15 July 2011

Free for All Friday No. 139

It's the middle of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. We live our lives more outdoors...in swimming pools, parks, and gardens. For my mother's birthday last Saturday, I brought her some daisies to plant in the little garden under her windows. Friends are passing plants around..."Take this pot; it'll get more sun by your front door"..."I have too many lilies; dig some up and take them."

Do you use your Filofax to keep track of your garden?

(Of course, this being Friday, comments from non-gardeners are welcome, too.)


  1. On the gardening question - we are in the process of setting ourselves up for as much self-sufficiency as we can realistically achieve, and a key part of that is our 22m x 4 m plot of garden - more allotment-sized really. So yes, my A5 FF is definitely rapidly becoming not just the hub of my business, but also the hub of garden plans, lists, etc. This is why I use my 'decision base' in the 'Key Areas' manner, and don't really go so much for GTD - there would be too many disparate lists - or they would all be mixed into one list, which, if I interpret GTD correctly, is the suggested method. I need more structure than that, and to have discrete subject-related lists of projects, which I can then split into lists of actions needed to complete, and then date sequentially and transfer to my diary in due course.

    All of this leads me to my rant-of-the-week, which concerns diary formats - not the usual question of size and layout specifically, but of the range of time which most diaries allow for meetings.

    I'm an early riser, and when I rise early, I like to get started straight away. So I'm not interested in sitting for hours before I start work drinking coffee. I subscribe to the view that in productivity terms, every hour before 10 a.m. is worth two afterwards.

    Why oh why, then, isn't there a diary (Filofax or otherwise) which has structured appointments starting from, say, 6.00 a.m. (I could go earlier but I'm tempering my rant to avoid frightening people). I *frequently* want to schedule some work on one client or another's accounts, or some garden admin (or practical), for 5.30 a.m., and I can't find a diary which will allow for this within a structured 'with-appointments' format. Yes, I *know* I can use a no-appointments diary, but I *like* to look at the week (and the day) in terms of a grid of available time, since then I can see, usually at a glance, how busy or otherwise any given time period is looking. I also like to keep ,y task loists on the diary page (thanks Steve for the brilliant A5 DPP Professional 'lookalike' template!)

    So come on, Filofax, as ever, let's have more choice for those of us who choose *not* to work from 9 until 5 (or book appointments from 8 until 8, as is the format of most of your diaries).

    And does anyone know of any other suppliers who recognise that people need to do stuff early in the morning or late in the evening?

  2. Regarding the garden - I have a large garden and would like to make much more of it - I'm excited by the prospect of growing veg and being more self sufficient - but I need to plan it all yet. All comments and ideas around this will be most welcome, so great post!

    @David Popely - I have frustrations around the design of the filofax diary inserts also (although mine are a bit different to yours). I wonder if there is a business opportunity here (like Moonpig who do individual customised celebration cards)? It would be wonderful to enter some customisable options and have your diary printed and delivered to you exactly how you want it laid out! Most other inserts I am happy to design and print (I also use an A5 so it is pretty easy) but the diary with discrete pages is a challenge! I wonder if there is any software about that allows you to print a customised diary?

  3. @Alison The redoubtable Steve has pointed me to a site which does exactly that!


    It's designed for |driving instructors, and if you click through the 'Diary' link on the top menu and create an account (free), you can design and print your own diary by the month. I now have my July A5 5.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. diary sitting in front of me - simples!

    You're right though....Filofax don't seem very interested in the whole issue of insert design, being, as they are (IMO) currently infatuated with the fashion icon status of their binders (and presumably with the margin they get from binder sales). I still think this is a *very* short-sighted view...how long did it take for the wheel of fashion to turn last time they went out? I count approximately 20 years. Yes, there's scope for a design-and-print site for someone with the technical nous to implement it.

    I design and print most of my own stuff as well now. But how I need a FF punch! That pre-punched paper they sell is way overpriced.....

  4. @David Popely - thanks for the link - I'll be investigating that one shortly. I know we are the hard core users, but there are a lot of people buying filofax now who will have fallen by the wayside in a year or two when they go onto the next thing. I really think there is a market for well designed inserts on decent paper! I'd love to use my fountain pen in mine but the bleed through is just too much.

    Are you still using the professional styled inserts for planning etc?

  5. Oh and yes a really good quality punch for the A5 would be very useful ...

  6. Mostly I'm moving towards designing and printing my own. So far as I can ascertain, the professional inserts are either being discontinued by degrees, or Filofax themselves don't appear to know what's going on (or don't want to say). I'm trying to replicate the old Time Manager system I used for years, within the context of an A5 Filofax binder and professional index (the plastic one), which i highly recommend.

    Your comments about paper quality are bang on as well - I'm also a would-be fountain pen user, but the bleed-through is ridiculous. memo - it's no good making fantastic binders (if that's what you think they are) if you fill them with cheap, nasty paper. Sends a mixed message. Filofax please note (although I won't be holding my breath).

    With self-designed inserts I can get a degree of control over paper quality as a side issue.

    We should get together and talk about this! Where in the Uk are you?

