30 June 2006

Tyranny of the e-Majority

There once was a man with a Palm,
To whom, tech was a balm.
Then his hard drive was lost,
All his data was tossed.
Ah, paper: no storm, just calm.

I’m no luddite. I have an iPod; three digital still cameras; a digital camcorder; a cell phone; a personal laptop; a personal desktop; an office laptop; a Blackberry; a desperate, childish desire for a Nintendo DS Lite; a gnawing urge to drop my personal laptop “accidentally” onto a concrete slab in order to justify a new one; and a spouse who doesn’t understand any of this.

But there is one area of my life in which I have rejected technology: My Filofax. I’ve already recorded my reasons for rejecting the Device, and embracing paper. But in the months since then, it has become increasingly clear that paper users are second-class citizens in the workplace. I work in an Outlook office. I used to be an Outlook devotee. And, as long as I spent all my time at my desktop, it worked fine. Handy reminders popped up. Group meetings were easy to schedule. But I found it cumbersome to extend those conveniences away from my desktop. Paper offered a perfect solution for me. I can carry my Filofax everywhere. No boot-up times. No battery exhaustion. Random access, perfectly implemented. Fewer worries about data loss. (I am not so na├»ve as to believe the Filofax is a “safe” repository. As a human who sometimes exhibits unusual levels of cluelessness, I can’t discount the possibility that I will lose it, or drop it into a vat of boiling oil, or accidentally toss it from an airplane at 30,000 feet. However, I am comforted by my awareness of my weaknesses, my ability to compensate for them, and the fact that I no longer fear the vicissitudes of a hard drive platter that could turn one degree off-kilter at a moment’s notice.)

Paper is my way. Why can’t my office let me be?

Since I work in an Outlook office, I often receive invitations to meetings, which upon acceptance are automatically placed in my Outlook calendar. That doesn’t both me too much. I can simply ignore the Outlook calendar and write the data in my Filofax. (Although the off-handedness of the widespread assumption that we all use Outlook reminds me of my fourth grade teacher, who offhandedly told us to gather in a circle in our public school classroom for prayer. “What’s the big deal?” she probably thought.)

What irks me is when people say, “Oh, yes, let’s have a meeting. Philofaxer, why don’t you send around an Outlook appointment?” Look, I don’t use Outlook. I don’t want to use Outlook. I really don’t care if you do. You manage your appointments however you want. But don’t force them on me. I am a paper man. I will write down my own damn appointments. You can inscribe yours on a tablet, or memorize them mnemonically, or hire a personal valet to keep track of them. Whatever. Just let me be.

But they don’t. Nor do I object, since that would require a spine. And I have to create some stupid Outlook appointment and send it around, and then deal with automated responses as people “accept” it.

I can’t believe the drafters of the Constitution forgot to include Freedom of Personal Planning. Time to start lobbying Congress.

29 June 2006

You Can Quote Me

Seems a lot of folks I've met on this blog are using Pocket or Mini size 'faxes. It stands to good reason: The Pocket is the Moleskine of Filofaxes. What does that make the Mini...the Cahier?

Then there's the Volant, which n'est plus.* Hmmm...has a Filofax size ever gone extinct? In fact, didn't Moleskines disappear entirely for a while there? Fads have come and gone, but the Filofax has never gone away.

Funny how, while 'skiners are more likely to affect black tees and black jeans, it's us 'faxers who are the iconoclastic bohemians these days, having our esoteric thrills here on our relatively undiscovered blog.

* If you know what this means, it means you've actually bought a Moleskine and read the little history sheet, printed in four languages on that smooth, cream paper...droool... Ahem. Sorry. Seriously now, can Moleskines actually say they were invaluable during the blitz?

28 June 2006

The BS

OK, I've eliminated the index cards. I've got everything I can think of on some neat list in some neat Filofax somewhere. So why did I just miss paying a bill on time? Why do I look at a To Do list, even on a little pocket size page, and feel overwhelmed? Who wrote that list, but me? How can I be overwhelmed by a list I wrote of things that I want to do?

So, should I write them all on index cards, because I find them less intimidating when I only have to look at one at a time? Well, I could do that...except that some of them started out on index cards in the first place.

Or, I could cut the BS.

