08 December 2010

Guest Post: Task and Time Management with Filofax - Jotje

Thank you to Jotje for sending me this article about how she uses her Filofax for Task and Time Management, several of you requested the details in the comments recently.

Okay, since some of you asked, I’ll finally detail my current Time management system for my personal Filofax.
I’ve been using an A5 Filofax solely for work and a Mini for private. However, I discovered that this didn’t work as well as it should be. While I was rereading Julie Morgensterns books, one sentence really hit home: you only have ONE life, hence you only should use ONE planner. It does make sense!
Then I met this beauty

My decision to downgrade to Personal size was made that very instant! I could go on and on about the wonderful leather quality and it’s smart setup (I love that little zipper pocket on the lefthand side), but there’s been enough praise of the Malden already and no one is waiting for my repetition.
Back to the TM setup.
Step 1: 

I first defined which life categories I have and want to spend my time on. In my case that is:
1)     Business I share with DH (green)
2)     My own translation business (blue)
3)     Family (orange)
4)     Relationship (pink)
5)     Home (yellow)
6)     Me (purple)
I‘ve added the corresponding colour, more about that later.
Step 2: 

What big-picture goals do I have for each of these categories? To keep a general overview I kept it at no more than 3 goals. I have written the goals each on a sheet of note paper in the corresponding colour. They are all after tab 6 of my Filofax.

Step 3: 

What activities will help me to achieve my set goals?
I wrote those on the backside of the coloured note paper.
Step 4: 

Then I made  a time map. I have used a blank time map in A5 format, that I had left-over from my Time/System days. After completing it, I shrunk it on the copy machine and punched it to fit into my Malden. There’s plenty of Time Map Templates on the internet btw! The important feature is that it has printed hours and weekdays.
I first defined the fixed time slots, like “waking up”, “getting kids ready to school”, “lunch hour”, “cooking and dinner”, “fetching kids from school”, clubs you may attend etc. (Advice: Do it in pencil so you don’t feel inhibited to just jump at it. If you change your mind, you can easily change the sheet.)I find it vital to create time blocks and make them visual. So if I  lunch at 12.00 h and it takes me an hour, I block out the timeslot from 12.00 to 13.00 h.
For the remaining time blocks I decide on which life category I want (or have) to spend it on. I write the category down, and specify according to the activities list I made in Step 2. For example for the green section (shared business with DH), I have hours blocked for administrative work, acquisition and meetings.
After I finished my time map, I highlighted the time blocks in the corresponding colour of my life categories. I’ve done that with coloured highlighters. My timemap is sitting behind Tab 2 in my Filofax, in front of the 2PPW refill.

Step 5: 

I note down appointments on my weekly pages. I’m using a week in columns format with appointment times (behind Tab 2) so that I can block out the appropriate times of an appointment. Before I agree to an appointment I quickly check my Time Map to see if I am really available on that specific time. Nothing is as misleading as empty and blank weekly pages, because you easily get the impression that there’s seas of time! While in fact, I had already committed that time to my home or family in my time map! Obviously there’s situations when you have an overlap, but then you get to “swap” those dedicated time slots against each other (e.g. if you meet with a customer during the time you reserved for weekly errands, you’ll do the errands a work-related time slot. Obviously this is possible if you are self-employed. However your boss might not like you to go shopping during office hours ;-)).

Step 6: 

Todo’s. I have my Todo sheets behind Tab 1. On the top of the sheet I note the month and then the sheets get numbered. At the end of the month the uncompleted Todo’s are transferred to the next month (even if I don’t plan to do them for several months; I find it’s important to get a constant reminder, so I’ll know that I am planning to do them at any given time). The old Todo’s are then getting archived.
Since I only have ONE planner, ALL Todo’s get noted, in no particular order. “Sending proposal”, “buy new shoes for DD” and “make plans for next years holiday” are all noted alongside. For a visual separation I highlight the Todo-line with the appropriate colour marker (again: orange for family, green/blue for work etc.). Another option might be to have one Todo-sheet (or section) for each life category, maybe even on coloured paper. I have not tried this.
When I write down my Todo, I add the date to the left. Then when I’ve done it, I check the box and at the completion date. I am doing this so that I can find back notes on any Todo. I’ll get to that in a minute.
When I note my Todo’s I also think about when I want to do it. If it has a fixed deadline, I note it in the blank area of the relevant weekly pages.

