The 43 folders system is an organisational system to store these items until you need to take action on them, making it the perfect analogue planning system for planning for the future.
What is the 43 folders system?
Merlin Mann developed the 43 folders system. The system or method is an easy-to-use personal productivity system. I also know it as the tickler system since the 43 folders “tickle” your memory about things you need to get done. The 43 folders system can help you reduce clutter, increase your productivity, and stop losing things you may need by keeping items in one of your 43 folders until you take action.
The 43 folders system is typically used with a task manager or calendar to schedule your tasks.
How to use the 43 folders system?
You can do the 43 folders system in analogue or digital. You will use 43 digital or physical folders for the 43 folders system. The 43 folders comprise one monthly folder (12 months = 12 folders) and 31 daily folders (28, 29, 30, or 31 days, depending on the month. The longest months (January, March, May, July, August, October, and December) will therefore require 43 folders. In contrast, most of the other months will require either 40 (February except in a leap year), 41 (February in a leap year), or 42 (April, June, September, November) folders.
Doing an analogue 43 folders
If you like analogue planning, time management and organisation, you need to get 43 physical folders for your 43 folders system
Please ensure they are sturdy, as you may move them around frequently. Label your folders individually with 1 – 31 and January to December.
You also need a place to store your folders. For example, a desktop filing drawer or filing cabinet would be perfect for storing your folders.
The initial setting up of your 43 folders system
There are two scenarios for your starting date: starting at the beginning of a month or starting another day in a month. We look at both scenarios and how they influence the order of your folders:
Starting at the beginning of a month
Choose a time to get started. If you start at the beginning of November, it is easy. Arrange your folders in the following order:
- 1-30 daily folders: You always start with the days first.
- December folder: After the daily folders, start with the following month’s folder. Any items not falling in the 1 – 30 days of November folders will go into the relevant month’s folder. For example, if you get an invoice payable in February, you will store it in your February folder as it does not apply to the 1 November to 30 November folders.
- January to November’s folders: These will be the remaining months’ folders
Starting at any other date in a month
If you started your 43 folders at a different starting time, let’s say, 20 September, you will begin with your folders in this order:
- 20 – 30 daily folders for September
- October folder, the month following the current month
- 1-19 (October) folders
- The remaining months’ folders
Examples of items to place in your 43 folders
You can add any of the following inside a folder:
- Birthday, anniversary, annual, monthly, and long-term reminders
- Travel documents
- Maintenance documents
- Library book due date reminders
For example, if you need to perform a specific task, vacuuming the living room, add a note to a card and add this to the relevant folder. With other paper-based items, pop them into the appropriate folder.
Establish a routine for using your 43 folders
It would help if you had a routine for using your 43 folders on a daily and monthly basis.
Daily use of the 43 folders
Whether you choose to do this in the morning or the evening does not matter, but you must do this daily. Take out the folder for the specific day and take out its content. The content should contain everything that needs your attention on this day. If something in the folder does not require any action on this day, move it to the correct folder based on when it needs to be addressed.
Now take the remaining items and add tasks for each item to your task manager, inbox or calendar – somewhere you will pay attention to it. Once your folder is empty and you have added all the items to a list somewhere, you are done for the day. You can now add this folder to the back of your daily folders (before the following monthly folder).
Monthly use of the 43 folders
On the last day of the current month, empty your next month’s folder. Make sure everything in this folder needs to be acted on during the following month. If not, move it to the relevant month’s folder. In the end, you want to only have the items for the next month left.
Now take these items and add them to the relevant daily folders that you have left. When the folder is empty, put it at the back of your folders.
An example of how to use the 43 folders system
If it is now March and you have to fly to a conference scheduled for 10 November, you may want to book your flights and hotel accommodation a month (that is, 10 October) before the conference date. To make sure you remember to book your flights and accommodation, add a note to an index card and add it to the October can add a reminder in the October folder to remind you to make the bookings.
Once September is finished, you will take your October folder and take out the reminder to book flights and add it to the October 10 folder. On 10 October, as part of your daily check, you will see the reminder to book your flights and accommodation.
Doing the 43 folders system digitally
Setting up your 43 folders system digitally is easy to do. There are two options: the 43me app or different note-taking software, such as OneNote or Evernote.
The 43me app
The 43me app is available on both the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. This app automatically creates your 43 folders, and you can start adding your tasks to the relevant folder on the app. In addition, you can set up reminders through the app. For example, you can choose from a morning, midday or evening reminder. The app also allows for using tags, and you can send your tasks to other users. You can purchase the app for a monthly subscription of $2.49 or $21.49 per year to access all the app’s advanced features.
Using the 43 folders system in a note-taking app
Using the 43 folders system in a note-taking application is easy. Make sure your note-taking app allows you to use folders; otherwise, you may have to consider having hashtagged files for each date and one for each month.
Using the 43 folders system in Evernote
If you are using Evernote, create 43 folders – one for each day of the month and then one for each month. You can create a notebook stack with all your folders and call it your tickler. Pin it to make sure it remains at the top of your notebooks. Now add items to the relevant date (if in the current month) or the relevant month if not due in the current month.
Using the 43 folders system in OneNote
With OneNote, you can create a notebook with date and month sections. Then you make a file for each day and each month. Now add items to the relevant month or date.
Using the 43 folders system with Trello
For Trello, create a 43 folders board. Then you can add two lists, one for dates and one for months. On the date list, add cards for each date of the month. On the month list, add cards for each month. Now add items to the relevant date or month card.
Using an email app for the 43 folder system
You can easily set up 43 folders in your email app or software like note-taking apps. Create 43 different folders and add items to the relevant date or month when you need to take action on the item. You can also add a reminder to each item you have added to one of your folders to be reminded of it automatically on the date.
Tips for using the 43 Folders system
Here are some tips for using the 43 folders system effectively:
Keep it visible
If you are doing an analogue 43 folders, keep your folders somewhere visible, such as a desktop file box on your desk. If you are doing the 43 folders digitally, ensure the app is open to see the items on the current date.
Identifying the day of the week for the date-based folders
If you use an analogue 43 folders system, you can add the days of the week to your date-based folder by adding mini clips labelled with the days of the week to your folders.