  7. @david popely I'm in sunny Wolverhampton drop me a line on alison at writetowin dot co dot uk and we can see if we have any common ground with our travelling!

  8. I've used outlook to print blank diaries in the past, you can change the time frame to be printed to whatever you want and set the paper size to most filofax sizes. I did invest in a good filofax holepunch though, so I am now committed to the pocket size...

  9. @ David and Alison
    The whole diary/paper quality is what has driven me back and forth between a personal size and an A5. The personal size is more likely to be with me every day, whereas the A5 can be a bit heavy to lug around (especially as I have done my shoulder in. Again.)
    But... I have some fabulous cream A4 paper and love to print my own inserts for the A5 (printing for the personal is just too hit and miss!) and be able to use a fountain pen.
    As for the 'start early', as well as the site Steve has suggested, there is also this one:
    where you can print off whatever you need and the days start early (4 am!) and have goal lists etc too. They may be a bit cluttered though...

    As for the garden aspect - I have used my FF (admittedly in the past) with monthly 'to-do' relating to when to plant things, when to pot-on, when various seed companies tend to have sales etc. It worked pretty well (assuming I looked at it!). It wasn't quite as organised as David's goals and actions but it kept me reasonably on track.
    Re: A5 holepunch. I vae a FF one and I have to say, essential as it is since I make a lot of my own inserts, it is an absolute rip off! Even before I wrecked my shoulder I'd be struggling to punch more than 2 (3 max) sheets at once (when you need to do a whole diary, this then becomes very tedious); home-made dividers require you to practically take your whole weight on the punch for it to cut the card. And at £30+ that's a disgrace.
    Okay. That's my rant for the day over!

  10. And to my question...
    Has anyone any knowledge of the personal Portland? When they were made? When they ceased being made?
    I bought one recently on eBay (see my blog: http://paperpensink.blogspot.com/2011/06/absence-makes-heart-grow-fonder.html for pictures) and it's gorgeously soft and much better quality than most of the FF around at the moment.
    Any info anyone?

  11. @Amanda - that Portland looks really tasty! I can't help with the history of it though. I agree about the hole punch - I bought a really nice one for the pocket/personal (you can move the set of three 'holes' to suit) - not sure if I could find a way to use it for the A5 - I'll have to experiment - might have to do one half of the paper then the other - we'll see. The Filofax one is as you say a bit of a challenge and a complete rip off! I'm amazed there is not a better punch for the A5 - I'm sure loads of people would buy one.

    Oh well - I'd better get back to work - as it's Friday I seem to spend most of my time hanging around here!

  12. Thank you for posting the links to the vertical-style inserts. I do much better budgeting my time with such a calendar.

    As for gardening, I do some notetaking on the garden yet need to be more efficient in that area. Back to work, now!

  13. Oh and a propos nothing...
    my local Tescos had Pilot Frixion pens (both 0.7mm and 0.5 mm tips) in various packs of 3 colours (black, blue, red; black, pink, purple, etc) at half price, along with lots of other 'back to school' stuff. Go snap up a bargain!!!

  14. @Amanda not familiar with Frixion pens but am going to Tesco tomorrow morning, so I'll have a look. I used Pilot v5 0.5mm for ages, and have a whole range of colours, but right now, believe it or not, I can't imagine a pen that suits my handwriting better than the good old Bic medium (not fine) biro - £3.49 for ten (of the same colour), also in Tesco last time I bought any.

    My fountain pen is ready for deployment as and when Filofax come out with a decent insert paper, or when I get the whole matter of printing and punching my own sorted (in other words, when i get a punch).

  15. @Amanda, the Portland looks great. It could be lambskin, like the Eton. That would account for the soft touch and light grain. Can't shed any light on it's vintage though...

  16. @David More to think about! And I love the "I subscribe to the view that in productivity terms, every hour before 10 a.m. is worth two afterwards." SO true!!

    I get started earlier too (altho not before 5:30!) and I think that would be SO smart!

    I've long been an advocate for NICER PAPER!! I'd LOVE to be able to use a fountain pen or my LePens in my Filofax. One of my biggest beefs...


  17. I see in an old catalogue that Portland was on sale in 1996/7, and described as soft, luxurious leather. The retail price then was £57.70 for the personal size.

  18. Ooh - 96/97! I wondered if that was the vintage as there were some inserts included and they were (c) that sort of era.
    £57.70? Well, I did get a bargain then! :-) I got it from eBay and including P+P it was <£15 and in superb condition.
    Thanks for all the info everyone!

  19. It's funny you should post about this topic. I was just discussing this with my husband the other day. We live in a condo and so our "yard" is very small - we own four small strips of soil (two in the font, two in the back, both on either side of the house). We have yet (after 5 years) to do anything with these spaces. He did plant some small items last year but we have no idea what they are. I suggested making a map of what we have planted and keeping it in the A5 family planner. This way, we know what's there and what we need to do as far as upkeep and when to plant, etc. We could also keep notes in there about what needs shade and sun and whatnot. The only thing we need to do is set up that section in the planner. That, and learn how to garden. ;)


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