Organized 31 Tickler File System

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Whether you’re a busy single person or in charge of a busy family or business, keeping track of paperwork and tasks that need to be done can be a challenge (maybe even a nightmare). But it doesn’t have to be. If you have an organized file system that works for you and is easy to use (so you’ll keep up with it), it’s possible to stay on top of all your paperwork and task responsibilities. Really. I’ve created the easy-to-use Organized 31 Tickler File System to help you (and my own family) stay on top of all those tasks and paperwork that are an inevitable part of life.

top image - neatly organized file folders, bottom image - file system directions and page of numbered labels for the folders with title text overlay reading Organized 31 Tickler File System paper & task management that really works

One of my earliest posts, Organized 31 Planner, was about the tickler file system I used at the time. I’ve been using the tickler file system to manage my responsibilities and my family’s for years. I’ve upgraded the way I use the tickler file in my home, but it’s still the same tried and true organizing tool – and I still love it for how effective it is.

Organized 31 Tickler File System

Tickler File Supplies

  • File Box – Look for an attractive file box for hanging files. This one is Made in the USA. You want an attractive file box so that you can keep it out in your home as a visual reminder. The file box should be between 7 and 12 inches deep for the average family. You don’t want the box too big or it will become a dumping ground for papers you don’t know what to do with or just don’t want to decide about. You want the file box large enough to allow you to easily access and rotate files each day. You also want a file box that has no lid or an easy-to-remove lid so that you can quickly access your files. Make it easy to use and you’re more likely to use it.
  • 46 Hanging File Folders – These are my favorite hanging files because the tabs are built into the file (no more frustrating tabs falling off the file and getting lost). Using file folder features, you need to be able to distinguish 4 categories of files. You can do that by the color of the files, the color of the labels or the tab placement. I prefer to use two different colors of file folders and a specific mix of left tab and center tab file folders. It’s easier for your eyes if you use file folders with all the tabs in the same location. This allows your eyes to simply skim back along the tabs in the same location rather than moving from left to right and back to left again.  I set my Tickler File System up with this combination:
    • 28 Hanging File Folders in Color A with Left Tab – These are the majority of your Daily Files.
    • 3 Hanging File Folders in Color A with Center Tab – These 3 folders visually let you know when the last 3 days of the month arrive. This helps you keep track of when monthly recurring tasks will be due again and when it’s time to check the upcoming month’s Monthly Folder.
    • 12 Hanging File Folders in Color B with Left Tab – These are your Monthly File Folders. 
    • 3 Hanging File Folders in either Color C or in color A or B with a Center Tab – These are your Management Files.
      • To Be Sorted
      • To Be Filed
      • Supplies 
  • Organized 31 Tickler File Labels and Directions
  • White Card Stock Paper – This is the paper I use to print the Organized 31 Tickler File Labels on. It’s sturdy enough to hold up to daily use. 
  • Glue or Double-Sided Tape – Used to attach the printed Organized 31 Tickler File Labels to the file tabs. 
  • Permanent Marker – Optional – If you’d prefer, you can write the labels on the file folders. 

How to Set Up the Organized 31 Tickler File

  1. Create 3 Management Files
  2. Create 28 Daily Files
  3. Create 3 End-of-the-Month Daily Files
  4. Create 12 Monthly Files
close up of labeled tabs of blue and yellow file folder with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 to designate different areas

How to Use the Organized 31 Tickler File

  • Place 3 Management Files in the Front of the file box.
    • Each day place any papers, mail, etc. that you don’t have time to look at in the To Be Sorted folder. Go through these papers as soon as you have time. Ideally, you’ll sort your papers into the appropriate Daily and Monthly Files each and every day, but we all know that sometimes life gets in the way.
    • Place papers that need to be filed in your long-term file system in the To Be Filed folder. Set a routine time each week or month to file these papers.
    • Use the Supplies File Folder to hold sticky notes and Note Papers (from Organized 31 Tickler File Labels and Directions); To Do, Errands and Appointments. 
images of 2 pages of file system directions, one page of numbered labels, one page of monthly labels and sheet of note pages labeld "to do", "appointments" , "errand" and "to do"
  • Place Daily Files in order with tomorrow’s date in the front.
    • Place any paperwork you need to act upon in the appropriate Daily File.
      • Bills
      • Birthday, anniversary, etc. cards
      • School paperwork
      • To Do reminders – For any task that you need to do in the future.
        • Order more checks
        • Fertilize the lawn 
        • Schedule vehicle maintenance
        • Cancel cable TV package
        • Look for your child’s school photos or book order to arrive.
        • Watch for activity registration to open up, so you don’t miss the sign up window. 
        • Any task that you want to remember.
    • Each day check that day’s Daily File and take care of any tasks or paperwork in the file. Move that empty file to the back of the Daily Files. You’ll do the same each day. If you miss a day or two, then just address the paperwork and tasks in those missed files, place them in the back of the Daily Files and return to checking the Daily File each day. 
  • Place Monthly Files in order with next month in the front.
    • You’ll use the Monthly Files in the same way that you use the Daily Files. 
    • Place paperwork and To Do Tasks in the appropriate monthly file.
    • When the 3 End-of-the-Month Daily Files come up in the rotation, they are a visual reminder that you need to check the upcoming month’s folder and place all paperwork and To Do tasks in the appropriate Daily File Folder.
box with labeled file folders and one piece of paper sticking out with red arrow pointing to it

Keep your Organized 31 Tickler File in a central location where you can easily access it daily. You want to keep it where you’ll see it and remember to use it. 

close up of labeled blue and yellow file folders in grey box

You don’t want to hide it away in a cabinet or closet where you’ll forget to check it and use it each day. You know how the business of life gets in the way of what you want to do. By keeping the Organized 31 Tickler File System in view and easily accessible, you’ll set yourself up for success on fully utilizing it.

Find all my best organizing tips, hacks, printables and favorite products in the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.

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One Comment

  1. I like the idea of file folders where the tabs are built in! It drives me crazy when they’re always falling off! I file my papers in my desk calendar, but if one day is much bigger than another, the calendar often automatically turns to that day instead of the current day! Your system would solve all of that!

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