23 January 2011

Reader needs advice: Filofax in graduate school

Reader Kathleen needs some planner advice and inspiration.  She'll be starting graduate school this autumn and wants a system that can keep it all together.  I know many of us are currently or have used a Filofax in grad school, so we can give her some advice!  Here's Kathleen:

"Hi Everyone,

I am new to Filofax, and Philofaxy, having been converted from Franklin Covey, so Laurie suggested I ask for some advice here.

I am thinking about getting either the Domino Pocket, the Finsbury Pocket, or the Metropol Pocket.

See, I have always had a problem regarding planners, and journals. I will end up getting a planner, and journal, using them for about a month or so, then stop, and then going and getting a new planner and journal and use those and then begin the cycle all over again! I have told myself for the past three years every New Year that I will get a final planner and journal and that will be it! Although, I always recycle the paper, cover etc., gift it to a friend, or am able to return it, I am sick of wasting money on my "little problem" (as my Mom puts it LOL), and I want to be able to find a system that I can stick with. I also want to find a system that I am comfortable using, that I will stick with, and that I will be able to use for the following:

1. Weekly /MonthlyPlanning
2. To Do Lists
3. Notes

I am going to graduate school in September, and would like to be able to incorporate notes on assignments, my thesis, book ideas, yoga journaling etc. within the planner as well. I have tried to do this many times before, but have failed.

For some reason, with my planning and journaling, I want them to be separate from one another. My planner for organization and my journal for well, journaling.

Anyway, just let me know.


Kathleen, I used a personal size Filofax in grad school and it worked really well for me.  My first reaction is, I wonder if a pocket size will be big enough/ give you enough space to write everything you need.  I know some grad students use the A5 size to keep it all together.

My biggest advice is to have a section where your requirements for completing your degree are listed clearly: any courses you are required to take, papers and their due dates, research proposals etc.  Especially if you have more than one advisor (I had 3) you have to make sure everyone is on the same page.  They often forget what they agreed on earlier and later may spring new "requirements" on you.  I saved myself an extra semester of unnecessary work by writing out what my advisors had agreed on at the beginning of my course, and reminding them of that later.

The list of required classes is especially useful when you are registering for classes and discover one you intended to sign up for is already full.  You can just look at your list and sign up for a different class that you need.

Can anyone else give more advice to Kathleen?  Thanks everyone!!


  1. I meant to include the link to Kyla's blog post about how to set up a planner for her PhD program. Here's the link"


    She has gotten some great advice from people so be sure to read the comments. :)

  2. i don't think any grad student could survive on a filofax pocket. a personal maybe, a pocket NO way!

    the real choice for you is between a personal and an A5. to get there you need to get real about the field you are studying and what needs to be written down/tracked...
    *if 99% of your time will be spent on a computer
    *if your penmanship is on the larger size
    *if you will need to "search" your notes for key terms or data
    *if your notes will consist of data sets, statistics, modeling, or code of any kind
    *if you write more than 1 college ruled page of notes per hour
    *if you take notes in pencil because you erase and/or correct often
    ....do NOT even try to take lecture notes in a personal size.

    honestly i think it is a bad idea to take notes in a filofax period. the line spacing is too small, i can barely fit my laptop and my personal on any individual desks in classrooms, the paper is just not free enough for my hand to write notes, pics, arrows, notations as freely as i require in lecture.

    ALL of that aside...the filofax system itself can not be beat in terms of ability for you to customize a system for tracking advisor apts, library hours, financial coordinating, grading, deadlines, reading lists, plus all the other organizing which lets face it we spend as much time coordinating as our actual research. i would say start with a week on two pages and see if you need to move up to the day per page or even two pages per day refills.

    my semester just started so i am using two days per page refills but i also acknowledge the fact that two weeks before midterms i can easily upgrade to the day per page refills if necessary.

    lastly...i know this is A LOT but the "day planner" pages are a godsend! stick them wherever whenever you need more room to expand your schedule.

    i might have tweaked this if i knew what you were studying...or if it wasnt 4:44am...or if i had slept in the last 24

  3. Personally I don't think you should take any class notes in a Filofax at all. It would quickly get too full and heavy, and too difficult to find anything. I always used a separate notebook or binder for each class. But as colie said, it's very useful to keep track of those administrative details of your degree in your Filo.

  4. I'm a medical student. I use a pocket size and it works fine for me; I use week on 2 pages and on the rare occasion that a day needs more space or details, simply add a note page in the middle of the week. Notes to keep get filed in the A-Z index at the back.

  5. Hi, Maybe someone of your readers might help me. Some time ago, in one of the entries, there was a link to a company other than Filofax which produces a wide range of organisers and refills. If I recall correctly the company was French and the website was very colourful and informative. Unfortunately I cannot trace this site. Can someone lead me to it?


