31 July 2006

R.I.P.

It's true. My favorite Filofax form -- the Project Planner -- is discontinued. I exchanged email with a really nice man at Madison Signatures, who contacted Filofax in England and confirmed that they have none left in their warehouse. He has one packet left (A5) and is holding it for me. I obtained a packet from a place in Florida earlier this year. They, too, sent me the last one they had.

The Project Planner form is so stone-cold dead that I can't even find a picture of it online to post here. Since I haven't found any project forms in the DIY Planner that I like as well, I'm going to try to print my own on plain A5 paper, probably from Word or Excel. (Now that's DIY!) Luckily, it's a very simple form, which is exactly why I like it.

I also think I've found out the reason for the discontinuance. Filofax has developed some new forms, and a time-management training program to go with them. The replacement form appears to be called Project/Mind. I actually like the looks of this new set of forms, called Professional System, but I don't think these forms are available in the States yet.

Another alternative is this project form developed by a company called DeVilliers. Again, they seem to be available only from U.K. Web sites, so if you're not in the U.K., shipping charges can be a drawback.

29 July 2006

A Rock, a Hard Place, and Some Complaints About Each

I finally had a chance yesterday to visit my local Filofax emporium. I hadn't been in a long time, and in the interim I had developed all sorts of fantasies about revamping my system. Foremost among these fantasies was the introduction of a mini-size Filofax, to function like a Star Trek shuttle: Leave the mothership in the bag or on the desk; deploy the shuttle for information-gathering and discrete missions; upon completion of mission, dock with the mothership and offload the new data.

Fantasies are so much more fantastic than reality.

The store had a huge selection of Mini Filofaxes, and for a brief moment, I was very excited. I flipped one open. The pages are so cute I would pinch their cheeks if they had them. But it quickly became apparent to me that I would not be sticking one in my pocket. Puffy, thick leather is luxurious, but not compact. Neither are binder rings pocket-friendly.

And the Minis were $70 each. Yikes. So I soured on the Mini idea quickly.

Plan B: Come up with an alternative pocket-friendly system that is compatible with Filofax. The problem here is that, as far as I can find, there is no pocket-friendly paper system pre-drilled for Filofax compatibility. I could buy the A5 hole punch sold by Filofax, but it is priced for millionaires. $50 for a tiny little hole punch. Puh-leeeze.

Enter the Moleskine, tantalizingly close to a solution, but not quite there. Portable: Check. Cool: Check. Drilled for Filofax: Uncheck. Perforated pages for transfer to a Filofax: Check/uncheck. (Some Moleskines have some perforated pages, but none have all perforated pages, as far as I can tell.)

Tear down this wall, Mr. Moleskine: Drill your notebooks for Filofax!

Maybe I am destined to buy the hole punch, but I can't drop that kind of coin on a hole punch unless I am quite certain it will be heavily used. Perhaps I should first experiment with carrying around an awl, or getting a job teaching high school shop so I would have access to a drill press.

26 July 2006

Russian Nesting Dolls



The only way I would be able to store my A5 Filofax in a pocket would be carrying a kangaroo with me. It turns out that carrying a messenger bag is substantially easier than carrying a kangaroo.

I’ve been a devotee of the messenger bag since college. I could never quite get into backpacks. I had a few brief love affairs with one, but the dealbreaker was always ease of access while on my feet. With a backpack, I had to do a funny twist-and-unzip thing. If I was using both shoulder straps, I’d have to partially disengage with the pack first. Then, in the process of unzipping, I would have to be careful not to unzip too far, thereby spilling its precious contents onto asphalt. With a messenger bag, though, the storage compartments sit at just the right height for easy access. And, although a twist-and-unzip is sometimes necessary, it's not nearly as chiropractic.

So, for years, I have turned my obsessive research instincts toward messenger bags.

I think the first one I had was an Eddie Bauer. How quaint. It’s the non-threatening starter bag. How could anything made and sold by Eddie Bauer be bad? Unstylish? Possibly. But truly bad? No way. It was green, like most things at Eddie Bauer.

Then I lived in New York. New York is mecca for messenger bags. Everyone has one. You carry your personal items, your groceries, sometimes your children, in one. I went through a few, but the one that really sticks in my head was the Manhattan Portage bag. It was roughly this:


Oh, yes, it looked cool. But hold on a sec. There is no handle for grabbing it. There are no external pockets at all. Inside, there was one large zippered pocket. No pen loops. No handy cell phone pocket. Just space. (Lapsed Geek Alert: Like a Bag of Holding!)