Step 7: 

Your daily plan:
Each night I draw up my daily plan. My daily pages are behind Tab 3. I check the Todo’s on my Weekly pages and decide on what specific day I need or want to do them. On the righthand side of my 2PPD-pages I note the list of Todo’s to be completed on that particular day.
On the left hand side, I first block out the fixed time slots (getting kids to school, lunch hours, fixed appointments). Then I check my time map for what time I have reserved for which category and assign a timeslot for each and every todo on the righthand side. This means you have to train your estimation skills! How long does it take you to write that proposal? Treat every Todo as an appointment! 

Now, the lefthand side of the dialy pages has 2 columns. All of the above is written in the lefthand column. For the righthand column I have found several purposes. One: I note appointments of my DH, so I’ll know if he’s out on any given moment and if I need to arrange for our babysitter during that time. I also write down which of our four kids has to go to what afterschool activity or playdate and at what time she or he needs to be picked up again. Third: if a task has been planned for 30 minutes and eventually took me much longer or shorter, I mark this on the right with a pencil line. That way I hope to improve my time estimation skills.
At the end of the day, I review my daily plan. Todo’s that didn’t get done and need to be transferred, are immediately written on next day’s Todo list.
That way I don’t need to carry months worth of daily pages with me. I usually carry only 2 to 3 weeks of daily pages.
I am currently using the Day Planner pages from Filofax to tide me over to the next year, when I will be using the FF 2PPD format. Here is a picture:

What else is in my Filofax? 

The weekly pages are divided with the monthly register tabs. Yes, it’s annoying that the weeks get “split up”, but I got used to it pretty fast.
Behind Tab 4 are my Notes pages. I date all notes and at the end of the month, I archive them together with the past weekly and daily pages.

For quick reference I have added a red sticky tab that says “Notes”.
Behind Tab 5 I have 2PPM sheets that carry the very irregular working schedule of my DH. Since I have to maintain this schedule, I find it invaluable to always have it with me. To find the current months as fast as possible, I have added a yellow sticky tab with “Maand” on it (which is Dutch for “Month”).

I use the slimline address register for the login names and passwords of frequently visited websites.

In the back of my Filofax are 2 plastic envelopes for tickets, receipts or anything I don’t dare to loose.

In the front I carry some paracetamol in the zipper pocket, so I’m prepared should a serious headache come up. Behind this zipper I’ve managed to stuff a small ink eraser pen. Since I write with a fountain pen, I like to be able to change things neatly. My Lamy is tucked in the rings, because the pen loop is occupied with my BIC pencil.
And here’s a side view of my fat and invaluable life companion!
Other Time Management Tools I use: 

A large monthly planner in the office, that’s a copy of his working schedule. It’s actually a Printout of the monthly Outlook pages in a common A4 sized ring binder.
A Weekly Family Planner, with a column for each family member. It also has a plastic overlay sheet to note down the recurrent events (like after school activities of the kids, classes my DH or I attend etc.). It  hangs on a prominent place in the kitchen and functions as a control center. I update this planner every Sunday night.
The Organised Mum Life book, a 2 Pages-Per-Week ringbound planner that has my cleaning and household schedule in it. It lays open on the counter and I refer to it during the time slots that are marked as “Family” or “Home” time. It also has the weekly menu plan. Menu's are written noted with a red Stabilo pen, so it stands out.

Well, that’s about it! Hope you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to comment!


  1. This is awesome Jotje, thank you!! Where did you buy that wonderful Filofax week on 2 pages with the days as vertical columns?? I've been wishing for that for ages! I love how the Notes space is at the bottom of the page so the daily columns aren't too narrow.

  2. Laurie:

    The reference number is 6848411


    On the Belgium site...


