Using a Tickler (1–31) File

Meggin McIntosh
4 min readDec 5, 2021
Previous version of my 1–31 file. The colors brightened up my day each time I looked in this drawer, which was at least once a day and often more than once since I might be filing or finding something here.

I have experimented with many productivity tools over the years and some serve a purpose only for a season. The tickler file is still useful, however, these many seasons later! Although when I first learned about this kind of file, it was pre-all-things-digital, but I still use one because there are some items — even in 2022 — that are NOT digital and for those and other situations, physical items serve as the prompt. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you have a system and don’t just have items scattered around your home and office (and car)!

The “tickler” or 1–31 file has been around for many years. The numbers 1–31 correspond, obviously, to the days of the month and the items you place in this file are meant to “tickle” your brain into doing something with those items. Here are ten ideas for using your tickler file for enhanced peaceful productivity.

  1. Get or prepare a tickler file. It may be 31 folders labeled with their numbers, 31 hanging folders labeled with their numbers, an accordion file with 31 slots that are already labeled, or what I’m currently using, a Swiftfile. Have a tickler file for your home as well as your workplace.
  2. Put your tickler file where it is easily accessible from your main desk or workstation.
  3. When you are processing your physical in-box and you determine that an item needs to be handled on a certain day, drop that item or a reminder piece of paper into that day’s slot or folder. If the item is very small, staple or tape it to a larger piece of paper so it doesn’t get lost in the folder. If you have a very large item that wouldn’t fit in the folder, simply put a note in the folder about where the large item (notebook, stack of books, etc.) is located.
  4. Get in the habit of putting agendas, plane tickets, hotel confirmations, etc. into the day’s numbered slot or folder on which you will need them. Yes, I still recommend this even though you also have everything digitally at this point. You have stories, as do I, about a time when paper saved the day. You may have gotten to a hotel desk where they are not showing your reservation and they don’t care what you showed online, but if you can produce the printed version…it certainly helps. I’ve had this happen.
  5. If you prefer not to mail in your bill payments or other registrations that you are paying by check sooner than necessary, put bills in your home or office tickler file on the day they should be mailed.
  6. If you prepare birthday, anniversary, or other holiday cards at the beginning of the month, drop them into the slot for the day you want to mail them. Friends, family, and colleagues will be impressed with your care and timeliness.
  7. If you are going to be out of town for a day or more, then go through the upcoming folders or slots to ensure that you have everything you need while you’re out of town.
  8. If you find that you cannot come into the office, call someone, ask him/her to pull everything out of the day’s slot and go through it with you. You will be able to tell your colleague what needs to be handled and what can wait until your return.
  9. Teach your children to use the tickler file. They can learn that if there’s something you need to do by a certain day (or have a reminder of by a certain day) it’s their responsibility to put it in the tickler file. Paperwork that needs to be signed for a field trip, requests to send something to school, etc. can all be put into the appropriate day of the tickler system. I promise you this works. I’ve heard success stories on this.
  10. Check your tickler file as the last act of every day or as the first act of every morning.

Note: Some items need to be handled in upcoming months, not in the current month, so you will need to have January — December files as well. More on those in another article.

If you have files, notebooks, papers, boxes, envelopes, albums, and other “stuff” all over your office or home and you are tired of wishing you had a good filing system, you’re in need of the Paper Tiger System to File & Find Your Stuff. Note: This is an old-style webinar, but the content still applies.

I have used this software for 20 years and it helps me file and find all kinds things — paper and beyond. Access this class today to get organized and reduce your stress.



Meggin McIntosh

Meggin McIntosh, “The PhD of Productivity®”, invests time & energy with people who seek ways to be overjoyed instead of overwhelmed.