Really impractical. Like most things associated with New York.

I’ve left out some other bag flings I’ve had. Some were one-night stands. Others were torrid but star-crossed love affairs. Then, the fates conspired me to deliver salvation to me: Tom Bihn. My first exposure to Tom Bihn was a review on The Gadgeteer of the ID Bag. I loved the look. I loved the idea. (Commitment to fair labor conditions; friendly service (including message boards on their site); generally crunchy vibe. Here is another reason to like Bihn: Click.) I bought the ID on the strength of that review. And I loved it.



That was about three years ago. I have become something of a Tom Bihn devotee. Last year, I made my wife give me the Super Ego for my birthday. (At least I let her pick the color of the stripe on the front of the bag.)



I still alternate back and forth between the ID and the Super Ego. I like the capaciousness of the Super Ego. But I like the compactness of the ID. (Damn logic!) I also prefer the pocket layout of the ID, which fits my usage patterns a little better.

If anyone cares, I would be happy to describe in excruciating detail the differences between the two bags, and why I prefer the pocket layout of the ID. Both, however, make excellent portable, non-marsupial pockets for an A5 Filofax.

Now, I have to carry the Bihn bag in something, of course. Namely, a car. I shall save my thoughts on that for another day.

25 July 2006

Forthcoming Emissions

I’ve returned from two-and-a-half weeks away from home, during which time I became so consumed with being productive that I lost track of my productivity tools. I basically stopped using Philo. I switched to a simple legal pad with a long list of tasks. Then even that fell into disuse, and I (dis)organized my time by reference to scattered post-it notes and scrawls in the margins of notebooks. Had I been there any longer, I would probably have hired someone to skywrite my to-do lists in the skies above Manhattan, because I could not possibly be bothered with any physical incarnations of such lists.

Now I back at my old desk, butt cheeks settled into their old imprints, and my Filofax at its old post to my right. I feel guilty about ignoring poor Philo. Then again, while I was ignoring Philo, I was also ignoring my poor pregnant wife, who will emit a child in the next 2 weeks or so. (Okay, I wasn’t ignoring her. But when you’re ridden with guilt and anxiety, like I am, anything short of constant, doting attention feels the same as ignoring.) And, of course, I’ve been ignoring Philofaxy. (Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before.) I begin each day stocked to the gills with guilt. Now I'm overflowing.

So I must make amends in all areas of my life. I’m slowly reintegrating my Filofax into my life after its temporary banishment. I updated my “Financial” section to reflect recent inflows and outflows. I made a fresh to-do list. I updated my project page on shopping for a new lightweight stroller.

(Also, I'm not ignoring my wife any more.)

Perhaps this weekend, I will live the dream that has preoccupied me for months: I will buy new A-to-Z tabs and totally reorganize the whole damn thing. Once I do that, I will actually have something new and arguably useful to tell you all about.

That presumes, of course, that I don’t have a fricking baby on my lap this weekend.

24 July 2006

Writing vs. Doing

The good news: I write all my ideas and things I want to do (sooner or later) in my Filofax. I've virtually eliminated lost information.

The bad news: Writing and doing are two different things. Some things go months or years without getting done. They just sit there on the page. For example, because I don't have much opportunity in the day to just sit and make phone calls, I have pages and pages of unmade calls to people who would be really cool to talk to. But only the urgent calls get made.

The "eh" news: Some of the things I've written down are never going to get done. They just sit there on the page until, one day, I realize they weren't a very good idea in the first place. So it makes me wonder about the value of writing them down in the first place. But maybe procrastination isn't all bad. It gives me a chance NOT to make unwise moves. Gives me time to see the better of them. Kind of like counting to 10 before speaking when you're angry. I guess "eh" isn't so bad after all.

In a recent (July 6, 2006) podcast on 43folders, Merlin Mann outlined two ways to tell whether your system is working. With all credit where credit is due, I'll paraphrase them here, as I wrote them in my own notes (in my Filofax, of course):

1) Your system must support you and your work, not the other way around.

2) Changing your attitudes and habits is what makes any system work or not.

