01 July 2006

And then there were two

Yes, I've stopped using one of my three Filofaxes. The handsome, professional looking Black A5 Finsbury. In some ways I like it better than my personal A5 Belgravia...the Finsbury has larger rings and less puffy covers. I'm not a puffy kind of gal.

Anyway, I'll tell you what didn't work. I didn't like writing on the day-per-page pages at work. I was writing things that were already tracked in email or Excel (and where I would have no trouble finding them). A few other things were good to write down, but they'd work better in a notebook or a to do list than on a calendar page. And I don't really need a paper calendar at work at all, because I have iCal.

On a larger level, I realized the reason I don't need a Filofax at work is because I've come such a long way since the place I was at this time last year. Back then, I was a rock bottom. I had to start from "what information do I need to see and when do I need to see it?" and not being able to answer either question. My work and home lives were both suffering because I had limited myself to whatever fits into a Palm Pilot. The files on my computer were a jumbled mess, all of my email was in one big Inbox where I found what I wanted by searching and never deleted anything because that made me feel I was saving time. Coming up with new ideas, prioritizing a list, or tracking a goal were all beyond the capacity of my buggy software and stressed-out brain.

Now, my email and documents are in organized folders with a clear file naming system. My project folder icons are color-coded with iCal calendars. I can do tasks and ticklers either on index cards or in iCal, and both work equally well. When I switched to paper, I just wanted to be using the same format at work or at home, but right now, trying to contort my work matter into a Filo would be fixing what ain't broke. Rather, it might even break something that's working. iCal, Apple Mail, index cards, two letter-size binders for reference materials, a filing cabinet, and a notebook or two have it covered.

My work life is also in a steady state, and I'm working mostly on consecutive projects rather than juggling things. I can see how, if I were doing a job search, or if my job description changed drastically, I may well need to use a Filo for it again.

So, now you know I don't use a Filofax at work. What's in my A5 personal book?
- Vertical weekly calendar
- Tabs:
- - Next (for Next Actions), a vestige of GTD. To Do lists by context: Waiting, Calls, Email, Online, Errands, Home, Paperwork, Shopping, and Travel. The order of the pages roughly represents the order of urgency. If, say, online orders became temporarily more urgent than calls, I'd move that page forward to keep it in my face.
- - Checklists: 2006 Resolutions, Prototype Weekly and Daily routines.
- - Projects: My favorite section. One page per project, and I love Filofax's preprinted Project Planner pages. Just enough guidance without being obtrusive. I need my own handwriting to be the most prominent text on a page.
- - Lists: Alphabetical pages listing books to buy, clothes and where to get them, Filofax wish list, movies to see, someday/maybe do list, and so on.
- - Ideas: Another favorite section. I use blue paper in this one. Blog ideas, car ideas, computer ideas, charity ideas, financial/investment ideas, home remodel ideas, businesses and careers to pursue someday ideas, gift ideas, family/party ideas and so on, each subject on its own page, ordered alphabetically. These pages have consolidated and categorized all the stuff captured on index cards and other various and sundry places over the past year.
- - Notes: Alphabetically arranged pages of longer notes. Filofax notes and Journal pages are mostly what this section holds now, on white lined paper. If I were to start taking notes on, say, books as I read them, it would go in here. Any information I generate myself that doesn't fit into the category of list or idea. (NB: One of the weaknesses in my system is archiving these pages, along with agenda pages. I generate a lot of them. I'm not wild about the Filofax storage binder, and haven't been able to find an A5 binder in the states or even on eBay Canada. Furthermore, I sometimes take notes in an A5 Miquelruis notebook, which has 2 prepunched holes in the sheets. Currently, I have no way to keep those pages together with relevant pages generated in my Filo. Right now I'm just taping them into the notebook.)
- A - Z tabs: In addition to address pages, I keep source lists (all places to buy Filos on a page behind "EF"), and agendas (lists of things to discuss with people, on salmon paper, filed by the person's initial).

Oh, and in the back I have a credit card holder that I use to hold jot pads and Post-its, and a pad of plain white paper in the rear of the book.


  1. It would be difficult for me to divide my Filofax usage across a work planner and a personal planner. The primary use to which I put my calendar is formulating an answer to the question, "What the hell am I doing that day?" Having to consult two calendars (or three, since the bastards at work compel me to use Outlook) would cramp my style. In any event, neither my personal nor professional life is scheduled densely enough for a separate calendar.

    I really want to revamp my tab system, perhaps along the lines you use. My tabs are currently uber-traditional. My problem is that I am currently in the midst of a two-month period of 60-70 hour work weeks. I haven't even had time to browse online or in-store for the raw materials I will need for my ambitious plans. See, writing everything down doesn't make it go away. Damn.

  2. philofaxer - I sympathise. I did a month of 65-hour weeks last autumn. The only consolation is it's bliss when it's over!

    I'm currently experimenting with the layout of my A5 City Filofax. I'm replacing a page-a-day system that I've never really used regularly by printing out monthly calendars from iCal (at home) for tracking my time, combined with DIY Planner To Do sheets for daily tasks. I'm still trying to decide how the rest of it should go. There's a bit of crossover between home and work, but mainly I use whatever system my current employer wants for my work stuff.

    At the weekend I designed a divider/tab in Apple's Pages software so I can print my own dividers. Printing them onto glossy photo paper - I wait to see how it will stand up to general use. My one bit of advice is that you don't have to do the whole 'redesign' in one go - you feel you're getting somewhere even if you only do one small thing.