14 February 2011

Task and Time Management with your Filofax

This is a short introduction to a series of articles to help you (and me) get the most from our Filofax Organisers, whether you only have one or several of them.

I think before we get stuck in to this topic too deeply I think it's worth stating the following:
  • Just because you have a Filofax doesn't automatically make you an organised person... although it can of course help you become one.
  • It doesn't matter which organiser you own, the content of your organiser is more important to becoming an organised and efficient person. This is no different to having an expensive digital SLR camera, until you know how to use it, you will still make the same mistakes as you would with just a point and shoot camera.
  • Which particular organiser, style, colour, material etc, is a very personal choice and for now we will put that choice to one side and concentrate on the content of our organisers and how we use them to achieve your goals in life.
  • There is not just one way to use a Filofax to organise your life/work etc. We all have different demands on our time. Some of the ideas we will share through these articles you might already be using, which is great. Some might not work for you, why not? Tell us, we might be able to suggest a variation. Let's learn and share together.
  • I don't pretend to know everything there is on this topic, so I would like to ask you now, if you have any input then please contact me with your own ideas, which I will include in future posts or as a guest post on their own. 
What we hope to cover over the next few weeks are the following topics:
  • Why Manage Your Time? The benefits, advantages, improvements for you;
  • Online resources - website,  articles, templates etc;
  • Book reviews - which ones are worth reading? 
  • Filofax Time Management inserts, courses;
  • Case Studies - how different people use their Filofax organiser to help them get things done/manage their time;
  • And anything else that we discover that is relevant to the topic.
To get us started, you might like to take another read of Jotje's excellent guest post on how she has set up her own Filofax. As you can see it's still one of our most popular articles on the blog. Lots of useful tips and some great info in the comments too. What can you learn from this article, what have you started to use?

I'm looking forward to learning and sharing our thoughts together, lets make it both informative and enjoyable too...



  1. I'm really excited about this! I just got my first Filofax this weekend.

  2. This is a brilliant idea. Really looking forward to future posts.

  3. I look forward to reading these posts. I think I might have some ideas to share, but I will think about them a bit more and then email them.

  4. Oh I'm quite excited to read the future posts for this! Great idea!

  5. On February 17, there will be a webnar about paperplanners and GTD. Look for gtdconnect.com

  6. Thank you this is just what i need!!! ive been trying to be organised and it isnt working, ive done loads of reserach but this may be what i need!! Im excited!!! :D

  7. Hi Steve, yet another great effort! I'm really looking forward to learning just a bit more. I will try to contribute wherever I can. Thomas

  8. I am looking forward to this. Jotje's guest post was fantastic so hopefully there will be some more guest posts included too.
    I think simplicity is the key so will probably blog some of my own ideas too :-)

  9. I'm really looking forward to this series!

    My best way of working (though not perfect) is to have a global list of 'To Do' (that sits behind a tab in my filofax), with a bit of an indication of how urgent a task is (indicated by * to *** - that way, as it gets more urgent, I can add more *!)

    The first part of my work day goes a bit like this:
    1) check my diary to see what's on
    2) check my to-do list
    3) Plan my day (which of those ten zillion things on my to-do list will go into today, and roughly when?). I tend to run a daily to-do (using scrap paper roughly A6 in size, landscape format, punched with 3 filofax-spaced holes, that I put into my ff so that I can still see what I am supposed to be doing today - they worked better with the horizontal format diary if I'm being honest, but I prefer the vertical for work!). Really important things get a time slot scheduled too.
    4) Prepare the day (read minutes/prep for meetings/prep my teaching/get student record files ready etc)
    5) Gulp. This doesn't really happen easily - check my emails and try and sort all of them into 'information (store sensibly)'; 'to-do' (put on to do list); trash; until all my inbox is 'gone'.
    I got the 5-stage system from an online time-managemnt place (I think time-management ninja - http://timemanagementninja.com/)

    So far it's working well for me (but my life is pretty uncomplicated!). I'm sure I will pick up some great tips from everyone though!

  10. Amanda, great idea with the *** to indicate priority! I've used the FC ABC method, but you're right -- the stars make it much easier to change priority upwards!

    CP - I think simplicity is important too, which is why I like gsd ;-)

  11. Thanks Petra!

    Found the time management ninja post:

    I generally do okay until step 5! :-)

  12. Well done Steve, I am looking forward to this.

    "Owning a Filofax does not make you an organized person." Brings to mind the paraprosdokian of "Going to church doesn't make you a chirstian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car."

    Much to learn, and I am sure there will be many ideas put forth that one may be able to adopt to their current system.

  13. This might be helpful too (replace most of the 'systems' with a filofax!)


    I think that knowing your system is always going to help you use it, and planning it around yourself is sensible (but in my workplace, usually overlooked!).

    Hope that helps guys.

  14. Looking forward to this series and I am sure that I will learn loads. Just reviewed Jotje's post and there was lots of useful take away tips in there.

    I love her daily to do pages... off to have a search for them (I don't remember seeing them in Filofax UK).

  15. Crofter I love those quotes!! Will have to remember them

  16. I agree, this sounds like a great idea. I am a bit of a "traditional" user in the sense that I basically use my Filofax how it came - just for a diary, to do list and that's about it. However, I work in corporate and take copious amounts of notes, so I would be interested in how I can best use a Filofax (maybe an A5 size?) to record my notes and use as a time management mechanism.

  17. @Princess

    I have a whole Filofax full of them. I keep the new and most current in a pocket slimline. Once a month I copy them into a personal filed alphabetically under such title as "on Life" , "on Agriculture", "on democracy", and on and on. These are quotes I have gathered over 30 years or so. When I am asked to speak in public, I can go to my Commonplace Book, where I can come up with something appropriate for what ever subject I want.