What I like about the Filofax is that it's pretty neutral on both counts. Whether or not your system works depends on how well you set it up based on your self-understanding, as you choose your calendar format, tabs, and what to keep inside them. And your attitudes and habits are up to you...but keeping records and journals in your 'fax sure can help you see where you are and where you want to get to.

22 July 2006

First Sketch

OK, I've been warning you! I'm so inspired by Filofax art, I had to create some myself. And now you know I have no idea how to draw a sailboat. In fact, I have no idea how to draw anything.

My favorite quote of all time is from Goethe: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." Well, at least I've got the boldness aspect of it.

19 July 2006

Back in Black

No, I'm not talking about AC/DC. I've had to bring back the black A5 Finsbury that I used to use for work. My other A5, a red Belgravia, just didn't have the ring capacity for the rate at which I generate new pages. The photo shows my current stuff (everything personal, and now a little work) inside the black Finsbury, with the empty Belgravia for comparison. Sort of makes me wonder how I ever fit it all in there...

As a chick who lives the colorful life, I resisted migrating to the manly-man black leather as long as possible. But, if I ever decide to bite the bullet and shell out for a new Finsbury, they now come in an array of colors, including...drum roll...Tangerine!!

BTW, if you're visiting this blog Wednesday night (U.S. Eastern Daylight Time) or early Thursday morning (GMT), you may notice the Flickr-hosted photos (which includes most of the photos on this blog) are offline. Apparently, Flickr is "having a massage."* Well, at least they had enough class to come up with a cleverly creative error message.

*Now they're having a contest to fill in some clogged tubes with artwork and win a year of free Flickr Pro. I've leave that to those of you who are more creative than I.

17 July 2006

Famous Filofaxers

A while ago I lamented the lack of Filofax art on the Web, versus the vast proliferation of sites where people display art created in their Moleskines. A very nice reader named muse924 responded in a comment with this link http://www.filofax.de/famous/ to the German Filofax site showing the sketched-up 'faxes of Katerina Witt, Paco Rabanne, and other celebrities. So cool I had to pull it to the front so no one would miss it. (Well, at least no one who visits this blog religiously—and I know there are millions of you out there.) Check it out!

Thank you muse924!

15 July 2006

What do you write with?

I haven't been giving much thought to writing instruments lately. But surfing around one sleepless night, I visited Pencil Revolution and started drooling. Wow. Who knew people were so passionate about pencils? I love writing with a pencil, and hated it when I reached 4th grade and slippery ball point ink became a requirement. I went through a fountain pen phase a few years back. At one point, I had four going at a time, with different color ink in each one. Then, when I realized I desired better, more expensive fountain pens but didn't want to spend the $$ on them, I switched to gel pens. The gel runs out quickly, but they're refillable. Recently, I abandoned gel because it does clot and skip sometimes, and I also wanted a finer point.

Now I write in my 'faxes with Sanford uni-ball pens, with a "micro" point. They come in a "deluxe" model, with a bronzish body, and another model ("regular" I guess) with a matte black body. You can buy them by the dozen at Staples, and I keep them all over the house. Sometimes I pencil events into my 'fax, if I'm uncertain of their likelihood. Maybe I'll take a note from Pencil Revolution and start rebelling against the tyranny of ink more often!

UPDATE: After first writing this entry, I bought some new pencils and a case. You can see more here.

11 July 2006

What's Working

I had a hidden agenda in becoming a Philofaxy blogger...hidden from even myself. Accountability. Like many people who've made a transition from digital to analog, from one career or workstyle or lifestyle to another, or taken on any kind of shift that involves a change in organizational system, I'm guilty of endless tinkering and tweaking. As soon as I get all my information, notes, projects, schedules, and plans into one system, said system's flaws become immediately apparent -- and unbearable. So I tinker. I buy more Moleskines, index cards, or Circa refills, thinking I've finally found the answer to it all.

I must confess, no sooner had I posted this entry announcing that I had finally transcribed everything into my newly acquired 'faxes, that the itch returned. Once my desire to have everything in one place, on one (OK, two) interchangeable paper sizes was satisfied, all of a sudden it was all wrong. Now that I could carry everything I needed with me all the time, all of a sudden I didn't need or want to. It was cumbersome, burdening. And the perfect configuration -- personal A5, work A5, Pocket as PDA -- was suddenly all wrong. How well was my system working if I was I leaving the house with three -- count 'em, three -- 'faxes in my bag every day?

