget about them. So I know I don't trust it.

      Do you guys use a tickler file? Do you think we should have one, or should I just get rid of it?

      What I was thinking of doing was if I say a flyer advertising a sale on TV's, and it was going to happen on a specific saturday, I would just put a notice of that in the "all day section" of the calendar on my iphone. Would that work?

      But then where do I put the actual physical flyer?

      What do you do to make sure your tickler system is running smoothly?
      I do use a tickler file and I also had some issues with trusting it initially. My tactic was to add a note that came up on my morning checklist to check tickler file until it was a habit. After reading the power of habits book I realized that I was adding a step to an established routine so it wasn't that hard to do.

      If you have a lot of stuff in your tickler file if it was working then stick with a full fledged version with a folder for each day and one for each month. If you don't have as much then you might go with just a monthly version and if you really have almost no paper stuff then perhaps just a single Tickler Folder is enough and you sort through it when you need a paper.

      The phone reminder to at least check the tickler file is probably a good one until the habit is established.

      Comment


      • #4
        Honestly? No. I've tried tickler files (both paper and virtual) and what ends up happening is I rarely put things in them, then forget to check. What I do now is put date-specific events on the calendar and, if necessary, make a note about where the supporting materials are on the calendar reminder. I have so few paper items, if I have something paper like tickets or a wedding invite, I put them under a magnet on the fridge. Otherwise, I scan it and it goes into a digital file.

        So it's sort of a simulated tickler, but I don't have an official tickler - just another thing to check.

        Comment


        • #5
          I use followupthen.com as my tickler file. It is a pretty basic and easy to use service. You send things to the site with a date like mon@followupthen.com or nov5@followupthen.com. On that date you get sent an email back with whatever you sent to the website.

          Since about 90% of my tickler stuff comes from email this is a great way for me to have things that have been sent to me appear in my email box on the day I need to act on them.

          Comment


          • #6
            "It’s OK to decide not to decide—as long as you have a decide-not-to-decide system."

            Hi shane_k,

            I'm going to use the TV flyer case you brought up in your original post as an example of how effective the tickler file can be.

            Your situation:

            - a sale I might want to check out on Saturday September 15th, 2012.
            - a physical piece of flyer
            - I'm not sure if I want to go and buy a new TV, but I would like to know on Saturday that there is a sale.

            Your challenge:

            - where do I put the physical piece of flyer? I want to be reminded there will be a sale on Saturday.
            - I'll just put it on my calendar since it's a day-specific information (perfectly GTD compliant as long as the edges on your calendar are clear between inaction and action items)
            - but I might lose my piece of flyer!

            Solution:
            - have your piece of flyer be the reminder
            - physical tickler file OR a digital tickler file

            Strategy:

            Physical tickler file:

            - file the actual physical piece of flyer in the folder marked for September 15th, 2012 (or even September 13th to give yourself 2 days heads up)
            - Principle: anything you take out of the tickler file MUST go in your INBOX to be processed that day
            - you can use the tickler file as your not-to-decide system
            - you must go to your tickler file everyday to see if you 'sent anything from the past'

            "It’s OK to decide not to decide—as long as you have a decide-not-to-decide system."
            - D.Allen

            Digital tickler file:


            - setup a digital tickler (either offline or cloud)

            It is the same setup D.A. wrote about in his book. The advantage of having a digital tickler file is that I can insert items into specific dates later in the YEAR, not just the month (30 day limit)

            - take digital pics of the flyer and store it in a digital tickler file
            - use your tickler file everyday, and dump into inbox for processing
            - for instance, you see here that I have 4 items to dump into my inbox for processing (I haven't decided if I want to take action with any of the 4 items yet, but it's off my mind since I trust it will appear in my inbox on that day) on September 10th

            Ignore my inbox, I just did a huge digital core dump and I'm still working through it :P

            Hope this helped,
            Calvin
            Last edited by ctklai; 09-07-2012, 02:19 PM. Reason: Formatting

            Comment


            • #7
              I've never really seen the point of a tickler file, but then I've never tried it so maybe I'm losing out. I just use my trusty electronic diary (well, maybe not so trusty as files can get corrupted....).

