A classic Tip of the Week from August 8 and 15, 2004
One of the most consistently challenging aspects of getting organized is dealing with paper: bills, mail, magazines, and the scores of other things that come into our lives each week. Despite the best of intentions, it's often far too easy to misplace papers we need to file or follow up on, which leads to late bills, misplaced documents, and a general sense of being controlled by paper.
There isn't a single system that works for everyone, but one option is to use something called a tickler system (so named because it's meant to "tickle" your memory about the things you need to do). A tickler system is basically a set of 31 file folders, one for each day of the month. (Obviously, you won't use all of them each month.) Into the numbered folder for each day, you place the papers you need to deal with on that day.
For example, if you receive a bill that's due on the 17th of the month, place it in the folder for the 11th or 12th so you can be sure to pay it and get it in the mail on time. If you've been saving articles from magazines or newspapers to read, put them in the folder of a weekend day, or a day you know you'll have some free time.
You can also use a tickler system to remind you of appointments; simply put a Post-It note or a other small reminder in the folder for the relevant day with information about the appointment, or a cross-reference to your calendar or scheduling tool.
The most important thing to remember about using a tickler system is that it needs to become a habit. For the system to work, you need to remember both to file things in it and to check the day's folder, well, daily. As with any good habit, a few weeks of commitment to setting up and using a tickler system may well pay dividends—in this case, a victory in the battle against paper.