How To Immediately Organize Papers You Won’t Need Until Later

While many of us have minimized the amount of paper we deal with on a day-to-day basis, it’s unrealistic to not have SOME papers to process each day.

via Dave Fayram @ Flickr Creative Commons

via Dave Fayram @ Flickr Creative Commons

But what do you do with these papers that aren’t quite ready to file away? If you’re like most, you start an ugly pile on your desk, your shelf, etc.

There’s a much better way. Let me share with you my strategy of a Tickler File.

As I sat in my office chair, I leaned back and let out a tremendous sigh. This week in particular had been one of heavy-duty, faced-paced decision making.

I was thankful to have even survived, but it wasn’t pretty. I had forgotten an assignment from my boss in the flurry of demands that seemed to never let up.

Boss: “Were you able to call the state to get an answer on ___? I left a sticky note reminder on your desk last week.”

My heart sank. I remember the sticky note (now). But in the hustle of a busy week, it ended up in a pile of papers that I was supposed to have processed by now, but hadn’t.

The deadline had passed, and I missed it.

Have you ever had something like this happen?

A sticky note, a printed email, a form you needed to fill out… but it got lost in a pile of other things that needed done.

It’s not a great feeling when this happens. It leaves you appearing sloppy, unprofessional, and even incompetent.

The simple, easy to implement strategy of a Tickler File can put you ahead of the game.

This isn’t a new concept. I first learned about it by reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. It’s a must read for those of you wanting to be more organized and productive.

This strategy of creating a Tickler File can have several benefits:

  • You appear more professional, organized, and in control.
  • You’re less likely to have deadlines sneak up on you.
  • Your paper piles disappear, giving your desk a fresh, clean look.
  • By having a system in place for these papers, you’ll stress less.

How it works

Gather 43 File folders and label them accordingly:

  • 12 labeled with a month of the year (January-December)
  • 31 labeled with the numbers 1-31

As you accumulate papers that you are not yet ready to act on, put them in the proper month or day folder.

For instance, if today is June 1st and you get a form that needs to be submitted some time in October, put the form in the file labeled “October”.

If today is June 1st and you cut out a coupon that you need to take to the store with you when you go shopping next week, you can put that coupon in the file labeled “8” so that one week from today, you’ll open that folder and see your coupon.

The key is very simple. Check today’s date folder each day.

If you have a meeting on the 20th, you might consider putting the agenda in the folder labeled “18” so you can review it, and prepare yourself in advance.


This strategy of a Tickler File is how I was able to stop the crazy train, get organized, and stay ahead of the game.

If you are still a bit confused, or just don’t have the supplies to create your own Tickler File, you’re in luck. You can order your complete set through Amazon.

I do get a small commission if you decide to purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Question:  How do you keep your home and office papers organized? If you have a system, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!

Find Amazon Affiliate link for Tickler File

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