The problem is I want to use it for everything. Like so:
- Diary: I translate novels for a living and work from home, so I don’t go to meetings or need lots of space to jot down appointments and tasks. I don’t need more than Week per page to organise my personal and work life, interleaved with lined note paper for quick jots. Add a horizontal planner for work progress and deadline overview, and I’m sorted.
- Work: I’m obviously working on my PC and make notes on a separate document which can be edited, added to and shared while I work. In the Filofax work section I keep notepaper for jotting down ideas when I’m away from my desk, a Month to view planner with daily goals and a list of autocorrect codes. Not a lot there either.
- Travel: I travel a lot for business and for pleasure. Before I go I stuff my passport and printed travel documents into my Personal Malden and insert a card holder with relevant travel cards, job done. I could use any old folder or wallet really. But I would like to keep the planning notes and lists, info, research etc for my Camino trips in one place. Printing my own maps and itineraries would be great – not so great in a Personal, though.
- Info: Sometimes when I travel I have to (or like to) read up on things and make notes en route, to make sure I make the most of (and a good impression at) meetings, seminars and even social but still work related events. This means either formatting docs to print out in Personal size but not being able to scribble in margins, or taking A4 printouts that just don’t fit in and look really unprofessional if I fold them and stick them in. Or of course taking another file or folder, which defeats the all-in-one object.
- Projects: I’m struggling to find a system of organising my (copious) writing notes on paper so I can work offline and off-PC, typing on an Alphasmart Neo. I am Municipal Liaison for our local Nanowrimo group and we have all day Write-ins throughout the year, which really works for me. I prefer making notes on paper rather than on a laptop and normally carry notes for several projects, some first drafts, some in the planning or ideas stage, some needing editing and reworking. Ideas from conversations at Write-ins. Notes on characters, on plot, progress, goals. Ideally I want a combined notebook and a place to keep printouts. What I need is something that works with the way I work.
The perfect size is A5. Great writing space, easy to print your own stuff. Enough room to make notes in the margins or even on the left hand page, which I never write on anyway because of the rings. So far, so good. But as we all know, a well fed A5 is murder to carry around. I might as well bring the laptop.
So the perfect size must be Personal, then. Smaller, lighter, handbag friendly. But not as nice to write in, my hand knocks into the rings, so I tend to only write on the right; and even if I write on the notepad and then insert them into the rings later … well, it’s not always so easy to ‘just insert’ something if the binder is too stuffed – the leaves come loose, the dividers fall out, you have to rearrange it all outside the binder and then try to get everything back in; it is all too fragmented. And what about the stuff you have to take out to make room for something else? It would have to go into a storage binder – in which case I can promise you I will leave it there and forget it. I can also forget about printing my own pages. It just involves too much cutting and mess and is never really done.
But then surely the perfect set-up is double Filofaxage, right? A Personal or Pocket for my diary, work and planning stuff, to be taken out and about, and a nicely three-quarters full A5 with projects only. Oh, I know, and I really have tried, but then I make notes when out and about and forget to transfer them to the A5 and because the sheets are smaller they sort of disappear and need rewriting into the bigger size … No. The double Filo set-up doesn’t work for me either.
Also after a few years of rings I realise I miss having a diary which I can save in its entirety for the future, not just loose leaves which tend to get thrown away month by month to make room for more notes. I am starting to think about keeping diaries and notebooks in self-contained volumes – I miss the chronology and the scribbled out stuff, the doodles and notes in the margins.
So … what about the Flex? Plasticky, cheapo looking Flex with its boring grey notebook covers and rubbish cardboard pen holder. A5 size … but hardly bigger than a Personal. Slimmer … lighter! Infinitely flexible …
Let’s see what I can do with it:
- Print my own notes, chapter lists, timelines and add, edit and change as the story changes! *like*
- Print a Philofaxy © diary instead of buying a big diary book, then just fold and insert.
- Fold my travel docs just once and they’ll fit in the outside pocket, easily accessible – and they have inside slots which are (presumably) passport sized.
- Scribble to-dos on to-do-list pad (even if it’s ridiculously expensive for what it is).
- Add a notebook – or add two, in fact add one for each project! Or one ruled and one unruly! And never mind the boring grey – use Moleskine Volants in bright and happy colours!
- Invest in (hello, stationary!) more stickies to mark pages and add notes as I go!
- Print out relevant meeting/seminar notes and read on the plane, scribbling to heart’s content in the margins!
