It was almost the end of the century before they did – at a time that demand for paper-based time management systems was – surely - already largely exhausted. It came as a massive surprise to me, therefore, when I saw the launch of Filofax - The Professional System in a Viking stationery catalogue in 2003.
Overwhelmed with email and yearning for a return to the glory days of paper, I purchased the new A5 system, directly from Filofax. It was the first official Filofax I had owned! But, from where did Filofax Time Management originate?
James Noon (from ‘A’ Time) has provided the answers! He tells me that his first connection with Filofax was in 1997 when Filofax bought the intellectual properties of his successful system. Filofax also purchased the copyrights to his book, the ‘A’ Time trademarks, the designs of his ‘A’ Time pages and his customer database. James wrote a book for Filofax in 1998 called ‘Start Time Forward’ which was all about planning forward from start times rather than planning backwards from deadlines.
He also ran the ‘A’ Time training courses for the first couple of years under Filofax ownership. Filofax acquired the domain name www.timemanagement.co.uk in 1999 and launched in 2003. They still own it, but is now defunct. Production continued of ‘A’ Time pages with Filofax branding. They had very pale red headings and feint grey lines on white paper.
|Comparison between 'A' Time page from 1995 (when brand still independent) and 2002 (when it had been acquired by Filofax, but before the 2003 relaunch) Photo: Lynn (Cloudberry)|
|Logo 1997-2003 when ‘A’ Time forms were being sold|
|Logo from 2003 with the launch of The Professional System|
The only reference I could find was on page 8 of the 2003 user guide that just says “In column ‘A’, block out chunks of priority time on your appointment schedule with a vertical arrow or bar”. But as James explains: “by marking this column (say with a pencil scribble) ahead in time it signified that at that time you would be doing ‘A’ priority work even if you did not know what that work was at the time of marking. This helped to protect your time ahead so that when you arrived at that time ahead you did indeed have time to plan and focus upon very important work”
Clearly, a lot of work had been done leading up to the 2003 launch of the Filofax Time Management range. Brochures from 2003 and 2005 may be viewed here
At its height there were zipped and unzipped, leather and leather-look A5 options. There were two pages per day and two pages per week options and a Pocket Companion wallet and annual refill. Dated and undated stationery packs were widely available and each form could be purchased separately as you needed them. I found the Mind Map, Results Planner and Project Planner forms particularly useful.
There was a user manual and advice on setting up your “Key Area Sub-Division designed to capture and manage dynamic information relating to your work under the sub-dividers”. Training courses were offered (still sub-contacted), particularly the one-day Time Skills Open Course, held in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
I quickly discovered the biggest limitation of the system was size and weight. My leather look, zipped version was a standard A5 Logic Zip binder. Even with just the weekly contents, it weighed around 2kg!
Furthermore, I now had a mobile phone and laptop to carry around, which I didn’t in the 1980’s. I persevered for a while but soon went back to my relatively lightweight Time Manager Compact size for general use, with my A5 Logic tethered to the desk.
The last brochure I received came out in June 2006. The 44 page brochure of 2003 had become 22 pages in 2005 and just 10 in the final edition. Although the courses had been scaled back, the range was still intact.
After 2007, first to go from the product range was the Pocket Companion wallet. The selection then petered out as stocks became exhausted. In the end, in about 2009, it became just a footnote on the main websites. You would struggle to find it
All reference to the Time Management range (apart from three remaining items) disappeared entirely as the new Filofax websites were rolled out, starting with the UK. You can still find the odd overseas webpage for the system standing in splendid isolation with no links to it!
Also, three products are still available – at least in the UK - for existing users. These are: -
- TM701551 Time Management Week to View Diary
- TM75024 Time Management - To Do
- TM75026 Time Management - Receipt Envelopes
As part of this strategy, he asked for the rights to ‘A’ Time to be released back to him by Letts Filofax and this was granted. So it is James Noon who now owns new trademarks in the name ‘A’ Time (only in the UK at the moment).
James describes his new venture as a ‘swansong’ (he reckons to be 70!). He reports that the book is already half completed and is now looking at the paper and electronic possibilities for using ‘A’ Time.
Even in our digital era he remains convinced that we all need assistance/reminding that simple ideas can make a substantial contribution to personal and organisational productivity. However, James recognises that it would need developing as an app in order to have modern widespread appeal. “Ideally, I would like to licence out the development of the electronic side of my plan. An entrepreneurial app developer/e-commerce developer would have the worldwide exclusive rights to ‘A’ Time. So, if you know of any such person or business then let me know!”
I’m sure there are many Philofaxy readers who would be very interested in his re-vamped time management system in paper or digital format and we wish him well in developing this venture.
With many thanks to James Noon for his very helpful and interesting answers to all my questions. www.jamesnoon.co.uk.
Thanks too to David Popely and Cloudberry for the background information that enabled me to contact James.
Copyrights to all material acknowledged.
Tim Edwards, Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire UK
Thank you Tim for a brilliant two part guest post, now I know what that column is on those inserts!