If I have a phone call that's not getting done, is it because I feel awkward talking on the phone for other reasons? Or because I get overfocused sometimes and forget to pick up the phone? Or is it because a phone call isn't the best way for that particular communication, and I need to wait until I see that person in person next week, or see whether I have the person's email address so I can write my thoughts out clearly?

In any case, the list isn't the problem. Me is the problem. My system is as perfect as it's ever going to get. Deal with it.

There, I've said it.

P. S. You can read my notes about the above photo, and view all the philophotos I've posted to this blog on my flickr page.

26 June 2006


I've finally finished rescuing the valuable information I captured in a reporter-style Moleskine earlier this year into my nice, roomy A5 Filofax.

As you can see in the picture, I didn't have any trouble writing in a 'skine, I just didn't like have having info, well, captured in there. Sure, I like the way 'skines look and feel and smell. And I can't honestly say I use my 'faxes any better than I used my 'skines. I'm still finding my way. I just decided that the best decision for the long haul would be to commit to a size (A5) and style (looseleaf) of paper that would give me maximum flexibility, interchangeability, legibility, and utility as the months and years went by.

Ah, but I hear you asking, can you draw nice pictures in your Filofax?

Well, in my case, that's a moot question. I couldn't draw for beans in my Moleskine!

But I've got some blank white paper for my pocket 'fax. One of these days I may surprise you with a sketch. Just you wait.

Hmmm...come to think of it, a little birdie told me that the 'skine watercolor paper really isn't great for watercolors. Not everyone finds 'skines to be the best drawing medium. What's stopping artists from cutting and punching their favorite sketch paper for a Filofax? That's what I want to see more of out there!

25 June 2006

It's Working...

In an earlier post, I talked about how I transferred a backlog of information from other systems into my new A5 Filofax. For a long time, I had fretted about that big file envelope. It hung over my life like a cloud. And as I started processing it, I was surprised how few original ideas I really had. It all seemed like variations on 2-3 themes. I think I actually stopped coming up with new ideas since I had no place to put them.

Well, I'm just about through the backlog. I say "just about" because there's just one little reporter-style Moleskine left that seems to still have usable stuff in it. I spend a little time every weekend going through it. And now something really cool is happening. New ideas. My brain is taking information it's had for a long time and finally putting 2 and 2 together, if that makes sense.

One of those new ideas was contacting Philofaxer and ultimately getting on this blog. I actually had a pretty good idea, it seems.

P.S. I've also processed those index cards I was talking about. Now I just have one Filofax To Do page in the middle of the weekly spread in my Pocket Filo. I have extensive To Do and Maybe Do lists in my A5, but one Pocket size page seems to be all I can actually do in a given week.

Mama's family, part deux

In the Comments section of the post "The 99-cent Solution," someone asked me how I keep 3 Filofaxes synched. The answer is, I don't. I'm copying my comment in response here, to bring it out to the front, in case anyone else had the same question (thank you, Blogger):

"I have separate A5 binders for personal (red) and work (black), with no crossover. If I end up taking personal notes at work or work notes at home, I just make sure to use a clean page, so "synching" is just moving one piece of paper.

When I write in the pocket filo, I use the paper like index cards, one issue per page, so I can pop that into a big book if I want to. That book mostly holds my personal calendar, shopping lists, and most-used addys and numbers.

Since the pocket filo is always with me, and I have a pretty good memory, I find I haven't been keeping the calendars synched. My current challenge is to figure out how to handle this. There's no real reason to copy appointments into the red A5 personal filo, although that book contains everything else...to-do lists, project notes, ideas, lists, plans.

The big work A5 with the daily pages was supposed to be this wonderful work record where I record my accomplishments by the hour. But I haven't been doing that. Whether or not my work gets done is documented automatically in other ways, without my having to do any extra writing. I'm allergic to redundancy, so I resist the extra documentation. And frankly, I don't like to see my wasted time documented in black and white!

Furthermore, when I'm at the office, I mark all appointments in iCal and have that calendar open on my screen all day. Usually, I find out about deadlines and meetings via email, so it's hard to resist just keying them into the computer calendar.

Currently, I'm tinkering with combining my personal and work A5's. It would strain the rings on my beloved red Belgravia, but it would free up the black A5 to fill a current void -- a kitchen counter book with me/hubby/household calendar with emergency numbers, appliance information, messages to each other, etc. Well, not exactly a void...there's a sloppy letter-size binder from Kinko's (sort of) doing that now, but I'd love to get that into the A5 paper size. I'm definitely NOT allergic to interchangeability!

