08 January 2011

Is there a better way to use your Filofax Diary?

Are you using your Filofax diary correctly, is there a better way?

I think you will agree with me that we read/hear a lot of comments from other users about trying to find the right dairy refill for their Filofax Organisers. We look at all the different Filofax sites and spy out other formats.

So why is this the case?

I think we are all making the same mistake, or most of us are, because I have evidence of one person using their Filofax exactly as the original designers intended it to be used.

So how many times have you read: That xyz format isn't suitable because......
  • It is too small, 
  • Not enough space to write in what I have on some days,
  • It is too big and it will fill up my organiser,
  • I need to see my week/month laid out before me.
I'm sure there are other 'reasons/excuses' but those are the main ones.

So what is a diary? Is it a record of the past? or a way of planning future events? or both of these activities?  Personally I like to separate out the two functions. One for past events and another for future events, but could I combine them in to one?

So I did a little on-line research, what is a diary? Well Wikipedia has this definition:
A diary is a record (originally in handwritten format) with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period.
So that seems to suggest 'the past' rather than the future.

Why not think about your diary insert as a record of past events, and may be use some of the planner sheets for organising future events.

A diary insert imposes some restrictions on your own organisation because it is pre-dated and because the space for each days events is also limited to the format you have chosen. 

However, because your Filofax is a loose-leaf planner, do you need to keep a full year in the diary section at any one time?

By archiving your diary sheets in to another Filofax organiser, then you would only need to keep say 3-4 weeks in the diary section at any one time?

If you find you can't adjust to the idea of not having the full 12 months of your diary in your Filofax, you could try recycling diary pages to the end of the year. So 'this week' is always at the front of your diary section, by the end of the year your diary will be back in the original order.

By using a dated format that say gave you enough space for a normal days worth of diary recording, then you could use undated sheets for days when you have something additional to record. Mixing dated and undated pages to cope the peaks and troughs in activity. This might mean that you could use a diary insert that uses fewer pages.

You would then not be using pages that have blank days in them or storing pages with blank spaces on them. 'Every page should be a wanted page' according to Ian Sinclair in the book Filofax Facts

When we are planning future events, the same principle could apply, using undated planner pages, rather than using the pages in your diary to record the details on, but only on days when we have events and appointments booked. No need for a lot of blank pages for dates when nothing is booked? By using planner pages in this way you can afford the space on a page to go in to greater detail about the event/meeting you are planning or attending.

Having a year planner will help you find free days because you can indicate with a coloured mark on days that are already booked in some way or other.

The Filofax Organiser when used like this is far more flexible than say a bound planner, because you can vary how many pages you dedicate to a single day or week or month. The number of pages can expand or contract to suit your needs. Add in other sheets such as to-do lists and a contact list and you have a very versatile planning/journal system at your finger tips.

These ideas came to me after reading the Filofax Facts book, which details the differences between dated and undated diary and planner sheets.

When the Filofax Facts book was written in the late 1980's the number of sizes of organiser where somewhat restricted compared to what sizes and ring capacities we have today. The Personal size Filofax would have been the most popular size sold back then. Even today that size has more diary and planner page options than any other size.  However, if you chose to start using undated pages they are very easy to create yourself for say an A5 organiser. In whatever size you choose to use, think of the space you could liberate!

For those of you that are using your Filofax Organiser for planning the busy social lives of children then may be a diary insert is the only answer? But if it's just your own life then may be some of my ideas might improve the way you use your Filofax and potentially reduce number of pages you are currently utilising in your Filofax, for recording and organising your life.

Finally, I toyed with idea of starting this post with 'I can show you how to use a Filofax Mini to record your next four years worth of appointment entries'.... but then I thought you would may be start to think that I had been on the French wine a little too much over the holidays!!!


  1. I am currently running a trial using day planner sheets. I have a week on 2 pages diary and a master to-do list. I then carry 5 day planner pages for the week. On a Monday morning I transfer appointments and tasks which I want to get done to the day planner pages. Once the day is done I remove the day planner page.

    Great post, it's nice to understand how the system was intended to work.

  2. We really need to get those books back in print. Or get permission for an electronic copy.

    What I do is something borrowed from the Franklin Covey system: I've got the week on two pages with a note page on the right. When I make an appointment I record it on right hand page for the present week. I usually keep three months in my binder, when I archive old pages and bring in the new ones I copy these future appointments to the applicable week's pages. I do this housekeeping about twice a month (usually on payday).

    Doing this does require having more than one binder, a working one and a storage one. I dont think anyone on this blog has only one binder.

