My 43 folders


About more than a year ago, when I found Merlin’s 43folders website, I got re-motivated to apply more seriously the GTD methodology to my work. Before that, I would only try to follow as often as possible David Allen’s process flowchart*.

So, I got 12 hanging folders, made labels 1 to 12 for them, and then 31 manila folders, then again, numbered 1 to 31. For the full description on how to use the 43 folders you can check Merlin’s website or download a .pdf guide at David’s website.

The 43 folders worked fine for me some time… As usual, best intentions alone won’t work, you need some discipline. I stopped using them for a while, but I would like to start using them again. For the time being they’re hibernating in my desk bottom drawer.

my_43folders.jpg What I liked about the 43 folders is that I could print the agenda and back up documents for a meeting to come in the future and place them in the folder of the date of the meeting. That way, the day come, I would just need to retrieve the meeting’s folder and I would be ready to go with all the relevant documentation. It was also useful to keep track of due dates of projects or bills: as you open the day’s folder, you see all the stuff you didn’t need to worry about until that very day. Thirdly, if I was working on a project and need to show certain documentation to a colleague who’s travelling at the moment, I can place the folder on the day folder for when my colleague is back to the office. Then again, that file will be out of sight and back to my mind only when I need it.

The fall downs of the method for me were the big gaps, for example, week-ends and holidays. You really need a certain discipline to open your day folder at the beginning of the day. I must confess that Mondays, especially after a holiday, I couldn’t care less than to check my 43 folders first thing in the morning. You have to be really methodical to make the 43 folders work: remember to file things on their due date, remember to check your day folder first thing in the morning, remember to move the day folder to the back of the pile at the end of the day… It will certainly become an automatism in the long term, but you need to make a conscious effort at the beginning.

Another pit fall of the system is the fact that, being a physical collecting method, you would need one for the office and one for your home. If you have a home office you don’t have this problem and it would surely be worth a try, especially if you have problems keeping track of due dates.

For the time being, I found a fix for my need of having files ready for meetings: my current projects basket, of which I’ll talk about on my next post.


* Download the .pdf version of the GTD workflow from David’s site. I found a website with a translation into Spanish here. Anyone has the version in Portuguese?


2 Comments on “My 43 folders”

  1. Jason says:

    Keep at it! The 43 folders are a great tool.

    I had to force myself to use them, too. I thought they were silly at first but it took just one “WOW” moment to turn me around. The way I trained myself to get in the routine was to add “Check tickler file” to my daily Next Actions list. I can’t check it off my list until I’ve checked the folder for the day.

    As for the gaps, I just check the folders for Friday-Sunday at the same time on Friday morning. It also helps to not add things to any weekend folders. I know that seems overly simplistic, but GTD is about being intentional with your “stuff.” This is just one more way to be intentional.

  2. laumerritt says:

    Thanks Jason for your input. I love the idea of dealing with the week-end folders on Friday morning. Silly how the most useful tricks are the most simple ones, isn’t it? Anyway, thanks for stopping by.

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