The 43 Folders system is a great way of scheduling and deferring projects and tasks to future dates in our lives. I’ve always enjoyed my time with the 43 Folders system and thought it would be a great time to revisit it.
Grab 43 folders from any office supply store. Label the first 31 folders from 1 to 31 to represent the days of the month. Then label 12 folders to represent the months (January to December). File any inbox items into the different folders. If I have a business card and need to call someone on the 15th of the month, I’ll place that business card in folder ‘15’. I have concert tickets for a Guns N’ Roses show in February and I’ll place it in the February folder. I start the day off by pulling out the need materials for today from the numbered folder representing today. If today is December 16, I’ll look in Folder ‘16’. I work on any project materials from that day. If I don’t finish with a project list or task, I can always file it into a future day or month. It’s a very simple setup that I’ve always enjoyed before my OmniFocus days.
I am contemplating returning to it during emergencies. I live on an island and have had experiences with typhoons. Internet service and power are very precious commodities that I might not have and would need to temporarily stop using my iPhone/iPad/Mac and resort back to the 43 folders system. I watch the news in Puerto Rico and wondered how I would be able to keep a task management system without any power or reliable internet access for a long, long, long time. I think 43 Folders is one of the simplest systems to set up and get going.
It’s always good to have an analog backup such as 43 Folders when all else fails. I did a YouTube search and found a wide variety of different hacks for 43 Folders. Some people use 43 folders with folders and a cabinet. Others have converted their existing planners and added folder tabs. My current favorite is by Steven Bailey and it uses 3x5 index cards and a small index card box holder. I’ve included the original YouTube video and the follow up video which streamlines it a bit further.
I’m thinking of switching to an A5 version so that I can take full sheets of paper, folder it in half, and place it in my 43 Folders. But for now, Steve Bailey’s use of 3x5 index card has worked well enough for me. I don’t need a full notebook size but I can see how it might work better if I have a lot of papers I need to file.
I’ve always liked the 43 Folders system that was brought up in David Allen’s original Getting Things Done book. I don’t think he came up with it originally but it gained wide exposure when he included it in his book.
You might find a version of the 43 Folders in the YouTube search and see which one fits you best. Then hack it to fit your own needs. It is certainly a simple setup that takes care of scheduling. You can look ahead the next few days to see what is coming up by flipping through the cards. It feels like a system that has very few complications that might break down and throw monkey wrenches into our lives. I’ve used the 43 Folders for about a year before I discovered OmniFocus. It took a lot of work to get OmniFocus to work for me and I do sometimes wonder if I should have just stayed with 43 Folders. For GTD newcomers, I’ve always liked using 43 Folders to explain some GTD basics and let the person get comfortable with ideas such as deferring and weekly reviews.
If you have any experiences with 43 Folders, I’d love to hear from you and see how you’ve adapted 43 Folders to your own life.