  3. First, for the record: in the US when you say "diary" people automatically think the equivalent of "journal," which is a record of events and thus the past. When you refer to what you use in your Filofax it would be "planner" or less frequently "agenda" or sometimes simply "calendar."

    That said, I've struggled for years with using Filofax planner inserts. I have the "page too small/ book too big" problem. I need a big page size with large day spaces to write my appointments and to-dos for the day. But what is a large enough page size in the Filofax results in a too-big book to be portable enough for me.

    For people who have only appointments or minimal future-planning, a monthly calendar insert would be fine to capture those events. But for those of us who keep track of multiple people (kids, spouses etc.) we need large page sizes to keep up with school, projects, travel, bills, and personal events and activities.

    Another option is to use a Filofax as a companion to an electronic organizer, with most of the planning done on the device and backup planning in the Filofax.

    Part of the Filofax journey is figuring out what works best for you. And one of the best features of the Filofax is that you can use it differently in different stages of your life as your needs change.

    1. I'm with you with the "one is too small and one is too big" issue. Still trying to figure that one out!

    2. Laurie, thanks for making this distinction.
      First off, my planner book is a tool for planning the future. Diary, journal, daily review, daily notes, goes to Evernote. That's for archiving the past. Most of my "planning" is the daily, mundane stuff, so why would I want a record of that?
      Second, I have the "page too small, book too big" problem too. The solution for me is the FC Compact size. Same ring configuration as the FF Personal, so by adding Washi tape to the ring edges, then re-punching, I get a little more writing space, and can use the pages I already have. Bigger paper, still portable book that's smaller and lighter than an A5 or Classic. My Goldilocks planner.

  4. Finding the right system has always been my goal and I think I have found it and have posted it to my blog www.stampingbella.com/blog. Basically I keep the whole year in my Filofax personal in monthly format ( and there is a great filofax refill where months are independent where each month doesn't back onto another month. On the back of each month there is room for notes etc. Then I have a week on two pages for the current month only. If i need to record anything for future months i put it on the monthly and on the beginning of every month I transfer whatever I have on my monthly to the week on two pages and work from both. Now for everything else, I have an a-z index. Under each letter I have a phone number page and some note pages. Any note I have to take will be automatically filed. So for instance I am now working on preparing for a show... Let's say the show is called the lamp show.. I would file all of my lists, numbers used etc. Under L for lamp.. Numbers for insurance company i wouldn't file under the name proper but under the 'i' tab for insurance. Etc
    I cannot say how much this system has worked for me :)
    hope I wasn't too long winded!

  5. Dear Steve,

    brilliant post, as usual and to be expected from 006 ;-)

    After having read the post and all the comments, I feel like being an absolut beginner in FF things - after using it for more than 18 years.

    I'm sorry for admitting that I use my Filo as a planner, since - as Laurie stated - a diary is for recording things from the past. And - all the great comments have, at least for me, one thing in common: it's too complicated for me.

    I have ever since used the week on two pages as a planner for the whole year. I carry 14 months with me, because it's my favourite way of plannning ahead, as well as looking back on things that have already happened, and to know when they've happened. I agree, that it's a lot of fun looking back on entries. And a little entry can be a good help in remembering everything that happened on this very occasion.

    But the Wo2P has always been a good system for me, because I also use some to-do-lists, which I - if needed - can move from one week to another. Because the FF has a ring binder, other than a bound planner book.

    This is what makes the difference for me: the ring binder. I can easily move pages from one place to another, and I can combine different sizes of notes: Personal, Pocket, or the jot pads.

    But maybe the greatest difference is, that I'm not writing a diary, but using a planner, and the interchangeability of inserts.

    Maybe this would be a great topic for the next Philofaxy round-up.

    Once again, Thank you! all for the great post and all the inspiring comments,


  6. *slaps wrists for saying diary and not planner* :D

    To me a diary is for both future and past events. I would have said that in the UK, most people would "check their diary" to see if they are free, not "check their planner/calendar"...

    Either way, it's still fun to play about with whatever system you are using at the time. :)

  7. Excellent post Steve, and a good topic.

    I think there will be almost as many answers to this as we have readers.

    To me, it is a planner, and diary, what is the use of making plans if there are no results written down to evaluate the plans you made?

    I use a 2ppd format. In the notes, appointments get an Alpha designation, and the to do's get a numeric designation. Occasionally there will be a to do connected with an appointment then it gets both such as A3. These go in the notes with the proper code in the margin so that it pulls everything together. I don't know anybody that has more than 26 appointments in a day, nor anybody that has more than 15-20 to do items, so this works for me to keep track of everything.

