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Tickler file concern

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  • Tickler file concern

    I think the tickler file concept is a great idea (not specific to GTD; I first encountered it in Kerry Gleeson's PEP - Personal Efficiency Process around 1994, and the idea is probably older than that...) I like the ability to "mail" something to myself for a specific date in the future and not having to worry about it any more. However...

    I can see one potential problem. Things that are put in the tickler file are essentially lost from sight until their assigned date comes along. Say you've put a document you need for a specific meeting in the tickler, and then something pops up for which you need this document... How are you going to find it back?

    How do you handle this? I imagine you could keep the document in reference or project support documentation and just store a reminder in the tickler. But then you could as well put the reminder in your agenda, so what is the added value of having a tickler file?

    All ideas, practical experience and alternative solutions are welcome...


  • #2
    I'm in the process of trying to implement a tickler file - I first read about it in Lucy Hedrick's 'Get Organized in the Digital Age' which is a little book with some great ideas - anyway I am sure that she recommended the following -

    If you are attending a meeting that requires these papers, you will have the date of the meeting in your agenda/pda. Say that the Bloggs Pharmaceutical Website Review meeting is scheduled for Friday 9th May.
    Next to the entry in your agenda/pda you just put T0509 (if you are american, or T0905 if you are australian ) That way you know there are pieces of paper for this in the '5' folder if you need to get to them before that meeting.

    You can do this for bits of pending paper related to projects as well, and as long as you make the notation with the T and the relevant date you will know where they are ... otherwise I agree you will feel as if they are 'buried' in there .
    Hope this helps... (actually it might have been David Allen suggesting this notation rather than Lucy - can't find it in her book as I"m looking - apologies to DA if this is the case!!)


    ps on the pda you can 'search' for all meetings or mention of 'bloggs pharmaceutical' and find all appointments for them, but I'm not sure you are working with the electronic system so if it is paper only you will need to scan your diary


    • #3
      Action file as an alternative to the tickler file

      I've tried tickler files before but find that something I read about years ago, and called an action file (or activity file??) works better for me. Instead of a series of file folders labeled for each month and a set for each day of the coming month, I have a set of file folders labeled for each letter of the alphabet, from A to Z. When I have a something I want to "mail" to myself to arrive at some future date, I place it in what seems the appropriately-lettered folder. For example, if it is a letter from the county that I need to deal with on a particular day in the future, I may place it in the file folder labelled C (for county?). Then--since I use Outlook with the GTD add-in--I will either make a task with a due date for that particular day or make an all-day event for that particular day. It might read something like "file declarations with county, AF-C" where the AF-C stands for "Activity File C", reminding me where the documents are.

      There are a few advantages of this system over a tickler file. If I want to retrieve the document before it gets "mailed" to me, I will likely know to look in activity file C. If I can't remember which folder I placed it in, I can do a quick search in Outlook (I use the GTD add-in) and find the task or appointment. And since I use a Palm synchronized to Outlook, I will have the information with me even when away from the office.


      • #4
        I can see one potential problem. Things that are put in the tickler file are essentially lost from sight until their assigned date comes along. Say you've put a document you need for a specific meeting in the tickler, and then something pops up for which you need this document... How are you going to find it back?
        I guess you first need to ask yourself some questions. First, how often is this likely to happen? Second, how many items are in your tickler file? Third, how good are you at remembering that something is in the tickler rather than in a project or general file?

        The general rule is: if you are not likely to refer to an item between now and the time you will work with it, put it in the tickler file. If you are likely to refer to the item repeatedly between now and when you will work with it, put it in a project or general file folder and just put a reminder in the tickler (or calendar if you prefer).

        I should warn you that my GTD system is almost totally manual. Only my calendar is automated. For me, a tickler file is a great way to keep control of future items without allowing them to clutter my action and project lists or my calendar.

        In my case, my tickler consists of 43 folders in a small file box. Mostly what's in it is reminder cards, bills, and the occasional item that will need processed on a certain date. If I needed something that was in the tickler, I am likely to remember that I had put it in there, mainly because there are only certain things that I would ever put in there. Even if I forgot the date, it would only take a few minutes to thumb through the whole file.

        As far as material for a meeting. I use my calendar to remind me of meetings, and leave support materials in the appropriate project or general file folder.


        • #5
          I have used tickler files for over 20 years, and yes, the downside is that there are times when you are called on to produce an item before it automatically "pops up." I have no trouble retrieving the tickets for the concert on the 20th or the map to the location I am visiting on the 27th.

          Where I might have trouble putting my hands on a piece of paper is when the decisioin as to what date to file it is arbitrary. For example, I look aat a document, decide I can't handle it this week, and that by two weeks from now, I will have the information and time at hand, so I just pick any old date two weeks from now and drop it in. THAT'S the document I can't find easily.

          Here are a couple of tricks. I file those arbitrary items for a Saturday date if it's something I want to review again within the next month. Friday afternoon, I pull Saturday's folder and dump it on the desk. So, if I find myself having to retrieve something that had no specific date attached to it, I start looking through the folders for the next several Saturdays.