  3. Jotje. Thanks so much for sharing your fantastic system. It is amazing! I always wanted to know how you juggled your work and family life with 4 children and hubby. When I finsh work later I am going to have a more in depth read to see how I can utilise some of your ideas.
    I also like the mum's book. It is a lovely shade of teal.
    I think the vertical week on 2 pages would work for me really well. I shall have to keep this in mind for 2012 as I already have my diary inserts for next year.
    Again an absolutely wonderful system!
    Thank you

  4. The same layout, but in pink is available on this site:

    Or how about his one from Exacompta? http://www.amazon.fr/Exacompta-Recharge-17-2x10-5cm-jan-d%C3%A9c2011-Multilingue/dp/B001ANTJBM/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1291816771&sr=8-1-fkmr0

  5. Hi Jotje

    Fantastic post - thank you for sharing. You have certainly given me much to think about while (like so many others) I'm trying to settle on the right system for me for 2011. I *do* believe in the 'one life' one system' philosophy, and there are a lot of ideas here which, if applied properly, might just enable me to continue with the Personal format. I really don't like lugging the A5 around, especially at the weekend (during the week it goes in my briefcase), and the Personal fits really well in the hand during the weekends. I'm going to go through this in detail and see what I can apply to my own situation.

    Thanks again


  6. Oooh loving this post! Many ideas I can pinch also. Thanks for sharing, Jotje! :)

  7. Thanks guys!
    Just discovered that Filofax France is selling very similar (though not the same)2PPW inserts.

  8. Jotje, again thank you for letting us 'in' to look at your Filofax.

    I can't remember if it was during the chat on Sunday or during the meet up in London. But I did comment that we can all look at blank diary formats for ever more... but seeing one filled in and how someone is using that particular format gives you a far better idea as to how you might use that particular format or size.

    Seeing one with hand writing on it gives you a better clue about is there enough space to write in.

    And in future when I review different formats or sizes I will endeavour to write some dummy entries in so you can at least get a better idea on the suitability for yourself.

    So thank you Jotje, lots of valuable lessons learned for us all.

  9. I am so impressed! It's so nice to see a personal size Filofax hard at work, and ultimately functional and focused. I'll definitely use some of your ideas. I have a crimson Malden also. It is special and more pleasing to USE then most. Thank You for sharing.

  10. Thank you for this Jotje - I feel I have to read it a few times to take it in. However I am confident that you have some really good ideas that will make my life so much easier! I had thought about separating my work and home life into two filofaxes - but am now rethinking. I love the idea of having a home book. Lots and lots to think about! Thank you again.

  11. Jotje,

    So inspiring! I'm looking forward to reading it again and picking up some fresh ideas!

  12. What an informative post! Thanks for sharing your life management system. Plus, the photos are gorgeous, too.


  13. I'm somewhat mystified to find today (on going to order the WO2P diary pages you've been using, how many of the EU Filofax websites seem not to have internet shopping facilities! Most odd. I can order the French version (they have internet shopping) but can't order from Belgium, The Netherlands, etc. Filofax - why can't you standardise this please? Its very irritating!

  14. Wow, I love how many photos there are in this post!! I love nosing around people's filofaxes!

  15. This is a great post! Thanks so much for sharing in such detail! One of the coolest things you mentioned is carrying your fountain pen in the rings; I have a Lamy too and it fits just perfectly in my personal Finchley!

  16. Thank you Jotje, this is so interesting! I had just changed to a Trinote after Laurie's postings on Plannerisms. And I must say: I'm loving it!! But seeing your red Malden being used in such a thoughtful and practical way, makes me feel a little homesick for my red Malden.....
    I think the order in which you've placed the different sections: to dos, weekly, daily, notes, etc.etc is brilliant!!
    Oh dear, I feel inspired to setting mine up in an almost similar manner to give it a try :) If only copying all info from one planner into the other was not so much work.....

  17. Hi

    Nice pictures you uploaded.

    But I have one question... Isn´t it hard to quickly find what to do when you are looking at all your to do´s when they are written to one list only?

    I´m trying to do it the "GTD-way"... Implementing my Filo in the way the Getting Things Done-system is ment to be.

    How about the other Filo-users out there.. How are you managing your To Do´s??

    Here is a guide how to set up an paper-planner the "GTD-way" for those who are intererested. This guide is free of charge.


