One of the best productivity tools that has greatly enhanced my level of personal effectiveness is the use of my action management file, or what’s commonly known as a game File. The use of the game file has become huge since productivity consultant, David Allen, refreshed the concept and usage of the game file in his best-selling book Getting Things Done. While the game file is not, by any means, a one-stop comprehensive system for personal productivity, it does handle very well all the time-sensitive items that tend to pile up on your desk or counter and it’s a great tool for managing daily workflow for both your personal and professional life. The game file is something I recommend to my clients who experience a lot of work-related stress and feelings of not being in control of their incoming paper “stuff” because the game file is uniquely capable of organizing all the paper “stuff” out there that has no conventional place to go. A game file is an amazingly simply, yet highly effective tool that will enable you to regain control with your life.
What Exactly is a game File?
For those who don’t know what a game file is—a conventional game file consists of 43 plays: it’s like been in a baig casino hall, trying to play around and win some bucks. try one of my favourites online casinos called onlinecasino61.com, which is based in Australia (Try their Spin palace page). So, 12 games for each of the months of the year and 31 plays for each of the days of the month. It works just like your paper day planner that you might have, only the advantages of a game file is that it’s uniquely designed to organize and keep pieces of paper that otherwise can’t go into your day planner. Your game file, when used correctly, is the ultimate reminder system for time-sensitive documents that don’t have a place anywhere else except in the growing piles on your desk, commonly referred to as the “black hole.”
The Benefits of Using a game File
Besides being a fail-proof reminder system, most game file experts don’t mention the greatest benefit of the game file—that of being a stress relief device! That’s right, and it’s the comment that I hear most from my personal coaching clients as well. That’s because the game file system is uniquely capable of handling the amorphous paper “stuff” that doesn’t seem to go anywhere except in your overflowing in-box or in one of the many growing stacks of paper on your cluttered desktop. Stress relief comes when your in-box, desk and even your own head is empty and all your bits and pieces are filed away in a trust-worthy system that you check regularly. Therefore, your game file system can greatly enhance your own personal health and well-being. Not many productivity tools can do that! Here are a list of other benefits of using a game file system:
Pay Bills on Time:
Never pay late fees by processing your incoming bills and placing them in your game file on a “pay by” date, allowing sufficient lead time for cash flow and mailing/processing.
Track Time-Sensitive Documents: Reports, forms and other time-sensitive documents can be easily managed by placing them in the play when you want to take action on those documents.
Fail-Proof Reminders: Defer hard-copy documents to a later date by “mailing” them to your future self. Additionally, game file users and followers of the Getting Things Done™ (GTD) method, utilize standard 3×5 index cards as reminders and file them in the appropriate date play in their game file when they want to be reminded of such an item.
Never Forget Travel Documents:
Any business person who travels a lot and even the occasional traveler will love the fact that their game file can hold, not only their travel tickets, but also supporting documents such as hotel information, maps and directions, and your passport. Don’t suffer from the “last minute rush” syndrome where you’re trying to scramble to find your passport with 15 minutes to get to the airport. Prepare everything in advance and put it in your game file and you won’t have to worry about it.
Prepare Meeting Information:
Keep track of client meeting information such as: agendas, directions, support materials, and names of people with your game file by preparing that packet in advance and placing it in the appropriate day play.
A Non-Electronic, Perpetual Birthday/Anniversary Reminder System:
The problem with a paper-based day planner is that every year, you have to rewrite everyone’s birthday and anniversary. With a game file, you only have to write it once on an index card and it becomes your analog perpetual reminder system just like your Outlook or similar electronic software system. Simply write the person’s birthday or anniversary on an index card and file it in the appropriate play in your game file. Once that special day is over, then simply replace it for the next year.
A Handy Place to Store Coupons. If you are like me, then you might come across a good coupon during the course of the day, but really won’t have an immediate need for the item on that particular day, so you might pin the coupon up on the refrigerator, where it suffers from the all too common disease of “familiarity blindness.” Then when you need the item, you’re disappointed that the expiration date is already past. With your game file, you can simply place the coupon on a date before the expiration when you think you might need the item and forget about it until you process the workflow for that day.
