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The Tickler File

The Tickler File is a list that allows you to incubate those things that you don’t need or want to remember until a specific time in the future. When you save something in the Tickler File, it’s like sending an email to yourself knowing that you will receive it at the right time in the future.

This allows you to focus your attention on what is important right now and eliminate the stress of having things in mind that you cannot or should not do yet. There are two types of items that you can effectively manage with the help of the Tickler File:

  1. Issues that are not actionable right now, but may be in the future.
  2. Future actions that you don’t need or want to remember until the right time comes to take action on them.

Uncommitted future issues

These are things that you have not committed to, but would like to consider again at the appropriate time. For example:

  • An email advertising an event you would like to attend.
  • An idea you have come up with that you can’t do anything about yet.
  • Something you’d like to learn about, but now you have other priorities.

You can organize these kinds of items in the Someday/Maybe list or in the Tickler File. If you use the Someday/Maybe list, you must indicate the date you want it to be reconsidered, so that it comes up when you are doing a Weekly Review near that date. If you use the Tickler File, the action will automatically surface on the indicated day.

Choosing one option or another will depend on your personal preferences. In any case, you should not use the Calendar for these kinds of things, since you would be mixing up stuff that you have not yet committed to doing with actions already committed, distorting the intentionality of the Calendar.

The consistency of the type of items on each list is important. If you mix things here and there, the system becomes messy and you can lose sight of important things.

Committed future actions

It’s about actions you’re going to do. You’ve committed to them, but you can’t do anything until a certain date. For example, congratulate someone on their birthday.

You can organize this type of actions in the Calendar or in the Tickler File. The Calendar can perform exactly the same function, but using the Tickler File will prevent actions that you can’t do anything about until a future date from distracting you and limiting your attention every time you look at your Calendar.

Saving things to the Tickler File

To put an item in the Tickler File when you are clarifying it, you only need to assign it a “Start Date” and use the “I will do it” option. The item will be stored in the Tickler File until the specified date. On that day, the item will automatically be moved to the Calendar (if it had a date assigned to it) or to the Next Actions list (if it did not have a date assigned to it). In any case, the item will be automatically activated and you will have it immediately present in the Engage step.

For example, if you have in your Calendar “Congratulate Michael on his birthday” on January 31st, you probably don’t need to see that item until that same day:

clarifying in the Tickler File

You can also type the :start inline command in the subject text to send an item to the Tickler File: "Congratulate Michael on his birthday :day jan 31 :start jan 31".

Repetitive tasks can also be generated in the Tickler File until the date you want, using the “Inactive until” field that you will find in the routine editor:

routines in the Tickler File

By using the Tickler File in this way, you make both the Calendar and the Next Actions list cleaner. This allows you to have a better focus and avoid distractions in your daily life. And you can forget about it, because actions will automatically return to the right list on the date you wanted.

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