              If it's something to be done on a certain month then I put a reminder in maybe first of the month and then I can start the ball rolling on a project.

              If it's something on a certain day, like the TV sale example, then I'll maybe put a reminder in the day before so that it's in my mind on that day that I want to do it the next day. Arrgh! GTD sacrilege! But, seriously, I think its important to have a rough idea in your head of what events you have planned in the following days so that you can say "no" to people when they want you to do something else less interesting that day.

              Also I might possibly put an alarm in the diary on the day of the sale, it actually beeps, in case it does go out of my mind. Quite a lot does these days.....

              As for the flyer, what do you need it for? I would extract any info I need from it (time, location) write/type it into the diary and then bin it (the flyer, not the diary).
              Last edited by treelike; 09-08-2012, 07:00 AM. Reason: Perfectionism

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by cojo View Post
                Honestly? No. I've tried tickler files (both paper and virtual) and what ends up happening is I rarely put things in them, then forget to check. What I do now is put date-specific events on the calendar and, if necessary, make a note about where the supporting materials are on the calendar reminder. I have so few paper items, if I have something paper like tickets or a wedding invite, I put them under a magnet on the fridge. Otherwise, I scan it and it goes into a digital file.

                So it's sort of a simulated tickler, but I don't have an official tickler - just another thing to check.
                This is a fantastic hack. I love it already.

                To answer the OP--I think I'll get a lot of use out of something like followupthen. When I had a 9-5 desk job, I did have a 43-folder tickler file. But now that I'm a graduate student and freelance writer, I don't have room to store a full tickler file, and also, my commitments don't move fast enough to warrant it any longer.

                But I'm very excited about followupthen, because a lot of my life is managed through my e-mail inbox, so the more I can get to filter through there, the better.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I use a tickle file regularly and like it. I tried it years ago pre-GTD and it didn't work, but with GTD it works. For me, two keys to making it work are:

                  -- I use David Allen's rule for calendars, which is don't put something in there just because you don't have time to do it now. This keeps pulling things out of the tickle file much more pleasant. and

                  -- I made sure there was almost always at least one item in each folder, so I wouldn't be bored by having to look in empty folders. At first, I made up things to add for fun, such as a reminder to sing over a song I'm memorizing. Pretty soon, though, there were enough things in there that eventually I shifted some categories of things into a different system.

                  I put lots of little things in my tickle file, like reminders to water my plants, charge a cell phone or bring something with me. I generally don't file things in there: I pretty much only put my own handwritten reminders, not things I might possibly want to search for later.

                  I do lots of things on the computer, but I like to have my tickle file and some of my other systems on paper.

                  People with fewer things to put in might consider a one-folder-a-week or one-folder-a-month tickle file.

                  Jesig, if you don't have room for a big filebox, you might consider a little box of index cards, or just a pile of index cards with an elastic band around them, as a tickle file; but it sounds as if you're happy with an electronic solution anyway.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I don't have a physical tickler file. Working between the home and office would make it difficult to tickle things when I was in the location away from the tickler file.

                    What I do have is a tickler list on the same list manager as my context lists. The hack I use it to set the start date of the tickler item to some date in the future. That way, it doesn't become visible until the day I want to be reminded.

                    The second important part is checking it. For this, my "Hard Landscape" screen on my tablet comes in handy. I've set it up so that it shows me all the calendar items for that day, all the actions that are due that day, a few of the upcoming actions and and actions that are overdue. (of course, this only ever happens because I forget to check them off. I'm always on time with my work. ) But this hard landscape screen also has a widget displaying tickler items.