    The added bonus is that I always have something interesting to read as I have the pocket with me all the time.

  18. hi Crofter

    Great quote....I'm going to print that one out and stick it right in the front of my FF!

  19. @gdidesu I'm signed up for the GTD and paper planners webinar on Thursday.....is anyone else registered?

  20. Wow, look at that? The sheer mentioning of my guest blot had it rocket up in the list of most popular posts LOL

    Meanwhile I have made one change to the system (due to some related comments). My Todo-list is no longer an unorganized colourful bucket. I now have one Todo-Sheet per category and only colourcoded the title. It's a great improvement, because now it easier and faster to assign category-related Todos to my categorized timeslots. If this isn't making any sense to anyone: you better re-read my guest blog ... LOL

  21. The best course I EVER went on was in 1986 and organised by Time Manager International (TMI). Their time management system was - and in many ways still is - streets ahead of Filofax (sorry guys!). Following TMI (and other similar systems) helps you plan your year, month, week and day effectively and break down tasks into "bit size chunks".

    Filofax has always been great for storing data (The name is short for "File of Facts" after all) but only their Time Management version is really a proper planner!

    I've used the Filofax A5 Time Management pages for the past 5 years or so. However, I have to confess to now running my old Time Manager Compact alongside for 2011. This is because of the bulky A5 size (same old dilemma!)compared with the smaller size of compact binder with 18cm x 11cm pages. I may end up going back totally to Time Manager in future years.

    All of the time management systems are good - just beware that transferring pages between binders made by different companies doesn't always work due to the different hole configurations!

  22. Tim, I went on a TMI course almost exactly around that tie (I had a benificent employer then!) and I agree that both the TMI planner and the philosophy is the absolute 'business' in terms of results tools....I have been an on-off TMI user ever since (in between bouts with FF) and only stopped this year because of the price of the refills - and I suppose feeling a bit miffed that they no longer do the open user evenings like they used to - or indeed any open courses at all, to my knowledge. Do you still use the Key Areas system? I've moved more into GTD now, but I still sometimes hanker to go back to my old Key Areas system....

    Drop me an email and let's compare notes! davidpopely (at) googlemail (dot) com

  23. David - I'm amazed that there has been little reference to the Time Manager system on this blog in the past. TMI was huge in the UK and most of Europe for many years and only seems to have lost it's way since the company sale by the Danish founder and guru Claus Møller. There has been no product development since and hence why I switched to Filofax Time Management.

    It sounds like we've had the same "on and off" with TMI and FF. There are the same size issues between A5 and Personal (A5 and Original in the TMI system) and I tried to go paperless for a while with a PDA and laptop.

    So I currently use A5 FF on my desk and Compact TMI to carry around. I still have my nine TMI Key Areas - 6 for work and 3 personal. There are only 7 key areas in the FF Time Management system so I had to combine all my personal areas into one! I still set my annual goals, yearly planner, monthly and weekly "elephant" task.

    www.timemanager.com is their international website if you want to see the system. (Naturally, I have no commercial links with Time Manager other than having spent a lot with them over 25 years!)

    I have to say that Time Manager binder quality is streets ahead of Filofax but then, so are their prices alas!

  24. Tim, we seem to have had pretty much parralel histories...I have also been through the PDA/electronic 'thing', but at the end of the day it was the results tool I wanted, and the fact that only paper could keep me organised as well. I still use the TMI inserts with my beautiful black eather binder when I am 'on' TMI - I also had a compact but its become lost over the years. I have been trying on and off to get down to a personal size FF permanently, but always end up in frustration because of the size - and the decision base aspect of TMI put them streets ahead as well.

    I've tried the six key area system in the FF A5 TM system, but so far haven't managed to make it work. At the end of the day the TMI tasks and activities sheets worked a treat for me, and that's why I'm so disappointed that FF don't follow suit with some properly thought through refills to fit inside the TM system of their own.

  25. Not that I'm necessarily advocating TMI, but I had a look at their site and although the pack price is higher, it looks like most of the refill packs have 50 sheets per pack, which makes them better value (I think). Is the 6-ring stuff the same spacing as a filofax?

    Maybe filofax should sit up and take notice of how much discussion there has been on this!

  26. Amanda, sadly I think the chances of FF taking notice of *anything* beign said by *anyone* are pretty slim....I think they're interested only in shifting boxes of pastel-coloured binders at teh moment - which is a shame, because the fashion icon factor is going to leave as quickly as it came when it's time for it to go, and then they will be stuck.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. Personal Filofax pages will fit into any TMI original or compact 6 ring. Their pages are 18cm x 10cm so easier to write on than Filofax personal (especially if you're left-handed like me - binder rings always in the way!)

    TMI A5 is four ring and different spacing to Filofax A5 six ring. TMI A5 binders are just too big but their compact size is great (in my view)

  29. I don't really mind the pastel and the binders in many ways and they have probably worked out that people will change them like they would change a handbag or a pair of shoes etc, BUT, I would like Filofax to think a bit about their inserts. After all, they're not like milk - they won't 'go off' and if they did a bit of serious market research, they wouldn't necessarily make costly mistakes. I am pretty sure that if they surveyed the people who post on here, or whom they have sold binders too, what other things they would like to see (and I mean that THEY asked, not that we just gave our two penn'orth regardless...), they would get some detailed and sensible information.
    Just a thought...

  30. I'm looking forward to this series. Let me know if I can contribute in any way. I have lots of to-do lists and ways of managing my time.

  31. I have been using Filofax for a couple of years. But, when I came to know about the professional task and time management capability of Replicon's online time recording software, I switched to it and never regretted the change because of its capability in time tracking.


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