Tickler file or project board?

To make your team productive, you need to choose the right tools. This article explains when to use a project board and when to rely on a tickler file.

Project management tools help you to transform your ambitious ideas into executable plans. They gather all your tasks, lists and files into a centralized hub, allowing your team to collaborate on them with ease. Depending on the project’s complexity and the number of people involved different tools are better suited to support the individual contributors.

When to Use a project board

A project board supports iterative work and lets you track projects in a virtual (software tool) or a physical format (whiteboard and stickers). These boards were made popular by project management systems like scrum or kanban. Divided into separate categories, the board helps you track the progress of projects. It is the focal point of all agile projects and is highly effective when it comes to holding stand-up meetings. A board displays a list, commonly known as backlog, comprising work that needs to be catered to. The work of a team and the concerned project are displayed under vertical columns like “to do”, “in progress” and “done”. An important benefit is that all your tasks and their respective levels of progress are visible to all your team members, thereby easing communication.

When to Use a Tickler File

Tickler files can also support project management. You can use them to store important reminders and documentations that require action in the future. This form of filing system can be used for projects and tasks that are time dependend. Some common items that you can place in a tickler file for reminder include events, bills, to-do-lists, expiry dates and due dates. If you are looking for a software that helps to keep a check on all your tasks in a single spot and find all your important day-to-day tasks with simply a click, a tickler file is the best option. Additionally, the electronic tickler file, unlike the conventional paper one, lets you locate tasks with ease without having to wade through a stack of papers. Collaborative tickler files will soon allow to set tasks and share items with team members as well.

What to keep in mind

Project Board

Project boards make work, change and progress transparent. They give you a visual of the tasks you are performing now. In fact, the board has a major role to play in both the display of workflow and the optimization of tasks among various teams. However, using a project board requires discipline in order not to switch between tasks and thus lowering productivity through multi tasking. This is especially true for people working in multiple projects who can be overwhelmed by the complexity of handling several boards at the same time.

The need to breakdown complex tasks into small parts which are able to move across the board quickly, could lead to tasks being poorly defined. As teams using project boards with Scrum emphasize its schedules, any new items cannot be incorporated into ongoing iterations, which reduces flexibility. Additionally, regular meetings to “discuss the board” can at times cause frustration to team members.

Tickler file

A main advantage of a tickler file is reducing complexity. The drawback is a lower transparancy compared to a board. As with all productivity tools, you need to keep checking it daily and make it a habit, ensuring that you do not miss out on anything. Electronic tickler files can support you through automated reminders.


 Project Board Tickler File
ContentContains tasks, user stories and epics to be worked on in a set time frameContains anything that you need to be reminded of on a future date
BenefitGives an overview of what needs to be worked on and of the progress madeReduces complexitiy by hiding tasks that are not relevent now but in the future
ObjectsFocuses on managing tasksFocuses on managing tasks
PurposeHighly effective for increasing collaboration among team membersHighly effective to focus attentention and as a reminder system for tasks and associated documents

So what?

Both, the tickler file and project boards, are great ways to stay on top of paperwork and simplify your task management. You should decide on the requirements of your project and your team. Both tools serve different purposes that support each other. That is why the answer can also be tickler file and project board.