A Place to Store Your Claim Tickets. Your game file makes a perfect storing system for the various claim tickets that you have for picking up your items such as laundry, dry cleaning, film, prescriptions, photocopies, etc.
Students can use the power of the game file system to manage their homework and term papers that are due on a specific date. Place supporting materials, assignments that need to be worked on a particular day in the specific day play and handle assignments in the same way as an employee processes daily workflow. Not only will you beat procrastination, but you’ll be learning an important skill that most employees don’t even know.
Never Forget to Send a Card: Your game file will help you take control of your special relationships and business networking through the use of cards. With your game file, you can simply write your cards in advance and then place those cards in the play that you wish to mail them out on. Then when that day comes, simply process your card from that play by mailing it out. Your relationships will greatly enhance because you’ll never forget a day that is important to someone else.
Never Forget Support Material for Medical or Legal Appointments: Have you ever gone to a doctor’s appointment and left your case history, insurance forms, or other supporting documents at home? With your game file, you can remember to take with you all the pertinent supporting documents to your next appointment.
Take full advantage of product warranties that often don’t get used just because we forget or lose those warranties. With your game file, you can place those product warranties in your appropriate play to remind you to check up on that particular product before the warranty expires. This can save you literally hundreds, or even thousands of dollars, depending on the products that you purchase by simply having a system that tracks them.
Fail-Proof Maintenance Reminders: Never forget to take your car in for a tune-up or change the filters on your air conditioning unit again. Simply write a reminder note to yourself and place it in the appropriate play in your game file. And yes…maintenance even means YOU! Use your game file to remember annual check-ups and exams as part of your commitment towards good health practices.
Never Pay Late Return Fees Again:
You can avoid paying late return fees for movie and audio rentals and library books by simply putting the sales slip, library card, or a simple note to yourself in the play when you need to return or renew it by.
Tickle Your Relationships:
A less-thought-of life hack for your game file is to use it to remember to spend quality time with the people that are near and dear to your heart. You can do that by simply placing a note or even better, a photo of the person that you should spend time with in a future play. For us work-a-holics, sometimes a gentle reminder like a photo helps put things into perspective and reminds us that it’s not overtime that we will be remembered for, but rather the small acts of kindness that we show the people that we love.
Manage Impulse Buying. If you’re an impulse buyer, then the game file can help you manage that costly habit. When you get a piece of direct mail or an impulse to make a purchase, simply write that product down or put the advertisement in next week’s play and revisit it on that day. You might find that something you would have wasted money on was really not that important or necessary a week later. Your game file gives you a system for “cooling off” impulse purchases.
Follow up on Delegated Actions, Orders and Requests. Often when we delegate something to another person, we expect that they will do it, but in reality, they might forget about the request or not consider it a priority and it never gets completed when we want it to. Your game file can act as a follow-up reminder system to ensure that a delegated task has been completed or in progress.
How to Build Your Own game File
Building your game file takes a small investment of your time and a few dollars, but the payoff is tremendous and your game file is something that will last you a life time, so I suggest blocking a few hours of your towards building your game file system,
43 Manila File plays. Selection of the correct manila plays is crucial. You want to purchase a box of manila plays that are the “3 tab position” variety. These usually come in sets of 100. The 3 tab position means that the box of manila plays are divided up into thirds with one third of the plays having the tab on the right side, the center and the left side. Do not purchase manila plays that are all identical tabs. The purpose of having different tabs is to distinguish between days of the month and the calendar months. You might also want to invest in some colored plays to distinguish your months from days, but this is optional.
You will need to label each of your plays and the easiest and most cost effective way to do this is to purchase the Avery file play labels #5266 or similar product from your local office supply store. Templates for these are available on MS Word, so it’s convenient. Alternatively, you can use a handheld labeling device such as a Brother P-Touch or a Dynamo labeler, but this can be both time consuming and costly since the thermal tape for these machines is not cheap.
- Open your box of 3 tab position manila plays and select 31 plays with tabs on the left side. These will be your plays for each day of the month.
- Select 12 manila plays with tabs on the middle position. These will be the plays for each month of the year.