    There are times when the notes on any one subject are more than I want to include, then they are entered in my journal with the same system. I always put my current journal page at the top of each diary page so I can find it quickly. For instance I see today's journal page is 23-114, or volume 23, page 114 of my daily journal.

    I keep other records, each referring back to my diary, so I can find just about anything quickly and easily. It is a very simple system, it works well for me, and has been a tremendous aid over many years.

  8. For clarity, I was just trying to get everybody on the same page with the terminology. Here in the UK people say "dairy" when in the US we would say "planner." "Diary" in the US means a past-record only, where here in the UK it means planning and also as a past record, if I understand it correctly.

    Steve can you clarify if UK people mean planning-only when they say "dairy," or can it also mean something like a journal?

    Sorry I don't mean to hijack the post due to semantics! I just wanted to clarify the terminology so that when we all talk about our uses we know if we mean planning, recording or both.

  9. I don't think it is semantics! There is clearly a cultural difference here.

    I'm British, and I would say that "diary" here means both planning and recording... So for example...

    "Are you free next Tuesday to take afternoon tea with the Queen?"

    "I'm not sure, I'll just check my Diary"

    Recording (Journaling):
    "Dear Diary... today I was abducted by aliens and taken to their planet where filofaxes are free and you can generate your perfect insert by telepathy..."

    Please note that I made some of those entries up... I have never been invited to tea with the Queen. :)

    1. Nellie, would you be a dear and send some of those aliens my way?

  10. Hi everybody,

    seems I'm somewhat in between and have added to the confusion. In Germany we have a "Kalender" which is usually a planner, and a "Tagebuch" which is a diary - at least for some of you ;)

    I try to stick to British English, but in this case is't absolutely hard for - sorry...


  11. I think this is an interesting post. Not sure how handy it would be to use undated sheets for planning though. Say you have a client on the phone and want to schedule an appointment, and there is no sheet for that date yet. I picture myself opening the rings, taking out a new sheet, putting it in the appropriate place and writing in the appointment, all with one hand holding the phone.
    I use a combination of week and day sheets, and just posted a description on my blog.

  12. Ha ha! Oh dear! It's all quite confusing isn't it?

    Can you imagine the potential for dreadful misunderstandings at the UN, given we are confused about diary/planner/calendar?

  13. Okay...I think I am completely confused now about all the terminology, so I will describe the inserts and say how I use them...
    I use a year at a view to mark birthdays, major work deadlines and holidays on, using different colour highlighters for the different categories.
    At work I put appointments in my week-on-two-pages thing (diary/planner/calendar...?) and I prefer the vertical layout with times slots. I use the space at the bottom or a separate sheet to record my daily to do list.
    At the end of each day, I record what happened in my day and how it went in a Ciak day-to-page A5 thing (journal/diary/book...?)
    So, my Filofax is only used to plan, not to record.
    Has that now just further muddied the waters???

  14. @Amanda: I also use a bound book to record past events. I could use the Filo, but I've been using Mead Desk Diaries as a part of my system for so long, I do not want to risk retiring them.

  15. Hi Everyone,
    Sorry I've been travelling all day up through France on my way back to UK for a couple of weeks. It looks like you have all been having fun after my post went live this morning!!

    I'm typing this on the cross channel ferry on my way to Portsmouth.

    Anyway, planners or diaries!! Yes much confusion. And yes it is very much a regional thing. But in the context of my post I have used the British understanding of both terms, or as I under them. Filofax being British and Ian Sinclair being British then it should hold the same context.

    I will do my best when I get back on dry land to read through all of the comments and respond accordingly. It will also help having a bigger screen and a proper keyboard!

    Sent from my iPod !!!

  16. LOL Nellie!! In your example, in the US we would use our "planner" to book our appointment with the Queen, and we would write about our alien abduction in our "journal."

    Paulien I agree, I don't find blank pages to be useful for planning ahead. I like to use them for daily overflow though, or notes/ lists.

  17. Forgot the most important thing Steve, what was the brand and the vintage of that good French wine?

    I do use un-numbered sheets, but only between the day on the 2ppd format. So that format sometimes grows to 4ppd and very rarely 6ppd.

    It is great seeing all the comments this has generated. I am enjoying reading them all.

    Thanks Steve.

  18. Dear Steve,

    this post has had everything from Filofax, over linguistics, to French wine. Please go on posting controversial topics like this!!!!!!! ;)


    1. I'm with Thomas on this, Steve. Love the tangents, this is what works for me, and mostly, the good-natured humor that transcends "the pond". I'm in the US, so this is my first morning read.

