Is the hand-written thank you note a lost art? Has it been replaced with a quick “like” on social media or a two-sentence text? If it’s a lost art in our society, that’s all the more reason for it to become a staple in your household. It becomes easy to stand out in the crowd when you’re the lone person who expresses gratitude fully and thoughtfully.

If the last paragraph inspires you to buy a box of thank-you notes as a stocking stuffer, that’s a great start. But without something to keep the idea of saying “thank you” on a regular basis going, that box of notes may still be full a year from now.

Build in the trigger

People often say, “I do it when I think about it.” If that’s true, the trick is to structure the environment in such a way you “think about it” at the right time. For example, put your lunch pail in front of the door and remembering to take it to work becomes easy. So what sort of trigger could we build that would promote writing thank-you notes all through the year?

The two-part present

Yes, buy a box of thank-you notes. In fact, it’s going to take more than one box. You’ll need 52 such notes with matching envelopes, one for each week of the year.

You’ll also need a milk crate and 43 hanging file folders. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know how I swear by my “Tickler File,” 31 hanging files labeled 1-31, each file representing a day of the month. The remaining 12 folders are labeled January, February, etc., each one representing a future month.

Label the folders and put them in the milk crate. (Be sure the milk crate you get is one with rails on the sides so the files will slide easily.) The idea is each day, pull the folder for that day. It will contain all of the papers you wanted to work with that day.

Take a blank thank-you note along with its matching envelop and drop it in the “1” folder. Drop additional cards and envelopes into folders 8, 15, 22, and 29. Once a week, when the person opens the folder for the day, there’s a blank thank-you note and matching envelope. There’s the trigger to take 5 minutes and write a note of gratitude.

Drop 4 cards and envelopes into each of the folders for February through December. At the first of each month, the owner of the Tickler File empties the folder for the month into the 1-31 folders.

Listen to what Tom Peters has to say about the thank-you note:

Finally, here is the advice from United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts:

And one more thing before you wrap it…

Would you be giving this person cards over the course of the year? A card on his/her birthday? What about Valentine’s Day? Graduation perhaps? Prepare those cards now. Sign and seal. On the outside of each envelope, write, “Do not open until [date].” Drop them in the appropriate monthly folders. Now it’s time for the wrapping paper and a bow.

Organized (and grateful) for lifetime

This milk crate isn’t just for staying on top of thank-you notes. The Tickler File is a place to put any paper its owner will need in the future. Make a decision about when the paper needs to be seen again, drop it in the correct folder, and the system does the rest. The Tickler File is an age-old business tool. It will continue to be relevant as long as we continue to deal with paper.

So here’s your challenge. After watching the interview with Jason Womack, did you write someone a note? If so, here are two questions. Feel free to share a comment below or email me.

  1. How did you feel when you were writing it?
  2. Did the person you sent it to mention it after the fact?