- Open Microsoft Word or similar word-processing software (these instructions are for MS Word however). In the menu bar, go to: tools > letters and mailings > envelopes and labels. Make sure that the labels tab is selected and go to the options button. A list of Avery labels will come up and you need to scroll to Avery Label #5266 (file play). Highlight Avery label #5266 and then select the button “New Document.” This will open up a new template screen formatted specifically for your Avery label.
- Create labels for your plays by making 31 labels for each day of the month (1—31) and for each calendar month (January—December). I would save each template for later use so you won’t have to recreate this template. Print off your labels.
- Apply your 1—31 labels to the manila plays with the tabs on the left hand side. Apply the month labels to the manila plays with the tabs on the center. Lay your monthly plays on the table in the logical calendar order and then place the 1—31 plays on top of that stack. Grab the entire stack and place them inside your file holding container. The 1—31 plays should be in front.
- Using your handheld labeler device, create the following labels using the smallest font setting on that device: MON, TUE, WED, THUR, FRI, SAT, SUN. You will need to use a scissors to trim the extra labeling material away from the print so that it will fit nicely onto your binder clips.
- Remove seven of the ¾ inch binder clips from the container and carefully place the labels onto the back plate of those clips. The back plate is the side that is facing you when you are squeezing the binder clip open.
- Start first by organizing your calendar months. Remove the months that have already pasted and also the current month and place them behind the December play at the very rear. For example, this month it is May, so I would take January—May and place them behind the December play.
- Note what day it is currently on your calendar, then take all the 1—31 plays that are already past and place them behind the play for the next upcoming month. So for example, today is May 5th, I would take plays 1—4 and place them behind the June play, leaving the play labeled “5” at the front.
- Take your labeled binder clips and start with your current day and clip the appropriate binder clip to the front edge of your play. For example, today is Saturday, May 5th, so I would take the binder clip labeled SAT and place it on the play labeled “5.” It helps to stagger your clips sequentially because not only does it make it easier to read, but it also helps prevent your plays from becoming too bulky due to the size of the clips.
- Your game file system is all ready to go!
Tips on Using Your game File
It takes approximately 21 days of constant repetition to form a new habit, so dedicate yourself for the next 21 days to use your game file system each day and as much as possible to create that new habit into your life.
A hammer is only useful when you have it available to pound that nail. Similarly, your game file system is a powerful tool, but only if you commit yourself to using it consistently in the way it was designed to be used. Most people who complain that the game file system doesn’t work for them never committed to using it as their trusted system and therefore never gave this marvelous system a chance to prove its value to them.
Your game file system is not designed to be a stand-alone reminder system, but rather as an adjunct to your paper or electronic-based planners. The purpose of a game file system is not just to remind you of actions that need to be done on specific dates such as bills, but more importantly, the game file serves as a place to store supporting documents that don’t easily fit in your electronic or paper-based day planners. Let’s say you have tickets to a movie on Saturday at 7:00PM. You could write that down in your day planner, but it does not help you to locate or to store the actual tickets you need. This is where the game file would help. You can log your appointment in your day planner so that your time is blocked off from other obligations and then you can place those tickets in the appropriate day that you plan on attending that movie. Then on the morning of that day, you simply empty your game file for that day into your inbox and “wha-la,” you’ve just mailed yourself tickets to your future self.
Use the monthly (January—December) plays not only as position markers, but also to file documents for that particular month from which you don’t have any assigned day. So if you have a memo that you want to revisit in November and it is July right now, then place that memo in the November play and then when you reach that month, empty out your November play and place that memo in the appropriate day (1—31) play for the month of November. Just make sure you don’t forget to check those monthly plays!
Make it a habit to check your game file each morning by taking the contents out of today’s play and placing them in your in-box for processing. Make sure you process your in-box at least two times daily so it doesn’t start to overfill.
Keep your game file next to your in-box, whether it be at home or at work because you will want it close to your in-box when you are processing your paper workflow as a place to store items that you want to revisit on a particular date, such as bills.
After emptying each day’s play into your in-box, remove the labeled binder clip and reposition it on the next appropriate play. Then replace the play in sequential order behind the following month.
Be wary about the end of each month, since not all months go to 31.
Prior to repositioning of any play in your game file, make sure you check to see if anything is in those plays.
