How to make a tickler file

Executive Functioning Tip #9: Tickler Files

I had never heard of a tickler file until my son introduced me to Getting Things Done by David Allen. Apparently the idea has been around a long time.  But for me, the tickler file was a revelation and a godsend. I recommend tickler files to my ADHD and time-challenged clients with executive functioning issues.

Tickler File

What is a tickler file?

The tickler file is a “holding” zone for pieces of paper that need to surface back into your consciousness at a future point in time. It’s a kind of reminder system.

For instance, if a flyer comes in the mail for a course that sounds interesting, but you’re not ready to sign up. You put it in the tickler file. If the registration date is in six weeks, you’ve got time to think about it. You look quickly ahead to date when you will have time to decide and register – say on the 12th of the month. You pop the flyer into the folder labeled “12”. You don’t need to think about it again until the 12th of the month when you open the file.

Tickler file basics:

In its simplest form, a tickler file is composed of two sets of file folders.  One set is numbered 1-31 so you have a folder dedicated to each day of a month. The other set has one folder for each month of the year. I made mine using reinforced file folders that stay looking nice longer than standard file folders. Then I used a label maker for the wording and numbers. The label maker creates a professional look, and looks are important.  You want to be motivated to use this file!

How to use it:

The numbered files go in front with the months in order behind them. If today is the 6th, then that file should be on top. Each day open the file for the day and either handle the paper or delay it by putting it in a file for a future date. When you are done with file for the 6th put it back in your tickler file, behind the next month and the file for the 5th. I also use mine for reminder notes and things like tickets and birthday cards.

Try making a tickler file.  It’s made a real difference in my paper management.

About the Author Marydee Sklar

Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.

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