43Tabs System

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This is English version of the 43Tabs system manual written by Nozarashi-Tei.


I've been looking for a minimal analog ToDo system. During desk work, ToDo items suddenly pop up in my mind all the time. I often forget them while launching iCal, scheduler, or accessing my Google Calender. I write them down on a memo pad or Rhodia notepad, but it's always troublesome for me to re-write them to a digital format. I started to think, "what if I can use them as-is?" This is the beginning of my minimal analog ToDo system development.

First, I thought to use the "Tickler File" that is introduced in David Allen's "Getting Things DONE" to hold documents for the future. This system utilizes A4 size folders: 12 folders for the 12 months plus 31 folders for each day totals 43 folders. In my case, however, the media I use is memo pad : A4 size folders are too large for me. What I need to hold are not business documents, but ToDo notes on a memo pad. I found smaller size A6 folders from Kokuyo, but I could not find any A6 size folder container.

My next idea was to use envelopes that hold name cards. Write down ToDo on individual blank name cards, put them into envelope, then manage in chronological order. Soon I found some problems when I actually tried it. The envelope is too small for multiple memo sheets. Also, it is not transparent, so I have to open it every time I check the contents.

Not "43Folders" but "43Tabs"

Meanwhile, I found the "come-up system". This system has been used for industrial production control. To prevent delay, the system notifies such as "the appointed date of delivery is coming in N days." According to "Terminology on Production Plan and Scheduling (in Japanese)", it is "a method to manage/control ToDo lists which is not limited to computer. This system uses a tab index by date. Organize cards in chronological order by using the index. The ToDo of the day appears at front of the card system".

Functionally, this is similar to the "Ticker File". The detailed use of the "come-up system" in real industrial cases is unclear to me, so I adopt the "Tickler File" way. I already have enough 5x3 index cards and index after PoIC. I divert the materials to my new system.

I call this new system not "43Folders" but "43Tabs".

The 43Tabs System


About The Tab Case

The best for Tab Case is a letter stand "clear craft case" made of polyethylene, or else L!fe's "Simply Box (J753A)".

I found my Tab Case in a 100 Yen shop. It is a "Clear Craft Case No. 199 Letter Stand" that is one of "U*NI*SON" series. This letter case is divided in two parts by a partition. Although this product is called a "letter stand", it is just big enough for 5x3 index cards. The side is cut inclined, so it is easy to handle index cards. Otherwise, a "Clear Craft Case No. 198 Pen Stand" is available. This just fits the Rhodia No. 11 width. It is big enough for two notepads plus several pens.

Both can be joined to the "Clear Craft Case No. 197 Pen Tray" which holds a single letter box and two pen stands. If I only use a single pen stand, I can keep a rubber stamp and an ink pad, so this system keeps all the equipment necessary for PoIC + 43Tabs.

This Clear Craft Case series is available in three colors: Natural (white), Wine Red, and Navy Blue.



  1. Open 4 packs of tab indexes. Each pack contains 3 sets of 5 tabs. Pick up the left-most 12 tabs. These are tabs for "months". Label them by hand or by rubber stamp.
  2. The rest are tabs for "days". Number them from 1 to 31 by hand or by rubber stamp.
  3. Place the "day" tabs and "month" tabs in order.
  4. Put the day tabs from Today to 31 in front, then this month's "month" tab followed then the rest of the "day" tabs and then the rest of the "month" tabs.
  5. Put them into the letter case.


Basically, there are only 3 steps : write a task, put it into the due day, turn up tabs every day. Following is the detail of the process.

Scheme of the 43Tabs system operation.
  1. We use index cards for "routine" ToDos. Write execution/action day like every monday, 2nd day of every month, or 2nd friday of every month. Mark the left-most top edge of the index card with red pen for consistency with the PoIC system. For an ordinary, "transient" ToDos we use Rhodia (or index cards). Write the execution day and the action. It is possible to put multiple actions on a single sheet. Later the contents may be copied if necessary.
  2. Put the index card or Rhodia page (in landscape) at the tab of the day when you want to be reminded, and then forget it.
  3. Take the index tab of the day and it just in front of tab for the next month before you go to sleep.
  4. If you have ToDos of the day, the index cards or notes will appear at the front. Copy the contents to your Task Carrier (memo pad, note, PDA, iCal, Google Calender, Editor, Word, or anything you like).
  5. When you finish the ToDo, you can trash the card or Rhodia if it is "transient". It it is "routine", you put it at the tab for the next due day.
  6. Repeat

At the end of the day you should have no outstanding ToDos.

About the Task Carrier

The task carrier is used not only as a "viewer" of the copied ToDo, but also add new ToDos to be executed later, to process "flash tasks" of the day and to store information as data. Such a task carrier should be portable, easy to write, easy to see, and handy.

  1. "Portable" means its size. It should fit in a pocket, and be easy to take out.
  2. "Easy to write" means not only the quality of paper, but also hold for writing.
  3. "Easy to see" means outlook. All tasks should be viewable in a bird's-eye view.
  4. "Handy" means not the price or disposability but how handy to make a "task sheet" return to 43Tabs.

The only choices that match these criteria are the Rhodia No. 11 or 5x3 index cards as used as a Hipster PDA. You can carry either in a Moleskine Memo Pockets together with the tab index of the day.

Use with PoIC System

Information and time-axis in PoIC + 43Tabs system.

As I described before, the Clear Craft Case No. 199 Letter Stand has a divider in the middle of the box. Usually, I use the back half for blank index cards storage. Another good idea is to use this space for PoIC system. That is, a "PoIC + 43Tabs" system.

When I finish a ToDo that is important and reusable, I fill the second (or forth) block of the top edge of the index card, then throw it into the front of the PoIC space. This is the critical moment when a ToDo floating from "future" is processed, and fixed as "past". We see a flow of information from future, now, to past in this united system.

PoIC + 43Tabs System

I think the 43Tabs system I developed is complement of PoIC system. In my experience, I think PoIC is not enough to process ToDo. Because there are two type of information : Flow and Stock. A ToDo is information that "flows" from the future. On the other hand, PoIC is a system to "stock" information. The 43Tabs is a system that captures a task that comes from "future" to "now".

The PoIC + 43Tabs system provides simple and intuitive view of a "information" and "time-axis". We see a single, straight time-axis in the system. The 43Tabs system in the front half of letter stand handles information from "future" to "now". The divider is "now". The PoIC system in the back half handles information from "now" to "past".

At present I love this united, minimal PoIC + 43Tabs system. :)

See also

Contributors of this section

Nozarashi-Tei, Hawkexpress, JennyB, Ksk

This contents is provided by (c) Nozarashi-Tei, all rights reserved (GFDL and GPL are not applied for this contents).