Be your own post office

TicklerDetail_02A longtime stalwart of David Allen’s personal GTD setup is his Tickler File System.  This 43-folder system is like having your own post office to mail things back for your attention and awareness–exactly when you need to see them again.

“The Tickler File demands only one-second-per-day new behavior to make it work, and it has a payoff value exponentially greater than the personal investment.” – David Allen

It’s easy to set one up.  Get 43 folders and label 12 for the months of the year and 31 for the possible days of the month.  Or, get a snazzy pre-printed set from us.  Read chapter 7 of the GTD Book for the details on how to work it, or grab this free article.

Still not convinced it’s for you or what you might use it for?  Here’s what David shared about what you might find in his:

  • Train ticket for the day I need it
  • Web printout someone gave me about a product I might want, but I didn’t have the right credit card on me – I would later
  • Agenda/address/contact page for client session
  • Hotel confirmation fax
  • Hotel confirmation email printed out
  • Store receipt from a store for shipped things–until I receive it
  • Confirmation letter of closing an automatically billed account until next statement to verify
  • Inspirational postcard I wrote myself from a retreat
  • Agenda for a meeting which includes a speech I’m giving
  • Stuff I don’t have time to deal with until I’m back from my next trip
  • Workbook to edit, for 3 weeks ahead of the next seminar, for capturing all the edits between now and then
  • Canadian money for the day I’m leaving for trip with Canada on it
  • A letter and brochure about a book I’ve written a chapter for, announcing it’s launch several months from now
  • Letter from publisher of a magazine, saying they’re going to do another book for small businesses, want to include my chapter. I asked them for more info, they said they’d know more in a few months, so I put their letter in the next months’s folder, and keep moving it…
  • Order for a phone accessory – printed receipt, for the day I’ll be back in town – should have received it by then
  • Copy of a fax I sent to my 401K guy, with info about new options, for two weeks later when I’ll have had more time to think about what we might want to be doing next year.
  • Estimated tax payment slips and envelopes (quarterly) – state and federal
  • Last jury summons, a year from now, so I know that it’s been a year
  • printout of radio interview schedule – move to next date one is scheduled (w/details about who’s calling/station/etc)
  • last day to purchase confirmed (held) upgraded ticket on AA to London
  • New cable channel line-up guide that goes into effect in a couple of weeks
  • printout of yoga class schedule for the first Wednesday I might be able to make Suza’s class
  • treasure map
  • printout of web order to show up past when I expect it to arrive
  • car detailing table – printed and put in the 6-month interval
  • written notice from bank about new passwords for online access, to go into effect soon
  • printout of my irrigation clock schedule, for the day I’ll be back from Europe… need to reset from the times I changed while we were gone
  • printout of things to do specifically with my bonsai – e.g. remove air layer pot from hackberry in Sept.; consider air layering the Chinese elm next January
  • printout of an email from guy who wants to connect with me at Toronto conference – he’s also speaking. I said call me that day.
  • Golf club newsletter, with next dates for upcoming events
  • iPod, that I use for seminars, for when I’m going to need it for a public seminar next.
  • Emails from HR about birthdays coming up this month – printed and put ahead of the next one on the list

Join the Conversation


  1. I have one at home but not at work since most of my inputs at work are electronic. It’s now one of my favorite GTD components.

    Before GTD I used to hate paper and was always concerned about losing track of paper articles that I needed on a specific day. My tickler file erased all of the angst I had about paper; even more than my reference files. I just got tickets to an event today; they are now resting in my tickler file, waiting to show up again exactly when I need them.

  2. I had instituted a Tickler file previously, but this list was an enormous help in showing me see that some things I have traditionally filed elsewhere really belong in the Tickler. I have revived the file I had once abandoned. Since this one list was such a huge help, I would be interested in seeing what other people keep in their Ticklers… (Thanks, DA!)

  3. Since most folders come in a pack of 50, I used the remaining 7 for the days of the week. I use these files for weekly occurrences, rather than adding 7 (not easy, particularly at month end!) – eg kids’ after-school activities.

  4. I find the tickler very useful, but since I don’t have THAT much to put there, I’ve simplified it for my purposes by substituting the 31 folders for the days with 5 folders labeled “Week 1” through “Week 5″…

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