Friday, July 17, 2009

Daily reminders in my tickler file

Remember my posts last year about Getting Things Done? (You find the two more elaborate ones here and here.)

I actually did have a pretty good system working there for a couple of months. I was up to date on how my projects were going, I was prepared for meetings, I was more efficient during my days managing to do more tasks, I had an empty inbox (both the physical and the email one) every day when I left work. Every Friday I "closed" the week and prepared for the next one so I knew what to do on Monday morning.

But then... I don't really know what happened. I started to get sloppy. I felt overwhelmed with everything coming in and some of my handling procedures were a bit too complicated. I started missing out on the crucial Friday afternoon review and things started to fall apart. This whole spring has been a bit on and off trying to get back to my system (with a few changes) but it hasn't been wholeheartedly. Not until now.

I've started my gathering to set up my system from the start again.

And I've come up with a way to keep me motivated and to not lose focus on my system. And the reason why I write "next actions" on index cards, keep a "@waiting for"-folder in my email and have an archive system based on hanging folders instead of binders.

One of the things that David Allen mentions in his book Getting Things Done that I really liked is the tickler file. It's basically a system that makes it possible for you to "mail things to yourself in the future". Most commonly this is done by setting up 43 folders; one for each month and one for each day from 1 to 31. By placing "whatever you need reminding about" in the right folder, you make sure you don't forget the important thing when it's time to deal with it.

I chose to use a binder and clear plastic pockets instead of a hanging folder system. I liked the idea of being able to bring my tickler file with me in case I wouldn't be in my room for a couple of days.

My tickler file system
My tickler file in a binder with tabs for days and months

Weekdays in my tickler
Metal clips show me what day it is to make placing something in the right pocket for next week a bit easier and faster

A quick look in my binder tells me that I for example have to fill out a form on Tuesday (the form is in the pocket as my reminder and storage). On Thursday I have to confirm my attendance at a conference in September (my application is in the pocket as well as the number I have to call). The information about theconference as well as my train ticket and hotel voucher is in my September pocket (so when going I know everything I need to bring is in there). In my January-pocket I find a note about booking a vet appointment for the cats. These are some of the things I keep in my binder. My reminders are forms, notes, tickets, brochures or whatever.

I'm supposed to check the binder every morning to see if I have a reminder in there for today. During my sloppy period I sometimes forgot for a week in a stretch thinking I knew the pockets were empty for this week. Now in order to keep to the routine of checking even if I "know" there's no important reminder in there I started something new last week.

Pages with "tips" and quotes
Pages with marked hints, tips, recaps and clevernesses. And quotes.

See, the book Getting Things Done has these little hints, tips, recaps and clevernesses in the margin. They're all connected to whatever the passage they're attached to is saying. When I read the book last summer I would mark the things I liked. The things I thought I'd need to remember or think more about. Last week I sat down and wrote all of these in an Excel spread sheet. To each of them I added the information about what chapter it came from and what page. Then I cut them out one by one.

Some of the tips
Some of the notes cut out (The one in the middle says "It takes a lot less energy to keep the inbox empty than it does to have it overflowing")

I ended up with 80 or 90 pieces and I have one in every pocket representing a workday these last days of July and then the exact number of workdays in the month pockets for August, September, October and the rest in November. The idea is to read the note in the morning when I check the binder and then read the assigned passage or chapter - or whatever makes the most sense - from the book.

So far this has been very successful as I get to read about things again and think about how I can implement that in my work system. Or I get to congratulate myself for already dealing with the specific issue in a way that works for me. l think this will be a useful inspiration if/when my focus seems to be shifting again and I go for the short term solutions instead of looking at the bigger picture.

Ending with a parenthesis:
One finished
This card has the idea in the middle and is also marked with the date I wrote it, what box it's in and what category it belongs to (work or private)

Now I get to throw out the index card from August last year that I had in my "Someday/Maybe"-box saying that I was to use the marked hints, tips, recaps and clevernesses from the book in some way!)


Anna said...

Jag är imponerad! Verkligen! Det måste ju kännas jätteskönt att ha systematiserat så! Det skulle jag också behöva - nångång framöver :)

Anonymous said...

Holy smokes...are you sure you didn't write the book? lol :)


Kim said...

Wow, that is a lot of folder action. I've used a 'mini' tickler system for years, but only have a 1-31 folder for each day of the month. If something falls into a month other than the one I'm on, I just label the note with the appropriate date and file it with the day it will be complete.

So happy you are super organized and are accomplishing your to-dos!