  19. Paulien - To handle phone calls, people dropping by (they may be requesting something), or recording other bits of random info, I've put about 4 - 6 blank pages right in the very beginning of my Filofax (right after the clear plastic page). Then I always have a page available for the notes, etc. If something big and takes up whole page then I take out of rings and move to other section, calendar or projects area. If it's a note about a task that can be done quickly, I do right away and cross out when finished, then keep using remaining paper until used up, at which point I pull out and insert clean page. Lastly, if a task will take longer or it is a small bit of info I want to keep, I record it where it should go in other section and again cross off and continue using sheet. I always have blank sheets available to deal with spur of moment items, then file them away when I have more time later. Just some ideas for you!

    Also, Steve, I do the planning you mention - I'll take a blank sheet out and add the date of the event, then use it for lists, notes, etc. and then add to calendar according to the date, works pretty good.

  20. This has been a really interesting discussion. Is this another hint that maybe a discussion forum would be useful?

  21. ooh Steve a rather controversial but extremely useful post! I dont think I would use the undated pages in this way or use my filofax as a record for past events only. I find that my main filofax Adelphi works well for me currently as I use it to schedule appointments and use sticky notes to fill in to dos so I can always see what needs to be done. However now that I am adding a PhD to the mix I will have to see if this set up continues to work as well as it has done :-)

  22. Hi Everyone.
    Now finally arrived in the North West England. Yesterday was driving up through France, and a delayed crossing to Portsmouth. We stayed in a hotel over night there before driving up to Wirral today.

    Anyway... I didn't intend to stir up things with my post. Honest... and I hadn't posted it with the intentional timing that I wouldn't be about for over 36 hours after it got posted!!!

    No, I'm well past the days of stirring people up, upsets too many people and you lose too many friends that way.

    Right a bit more thinking time. And to try and answer some of the questions.

    For Laurie's benefit, I think people in UK universally use the word diary for recording future and past events. Shoot me down folks but rarely have I heard people in UK refer to a planner apart from a wall planner, which would cover a whole year in rows.

    In France Agenda seems to be the phrase used. And in Germany Kalendar (sorry my Germany is absolute zero. so the spelling is likely to be wrong!!)

    In UK if you said calendar in paper things it's normally a wall calendar.

    I'm pleased though that my post has got people thinking, and also you have shared your ideas with us which really it is what it's all about.

    Nellie, the topic of a discussion Forum has been raised before recently, not sure if it was you? Sorry I apologise if it was. But have you taken a look at the Flickr Group Discussion area? I will put some thought in to addressing this issue as a post in its own right... as there are pros and cons to having another outlet for Philofaxy.

    As always with any of my posts they are not hard and fast rules that I'm telling you that you must follow... no not at all. They are always just suggestions and may be something will click in to place and bingo you might discover something from one of these suggestions that suddenly starts to make your Filofax work even better for you, which would be great.

    I don't see any harm in reviewing how we use sections of our organisers to see if we can improve or change or dare I say justify why we do what we do.

    As I was referring back to the 1980's it also shows how we have moved on from that era of 20-30 years ago. The product might essentially be the same product.... but the way it is used now is very much different.

    I have no idea, but I wonder if we could travel back in time to 1985 how many people back then were using more than one Filofax? Not many I would guess... so if you think about that then the usage would be different and possibly similar to some of my suggestions.

    To finish off... can I please thank you all for commenting on the post, you are all very good natured in the comments and I thank you for your time in commenting.


  23. When I first read this post, I had a comment I wanted to leave, but now, I can't for the life of me remember what it was. I loved reading all of the comments though! This is a perfect example of why Filofax works for so many people - because each person can make it into what they need and use it the way they want to. And the difference between how everyone uses their own is what makes the discussions so great!

  24. This is a very useful post. As a result I am planning to keep my years calendar on a "Month to Two Pages" insert (just ordered) and keep just my "Week on Two Pages" for the current month. This way I get the flexiblity of the space for my monthly planning whilst considerably reducing the bulk of my Filofax.

  25. I think Filofax UK must have the most annoying website for buying stuff. I keep trying to buy stuff (I want a few things and have been browsing as well), plus I keep getting interupted and having to open another window (with filofax one still open) and it keeps emptying my basket so I have to start all over again!!! It's done it three times so far, even when I just changed the planner size (I have more than one and was ordereing accordingly) - I'm just going to leave it now until tomorrow and see if it behaves any better then!

  26. I had the same problem on the Filofax USA website! It lost my entire order when I started browsing in a different size. I ended up memorizing everything I wanted to order and just choosing the items one after the other!

  27. I use my filofax diary as my 'done list'. I used to be a major procrastinator, & I'm finding writing down what I've done or achieved encouraging. On Sunday, I looked back & felt pleased with my week


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