How to build and use a tickler file system

A tickler file is a productivity tool to simplify your follow-up system. It supports your calendering and scheduling system for more efficiency. Learn how to set up a tickler file to become more productive.

Have you ever had more to-dos on your agenda than you could handle? Did you ever want to simplify your task list, setup reminders for a specific date and just focus on the tasks you need to execute on today? Well, a tickler file system might be the solution you’ve been looking for to improve your personal productivity while reducing your stress.

A tickler file is known as a “tickler file system” as it helps you to organize your stuff into daily and monthly folders, and literally “tickles” your mind when you need to do something. Checkout this brief video explainer of how a tickler file works.

Setting up the 43 folders Ticker File System

First you need to set up your tickler file system. You set up daily folders for the running month and monthly folders for the running year. A maximum of 31 daily folders and 12 monthly folders gives you a total of 43. This is where the name 43 folders system comes from.

Traditionally, this was done with date-labeled file folders. Today, you can either use folders in your computer file system or you could build some workaround with lists in a task management software or project management software. The most convenient way however is to use a dedicated app like You will be set up with the push of a button and the maintenance of your tickler file will be massively simplified.

For March 16, this could look like this:

Example of a tickler file system setup

Now, you probably have quite a list of tasks, reminders and “stuff” on your agenda. So it’s time for some housekeeping. Go through your lists and move only those items, that definitely need to be taken care of today into today’s daily folder. Afterward place all other items to the day or month on which you want to be reminded of it. You should now have a much more digestible workload for each day.

So how do I work with a tickler file system?

Every day, you only deal with those items that are on your list for today. Whenever something enters your inbox and you do not want to or cannot take care of it immediately, you place it to the appropriate folder. Thus, you can trust yourself to get back to it in due time, while getting it off your mind and freeing your mind for the things that are important today.

At the end of each day, your empty daily folder is moved to the back of the daily section making it the folder for the coming month.

On the first of each month, you do a quick review of your monthly file folder. You distribute all its content to the daily folders of this month. Afterward, you move it to the end of the monthly section.

Quick Tip! – A dedicated tickler file app like comes in handy here, as it automates all of the manual resorting and renaming. It’s that simple.

In summary:

Time needed depending on if you do it physically or digitally?  10 minutes.

A 43 folder or tickler file system is a simple way to get organized, bring structure to your tasks and to-dos, and to free your mind to achieve what you need to every day.

Plan and stay on track with these six steps:

  1. Set up your tickler file system of 43 folders (31 daily + 12 monthly).

    Either build it with physical folders or get the app.

  2. Put all of your tasks and to-do items in the appropriate folders.

  3. Simplify your life and focus only on todays’ folder.

  4. Update your folder system every day, check off the tasks you’ve done and take action on today’s list.

  5. Do a brief monthly review and get your month planned in advance.

  6. Get more done, whilst being less stressed out!

For more information on how a tickler file system can help you achieve more with less visit

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