P.S. After writing this post, I started using the daily pages in the work A5 again. This blog is proving to be good motivation for me after all!

24 June 2006

The Scientific Method, Applied

I have several hypotheses that I intend to explore in the coming weeks.

HYPOTHESIS 1: I would be able to carry a Mini-sized Filofax in my pocket.

PLAN FOR TESTING: Go to store. Stick Mini-sized Filofax in my pocket. Attempt to explain to store manager that I was testing Hypothesis 1. Call wife to be bailed out of jail after shoplifting arrest.

HYPOTHESIS 2: My life will improve if I purchase and use a Filofax that can fit into a pocket.

PLAN FOR TESTING: Depending on the results of my testing of Hypothesis 1, purchase Mini-sized Filofax. Fill it with blank pages, but no tabs. Perhaps use a variety of blank pages -- notepaper, address pages, project sheets, etc. Stick Mini Filofax in pocket. Use it. Leave A5 Filofax in bag or on desk more often. Make notes and record data in Mini Filofax. Transplant Mini pages into A5 binder when convenient. (Nota bene: It is unlikely that this hypothesis will be supported by the evidence if I am unable to perform this transplant, as a result of an incompatible hole-punch pattern.)

HYPOTHESIS 3: I will be a happier person if I revamp my tab system in my A5 Filofax.

PLAN FOR TESTING: Junk current tab system, under which I use tabs labeled "CALENDAR", "PROJECTS", "NOTES", "FINANCIAL", and "DATA". Replace with subject-specific tabs, such as "HOME", "WORK", "FORTHCOMING BABY", "SHOPPING", and the like. After making this change, evaluate happiness.

HYPOTHESIS 4: Our basement will not flood if I cover the drain outside our door with a specialized mesh cover.

PLAN FOR TESTING: Determine if such a specialized cover exists. If it does, purchase it. Install it. Await rainstorm. Pray.

23 June 2006

Calamity Befalls Even the Righteous

Nan's pseudo-pornographic photograph of her iPod case and Philofax, both sexed-up in red leather and oriented in a position described on page 126 of the Kama Sutra, reawakened my longstanding desire to increase the amount of Filo-porn on this site.

Then, my basement flooded. And the lives that my wife and I lead shot back 20 years in technological sophistication. We don't have internet access at home. We don't even have cable. If it weren't for my laptop's DVD-viewing capabilities, we might have been forced to open books. Luckily, I recently purchased the box set of the British Office, and my wife and I have been able to sit up in bed and watch it.

(We are largely confined to our bedroom, because the remediation efforts in our basement involved large, noisy machines that must be left on constantly for a period of three to five days. No joke. I thought we could mop up, vacuum the carpet, and get on with our lives. No such luck. We're a thunderstorm away from having to tear down our house and live in a tent.)

(Also, my wife can barely move because she is 7.5 months pregnant. That seems relevant, but I'm not sure why.)

So if I want to post up some Filo-porn, I am limited to what I have already Flickr-ized. Here, look at this. It's an irresistible combination of cute, furry puppy and cute, leathery Filofax:


22 June 2006

Dirty Little Secret

Index cards in my Filofax.

See, in the summer of 2005, I had been using a Palm Pilot for all of my organizational and most of my notetaking needs for about 6 years. I was good at it, too. I took meeting notes into it using a portable keyboard. I always, always, had every single address, phone number, and password I ever needed in it. I knew how to run Word and Excel on it. I had just taken it on vacation INSTEAD of a laptop, and worked on the plane and kept up with email using it. I read newspapers and magazines on its screen. I could get online with it by connecting through my cellphone via infrared. I never missed birthdays or appointments (unless I really wanted to). And yet, in the middle of that year, an organizational crisis hit me like a runaway Acela.

Looking at the world through a 2.5" inch square window was changing me. My abilities to prioritize, to ponder, to see the big picture were suffering. I was spending half a day a week troubleshooting my electronic system, because the software that synched the device's information was getting slower and buggier, not better. (What's up with that?) Plus, I had a chronically sore left shoulder from gripping the thing as I stabbed away at Graffiti or Tetris with my right hand. I had to change.

