I’ve been following the GTD methodology for many years now and I use OnmiFocus to handle my projects and tasks. I also make use of the file linking capabilities that exist in both OmniFocus and DEVONthink to create synergy between the two apps that also carries over to the iOS apps for both products.
This system works very well for managing my tasks and projects, but I still have need for a ‘Tickler File’ in DEVONthink to handle the flow of paperless documents. The Tickler File is a GTD concept (also made popular by the name ‘43 Folders’ by Merlin Mann) that organizes documents into 1-31 days over 12 months. An excellent PDF document on the Tickler File is available from David Allen at this link. The document assumes that the tickler file will be used with real file folders, but here is how it can be done in DEVONthink.
This is how I have set up a tickler file in DEVONthink using the templates available from the ‘Data>New from Template’ menu. The screen shots below show mostly empty folders because I walked through the process with newly created groups so that I would not miss a step for this posting. My working Tickler file is much more heavily populated.
Create the 31 days of the month using ‘Data>New From Template>Registers>1-31’
Rename the ‘Register 1—31’ group to ‘Tickler File’ or whatever name you prefer
Create the months of the year using ‘Date>New From Template>Registers>Months’
Drag the 12 months from the newly created ‘Months’ group to the ‘Tickler File’ group
At this point you will have a group named ‘Tickler File’ that contains 31 groups for the possible days of the month and 12 groups for the months of the year. Note that the ‘Tickler File’ group contains 43 items, which is how Merlin Mann came up with the name ‘43 Folders’.
You’ll want to set the Tickler File group to unsorted so you can manually arrange the groups in the list on a day-to-day basis. I’ll not explain the how’s and why’s of doing this as this is documented in David Allen’s PDF ‘Using The Tickler File’ document linked above. I also apply a label to the months of the year to easily distinguish them in the list, and I also make sure to enable tags for all the groups to simplify the daily workflow
Here’s how the system works on a daily basis. Just today I received a PDF of my wireless bill that is due to be paid June 17. The bill will be paid on June 15, so I add the tag ‘15’ to the other tags for the PDF and a tag replicant is created in the group ‘15’.
Now here is where the only tricky part of this system comes into play. If the wireless bill was due July 1 and I wanted to pay it on June 30, I would not tag it with ‘30’, instead I would tag it with ‘June’. The reason is that if I tag it ‘30’, then this bill will appear on my radar on May 30-one month before I want to see it again. You can see in the screen shot above that I have 2 documents in the ‘June’ folder, which are items that will need my attention in June, on a day of the month later than the current day in May.
As part of my daily review, I will scan the group for the current day for any documents that need my attention (as this post was written, I reviewed the group ‘28’) and act on them as needed. I’ll then manually move the folder ‘28’ down in the list so that it appears below the group ‘27’, to indicate that it is now active for the month of June. I’ll also review the June folder to see if there are any documents that need my attention on June 28. If so, I’ll now drag the document from the June folder to the 28 group.
You could add the ‘28’ tag to the document so that it will have a tag replicant in the ‘28’ group, but if you do that you’ll also need to remove the June tag so that you are not reviewing this document the following day when it has already been moved to the proper day.
This system will handle any date situation for the next 12 months. If you do plan out further than that, you could always add a group for the respective year. That is, if you have a document that needs your attention in January of 2013, then create a group ‘2013’ and review the group as part of your monthly reviews in 2012. There is no need to duplicate the 43 folders inside the 2012 group. The only other aspect of this system that you need to consider is how to handle tickler documents across multiple databases. I do not encounter this often, but when I do I create a text file in my tickler file with a link to the document that is located in another database (select the target document, right-click, and ‘Copy Item Link’).
As a final note, I save the Tickler File group as a Sidebar Favorite but the new Workspaces feature in 2.1 would be another way to save a window of the Tickler File. Enjoy, and share with us how you might use this and/or improve upon it!