Could I abandon this blog and start over? Those new 18-month 'skine diaries look pretty darn cool. Or what about the minimalist route -- index cards, plain letter-size paper, and manila folders? But no. Accountability. I've finally and fully accomplished a solution that I thought I wanted. Give it time. Figure out what's working and not working. Maybe all I need to change is what's not working. Behind the Notes tab, I started keeping Filofax notes. A few pages later, it became clear that I was overpopulated by one Filofax. So I made the adjustment and kept going.

Now I'm noticing something cool. Instead of recopying information, I'm adding to it. For example, behind my Ideas tab, I have a page labeled Blog Ideas, containing some notes on blogs I admire, things I'd like to put on my own blog page, hosting ideas, and today, when I found out about something called Pro Blogger (a blog about making money with a blog), I simply added it to the existing page. An idea that might have gotten lost without being written down at all, or ended up many pages away from related information, is now right where I'll see it when I use it. And I can see my ideas develop over time.

Because I have a running book list for more than a year, I can clearly see which ones are going to be worth reading (Warlord, by Ilario Pantano) and which were just a fleeting notion (The Healing Diet, by Gerald Lemole, M.D.). In other words, my Filofaxes are helping develop my thought processes. Or at least, they're not distracting from them. Now that I'm detaching from tinkering, there's more time for the thoughts themselves.

Now for what's not working: That Filofax storage binder. The post spine doesn't let me easily read my archived notes. Does anyone know where I can get an A5 ring binder in the States or at least in North America? Anyone in the U.K. willing to ship me a few fairly inexpensive ones? (I'll include a few pounds over so you can have a pint or two on me.)

10 July 2006

A Tumbleweed Rolls Through

I must join Nan in expressing my regret that, due to an unhappy confluence of circumstances, Philofaxy is gathering some dust. Fear not: It has nothing to do with my laziness. In fact, I am the opposite of lazy right now. I am away for work for about three weeks, and working 12 to 15 hours a day, every day. (Lawyer. Trial.)

I have barely used my Filofax in the past week. It's not for lack of work: Tasks and projects are coming at me fast and heavy. I am sure that a better Filofaxer than Philofaxer would be deploying all Filofax features with stunning effectiveness right now. But I, as a fool befuddled by the chaos surrounding me, have regressed to the planning equivalent of the fetal position: A running tally on a legal pad.

I am using a consecutive numbering system on the legal pad, so I have an absolute tally of all the tasks that I have assigned myself. I'm up to about 45, of which probably 38 are complete. I figure that by the end of the whole thing I will have a few hundred items listed, and they will all be crossed off and I will laminate the lists and frame them as a memento of this craziness.

Probably not. I am more likely to burn them. Or lose them in the drunken stupor that will envelop me after trial ends.

06 July 2006

Summer Doldrums

Been a little...quiet around here. It's the time of year when everybody's on vacation. For a couple bizzarro weeks in the environs of where I dwell, you can find parking spaces, go to popular restaurants and get seated in 2 minutes instead of 2 hours. On July 4, I toyed with the idea of photographing my red Filofax with sheets of blue and white paper in some sort of origami arrangement...but I decided to grill some hot dogs and go to bed early instead.

I haven't been on vacation, though. My quietude on this blog has had to do with the relative tranquility of my Filofax life. Yes, there are still some rough spots and tangled knots, but the most important things that need to work are working. I actually cancelled a repair appointment (I'm going to be away tomorrow) w/in 5 minutes of the deadline. Last month, I canceled an online service 5 days before the trial period ended. Not perfect, but not broken either.

Somehow, going down from 3 'faxes to 2 removed a whole layer of fidgety static from my life. That's good for my psyche, not so good for my prolificacy as a blogger. Actually, maybe this is a really good sign. With my system finally under some semblance of control, I'm spending a little more time implementing some of the ideas I've been writing down for the past year. I find myself having taken on a new project -- restarting a handbell choir at the church I go to. I'm able to be more present for the people in my life. I'm taking more pictures and actually having time to print and mail them to people. Now that I've abandoned my Palm Pilot, I've introduced myself to my iPod.

My next challenge will be sifting. In frantic-capture mode, you frantically capture everything, just as it should be. It's taken a while, but the things I really will do are finally starting to pop up and the nice idea/never happen ones starting to recede. I'm getting the image of certain letters and numbers lighting up, as in "The Da Vinci Code" and "A Beautiful Mind" (a really cheesy cinematic trick, I have to say...but I like it).

