I don’t know if you have ever heard of a ‘tickler file’, but it is one of the most important concepts that I have ever learned. Years ago when I was a school principal, I was introduced to this concept by a colleague. I cannot tell you how many times this ‘tickler file’ saved my neck! I have come to see its value and practical use in many areas of my life and business.
Before I even get into this, let me say that I realize that we live in the day and age of computers, cell phones, and many other devices that can remind us of upcoming events and activities. Although I use modern technology, I still find that physical files, folders, pen, and paper are marvelous tools to help me in my life and business. However, everything I say in the remainder of this Tip can be translated into an electronic medium.
A ‘tickler file’ is actually twelve manila folders – one for each month of the year. I prefer to use the ones that are third-cut so that the names of the months can be easily read. The left cut one would be January; the middle cut, February; the right cut March; left cut April and so on. In each of these twelve folders would be a sheet of paper upon which upcoming events or obligations are written to “tickle” your memory to remind you of your responsibilities. Here are a few examples: in my January folder I have a reminder of the date my personal house taxes are due. It just so happens they are due in January. As you know, this varies from state to state, county to county. That is why it is important to write it down, so you can remember it rather than be surprised by it. There would also be a reminder to renew the name of my business with the Secretary of State by April 1st. (The reason I include this in the January folder is to remind me that it can be paid any time between January and the first of April.) My March folder includes a reminder that my corporate taxes are due March 15th and another reminder to renew my business name with the Secretary of State, due by April 1, if I have not already done so. Then in my April folder would be written that personal taxes are due by April 15th and that a new emissions certificate on my vehicle is needed because my car tag renewal is due. The November folder might include a reminder to have a Christmas card picture taken of your family for the holidays. You get the idea.
I think you can see how reminders in the tickler file can be very, very important. This kind of system eliminates having to remember everything because I have my reminder notes in my folders. It becomes a handy way to keep everything in one place. Not only does this work for personal information, it works especially well when running a business or any organization. It eliminates “guess work” and frees your brain to focus on the task at hand rather than constantly trying to remember tons of minutia and details. Any good idea or thought can be captured and simply put in the tickler file the minute you have it while you move on in your daily activity. You will be reminded of that idea when you look at that month’s folder later down the road. And in time the reminders will grow. You will soon be surprise at how much space you have freed up on your hard drive (brain) because you have captured everything down on paper in your tickler file to remind you when the time comes!
When I was a school principal, I found myself with literally hundreds of things that needed to be done each week. There was no way I could remember all of those items. One year, I actually forgot to order the text books until August. Can you imagine the panic I felt when I realized that school was starting at the end of that month and I did not have any of the necessary books on hand?! That was the year I put “Re-order books” in my June tickler file!
When I eventually left that position, I passed on all of my folders to Mr. McWilliams, the gentleman who took my place as the new school principal. He later told me that those were the twelve most valuable folders that he possessed and that all he had to do was basically follow the reminders in my tickler files I had left him for running the school.
Again, I want to reiterate that I am aware there are many other methodologies that a person could use to succeed in this endeavor, but I don’t think there is anything more valuable than having a folder that you can quickly open and jot down your ideas and thoughts so that you do not lose the information. I am amazed at how many people “wander around on their computer” looking for something while I am waiting for them to find what they are looking for when a quick physical fold would have been a lot better!
I am still a little nervous about cell phones and computers that can quit or die, go into cyberspace or go on the “blink”, or break, crash, or get lost or stolen. I suppose that one day I will be buried with a pen in one hand and a piece of paper in the other! I am just big on the importance of writing things down in an orderly fashion so I can follow a system and not have to constantly be re-doing things over and over again.
I hope you will get your twelve folders and start filling them up with good ideas. This time next year, you will have a plethora of information in all of your folders that you can use to make your life more successful, your business run smoother, and your brain less full of unnecessary clutter. It will all be written in your tickler file. By the way – make a note in December’s file to thank me for this great idea. It will have changed your life for the better – forever.
Tip: Create a ‘tickler file’ to help keep you on track!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm