How to Create a Tickler File Using Evernote

Did you know that a tickler file can help boost your productivity? You can create the old school version or set up an Evernote tickler file instead.

And, since small business owners tend to manage a wide variety of tasks, having a system that “tickles” your memory can be pretty important. Keep reading to get started.

A tickler file is a collection of date-labeled file folders organized in a way that allows time-sensitive documents to be filed according to the future date on which each document needs action. ~Wikipedia

How to Set Up a Paper Tickler File

If you’re ready to get more accomplished and need a way to make sure that important tasks don’t fall through the cracks, you may want to start using a tickler file. Btw, if you want to steps to create tickler file using Evernote, you can skip this introduction and scroll down to How to Create an Evernote Tickler File.

To set up a paper tickler file, you’ll need 43 folders (yep, 43):

  • 31 folders for each day of the month  AND
  • 12 folders for each month of the year

You can write the days of the month or months of the year on the appropriate folder tabs, or if your handwriting suggests that you should have been a doctor in a previous life, consider using the label maker. =)

Your folders can be placed in your file cabinet or in several accordion (expanded) files. In fact, there are accordion files that come with pre-numbered tabs (for each day of the month), so you could simply purchase 12 of them. There’s no right or wrong way to manage this, so it’s really up to you and what you prefer.

How to Use a Tickler File

Once you’ve created your 43 folders, you can then can go about the business of putting things in each of them.What can you put in the folders? Anything, really.

If you want to be reminded of a task or action that you have to take — no matter what it is — you can put that item (a note or index card with instructions or related information) in your tickler file. Keep in mind that you can put things in folders well in advance so there’s no need to wait until a particular date draws near to add your reminders. 

Documents within the folders of a tickler file can be to-do lists, pending bills, unpaid invoices, travel tickets, hotel reservations, meeting information, birthday reminders, coupons, claim tickets, call-back notes, follow-up reminders, maintenance reminders, or any other papers that require future action. ~Wikipedia

At the start of each day, simply pull out the contents of the corresponding file so that you can work on that day’s task(s). And, then move that now empty folder to the back of the remaining ones. That way, the next day’s folder is in front and easily accessible.

At the end of the current month, move on to the first day of the subsequent month. Repeat the process until you complete all the tasks through the end of the year. Then … onward to the new year!

How to Create an Evernote Tickler File

If you’d rather use an app to create your tickler file system, you can create it using Evernote (referral link). You’ll spend a bit of time up front setting up things up, but once you’re done, all folders will be ready for you to use now and in the future.

Here are the Evernote features you’ll be using:

Step #1 – Create notebooks

To start creating your Evernote tickler file, first create 12 notebooks for each month of the year. They might get lost in the shuffle of your other notebooks, so consider numbering them, like this:

1 January

2 February

3 March

… and so on.

Tip
The notebooks will be in chronological order *except* for “10 October,” “11  November,” and “12 December.” Those three will be positioned under “1 January.” If you choose to include the year (e.g., “1 January 2013”), you’ll have to rename the notebooks for subsequent years.

*Update: Reader Brandie K. suggested placing a zero before each number to get things to line up chronologically (e.g., 01, 02, 03, and so on) … and it works. =)

Step #2 – Stack the notebooks

To continue setting up your Evernote tickler file, stack the 12 notebooks you just created. Drag “January” to “February to create a new stack. Name that stack “Tickler.” You can also click drop-downop down arrow on the right of each notebook, select “Add to Stack” (or “New Stack”), and click on the stack you want to add the notebooks to.

Evernote Tickler File

Step #3 – Create notes

Then, create 31 notes for each day of each month (you’ll see 31 in parentheses next to each month that has 31 notes). Simply give each note a numerical name:

1

2

3

… and so on.

The notes may be in reverse order, so change your view (click on “View Options” at the bottom of your page) and sort by “Date Created (oldest first).” Or, you can start with 31 and then work backward.

Evernote tickler file

Step #4 – Create a shortcut

Your final step will be to create a shortcut. You’ll have two options here.

1. Add the stacked notebooks (“Tickler”) as a shortcut so that you don’t have to go searching for it. This means a link to your tickler file will be added to the shortcut menu (above the notebooks menu).

Tip
Instead of adding a shortcut, you can put a period (“.”) or other symbol in front of the Tickler label so that it jumps to the top of your notebook list (another way for you to find it easily).

… OR …

2. Add a shortcut for the current month to the shortcut menu.

EvernoteTicklerShortcut

EvernoteMonthShortcut

 

One more thing

You do have the option of not stacking your notebooks. You could skip that step —  just create 12 individual notebooks — and then add the shortcut for the current month to the shortcut menu. And, once the current month is over, you would then replace that shortcut with the shortcut for the new month.

Of course, not stacking your notebooks would mean would mean that the remaining notebooks would be mingling and out in the open with your other (non-related) notebooks. If you’re okay with that, then go for it. 

However you decide to create your tickler file in Evernote, you will need to get in the habit of adding reminders to specific days. So, consider adding an alert or reminder to your smartphone to fill up your “files.”

If you’ve created an Evernote tickler file, leave a comment and share how it’s working for you.

*This post was written on April 30, 2012 and refreshed on March 5, 2014.

Hey there, I’m Deb. I'm a Digital Business Coach, Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker, and productivity consultant. I’m also addicted to apps and love helping Small Office and Home Office entrepreneurs use technology to be more productive.
Comments ( 14 )
  • Brandie @ Spoon and Saucer says:

    I wonder if instead of “1” for January, you used “01” and then the numbers would line up how they are supposed to? I’ve done that with Windows folders and it works beautifully!

  • Anup says:

    After all this efforts, if you must have reminders for the process to work, I feel whole exercise is futile. I have hundreds of notes & emails in Evernote with each one having at least 4 tags to help me keep track. I add reminder to each note if it’s due for any task or just leave it without it. On the due date, your notebook and smart phone will notify you of reminders along with relevant note for the same task. I create a task as well for each note and am using TaskTracker which syncs with my Evernote account and notifies me of pending tasks with oldest first.

    • Deb Lee says:

      Hi Anup – If you have a system that’s working for you, definitely keep using it. And, it sounds like you have a solid routine with built-in alerts already.

      But, for folks who are looking to try something new, I suspect they will need to initially set up reminders until the new system becomes a regular part of their routine.

      I’ll have to check out TaskTracker … thanks for sharing that as well as what’s been working for you. I’m sure other readers will find that helpful. =)

  • Criss says:

    I’ve done this with one folder called Tickler and tags 01-Jan, 02-Feb, etc. Each month I can either search for the tag or sort the folder by tag and schedule the items, move or copy them to my active items folder. The reminder feature automaically stacks items at the top of a folder by reminder date….and it means I only have to check the tickler folder at start of month. Another way to tickle is with IFTTT or other trigger services. If date/time then create note in evernote. You have to trust your system but you also have to use it….and the idea is to uncomplicate life.

    • Deb Lee says:

      Hi Criss – Thanks for the reminder about IFTTT. We’re always looking for great recipes to share. And, you are right – you have to use the system or else (just like anything else), it won’t work. Thanks for stopping by. =)

  • S. Lewis says:

    Deb, I did the same type of system but using Tags instead of Notebooks. I “stacked” tags under the name *MONTH, then under that, I have 12 tags: *M01, *M02, etc. Then when I’m adding a future follow up to a note, I type *M and the list 01-12 pops up so I can click the proper month.

    Then I did tags for the days, under a stacked tag list titled *DAILY and created 31 tags: *D01, *D02 all the way through *D31. Then I can add a tag quickly by typing *D0 and a list pops up; if the follow up date is from 1-11, I type *D1 and get the *D10-19 list to pick from, and so on with *D2 and *D3.

    Between the 25th & 30th of each month, I do a monthly prep review and find the notes tagged with the new month coming up; I review them and assign the proper *Daily tag as needed. Then during the month, I review the *Daily tags when I do my weekly and daily planning

    For monthly recurring items I just assign them a *daily tag and no month tag and I see them each month.

    • Deb Lee says:

      I love that you do a review on specific days. And, by using tags, you can free up notebooks to be used for other files. How long have you been using your tickler file system in Evernote?

      Thanks for sharing your set up. =)

  • David Low says:

    Do you see an impact to this process with the introduction in Evernote of reminder dates?

  • Colin says:

    In fact, there are accordion files that come with pre-numbered tabs (for each day of the month), so you could simply purchase 12 of them.

    You don’t need 12, you only need one! Also purchase an accordion/concertina/expanding file with dividers Jan to Dec – and two clips.

    To set up the system, put the clips on the current month and day. In each file, anything up to AND INCLUDING the clips is NEXT year/month, thereafter THIS year/month. Using the clips means you’ll always know what you’re up to, even if you forgot to check the system for a day or two.

    Each day, simply retrieve whatever is in the section for that day and then move up the clip. Towards the end of the month, look at next month’s papers and distribute as much as possible. e.g. if today is the 23rd, anything relating to 24th onwards will need to stay in next month’s folder for the time being. Doing this avoids first-day-of-the-month panic, since anything for the 1st (and 2nd, 3rd, etc) is already there – note that anything added to the system for 1st of next month will be put straight into 1, not the month.

    Once the beginning of the month comes around, simply distribute any remaining papers in the final week and move up the clip so the division is ready for that month next year.

  • Jonathan Gaby says:

    Allison, I think a tickler system is a great idea for bills, assignments, and anything that is time sensitive. You could probably create a system of tags too that might work if one didn’t want to have a lot of notebooks in their Evernote account!

    Best,
    Jonathan Gaby

    • Deb Lee says:

      Hi Jonathan – Nice to connect with another ECC. =) And, I agree — tags can work really well. There’s no one right way to do things with Evernote … it’s up to the user to find the solution/flow that fits with their brain. Thanks for stopping by. =)

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