How to build and use a tickler file?

Have you ever had more to-dos on your agenda than you could handle that day? Did you ever want to remind yourself of something on a specific date? A tickler file might be a very simple solution:

Use a tickler file to organize your stuff. It literally “tickles” your mind when you need it.

How does it work?

Setting up 43 folders

First you need to set up your 43 folders 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 fortythree.me. 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. Afterwards 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 digestable workload for each day.

Working with 43 folders

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 mental capacity 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 folder. You distribute all its content to the daily folders of this month. Afterwards you move it to the end of the monthly section.

A dedicated tickler file app like fortythree.me comes in handy here, as it automates all manual resorting and renaming.

It’s that simple.

In summary:

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

A tickler file or 43 folder system is a simple way to get organized with your tasks and to dos. 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 oder get the app.

  2. Put all new items in the appropriate folders.

  3. When working, focus only on todays’ folder.

  4. Update your folder system every day.

  5. Do a brief monthly review.

  6. Be less stressed out and more productive.