- Take some of the notebooks out before elegantly laying it on the meeting table – it’s not as if the leaves are going to end up in a chaotic heap as soon as you open the rings, after all!
- Adjust the footprint (or rather, desk print) of the set-up depending on the situation and room available (think plane) – again without opening rings.
- Slide my Kindle into one of the slots when I want to work on translations during flights, waiting times etc.
So I ordered a first edition A5 Flex. I will be trying it for capture, storage and reference throughout February, when we are having a 30,000 word writing month, followed in March by two three-day work seminars. I will be reviewing it again afterwards to see how it compares to a ringed binder. Positive first impressions are:
- The black cheapo plastic cover actually doesn’t look – or feel – that cheap! I am pleasantly surprised. Will probably upgrade to leather if this works well.
- The vertical pocket on the left hand side does indeed fit a passport. Even printouts folded to A6, if you trim them ever so slightly. I assume the vertical ones in the leather updates also take the same size.
- I can write on both sides of the paper!
- The Flex notebook has very nice paper in it. I don’t use fountain pens, so don’t know how it stands up to ink.
- Moleskine large Volant books fit perfectly and leave room for a pen loop because they are 18mms narrower.
The supplied Flex notebook fits snugly into the back of the cover so you have to leave the pen in one of the outside slots.
- When I have two Volants in the inside slots – I like a small desk print – there is still room for a true A5 notebook to slot in behind them = 3 notebooks in one!
- I got a Moleskine diary as well to slot in – I know they will be available year by year and I want to keep them for the future, to track my long term goals, books translated etc.
- Wire bound A5 soft cover notebooks will also fit, as long as the spiral isn’t too wide.
- The size is perfect – smaller than an A5, slimmer than a Personal, as light or heavy as I make it.
- You can buy an additional pen loop if you prefer to have two. Put them in the outside slots and thread the pen though both to keep the cover closed!
- The Slimline notebooks and diaries fit into the horizontal slot on the first edition A5s! A pocket size Moleskine Cahier also fits, or any A6 jot pad, I suppose.
- I can – and will – colour code projects by notebook cover colour, and replace them when needed.
- You can make it look fun and colourful or businesslike just by choosing your notebooks.
Negatives and solutions:
- The card with the pen loop is great when you keep it in one of the outside slots, but I want my pen on the inside, in the gap conveniently left by the Volants. The loop points straight forward, so the pen ends up scrunched into the fold and makes the cover really tight, so I trimmed it by maybe just less than 1cm and it’s perfect! And it will still do the job in any outside slot.
- A4 folded printouts go all the way to the back of the cover too. Unfortunately you can’t put many sheets of folded A4 into any of the slots before they buckle and make the cover quite bulky.
They would have to be trimmed down – or fastened to a notebook cover with paperclips, maybe? Or some lengths of thin elastic string wound around the middle of the cover, allowing me to slip the crease of the folded papers into the elastic, keeping them safely in place. I might even make it a permanent solution with a needle!
Bound books don’t fit. I have a big, thick but flexible notebook from Paperchase I thought would slide into the inside slots but it’s too thick. I’d have to trim both cover edges, which defeats the object of using a big, bound and beautiful notebook which I can remove and keep as is. But then again it would be very heavy, and that’s what I am trying to avoid. Unfortunately this means that Laurie’s Plannerisms planner wouldn’t fit either.
Er … well, it’s a Filofax product, so it would be rude to have just the one. I have decided to keep my Camino travel planning and notes, maps and itineraries in one, one writing project which is almost finished in another, and keep a third for my everyday all-in-one; diary, two notebooks and some printouts paperclipped into the relevant notebook. Rearranging content is so easy I can be ready for a seminar or a Write-in in a minute carrying only the essentials! And yes, I have treated myself to a leather one …
I do think these should be made with say three elastic strings vertically along the middle of the inside of the cover, to keep folded printouts in place. Or maybe even make a horizontal A4 pocket along the cover, like the notes section in a Pocket size ringed Filofax. Being able to store A4 papers without folding them would be great.
Speaking of outside pockets – I’d like one secretarial pocket on the outside too, for folded A4 papers, not quite as tight as the ones meant to hold the notebook covers.
Or how about selling a flexible card, like the one with the pen loop, with a set of 13mm Personal size rings on it, as an accessory? That would be the best of both worlds!
Oh, and please make some notebooks in more cheerful colours – even black would be an improvement!
Anyone else tempted to try it? I’d love to see more reviews of the Flex and how people use it!
Thank you Linda for your Guest Post