Here's How to Set Up a Tickler File for Better Organization

If you help run an office, organization is probably at the top of your administrative skills list. Looking for a new way to stay on top of your to-do list? A tickler file may be just the tool you need to improve efficiency and your ability to focus.

Any savvy administrative or executive assistant knows that juggling multiple tasks is a massive part of the job. You’re responsible for staying on top of other people’s schedules, handling and processing paperwork, fielding phone calls and answering email — all while maintaining a calm and positive attitude.

It can be a little daunting and sometimes downright frustrating.

What is a tickler file?

Enter the tickler file, a funny name for a serious organizational tool. It’s a filing system with folders for each day of the month. Once you know how to use it, you’ll be smiling in no time. It’s like having a huge calendar at your side to manage day-to-day work activities and paperwork. It can really take your workspace and task management to the next level.

How do I create one?

Putting one together is relatively quick and easy. All you need are 43 file folders and a box or cabinet to store them in, preferably somewhere near your desk so it’s always close at hand. Label 12 of the folders "January" through "December" and the rest of them "1" through "31." Voilà!

A basic setup is relatively inexpensive and uses minimal space. You can get everything you need from any office-supply retailer. Choose from a variety of perky colors and unique storage box designs to arrange something that’s attractive as well as useful. If you’re creative, decorate the folders to make the system reflect your unique personality. After all, just because you have an organized mind and strong administrative skills doesn’t mean that you don’t have style!

How do I use it?

To put the tickler file into action, place tasks that need to be done by particular days into the subset daily folders for the current month. For example, if you process invoices on the 15th of the month, place all invoices that come across your desk into folder number 15. If the due date for a task is more than 31 days out, place it in the corresponding monthly folder.

Every morning when you get to the office, the folder that corresponds to whatever day it is will be at the front of your file. If it’s the eighth, folder 8 should be at the front, filled with all of the tasks you need to do that day.

At the end of the day, place any unfinished tasks into tomorrow’s folder. Move the empty numbered folder to the next month and start filling it with tasks. The next morning, start all over again with folder 9 and so on, cycling through the days until the month ends and everything starts over again with folder 1.

Showcase your administrative skill for organization

You can place any type of task into your file. The system is especially useful for time-sensitive documents or anything with a hard deadline. You can also use it to remind yourself of recurring tasks, like filling printer paper every two days.

At first, using a tickler file might seem like an added layer of complication to your busy day, but many people find it indispensable in no time. And there’s something satisfying about placing an empty folder at the back of the pack when the day is over.

Do you use a tickler file? Share any additional tips you might have below.

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