Hello everyone. I have used a filofax (or similar ring-bound system) intensively since 2011. I work at an academic law library where I manage the main desk, collection maintenance, and stacks maintenance and various related workflows.
I typically have approximately 20 student employees and am constantly hiring, training, coaching, assessing, and scheduling. I also serve in a leadership capacity for several professional organizations. I manage a couple of rental properties too. I live with my partner, two dogs, and three cats in Connecticut. I used to post videos about my planner experiments, setup, and processes at my YouTube channel
1. When did you start using an organiser?
I started using an organizer in 2011. I had recently been assigned several new responsibilities at work and found myself in a panic trying to keep track of everything that needed to be done, followed-up on, or simply remembered. Until that time my work had been highly routinized and my simple scheduling needs were managed easily with the calendar on our email program at work (Lotus Notes, the most miserable piece of office technology in existence!).
I initially tried using the task and notes functions in Notes but realized that it was not portable or flexible enough to serve my needs. I read an article in the New York Times about people who use paper calendars and it mentioned Filofax. I decided to give Filofax a try.
2. How has your use of an organiser changed over the years?
My usage has been remarkably consistent over the years. I try to just get everything down onto paper, and keep it altogether in one binder which I carry more-or-less everywhere with me. I am regularly making small tweaks but rarely make bold changes anymore.
Setting up a new planner involves an enormous amount of overhead, with perhaps 200 pages or more needing to be transcribed. For this reason, I have really dedicated myself to the personal size and try not to make drastic changes. At this point, the system works effortlessly and naturally, and I feel little interest in tinkering.
3. Which diary format works best for you and why?
I began with week-to-view for scheduling along with a to-do list and notes. But quickly realized that if my tasks are not scheduled I never do them. I have ADD, and opening my planner to a long, running, random to-do list sends me into total overwhelm and I don't do anything.
If I take that list and plot it out onto specific days, I just do what I assigned myself to do today. It is not perfect, but it is much better. I quickly transitioned to day-to-view and then went back and forth between the weekly and daily layouts.
Weekly is wonderful for perspective, being able to see the whole week at a glance and know what's coming up. Days are great for the focus: you don't worry about what is happening tomorrow or later in the week, you just deal with today.
At many times of the year, I completely fill both pages of the day-to-view diary every day. Lots of tasks, notes, phone messages, meetings, reminders. I need the space! I find that even when I don't need all that space, I appreciate the focus the daily views provide.
The eventual compromise I reached which seems to work very well is to have the current week in daily pages plus the coming several months in weekly for future planning and scheduling. Beyond the weeklies, I keep monthlies and year pages for way-out-in-the-future planning.
In terms of brands, I've tried many things. Filofax has a day-on-two-pages diary offering (which is no longer available from Filofax USA) but I am not too keen on it. Basically it has a page for scheduling and a page for tasks, and very limited space for notes.
Franklin Covey makes a nice product in their "compact" size but it puts the schedule and tasks in two narrow columns which I find difficult to write in, plus the fonts and ink colors are just awful! Daytimer offers the best compromise, with scheduling first, then tasks underneath, with a full open notes page facing. It works really well for me. I wish they printed on better paper and the line ruling is very narrow, but they seem to be the best compromise in the Personal size for my needs.
Beyond that I use plain-old Filofax week-to-view, Monday start, with lines. I don't mind that the weekend days are smaller as I typically have many fewer meetings on the weekends.
4. What other information do you keep and maintain in your organiser.
I'd like to keep ALL OF THE THINGS in but that is not really feasible or practical. For a while I used a Franklin Quest binder with 1.5 inch rings (38mm) and had pretty much everything inside: account ledgers, addresses, staff rosters, voicemail instructions, birthday lists, work projects, vacation plans.... But it was SO BIG.
So now I have a more streamlined arrangement. The ledgers and addresses stay home. I have contact phone numbers (and account numbers, etc.) in a slimline address insert from Filofax, the kind with ruling right on the tabbed divider so you can write the info right on it. Between these tabs, I file other documents alphabetically (birthdays behind the A B tab). I have a lot of work plans and lists and some personal as well.
5. Do you use a 'system' of organisation, and how does it work in your Filofax?
Not really. I have read most of the books and have taken elements of the various systems, but I find more success and satisfaction with a more organic system tailored to my needs. I found Getting Things Done and Julie Morgenstern's Time Management From the Inside Out to be very helpful.
6. What routines and structures do you use?
Never put a file away without a tickler in the diary when to look at it again. Jot down everything and do a proper sort-through on the weekend to review them. Assign everything important a deadline. I do a quick look over of the past day in the morning and move anything critical which is incomplete.
When I do the review over the weekend, I pencil in all scheduled events, then fit my tasks in around them, and then, if possible, block off time to complete the tasks on the scheduling part of the planner pages. If something does not get done, and is not time sensitive, I just leave it to deal with the coming weekend when I do my review and planning rather than try to squeeze it into the next day.
I do leave empty time in my schedule every day, as my work involves a lot of interruptions and unplanned, urgent needs. I try to delegate (down, laterally, or up) anything I know I will struggle to do efficiently; I see no point in laboring for hours on something if a colleague can bang it out in 45 minutes.
7. Do you use one binder or several, and if several, how do you use them?
I really only use one. I keep a second at home with reference information inside but only look at it a couple of times a month. If I need something regularly I squeeze it into my main planner. I have tried several times to bifurcate my work and personal lives into separate planners but always find the results totally baffling and useless!
I think, for me, that the biggest value of using a planner at all is seeing everything I need to do, know, and remember in one place. It simplifies my life.
Thank you Josh a great insight.
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