Tickler file


With the advent of paperless are more people ditching the tickler file system? I’m a teacher so I can see using it for school where we still have a lot of paper but at home I think digital is much easier. Would a calendar app suffice or would a task manager handle that?


Tickler file doesn't have to be just paper. I'm in the middle of impementing a digital tickler file in my reference tools. I use DEVONThink and what I am doing is creating the standard 42 folder system within a folder called tickler. I can then move project folders or individual notes or even specific e-mails into that easily. I've played with implementing a tickler like option in my task manager, Omnifocus, and I do use defer dates to tickle some things into the future but it's not good for the more general electronic tickler type stuff. I still have a paper tickler file too as there is still a lot of paper that I get that goes into it.


I certainly use my paper version less frequently but I can't imagine getting rid of it entirely. I still need a place for some event tickets I pre-purchase, or cards I send through the mail or that note I don't even want to look at for another 6 months! Yeah... kinda still love my tickler.

John Ismyname

Paper is not going to go away! While incoming paper can be scanned, often easier to put a document in a the physical tickler file. Often, I will have a physical objetct in my tickler file that can't be scanned.


I shuffle project support folders foward in my paper tickler so it is there waiting for me on the morning I am scheduled to work on it next. Also, the benefits of mailing something to your future self, days or weeks into the future, is valuable. I also like to drop random things in: a quote, a good article, ad for a local restaurant that I am tempted to visit for lunch but am not committed, etc. My paper tickler is not going away anytime soon.


I have a Tickler tag in my digital list tool (currently Things). Day-specific information in calendar, actionable stuff in Things. My practice has changed a bit with time. I often just put the context associated with the tickler, given what I need to do: decide, discuss, et cetera. Of course this only works well because I can defer actions in Things, but some other programs allow this as well. A few ticklers are still just ticklers, though.


Many modern email programs have "Defer or Snooze options. E.g. "Defer this email until the beginning of the next month".

Unfortunately, there is little standardization about such defer/snooze. Apps that access the same email store often seem to be doing defer/snooze in different, incompatible, ways. E.g. iPhone Mail app or MS iPhone app or Win10 Mail app or Win10/Office365 Outlook, all accessing the same Exchange server. E.g. many phone apps accessing Gmail via IMAP; whereas Gmail itself seems to have just added defer/snooze support. Some apps use folders like Defer/Next-Month, some Defer/Date-and-Time, some use tags or categories rather than folders.

So: you might look at your email programs defer/snooze options, but I would only do so if you only use a single email program. Best if only on a single platform, although Gmail on web versus as a phone app seem compatible. Microsoft's different email programs seem not to be compatible with each other.

Another gotcha: some email programs put the deferred email into folders (or Gmail labels) so that you can search like regular email. Others seem to hide the deferred email. This can make reviews hard.

Myself, although I am interested in such deferred email mechanisms, I have given up on trying to make them my primary way of doing my Tickler files. I think I am falling back to just using tickler files implemented in some way in my ordinary capture system - currently OneNote, although I am exploring (hencfe participating in this forum).

Plus: such email based defer/snooze only works semi-well for email. Awkward for stuff that you have captured that is not email. I have played around with transcribing all of my "stuff" to email, I have given up on that.