ProdPod: Episode 83 — 31 Folders Instead of the GTD 43 Folders

Reading Time (est.): 2 minutes

If you are familiar with Getting Things Done by David Allen, or the GTD methodology, you probably know about the 43 folders concept. If you don’t, basically, it’s a tickler file-like tool where physical, time-based items can be managed. There are, you guessed it, 43 folders, constituting 12 file folders for the 12 months in the year and 31 folders representing the maximum number of days in any given month. In this episode I’d like to detail how I simplified this powerful paper organization tool, and hope it’s useful to those out there that still have much paper-based organizing in their worlds like I do. In the traditional 43 folders system, you would take your 31 folders and place them in the current month. At the end of each month, you would need to scan through each of the 31 folders to make sure something wasn’t forgotten in them, and then sort any materials for that month into the respective day folder in which you need, say, those opera or baseball tickets, that expense report’s supporting receipts, or the wedding invitation to your relative’s big day. So, in my modified 31 folders, you might have guessed this too, I did completely away with the 12 months of folders. What’s left are the 31 day folders. I found that the month folders were just another layer of complexity I didn’t need in my paper management system. Instead, the 31st folder acts as overflow for anything further than the current month. I file everything in chronological order in the 31st folder and then do my normal paper sorting monthly on the last day of the month, whether it be the 28th through 31st. The file folders never have to move so they don’t wear out as quickly as my 43 folders did, I’m much more consistent with my paper sorting, and it takes up 28% less space in a briefcase or backpack than the original 43 folders.