With 5 in our family, a 10 year old, a 14 year old and an almost 17 year old, we’re a busy, busy family (did I mention that we’re busy?). Keeping track of schedules, activities, commitments, and papers is a full-time job (and guess whose job that would be? Yep, lucky me!) Just the category of “papers” has recently included; party invitation, rebate paperwork (to make sure we actually receive the rebate we submitted), doctor’s order for an x-ray, first day of school papers, reminder about medical test that needs to be scheduled in 2 months, birthday cards that need to be mailed out this month, and reminders to pay recurring bills. Whew!
I like to try new systems and tricks to keep us organized, but I’ve finally come back to the old tried and true document management system known by its old name a “tickler file.” Because that makes my children laugh hysterically, I officially named ours the “31 Planner.” (except for those times when I need to hear a good round of kid laughter)
The original tickler file uses a file folder for each day of the month and a file folder for each month in a year. This system was too bulky for our purposes. I wanted something that I could keep in my kitchen by the phone and calendar.
Since I’m trying this system out again, I didn’t want to spend much money on it and started looking through my office supplies stash to see what I could use. Since I can’t throw away anything that is still use-able I found this old folder of my husband’s…from college! (gosh, it’s embarrassing to admit how long this folder has been with us!). Even if I didn’t confess how long the folder has been with us, the “Mac Project” label is a dead give away.
But at the time that I grabbed it, I thought it would work well for my test 31 Planner and my kitchen is decorated in blue so it would coordinate well enough.
Because I’m a simple girl, I first labeled the folder with my handy-dandy labeler.
Bleh. It reminded me too much of my days in the Air Force (anyone else having flash backs to military binders and files?) Plus, I didn’t like seeing the darker blue discoloration from the previous label.
So as much as I was trying to do this
cheaply inexpensively and because I had to go out anyways to pick up the 31 numbered dividers, I decided I could “splurge” for some pretty labels.
The numbers on the tabs correspond to the day of the month. Any papers that require me to do something with them are placed in the tab that corresponds to the date it must be done. Each evening I check the next day’s tab to see what needs to be done for the day. Each morning right after breakfast, I check the tab for the day and pull out papers I need to take care of that day.
As you can see, on the 20th I had to schedule an x-ray and the coupon for the barber shop was to remind me that I had to get my son’s hair cut before school started. So, that day I scheduled the appointment for the x-ray and then placed the paper work under the date that the appointment was scheduled. And that afternoon, I took the coupon and my son to the barber shop.
I have written recurring bills on a bright green post-it note and placed each one a couple of days before the bill is due (I wrote the 25th, but it’s really due on the 29th) so that I will remember to check the and make sure the automatic bill pay has gone through. This post-it note won’t be removed but will remain on this tab so that every month on the 25th I’ll know to check the auto pay for this bill.
I also write notes to remind me of actions, like scheduling a blood test around September 15th. So I’ll call on the 15th and schedule at the next available appointment. If the appointment had to scheduled on a particular date, I would write that date on my note and place it in a tab several days or weeks earlier to give me enough time to schedule the appointment for the required date.
I have 2 reminders placed under the tab for the 1st and both reminders are for October 1st. One is a rebate that I need to make sure I’ve received and the other lists SAT dates in our area. I’ll leave these papers in my 31 Planner until I need them in October. On September 1st when I check this tab, I’ll see these papers and be reminded that they’re coming up in a month. I will leave them in place so that on October 1st, when I turn to this tab the papers will be there for my action.
On the 1st of the month, I place all birthday, anniversary and any other cards for that month, under the appropriate tab. If I need to mail the card, I put it under a tab several days earlier so that it has time to get there before the required date.
I also file things like birthday invitations or field trip reminders.
Now about that 32nd tab. I use it to file papers that I might need to refer to in the near future but that don’t really have an action date to file under. This is where I keep my gift planning checklist for the year. I check the 32nd tab at the end of each month and purge any papers I no longer need. Those papers are either filed, shredded or recycled, as appropriate.
So, my original plan was to use this blue folder for a test run of about a month. If I liked the system I’d then buy a pretty binder to replace the old blue folder. But after my test month, I find that I like the blue folder because its binding is tight it holds the tab dividers tightly and so that holds the papers snugly. If I replaced it with a 3 ring binder, the tab dividers would be much looser and the papers would fall out. Having my scheduled reminders falling out would pretty well defeat the point of organizing them. I’ve decided to stick with the simple, recycled and, most importantly, very functional folder.
The old tried and true tickler file gets streamlined and updated. And it gets my vote for best 31 Planner.