In 2004 and 2005, my lifelong habit of tweaking my organizational system reached toxic levels. At one point, I changed at least twice a month, and I don't mean just changing my calendar or to-do list. I mean changing all of my information from Palm Pilot to Circa to HPDA to Moleskine and back again.
And now...I've been using Filofax exclusively for over a year. I recently tweaked the arrangement of my work A5 Filofax, and considered abandoning it for letter-size, but in the meantime, I've been using what I've got and am in no hurry to make the next change. I made this recent change not because I felt impatient for a change but because I found I wasn't getting a good enough handle on my projects' milestones (those mini, internal deadlines). Otherwise, the system was working well enough, so I left it alone.
How did I reach this point? I roughly went through the following stages:
• Tweaking overload. I think there was a certain amount of tweaking that I needed to get out of my system, and for a while, I allowed it. I bought columns of index cards, hundreds of dollars worth of software, and reams of Circa paper. I let myself go as far as I could in every possible direction, until I was just worn out. I think my eventual landing on the Filofax airstrip stemmed from a desire for a fairly simple system with built-in limits. But I had to go through the mad, crazed tweaking to get to this desire for sanity.
• Doing what works. I stopped reading Getting Things Done and The Seven Habits; stopped visiting 43folders.com. I took a look at what I needed. I do need a calendar that I can mark up with reminders before things are due. I don't need to write down major life goals; I know what they are. I do need a list of things that must be done. A "maybe do" list proved to be of questionable value. I need to be able to move pages around. But that's just me. (And that's the point.)
• Imposing time limits. When I decided a Filofax would do everything I needed, I still couldn't commit for the rest of my life. I was way too scattered for that. So I made a limited time committment. I decided to stick to Filo for a year (2006), at the end of which year I could switch again to anything I wanted. I even bought a variety of 2007 Moleskine diaries (they sell out quickly), to prove to myself that my options were still open. The Moleskines are still sitting in my drawer. (I do use a large ruled Moleskine for my journal, though.)
• One change at a time. I'd say this practice is the one most people can and should implement, and it's actually the easiest. It's make one change at a time. In other words, say you're using a day-per-page Filofax calendar and find that you're not filling up the page each day, and your book seems too thick. So switch to a week-per-two pages format, but don't change anything else. Don't buy a new binder, don't change all your tabs, don't change where you're keeping contact info. Live with the one change long enough to evaluate it. If you need to change something else next, it will become clear soon enough.
The whole process reminds me of something I read in a Natalie Goldberg book, in which she was quoting her own Zen master. The master was giving advice to a young, budding musician who was planning to move to Los Angeles to "see what happens." The master said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Don't go to see what happens. Go to make it. It's only when you give something everything you've got that it will become clear when it's not right anymore."
So don't change your Filofax system to see if it works. Make one change, and give it a chance to work by actually using it, wholeheartedly, for some amount of time longer than a day. Like a month, a year, or a season.