          If I need to file an action item that has no particular date attached and know I won't need to see it again this month, I simply file it in next month's folder.


          • #6
            This is a follow-up to my last post, where I talked about filing papers that have no particular date attached to them for Saturday's date. I find that Saturday folder to be a good "catch all" for items that be quickly be sorted and handled as a group. Here are a few examples:
            1. Throughout the week, people are turning a particular completed form in to me. Instead of checking the form off on a list and filing the form, I simply put it in Saturday's file. On Friday afternoon, I dump the folder on the desk. All of that particular form are put in a stack, checked off the list at one time, and filed as a group.
            2. After placing orders, I know that I need to eventually match the printed purchase order with the packing slip I receive for the order and turn in that pair of papers to the bookkeeper. After placing the order, the purchase order goes in Saturday's file, packing slips get put in Saturday's file, and on Friday afternoon, they all get sorted out at one time.
            3. Papers that are simply waiting to die get put into Saturday's folder, such as the UPS tracking slip. When I see it again on Saturday afternoon and know for a fact the package has arrived, it can go in the trash can.

            I have thought about exchanging the 1-31 for the A-Z setup, but that means HAVING to make a note in my Palm as to the location of every piece of paper that I have filed for future action. That means:

            1. Instead of filing birthday cards or bills for the date in which they should go in the mail, I would have to make an entry for each one on the Palm.

            2. Instead of taking the student birthday list (I am a school principal and include student's birthdays on the morning announcements) and filing it for the date of the next birthday, I would have to have an entry on my Palm that directs me to the list.

            3. Instead of dropping the folder I need to take with me to the XYZ meeting next Tuesday in Tuesday's folder, I would have to make a note in the Palm referring me to a particular folder.

            4. Instead of dropping the concert tickets in the file for the date of the concert, I have to make an entry in the Palm to tell me where to look to find them.

            After weighing the options, I have found the 1-31 system to be the simpler solution.


            • #7
              The tickler system has made a huge difference for me over the past couple of years, but I did tweak it a bit

              I use electronic ticklers (Palm and Desktop) instead of the daily file folders. I have one physical folder labled "Tickler Support", and any hard copy documents go there. Then on the E-Tickler, if a doc is associated with it, I add a note such as "See Tickler Support Folder".

              So regardless of what date the Tickler pops up, if there's a doc to go with it, I can find it quickly and easily

              Hope that helps,


              • #8
                Love that complexity

                One of the great things about David Allen's discoveries is the simplicity. He's spent decades trying this, and that, and has stripped it right down to what he describes in the book(s), articles, etc, yet here we are replacing the complexity. Is that some kind of productivity death wish? Why reinvent the wheel? If you've added cross-indexing to your tickler file, you need to think really hard about why. And, if you're scheduling items that ought just to be actions, you need to ask yourself why.

                Setting a time for a plain little task, like processing a form, will cause all kinds of psychic/psychological loose ends (open loops) when you don't catch it at the 'scheduled' time. You feel guilty because you put it off again, and again.... Make a folder for forms that need to be processed, put it in a tray on your desk, when you have a few minutes, process a form or two, and put the folder back. Isn't the whole point to get your head clear?


                • #9
                  Ok maybe I've missed something? The whole point of a tickler file is so that you can revisit something you either need or want to revisit on a particular day, right?

                  By putting my ticklers into E format, that's exactly what I'm doing. It's not scheduled. It simply shows up as an action for the given day that I want or need to deal with it.

                  - The electric bill needs a check cut and dropped by the 25th, so a tickler shows on the calendar on the 25th telling me to cut and drop the check.

                  - [Advertisement] Renewal due 6/27, $200, Renew? (asking myself if I want to renew it)

                  - [Project opportunity], do I want to take it on?

                  - Art in the park X/XX

                  - Seiminar, registration deadline X/XX

                  etc. etc.

                  As for the original post in this thread: If I have a meeting, then it's usually related to a project, thus the form goes into the project support folder (E or Paper).

                  Alternatively, I have the meeting scheduled into the calendar, and the form is attached as a supporting document. Pretty rare for this to be unassociated with a project (or person) in my world though.

                  If however, the form is related to something I have not yet decided on, it goes into the tickler support folder. The item goes into my E-Ticklers, a revisit date is selected, and a note is attached telling me to look at the tickler support folder.

                  Works for me


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by earlofmar11 View Post
                    Say you've put a document you need for a specific meeting in the tickler, and then something pops up for which you need this document... How are you going to find it back?
                    In my experience, this is a theoretical vulnerability. Many people never run into it, and hardly anyone runs into it very often.

                    In the worst case, you have 43 folders to look through. How long is that going to take? I don't think it would take me very long, and I run my system up to year 2020.

                    If I was really really seriously worried about this for some reason, I would probably put a sheet into the tickler with "Pull the Blodonski file for the merger meeting -- project support folder 'Merger -- Blodonski'". And then put the actual document into the project support folder. There's probably other workarounds.