Meanwhile, about 1/3 of the population of North America had marched in lockstep to a bookstore, bought David Allen's Getting Things Done and a Moleskine, stopped off at Staples for manila files and index cards, then went home and started a blog about it. The next few months were a blur. A torturously difficult, time pressured project at work was upon me, and I had NO SYSTEM.

I spent a week transferring my life into Circus Ponies Notebook, then Aquaminds Note Taker. Then back to iCal and StickyBrain. Or could I really do everything on index cards, maybe with a Flylady 3-ring binder on the kitchen counter? But how would I keep work, home, and portability synched? Or was the need for synchronization just an illusion? 200 filled-up index cards later, I still hadn't found a solution. The beginning of my return to sanity was the Levenger Circa system. I read the GTD book and implemented it on these movable pages. But I hated the way the stuff looked and felt. Simpler tools kept beckoning. I still have some of that stuff waiting to be sold on eBay.

Then my Dad gave me 2 Moleskines for Christmas 2005, so it was time to give them a try. I decided to go all-analog, all-the-time for 2006, and not reanalyze again until the end of the year. I bought a dated diary, Moleskines in various shapes and sizes, and a fresh supply of index cards. I set up a manila 12-month/31 day tickler file like a good GTD'er.

Problem was, I'm allergic to redundancy. Anything I captured on an index card, sooner or later needed to be recorded somewhere else. Anything I wrote in a Moleskine often had to be rewritten somewhere else in order to be usable, since you can't move pages around. If I write something stupid, I need to be able to tear the page out and start over. I need to take two pages that are related and place them behind the same tab.

And so I tiptoed down to the basement, dusted off an almost-forgotten shoebox and found what I hoped would still be there. A well-used, tattered, Personal-size Filofax (actually, it was made by Coach) in royal blue leather. Abandoned for a decade, but accompanied by archives of pages that showed I had actually met a lot of life goals (and was still failing at others!) from 10 years earlier. I bought some new Filofax pages, and started using it, copying in the big file jacket of index cards, circa pages, and Moleskines I'd been carrying forward. I used it so well, in fact, that it was bursting at the already-worn seams in a week. Even the Personal size page was cramping my style.

So I made the leap to the A5 size for my "life book," with the Pocket size as my analog PDA. I dumped the contents of that old Coach organizer (and how I wish I'd taken a picture of it before trashing it) into the big, red file jacket, and started moving my life into Filofaxes. But a few remnants of my dailliance on the Dark Side remain...index cards slipped into my Pocket Filofax.

The next time I post a picture of this Filofax, those cards will be GONE.

Links Added

I've added some links to the list at left:

- Filofax USA is the official Filofax Web site for the United States market. Sorry, international visitors (Canadians included). I think you can figure out how to go to www.filofax.com and then select your own country.

- Goldspot.com is an online fountain-pen retailer that also has Filofaxes, leather goods, and other items of interest. They sell at a discount from list price and offer frequent promotions.

- The Paper Shop is the Web site of a Florida gift shop/stationer. I've included them because they seem to have every refill Filofax has ever made, even stuff that's not on the official site! When I placed my one order with them, though, they had to call me and have me repeat the order verbally, since the full item names don't come through the CGI. Also, they were out of stock on a couple items. Still, it's the only place I've been able to find my all-time favorite form -- the A5 Project Planner. Once we had my order items squared away, the rest of the purchase and shipment proceeded smoothly.

21 June 2006

The 99-cent solution

The problem with using a pocket-size Filo as your wallet (if you're a woman, as I am, and don't wear trousers with big honkin' pockets): there's no coin purse. Yeah, yeah, some models have a zippered pocket at the back, but I don't want to put change in there. It would make a big, ugly lump and distort the leather. I use the zippered pocket for a emergency piece of folding money and a couple of loose checks (so I don't have to carry a checkbook).

So I'm forced to carry a separate little change purse, as well as a card case for the cards that don't fit (and that I don't want) in my Filo's card slots (library cards, discount cards to stores I shop at maybe once a year, that type of thing). It's not as bad as it sounds. I keep those two tiny peripherals in a compartment of my handbag and only end up reaching into it about once a day. Everything I need to make a purchase is in my pocket Filo 99 percent of the time. If I want to travel light, I can take my pocket Filo and cell phone and leave the rest of the handbag at home.

