What is a Tickler File?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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A tickler file is an organizational asset, either at home or in your office. It can help “tickle your memory” by making certain that each thing you need to do is filed by a specific date, and it’s often a superior organizational tool than any type of paper or electronic planner, because it allows for you to keep track of small pieces of paper, like business cards, or invoices, that would ordinarily get lost in an organizer or can’t be transmitted electronically.

The basic tickler file can be an accordion type, expandable, cardboard holder for files, or a small plastic file folder. These are cheaply purchased, and need to be able to hold 43 manila files. This specific number covers 12 months in a year, and 31 days in a month. Typically, you’ll be working on one month at a time, and filing any information you need for later months in a month folder.


For each specific day you’ll file information like your day’s agenda, any reminders on meetings you have to attend or phone calls you should make, and possibly a to do list. Most information is kept on index cards, but you can also keep sheets of paper too. When you’re working on a project that is due by a specific date, you can place your materials on that date, or a few days before in order to be certain get your work done on time. Each day you not only check your tickler file of the day, but also check a few days ahead to be certain you’ve got everything on your to do list. You can even keep anything you get during the day in the next day’s tickler file to remind you to file it.

Salespeople, and people in all types of businesses may use a tickler file to keep them organized. People who travel frequently may especially like using them, because they’re usually fairly light and easily ported around. You can even keep your travel documents in your tickler file so you have them ready and waiting on days you must fly, rent cars or check into hotels.

For the home the tickler file can be equally useful. If you have trouble paying bills on time, you can file bills a week or two in advance of their payment in your file so you aren’t late paying them. You can also keep coupons in these files, keep track of yours or your kids’ appointments, and keep running to do lists.

The easiest way to keep your tickler file organized is to check the file at the beginning of the day, and then again, at the end of the day to make sure you did everything you needed to. Once you’ve fulfilled all the requirements for that day, move that day’s file into the folder for the next month, and check the next month’s folder to see if anything it holds should be filed in the folder you’ve just used. You do need to make sure to update your file at the end of each day, or the beginning of the next day. If you keep yourself organized in this fashion, you’ll have a useful resource for home, school, or the office.


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One may also try a web tickler file online.

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