So, I'm going to be offline for the next 4 days on a little family holiday, making this blog even quieter. But I'll be back, with substantive news instead of static.

01 July 2006

And then there were two

Yes, I've stopped using one of my three Filofaxes. The handsome, professional looking Black A5 Finsbury. In some ways I like it better than my personal A5 Belgravia...the Finsbury has larger rings and less puffy covers. I'm not a puffy kind of gal.

Anyway, I'll tell you what didn't work. I didn't like writing on the day-per-page pages at work. I was writing things that were already tracked in email or Excel (and where I would have no trouble finding them). A few other things were good to write down, but they'd work better in a notebook or a to do list than on a calendar page. And I don't really need a paper calendar at work at all, because I have iCal.

On a larger level, I realized the reason I don't need a Filofax at work is because I've come such a long way since the place I was at this time last year. Back then, I was a rock bottom. I had to start from "what information do I need to see and when do I need to see it?" and not being able to answer either question. My work and home lives were both suffering because I had limited myself to whatever fits into a Palm Pilot. The files on my computer were a jumbled mess, all of my email was in one big Inbox where I found what I wanted by searching and never deleted anything because that made me feel I was saving time. Coming up with new ideas, prioritizing a list, or tracking a goal were all beyond the capacity of my buggy software and stressed-out brain.

Now, my email and documents are in organized folders with a clear file naming system. My project folder icons are color-coded with iCal calendars. I can do tasks and ticklers either on index cards or in iCal, and both work equally well. When I switched to paper, I just wanted to be using the same format at work or at home, but right now, trying to contort my work matter into a Filo would be fixing what ain't broke. Rather, it might even break something that's working. iCal, Apple Mail, index cards, two letter-size binders for reference materials, a filing cabinet, and a notebook or two have it covered.

My work life is also in a steady state, and I'm working mostly on consecutive projects rather than juggling things. I can see how, if I were doing a job search, or if my job description changed drastically, I may well need to use a Filo for it again.

So, now you know I don't use a Filofax at work. What's in my A5 personal book?
- Vertical weekly calendar
- Tabs:
- - Next (for Next Actions), a vestige of GTD. To Do lists by context: Waiting, Calls, Email, Online, Errands, Home, Paperwork, Shopping, and Travel. The order of the pages roughly represents the order of urgency. If, say, online orders became temporarily more urgent than calls, I'd move that page forward to keep it in my face.
- - Checklists: 2006 Resolutions, Prototype Weekly and Daily routines.
- - Projects: My favorite section. One page per project, and I love Filofax's preprinted Project Planner pages. Just enough guidance without being obtrusive. I need my own handwriting to be the most prominent text on a page.
- - Lists: Alphabetical pages listing books to buy, clothes and where to get them, Filofax wish list, movies to see, someday/maybe do list, and so on.
- - Ideas: Another favorite section. I use blue paper in this one. Blog ideas, car ideas, computer ideas, charity ideas, financial/investment ideas, home remodel ideas, businesses and careers to pursue someday ideas, gift ideas, family/party ideas and so on, each subject on its own page, ordered alphabetically. These pages have consolidated and categorized all the stuff captured on index cards and other various and sundry places over the past year.
- - Notes: Alphabetically arranged pages of longer notes. Filofax notes and Journal pages are mostly what this section holds now, on white lined paper. If I were to start taking notes on, say, books as I read them, it would go in here. Any information I generate myself that doesn't fit into the category of list or idea. (NB: One of the weaknesses in my system is archiving these pages, along with agenda pages. I generate a lot of them. I'm not wild about the Filofax storage binder, and haven't been able to find an A5 binder in the states or even on eBay Canada. Furthermore, I sometimes take notes in an A5 Miquelruis notebook, which has 2 prepunched holes in the sheets. Currently, I have no way to keep those pages together with relevant pages generated in my Filo. Right now I'm just taping them into the notebook.)
- A - Z tabs: In addition to address pages, I keep source lists (all places to buy Filos on a page behind "EF"), and agendas (lists of things to discuss with people, on salmon paper, filed by the person's initial).

Oh, and in the back I have a credit card holder that I use to hold jot pads and Post-its, and a pad of plain white paper in the rear of the book.
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