19 June 2016

Experienced User - Elena

This week I would like to welcome Elena to share with us how she uses her organisers. 

Hi.  I’m Elena and am a full-charge bookkeeper for a property management company as well as run my own part-time bookkeeping service business.  Having used personal-sized ringed binders since the mid-90’s, I could never catch on to planning appointments, managing tasks and taking notes on either a desktop or mobile device.  Even though at work I use Outlook Calendar for future planning and recurring events, it all gets transferred to a daily page in my analog work journal.  It’s so much easier to pick up a pen, draw a task box, cross it off or jot a note on paper than it is to operate devices.  But that’s just my techno-challenged humble opinion ☺

But while I utilize the original Bullet Journal system at work, my personal, household, wallet and business are all mapped out, planned and managed in a Filofax Pocket Malden that I’ve been using steadily and happily since the beginning of the year.
                                           

1. When did you start using an organiser?  Ever since I happened upon a 1995 article in Mademoiselle called ‘Happiness Is A Worn Filofax’.  I had just found my first planner that happened to look exactly like the one in the article, on a clearance table at TJ Maxx.  I tore the article out for reference and kept it in the pocket of my new planner for reference and inspiration until it fell apart!  I’ve been hooked on ringed planners ever since!              
                                       


2. How has your use of an organiser changed over the years? Up until 2014, I’ve had kept the same layout: 3 business card inserts followed by week-on-2-pages, followed by a small notes section then A-Z tabs last.  Mind you, we didn’t have smart phones back when I began using a planner so there were no cool ‘apps’ to capture business card info and store contacts.  Even when I did begin using one, I still kept that information in my planner because it was how I was used to accessing it.  It wasn’t broke, so I didn’t fix it!

But between July 2014 and late 2015, I got bit by the bullet journal community bug, I put my ringed planner aside and took up a notebook.  Though I love the system and the simple way of managing bulleted tasks (which I still use), I needed the structure of dated inserts for planning.  Long story short, 1/1/16, I went back to rings, though I still adopt some of the bullet journal functions in my planner pages.

After using mainly personal-sized since the beginning, I decided to attempt downsizing to a pocket.  I won a Filofax Pocket Malden (pictured above) in an eBay bid for 50% of the retail price!  My goal for the new year was to be more focused and a smaller footprint forced me to put only what was necessary in it.  I also have it double as my wallet, keeping just a debit card, insurance card, license, paper money and coins in it.  The setup has been working wonderfully and am very comfortable using it.  The Malden is really a joy to hold!


3. Which diary format works best for you and why? I’ve always been a week-on-2-page loyalist since the beginning.  However, because the inserts that came with the pocket were so miniscule (and ate up a large amount of real estate by having the days of the week printed in 5 languages!)


I had to look for another option.  I was greatly inspired by a video from Kent From Oz how he uses a Moleskine Pocket Weekly Diary in his Filofax.  The pages were a week-on-1-page on the left and lined on the right for notes.  The dimensions were much larger than the inserts that came with the Malden, but fit perfectly inside.  Whereas Kent hole-punched the entire diary (covers and all), I (carefully!) deconstructed mine and hole-punched only the pages I wanted.  I can keep all of 2016 inside which allows me to future plan all pertinent dates, events and recurring tasks through the end of the year.  Now, I can’t imagine ever going back to a week-on-2-page format!


4. What other information do you keep and maintain in your organiser. Besides my diary inserts and wallet essentials, I have a small, expandable file pocket to hold receipts and another (which I removed from inside the back cover of the deconstructed Moleskine diary) that I keep postage and return address labels in.

I revamped the 1-6 tabs that came with the planner and made A-Z labels.  After enduring the anxiety of having lost my iPhone 2 weeks before Christmas, I had to reconstruct all my contact info (I hadn’t backed my phone up to iTunes or iCloud - ::hangs head in shame:: ) I used the tiny contacts pages that came with the planner to keep names, numbers, etc. in case I’m ever without my phone and need something.