  6. Lawrence, I think you are referring to Quo Vadis in this post:


    Contact me if you need further help with their range, as I am using some of their refills


  7. Lawrence, I think you mean the Quo Vadis inserts that fit certain sizes of Filofaxes. Here is Steve's post about them:


    If this isn't it let me know and I can dig around some more! :)

  8. Posted at the same time! LOL

  9. You might get away with a pocket if your appointments and to-dos are quite small and manageable, if you have just one superviser and your classes are really straightforward and if (as many others on here have suggested) you take class notes in a separate folder/notebook (I would suggest A4/letter sized, personally). I have a pretty straightforward job and appointments schedule and I run an A5 as I could never get on with a personal, so the concept of using a pocket is incredible (but I realise I do have an A5 bias!! As much because I use custom pages more than anything else provided by Filofax so prefer the ability to print my own and cut to size really easily).
    I don't know what your grad class is in so don't know how complicated your schedule is. Maybe if it's pretty straightforward, you will cope with a pocket. Just be sure to know all your deadlines, classes and meetings with your superviser(s) - if you can do that in a pocket, well done!
    Alannarama - you say you're a med student and cope with a pocket. I assume you have a separate notebook for notes taken in classes?

  10. Hello Kathleen
    As Laurie said in the first comment please do read that post as many people have given me great comments. I am currently trialling the week date option while I wait on inserts for my filofax which you can read here

    This will give you an idea of what my current workload is like.
    Personally I think a pocket would be too small and a personal size is better (although Alannarama if you are running up and down wards as a med student then definitely a pocket size!)Look at the templates in the Files section of Philofaxy and DIY planner website.
    here is a good template from them for recording your weekly lecture schedule http://www.diyplanner.com/node/5616
    I will post how I use my filofax for grad school in the future.
    Good luck!

  11. I use a personal to cover both work and home, although I take meeting notes etc in a bound notebook. I am not sure filo is really the right product for note taking in lectures etc. It is great for organizing and making sure you turn up at your lectures though! I wonder if a pocket might be a bit small, depending on how much you need to keep track of.
    Good luck and let us know what you decide!

  12. Here's what I found out about Dominos: The inside is a really soft suede (faux suede?) but it gets ucky FAST.
    Just something to keep in mind...

  13. I have to say that I agree with those who said a pocket might be too small for this. That was my first thought when reading your post. I hadn't yet found Filofax when I was in grad school, but I know that I was using an A5 equivalent just for class schedules, assignments, deadlines, and to-dos, and that sometimes got filled up very quickly. It may depend on how many classes you take at a time.

    Taking notes in a Filo is do-able if your handwriting is small, but yes, the lines are pretty narrow. Again, depending on how many classes you take at a time, you may end up with a pretty heavy Filo. Pocket ring size probably wouldn't even allow for that if you wanted to keep all of those notes with out throughout the semester.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

  14. Hi Steve and Lauri,
    Thanks for the link to the Quo Vadis website but I am sure there was another company. Maybe it was not French but surely not the Australian one.

    Still, thanks for your help.

    (..by the way, I am an avid Filofax user. Presently I have more than ten each dedicated to a particular use).

    Best regards,


  15. @Amanda - goodness, yes. I didn't realise "notes" meant class notes. I don't have lectures anymore - currently study notes are on index cards or clipped into battered textbooks - but back in the day I had an A4 lever arch file for each subject - I never even considered someone might use a filofax for class notes but in that case yes a pocket would be way too small!!

    The notes I have filed in the back are things like marks schemes for coursework I'm working on, the opening hours and access codes for clinical skills labs in every hospital in the county, my car insurance details, a list of what i need to bring to my interview tomorrow... I think it's impossible to say what will work for someone unless you know EXACTLY how they're going to use it, actually.

  16. While an A5 might be the most roomy solution, my guess is that you might leave it at home over time, because it tends to get so bulky. I would definitely recommend the Personal, especially since there's a lot of more options in terms of refills!
    If you need your Filo to lay flat, the Domino would be a great option, cos it's flat as a dime. Not so much for the Finsbury (Metropol I honestly don't know). Always check Ebay, there might be a cheap leather Filo in it after all!

    @Lawrence: other refill options for the Personal size:
    www.dayrunner.com (portable size)
    www.daytimer.com (portable size)
    Or Chronoplan.de.

  17. I upgraded from a pocket to A5 when I started on my PhD but have now downgraded (in size!) to a personal as the A5 was just too bulky/heavy to take every-where with me and I had a tendency to want to leave it at home. The personal works great for me but I would not use it for lecture notes. I do use my A5 at home as a resource file - supervisory meeting notes etc so it is at hand when I need to access information.

  18. Thanks so much for all of your comments everyone! Just to clarify, Kathleen does NOT plan to take class notes in her Filofax. She will use separate notebooks etc. for coursework.


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