  18. @P: For my situation I had two different ways to approach my Todo's: on ONE list per month, with no particular order, or one sheet for each Life Category. I chose the first, because I want to be able to archive the list at the end of the month. Items that didn't taken care of, will be transferred to next months list. For a better distinction of the Life Categories the Todo's belong to, I highlight them in their appropriate colour.

    I have downloaded the GTD-document you mention. Personally I don't agree with avoiding Daily Todo lists and writing the action list on Post it-Notes so that they can be moved to another day.
    I believe in treating Todo's as appointments. When I put a daily Todo on my list that is critical for that day, I immediately assign a time for it and move it onto the appointment schedule. That way, I can avoid to have way more Todo's on my list than I have actually time to do them. Should there be 1 or 2 actions I didn't get to, I first evaluate why this happened (did another task take up more time than estimated? was there an unexpected interruption?), then I move it to the next day.
    If I had that list on a Post-It it would give me the impression that the actions on it are not that critical, and that I can easily move them to another day. But I need myself to be really dedicated to carrying out my specific actions! Putting them on my appointments schedule, doesn't leave me so much room to fool around and procrastinate .... because the next task is already around the corner!

  19. @Jotje

    There are many ways to do stuff, I´m not saying that my way is better than yours.

    I prefer to have my calender to strictly calender-stuff, as appointments, things that have to be done a particular day.

    I have all my todos on a list, for exampel, work, waiting-for (W), Phone/Mail (W), Home, Agendas (people I want to talk to and about what)...

    If I put todo´s on my calender, as you do, and if I don´t do all of them... well in my case there is a lot of re-writing of them... putting them to - in worst case - the next week.

    Instead I flip to the appropriate list and punch them of one by one.. for instans.. at work I read the list for work specifik todo´s, phonecalls or mails I have to handle, etc.

    By having them on contextual lists, there will not be any re-writing of them, ´cause there are on the appropriate list. I use an marker so I can see them even when they are done.

    This works for me ;-)

    I wonder how the other readers of this blog handle there todo´s.

  20. Thanks guys! I really learned so much from your comments...very informative ideas...

    Managing Time and work life balance are not very easy to achieve...

  21. Great set-up Jotje,
    I am trying to down grade from an a5 Finsbury time management filofax
    As it is just to bulky to be practical.
    Your system seems to have all the benefits of the time management system while being far more portable.
    I especially like the weekly overview and particularly the two pages per day, and would be great if anyone could tell me where I could purchase the TPPD in the UK.

  22. Danny, you can order them at Filofax.de (link: http://www.filofax.de/store/diaryrefillsdetails.asp?productId=2416) and have them sent to the UK for an additional 4.50 Euro.

    Despite the fact that the refill is multilingual, it apparently is not sold in the UK.

    I've also downgraded from an A5 Finsbury. After months, I'm still happy with that decision! I use my Filofax far better now.

  23. Jotje,
    Your system is quite clever. Better than the TM system, actually.

  24. I've tried and tried to recreate your time map but have been unsuccessful. Also unsuccessful finding a template on line. Can you share your template? Great post!

    1. I am trying to find one of these as well. Anyone have any links on the time map??

  25. Yes, I would love a link to the time map used above also!

  26. Beginning with 2013, I will make a switch from the A5 to a personal organizer. Much of the reasoning behind this switch is explained in your post. I need to be more mobile and to have more access to my planner. Jotje, thanks for your insights and personal judgement in this matter.

  27. Oh, so sorry for not answering your question sooner!
    There is actually a free downloadable template on the German timesystem website:
    I just printed it at about 60% to have it fit my personal Filofax.

  28. Love this post Jotje TFS your system ! Could you tell me where you got the family planner from ? I love the idea of the clear front to keep recurring things on.

  29. Thanks for sharing your system Jotje. I was wondering where you got your family planner from ? I love that clear front page to keep the recurring appointments on.

  30. Sounds Interesting! For any management task, Replicon time recording software ( http://www.replicon.com/olp/online-time-recording-software.aspx ) can be the perfect choice. In my opinion and experience with this software, you are bound to expect no issues or problems in using it.

    With awesome features and flexibility that could do almost everything you would want, this software proves to be the best compared to any other time tracking software out there in the market.

  31. This post is timeless!