Additionally, I also store tracking and reference information alphabetically as well such as shopping lists, doctor’s visits, hubs’ med list, bank account numbers, etc.  Example:  Med list is ‘M’, frequently purchased items and price list for Costco ‘C’, tracking info (when oil was last changed in my car, last hair-color appointment, etc) ‘T’, doctors’ visits notes ‘D’…..you get the point ☺

Lastly is the top-loading plastic sleeve that came with the planner.  I used to keep the postage and labels in there, but since moving those over to the expandable pocket, I put gift cards, business cards, etc. in here.  The slots in front are for my wallet items only.  I even took off the black front cover of the Moleskine diary, trimmed it down, hole-punched it and it serves as my dashboard where I keep sticky notes.  Just the basics, as I really can’t over-stuff this little guy.


5. Do you use a 'system' of organisation, and how does it work in your Filofax?   Since I’m able to keep an entire year’s diary inserts in the planner, I’ve recorded all important dates through the end of the year.  Birthdays, anniversaries, daylight savings time, tax filing deadlines, mortgage debit, trash night – I plunked them all in.  It took some time doing, and it was easier with the pages out of the rings, but – unless something changes – it’s a relief to have it all logged through the end of the year.  I don’t have anything going on that would require me to plan past 12/31/16 at the moment.

The week-on-1-page with notes is the heart of the planner.  When I had been using larger inserts (or even bullet journaling in a notebook) I had oodles of space.  It allowed me to be very detailed, but also turned my pages into an (organized) mess.  Having every square inch of my inserts filled did not fool me into looking more productive.

By downsizing my planner, I also had to reduce what I put into it, as well as how I wrote things in. Lately, I’ve been condensing and abbreviating when I remember to.  I don’t have to write ‘buy birthday card for Greg’, but rather ‘b-day card-Greg’ or ‘email Kelly for April bookkeeping work’ can be replaced with ‘@Kelly-April docs’  I realized I didn’t have to spell everything out in full, grammatically correct sentences – just in a way that made sense to me in order to get it done.

I also keep the setup in the same order as when I began it in January.  Dashboard with a few sticky notes on it, pocket with postage/labels, diary inserts, A-Z tabs, receipt pocket then plastic top-loading insert.  The back slot just holds extra inserts and pen loop holds a retractable Sharpie (hooked on the outside) Keeping my system functioning smoothly means keeping it familiar and simple.


6. What routines and structures do you use?  Because it’s also my wallet, it’s open when I’m making a purchase so as soon as I’m handed a receipt, it automatically gets put into the receipt pocket right after I slide my debit card back into its slot.  Once a week, I take the receipts out to post to my discretionary spending tracker.  I usually write ‘Post Receipts’ in the notes section (right hand side) as a reminder.

Tasks such as these which are not time/date sensitive, but I would like to get to that week, are put on the Notes side, bullet journal-style.  I use an open checkbox designating a task to be done, color it in when it’s completed, x it out if it doesn’t need to be done, or use a right arrow showing that it’s been migrated elsewhere.  Those are the only facets of the bullet journal system I use in the planner.  At the very top of the Notes section, I reserve a few lines to list Bills Due (outlined in pink – softer than red) that week (Wednesday is bill-payment day)  I write the name of the bill, the amount and the actual due date there, always being sure that they’re paid whatever Wednesday is before the due date.

Below that are tasks that I’d like to get to that week or had already been previously logged there to be done that week (example: in March I remembered to schedule my annual dermatologist appointment for July so, first week of July, I have a ‘schedule derm appt’ task bulleted in the Notes section since it isn’t time-sensitive – just should get done that month.  I add anything else that comes to mind that I’d like to tackle this week that, again, isn’t time sensitive.  If it doesn’t get done, I’ll either migrate it to another week or x it out altogether.

What goes on the weekly page (left side) are tasks, appointments and events that are truly date and/or time-driven.  I have three rotating tasks I do religiously every week – check online bank balances on Monday, put out trash Tuesday and pay bills Wednesday.  Bills that are auto-drafted out of the checking account on specific days are written in and circled with pink.  Pay day/direct deposit days are circled in green.  Appointments/events (such as a birthday) are circled in blue because I need these to stand out.  I follow this specific structure throughout the planner pages. It’s simple, yet functional, and allows me to separate what truly ‘needs’ to be done (why, yes, I really DO need to schedule watering my newly sprouting potato plants on a routine basis!) from what I’d like to get done (finishing this post!)


