Sunday, July 5, 2009

Organize Thyself : The Tickler Filing System

When you are a WAHM, it is incredibly difficult to keep track of your business tasks and your personal/home tasks. I consider myself an organized person, but when I embarked on my own business and had to keep track of contacts, orders, invoices, supplies, etc AND still needed to make sure I RSVP'd for the grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary, picked up my son's Tae Kwon Do uniform, and stocked the fridge (cannot have the children eating pb&j for dinner AGAIN!!)...I was way beyond overwhelmed.

One of systems I used as a paralegal - and what David Allen, author of "Getting Things Done" has brought forth as a viable option for organizing our "to-do's" outside of the law firm, is by using a tickler file system - a system that "tickles" your memory as to what you need to get done and when.

This system has truly changed my life when it comes to order management and keeping the bills paid on time and doctor's appointments un-missed! Here is what you do:

The concept is based on having 43 folders: 12 folders represent the 12 months of the year. Then you have 31 folders, numbered 1 - 31, that represent each day of the month.

The system allows you to break down your daily to-do's by date. When the day is over, you move it to the back of the filing cabinet so it is in que for the next month. As you can see from my filing set up shown here, July's all set and you can see all 31 days of the month MINUS the 4 that have already passed. Those four dates (files 1, 2, 3 and 4) are now behind "August's" tab.

This is a small example how I use this system:

~ Order Management: When I get an order in, I find the date that corresponds to when the piece needs to start fabrication in order to be completed in my typical 14 business day turnaround.

~ Supply Management: Every 15th of the month, I place a large supply order. So, I put a note to myself on the #15 file telling myself that I need to place my order. I may even put a reminder message to myself on the 14th, so that I can get my lists together and ready to go for the next day.

~ Contact Management: When I get an email from someone that needs to be contacted at a later date, I print out the email, jot a note to myself and pop it into the appropriate date file so that I contact the person when promised.

~ Doctors, Dentists, and appointments in general: Most of these institutions mail you those handy-dandy "Your appointment is..." postcards in the mail about a week before you are to be seen, I slip these into the date file of the appointment. I also put a reminder message in to myself about two days before as a head's up.

~ Bills: Every time I receive a bill, I put it into the date file that is 9 days before the due date. This reminds me to pay the bill THAT DAY and, equally as important, gets that piece of paper OFF MY DESK!!!

~ Misc obligations, etc: The birthday gift I have to buy for my daughter's little friend's party, the 'Thank You' note that needs to be written and mailed, the repair service that needs to be called in for the refridgerator (AGAIN!)...the little day-to-day things that you may write down in your planner, in your Outlook calendar, on your phone's task list...every where that will remind you, but no where that will actually MAKE you do it. This system allows you to put the actual 'thank you' card in the file - with the stamp - so you will actually get it completed.

I create customized jewelry and run my household. My studio is in my home, so having an uncluttered workspace is integral in keeping tabs on things. This system keeps my desk free from stacks of papers, paperclipped, with sticky notes on them, and instead, gives me a spot to keep that paperwork tidy and ready to be handled when I am ready to - and supposed to - handle it.

Sometimes having things right up in your face just overwhelms you further - perhaps even paralyzes you from moving forward and getting things done. I honestly feel so much better knowing that I have spent a few moments of dedicated time looking at every piece of paper that goes into the tickler because I know that it is going to be taken care of in a timely fashion. No more waking up in a panic in the middle of the night wondering if I mailed out something on time!

The best parts of this system: It is inexpensive, there is hardly a learning curve, and works amazingly well. I still keep a calendar so that I can see at a glance what is coming down the pipes for the day, week, and month. But as for the day-to-day, to-do's (even when the vacuuming needs to get done!), I use this tickler system.

Try it out - send me your thoughts!
Feed Shark

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