Then I saw this: Always have correct change in your wallet

If you don't feel like clicking the link, it shows you how to make a card with coin slots that hold the minimum number of coins you need to make any amount of change from 1-99 cents (3 quarters, one dime, 2 nickels, 4 pennies). How cool would it be to have one of those, in plastic, with holes for the Filofax rings? It would fit into the organizer just like that post-it thingy. Then I realized you don't even need that. If you really only have to carry no more than 10 coins, maybe keeping them in the zippered pocket, or one of those plastic zippered pouches that go on the rings, wouldn't be so bad after all.

Mama's Family

Here are the Filos that currently organize my life. In future posts, I'll delve deeper into how I use (and fail to use) them. At left is the black A5 Finsbury Filofax that I keep on my desk at work. It holds a full year's one-day-per-page diary and, currently, not much else. The red A5 Belgravia in the middle is my personal everything book. It has a weekly calendar (vertical, just like the one in Philofaxer's A5) and tabs for various kinds of lists and notes. The turquoise pocket Finsbury is what I carry with me everywhere and currently sees the most use. It's my only wallet as well as my analog PDA (I'm a reformed Palm Piloteer, but that's another post entirely). And it's become my failsafe tickler. If I want to make sure I see or do something, in here is where it goes. That's why, as you can see if you look really closely, this week's spread bears a post-it, a jot-pad note, and a peel-off B&N coupon stuck directly on the diary page. The coupon expires soon, and although I may never use it, I want it to be in my face.

Reporting for Duty

It's true! I couldn't stand to see a good thing die! However, I remember the conversation completely differently. I thought it was more like:


Philofaxer: WHATEV.

What is this lumpish, slothful disease that strikes as soon as one is associated with Philofaxy? I've let over 12 hours elapse after that gracious introduction, and it's only my first day! Maybe I can redeem myself by posting a nice big picture. Yeah...that's the ticket! I call this one "Study in red."

P.S. Yes, that's a Lime iMac in the background. I use it as a paperweight.

20 June 2006

Philofaxer's Reign of Autocratic Terror Ends; Coalition Government Appointed

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one blogger to admit that he is a lazy and worthless lump of organic matter and dissolve his iron-fisted control over a once-promising blog that has fallen fallow, a decent respect to the opinions of bloggerkind requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the dissolution.

One afternoon, as I sat around indulging my laziness and worthlessness, the idea for Philofaxy struck me. Filofax is sorely underrepresented in the world of bloggery. Moleskines, you can't escape. Temples to the cult of Franklin Covey litter the landscape. Pocket planners with gilt-edge pages sold near the checkout at Barnes and Noble may be more widely discussed.

(Plus, come on: Philofaxy is a really cool name for a blog. With a name that cool, its existence was inevitable.)

So I delivered Philofaxy unto the world. And a small but devoted crew of fellow Filofaxers took notice. And we cavorted in the fields of Philofaxy, and I pretended not to be a lazy and worthless lump.

But the truth has a way of revealing itself. It can no longer be disputed: I am lazy and worthless, and fully incapable of maintaining a blog devoted to a rich subject like the love of Filofax on my own.

Enter Nan.

One fine television-soaked day, an e-mail arrived in my in-box from a devoted but disappointed Filofaxer. She accused me of being lazy and worthless, and I said, HOW DARE YOU TALK TO ME LIKE THAT, and she said, WELL, YOU DESERVE IT, and I said: FINE. DO YOU WANT TO JOIN PHILOFAXY? And she said: FINE. YES.

At least that's how I remember it. But, in fact, I'm pretty sure it didn't go anything like that at all. Except for the parts about Nan contacting me, rousing my from my listless state, and raising the possibility of Philofaxy's resurrection. It quickly became apparent to me that Nan would be a huge boon to Philofaxy.

Nan's been chomping at the bit to Philofaxize, and I will leave it to her to offer her thoughts. As I discovered when I started this blog, Nan and I are not the only ones out there who love Filofax. There are others. Many of them found their way here. Many of them have surely left, thanks to my laziness and worthlessness. It is time to return. It is a new era.

There's no plan. There's no written constitution. There are no articles of confederation, incorporation, or faith. We're going to wing it, like the schizo-nutso-bizarro Filofax-users we are.

Now, I have some TV to watch and a sofa to imprint with the contours of my buttocks.