What I really love the best about this layout is that it gives me the dated structure I need for time-sensitive stuff as well as the freedom of blank paper to indulge my love for task boxes and bulleted notes!  My only wish was that the right hand side was grid instead of lined.  Maybe I can petition Moleskine for a new design ☺ ☺

7. Do you use one binder or several, and if several, how do you use them? Because there are days (well, every day actually!) where more comes up other than what’s in my planner, I use a companion notebook to create daily pages.  I was gifted a lovely Linshi Tasks traveler’s notebook that holds a blank and lined insert.  The lined one holds long-term lists and projects while the blank one is used for daily pages, notes and journaling.  Once this is full, I have a grid insert (because I love grid!) ready to take its place for tasks/notes only as I want to keep journaling separate.

How I work this is that, usually the night before, I check my Filofax planner to see what’s on the agenda for the next day.  I then scan the right side for anything on the ‘want to do’ list to see if I’d like to attempt getting it done.  Everything is then transferred to a daily page in my insert.  The planner goes back in my bag while the TN stays pretty much open on my desk (another reason I want to move the journaling out).  Because my planner also doubles as my wallet, I feel better leaving the TN out and open instead (even though I’m the only one in the office when the boss isn’t traveling).

Using the TN as a ‘working journal’ of sorts allows my Filofax to maintain its use without changing it up or adding too much to it.  This is where the consistency of the setup and keeping it uncluttered has helped me to focus on what’s important.


Thank you Elena, be sure to check out her blog. Weekend Wife

If you would like to take part in this series please email steve@philofaxy.com and mark your email 'Experienced Filofax User'

17 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this post. Elena has a lovely, functional set-up.

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  2. Great detailed post! It inspires me to change a few bits of my set-up in my pocket to make it more functional. Thank you!

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    1. You are very welcome, Natalie. It's amazing how much you can get out of the pocket size if you have just the right set up then set boundaries for it

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  3. Great post! I did the same with the a 'true' a6 letts diary in my senior vds (layout is the same as moleskine's, only the pages are a little wider, it's perfect to combine the bullet journal simplicity with the structure of a printed diary). I also punched the cover page as a dashboard, but keep my post its on its backside.

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    1. The cover makes a great dashboard! I really love the feel of the material.

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  4. This is a great post. I love seeing functional planners like this. I also use the moleskine pocket set-up, although I keep mine bound (am I allowed to say that on here?!). The fact that it is small means I am limited on what I can put in it and stops me from taking on too much.

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    1. Exactly, Helen. The pocket size allows me to compartmentalize what 'needs' to get done, while the daily page in my bullet journal allows me to add on without making a mess of the planner

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  5. Some great tips here. Thank you, Elena.

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    1. Glad you found it helpful. You're welcome!

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  6. Just a little FYI that after I had turned in this article to Steve I have since switched out the TN for a grid Moleskine to use as my companion notebook/bullet journal. It just wasn't laying flat enough for me to find comfort writing in it, the elastics were too tight to adjust and it kept flopping closed while I was trying to hold it down to write. My Filofax Pocket Malden has a new playmate!

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  7. Excellent post, Elena, thank you! I love these posts by Experienced Users because I can still pick up tips from other longtime users! For you it was "Madmoiselle" , for me it was "Self" back in '92 which had an interview with Lori Laughlin back in the early days of Full House!

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  8. Great post. I also use a pocket Malden (Crimson), I buy my inserts from GrowingUpGoddess on Etsy. She prints, hole-punches WO1P with a grid page on the right side. The exact item that you mentioned at the end of #6. My shameful Filofax admission- I still have the original Mademoiselle magazine with that article!

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    1. I kept that article folded in my very first planner until it fell apart. I was shocked to come across someone on IG who had a .pdf of the article on her blog!

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  9. Lori Laughlin was featured in that Mademoiselle one too!!

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  10. Great post. I love how functional your planner is.

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  11. What a fantastic post. I love all of the details you've provided, Elena. I've been using different types of planners for years, and it's only in the past year or so that I found a planner and a system that worked well enough for me that I didn't switch it after a few months. I really like how neat and streamlined your system is. I've gotten some excellent tips from your post. Thank you!

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