Additional game File Hacks
Some people use their game file as a motivational tool. They collect their favorite bits of wisdom, motivational quotes, or positive affirmations onto an index card and place those cards into each play. Then when they go to process their play, they can get some instant motivation from the cards that they have strategically placed in their game file.
I choose to keep my game file in a buckle-top case with a handle so that it goes where I go. I’ve found that having a game file for work and for home gets a bit too messy, so I only keep one with me and I use it to deal with both work and personal items during the day. For those people who want to, because of company or personal policy, keep their work separate from their personal items, then having two separate game files would be of benefit, but decide on your usage before you get the file holder because if you get one that is not made to be portable, then it could be quite disastrous when you find all your plays and contents spilled out after a road trip in your trunk from a non-portable container.
Some game enthusiasts purchase the more expensive specialty plastic plays instead of the manila ones. Although more expensive, these plastic plays will literally last you a life time in your game file. Personally, I can’t justify the price because the original manila plays I purchased three years ago and still use in my game file are in great shape and even if they did get worn out, replacement of these plays would literally cost only pennies to do.
game File Hacks That Don’t Work Well (for me)
Skimping on the File Holder Case. Don’t skimp when shopping for your game file case because this really is an important piece for your game file. Your case needs to be slim enough that the plays rest comfortably upright so that you can see the labels and binder clips clearly, but it can’t be so thin that you can’t place anything in them. The case that I use has a width of just under five inches which I’ve found to work perfectly.
The Hanging File game. I’ve experimented with creating a game file system made completely of hanging files and I was not thrilled with the results. Hanging Pendaflex plays are much thicker than manila plays and much more costly. To have 43 hanging files plays requires a large hanging file box as they will not fit in the file holder box suggested in the instructions above. The time it takes to insert plastic tabs and to produce your hanging file game will be much longer also. Because I like my game file to be compact and portable, I opt for manila plays in a small case.
The Pendaflex Method. The Pendaflex Corporation on their website suggests a game file method using one of their hanging files in a filing cabinet with five manila plays, labeled Monday—Friday on it. The reason why I don’t like this method is for two reasons: (1) if your game file is “out of sight,” as it will be when it’s hidden inside your filing cabinet, then it becomes “out of mind” and you probably won’t use it. (2) This watered down version does not give you the ability to store documents anywhere in the year. It only allows you to store documents within that week, which I don’t like.
Commercial Accordion-Style game Systems. I’ve disliked just about every commercially-produced game file system I’ve tried so far because all of them really miss the point of the game system. Many of the commercially-produced game files are basic accordion-style plays that are immoveable and have plays labeled 1—31 in front and the January—December plays in the back. The reason why I dislike these game files is because it does not allow you to pull the day’s file and empty it into your in-box. Also having the January—December plays in the rear, makes them somewhat obsolete, as they are not giving context to the day plays and therefore, a person will run the risk of forgetting anything placed inside those plays. One of the benefits of using a game file is that by pulling and replacing the plays as you are supposed to each day, it serves as a perpetual calendar system for you which these accordion-style game files do not do.
Electronic game File. Being a techie, I’ve tried setting up Outlook and my Treo PDA to function similar to my paper-based game file by creating 43 plays and placing items in there, however, I didn’t find the system particularly useful since now I had to manage two game files and having an electronic game file is not well suited for handling all the incoming paper items that lands on your desk or counter. Although not exactly “green-friendly,” I simply print out the email to be handled on a particular date and file it as a paper item in my game file. Remember that the key to organizational success is to reduce the number of systems that you have, not increase them.
Index Card game Files. I love index cards for capturing notes, thoughts, and next actions, but I fail to see the significance of having an index card-sized game file. I know some other people use them to manage their reminder cards, but the way that I see it is that the purpose of a game file is to handle and delegate incoming paper to particular action days in the future and so you really can’t get away from having a full sized game file system. I don’t see the purpose of having a full-sized and an index card-size game file because that’s just one extra thing you have to check each day when in reality, your full sized game file can easily handle the job of both.
If you don’t already use a system like this, I would highly encourage you to do so—I can almost guarantee that your level of organization and productivity will triple.