                    It works really well. I have one screen where I can check my calendar, deadlines and ticklers at the start of the day. I can have my shower and breakfast without worrying about anything.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The answer to the question of whether or not you *need* a tickler file depends on the volume of paper that you deal with. I have one at home but not at work as most of my input is in electronic form there. If you deal with any significant volume of paper like regular household mail then I strongly recommend a tickler file in the location where you process that stuff.

                      I absolutely love my tickler file at home. It's perfect for those things that I want out of my face until a specific date: tickets for that event that is still three weeks away, that widgeamigit in that catalog that I might want but need to incubate for two weeks to see if I *really* need it, the brochure with the plays for the upcoming season at a local dinner theater, etc.

                      Without a tickler file I'd have to do double duty to organize most of these things. I'd have to put a reminder on my calendar and file the article in question in my reference files. That process takes about 60-90 seconds whereas dropping a paper article in a tickler file takes less than 10 seconds. Pure efficiency factors dictate I use the faster means of organizing those reminders.

                      The question of whether or not you *should* have one depends on your level of commitment to working the tickler system regularly so that your mind does not lose trust in it. If you're going to have one you *must* diligently work it for your mind to trust it.

                      I've been doing GTD for several years now but I still have a procesing checklist that I follow from top-to-bottom each day. Emptying the tickler file into my inbox at the end of the day is one of those items on there.

                      I believe that there is zero-tolerance in GTD for distrust of any part of your system. If you don't trust a part of your system then amputate it and replace it with something else if you can. If there's any distrust your mind will try to take back the system's job and you'll never experience mind-like-water that way.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        A Tickler system doesn't have to mean a 43 folder monthly/daily folder system. I use the Tickler concept, but with my Calendar and Waiting For folders.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Yes at work; no at home

                          I find it invaluable at work. The first thing I do every morning is empty the tickler out for that day and all days up to the next time I'll be in the office. The kinds of things in there:
                          - printed out agendas for meetings/conference calls
                          - directions to meetings/airplane tickets etc.
                          - information on upcoming meetings/seminars I have not yet decided whether or not to attend
                          - information I like reviewing regularly (e.g., I may put it in the monthly folder for two months from now and when I get to that month I decide when/if I want to review it again)
                          - occassionally, everything that was on my desk the evening before (when I have to run to catch the bus, I still want a clear desk the next morning)

                          As others have said, you could keep all of this electronically and/or have reminders in your calendar while storing this information in your reference files, but the tickler works really well for me.

                          I tried it at home but I don't regularly look at it there, so I've given it up. I don't seem to have enough paper at home to make it worth developing the routine. So I will put every item on my calendar or a next action list - this way I know I'm not missing something.

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                          • #14
                            I don't have to "tickle" a lot of paper, so I place a reminder note on my calendar with "cs" at the end of my reminder. "cs" refers to my Calendar Support folder, in which I place papers related to items on my calendar.

                            An example: I'm registered for a training class in October. I have the class noted on my calendar as a day-specific item: October 6th all day event - "XYZ Training-cs". I have the hard copy agenda and map for the training class in my Calendar Support folder, which I keep on my desk with my Action Support and Waiting For folders. When I scan my upcoming calendar during my Weekly Review, I'll note that the training is coming up in the next week and can quickly verify that I already have the paperwork I need for the class.

                            This might be a way for you to benefit from a tickler without investing in 43 folders and a daily habit to rely upon.

                            Good luck,
                            Sheryl

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                            • #15
                              Tickler file is habit-forming!

                              I find the actual, physical, tickler file invaluable. Sometimes I'm not very good at installing habits, but this one is INGRAINED. When I get to work, I boot up my computer, process my email in box (another habit I've got down), and then I would feel TOTALLY weird if I didn't swivel my chair around, open up the file drawer, and pull out that day's tickler file contents!

                              Often times it just contains something I've put in for inspiration or something funny, but I deal with a lot of travel arrangements, conference registrations, etc., and being able to just plunk something in a folder and forget it until the day I need it is one of the simplest and most elegant parts of my GTD system!

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