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Tickler File--Electronic or Paper?

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  • Tickler File--Electronic or Paper?

    I have read Getting Things Done twice and am excited about starting. I have one question though. I definitely want a tickler file. About half the content on this file will come through emails and half will be things from my own life and shop. I have a home office, desk in shop with computer, and my mobile phone. Should I make a physical tickler folder (if so how do I get all my tasks that come via email into it)? Or should I have an electronic system? I use outlook 2010 and am open to another simple software if necessary. When I do a search on this I get bogged down with all the ideas and ways people are doing it Could someone please point me in the right direction? Thanks!

  • #2
    There's no one answer that's right for everybody. It depends on how you like to work and what your tools are. If you have an electronic list tool that is ubiquitous, then you might want a tickler list there. If you only need to see ticklers at one location, then paper or electronic may not matter so much. If you get a lot of information on paper (pages of information) that you don't want/need to make electronic, then paper. Some people use a specialized tickler system for work stuff, either paper or electronic. Try a few things and see how they feel. It's not so complicated. Just be careful to retrieve any ticklers from a system that doesn't work for you and put them in the system you are using.


    • #3
      I totally agree that it is personal. I made the switch years ago to a PDA when it became clear my paper calendar was no longer working for me. Same thing with a tickler file.

      Since you have a lot that comes in by email, I will suggest a great service that I use: You just forward whatever it is you want to follow up on later to them with the date you want to follow up on and they send it back to you at that date. You can even put times in.


      • #4
        Tickler files is one of the things which comes up regularly in the training sessions that I run. I usually demonstrate an electronic version of a tickler file using various tools.

        You can use nested folders on a filesystem to accomplish exactly the same thing as a physical one. You can even use nifty tools like Hazel ( to automate the management of the electronic tickler file.

        If you're using a task management system, you can use start dates to "bring things forward". Tools like omnifocus make this really easy.

        Evernote doesn't have specific which allows for start dates, but you can use nested notebooks to do a similar function to nested folders.

        I try my best to have no paper in my life, that which makes it through gets stuffed into my ScanSnap scanner and goes straight into my evernote system. If it needs to be "brought forward", I take a link out of evernote and put it into omnifocus with a specific start date. Using hazel, I can also automate that, so that bills I receive are automatically renamed, taged, imported into evernote, synced and then added to omnifocus with the details of what needs to be done and the required dates.

        I'm currently battling the urge to move away from evernote ( but I'm struggling to see any advantages other than being able to use markdown to satisfy my (admittedly huge) inner geek.


        • #5
          Paper is still my option. I remember it more when I write it than when I typed it.


          • #6
            You could simply use your calendar in Outlook ... The Calendar can also be used for information you wish to see at a particular point in time.


            • #7

              I love my tickler file... Have used it for years, and it's paper. But that's just me, and as everyone has said, it's a purely personal decision - as is every other facet of your GTD system.

              I LOOOVE getting mail, even junk mail (probably fodder for a psychoanalyst) so the tickler file is like getting mail every day! Even if it's a bit of humour or something I put in there years ago. Still fun to look at. And I love the act of saying "I don't have to deal with this today or even look at it - into the tickler it goes!" ... out of sight, out of mind.

              By the way, greeno - love the Albatross reference on your blog. "Of COURSE you don't get wafers with it!" Classic... I'm probably as much about paper as you are about paperless!


              • #8
                Outlook Tickler

                After reading this thread and playing with some options in Outlook, I've found a way to use tasks in conjunction with the calendar to perform as a tickler simply by using the task start date as the tickler date. At first I wanted to use the due date, but some fidelity would have been lost for tasks that actually have a due date.

                First ensure the "Daily Task List" is set to normal under the view dropdown in calendar view (day or week). A task box will show up at the bottom of the calendar day. By default this task list under a given day is set to show tasks with a due date on that day. If you right click on the top of this box where it says "Show Tasks on:" and change it to "start date" then it will show tasks set to start on that day or in the verbiage we are using: tasks that you want to be tickled about that day. Now go to your full task list and set individual start dates for days you want to be tickled.

                Like other tickler systems, this will only be effective if you check this task list everyday and for each item either complete the task or move the tickle date forward so it shows up again on another day.

                This helps me set priorities and spread my tasks out over the week and month. Rather than beginning my day staring at massive task buckets, I have the task already picked out and listed at the bottom of my calendar for the day.


                • #9
                  I use both

                  Being a Systems Administrator the majority of my work is done on the PC and most of my tasks are generated by email (Outlook). However, there are some which will be on paper, so I do have a 43 folder tickler system as well.

                  I have Outlook set up in pretty much the same way that Thomas describes with the task start date as the tickler. I love the feature in Outlook 2010 where you can now create quick actions, one of which is to create a task from an email - much quicker and simpler than the old method of dragging the email to a particular task list. One of my daily recurring tasks which starts at 8.30 is to check my physical tickler file so I never forget about it. I've also set Outlook to open up with tasks so I can see straight away things I need to start that day.

                  To be fair my physical tickler never really has much in it, but I can't bring myself to get rid of it. Like a previous poster stated, I love the act of physically checking it day. Although I am mostly a gadget freak, I do still love paper as well!