A tickler file is a concept i learned about from the gtd methodology a few years ago. When done physically, you simply have 31+12 folders – one for each potential day of the month, and one for each month of the year. On the first of the month, the items in that month’s folder get distributed to daily folders.

While all of it should be doable using a calendar, I somehow find the tickler nicer to work with. I’ve looked several times for good tools to use for a tickler, but have never found anything that suited my needs. In particular, I want to quickly be able to manipulate using text files, be able to specify events repeating based on day of week or day of month, and be able to very simply, on any platform I use, be able to move things back and forth between tickler files and my next-actions file. For instance, if I decide something on my list has to be put off, I can very quickly put it into the file for next Monday. Since I’m most proficient with vi bindings, that means I need plaintext files.

So a few years ago I whipped up the scripts (at lp:~serge-hallyn/+junk/tickler) which I still use today. The README in that tree, excerpted here, shows how I use it.

Here is how I use this. I have a folder (under gtd/) called ‘tickler. In there, I have files named 01 through 31. These have entries for that date, during the current month. If I get an action item which I want to work on on the 13th, I add it to 13. At the start of the day, I move the contents of that day’s file (i.e. 05) into my gtd/next_actions.otl file.

The tickler folder also has files named January through December. If I get an action item I want to work on in September, I add it to the September file. On September 1, I open the September file and move all items into 01-31 files (or next_actions.otl). If I know in August that I will want to do something on September 17th, then I just prefix the item in the September file with ’17: ‘.

Now here is where the scripts come in. The tickler folder also contains a folder called ‘repeating’. In there, I keep files with repeating entries. These take the following forms:

D 15 Do something on the 15th
A March 10 This happens anually on March 10
W Monday 3pm 4pm Some meeting every monday from 3-4pm

Two scripts sit in my tickler/ folder. On the first of every month, I run ‘update-repeating.sh’. This inserts relevant entries for the current month into the right 01-31 files. These entries start and end with ‘XXX’. When update-repeating.sh starts, it removes any entries which start with ‘XXX’, but keeps other (hand-inserted) entries, so that it is safe to run update-repeating.sh repeatedly.

There you go, full tickler functionality in two small scripts. I’ve used many calender apps, but for my daily activities this is still my system of choice.

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2 Responses to Tickler

  1. s3hh says:

    This looks really neat. I’m going to give it a shot. http://www.duke.edu/~dgraham/ETM/

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