11 August 2011

A tale of two Filofax afficionados - Guest Post - David Popely

Alison Reeves (a frequent Philofaxy contributor) and I had been exchanging emails about time and task management, and about GTD implementation in particular, over the past few weeks, so when we discovered that we were both going to be in London on the same day (Tuesday 9th August) on business trips, she being from the West Midlands and I from the South West, that we just had to take the opportunity to meet up around a shared ‘interest’ (a slight understatement!) in Filofaxes, GTD, and time and task management generally.

So it was that I found myself heading for central London on the afternoon of the 9th, my very oversized and rather overstuffed A5 Finsbury under my arm, ready for an afternoon of Filofax-talk.

Arriving at 3.31 p.m. for a 3.30 p.m. start, I was unsurprised to find Alison already in the Conduit Street shop, browsing the refills. For quite a few minutes we exchanged ideas and discussed the relative merits of refill layouts (the generalised criticism of Filofax paper quality was to come later), in particular the A5 Time Management diary inserts for 2012 vs. the standard day-per-page layout (we both agreed that for our purposes either would do the job perfectly well). General browsing of the binder stock, and in particular of the sale stock, ensued, with Alison buying what is apparently the only slimline A5 ever produced (Adelphi) and a handful of inserts, while I finally and inevitably (I now realise) fell prey to the lure of the Personal Malden, in this case in ochre. I never realised until I handled the Malden just how much it sells itself to you wordlessly as you hold it, regardless of how many good reasons you may have why you don’t need another binder! What a beautiful piece of craftsmanship…

Neither Alison nor myself live within easy distance of anything like a ‘proper’ Filofax stockist, so it was a real treat to be able to get everything we need under one roof, with the help of obliging and knowledgeable staff – a big thank you, you know who you are!

Filofax ‘habits’ having been sated, it was a short walk to Starbucks at the Regent Street end of Conduit Street, where over tea and hot chocolate I demonstrated my current A5 GTD-oriented setup (but using the Filofax Time Management index dividers), while Alison had brought with her, her lovely A5 Amazona, which normally never leaves her desk (thank you for lugging it all the way from the West Midlands just to show me). Alison does a great line in really attractive ‘contents’ sheets (aided and abetted by the fact that she has very attractive ‘ladies’ handwriting, in contrast to my ‘sixth former gone bad’ scrawl), and also showed me her wrap-around pocket Filofax Special Edition. It’s much too small for me personally, but her ideal ‘carry around’ organiser.

Then we got onto the subject of pens. Having bought into the Malden at last (really, it was inevitable), I now realise how important the right pen is to match. I’ve always said I would never settle for less than two pen loops, as I always keep my diary in pencil, for reasons which anyone who has a busy life (surely that’s all of us?!) will readily understand. However, I’m now down to one loop, so a new solution is called for. The options are simple: Pen only, pencil only, or some kind of bizarre yet-to-be-invented pen-pencil hybrid (Tom Pellerau, are you reading this?). Alison showed me her very nice collection of Mont Blanc pens and pencils, including a very nice fountain pen – my ideal writing instrument, although it did lead directly to wholesale condemnation of the general quality of Filofax paper refills, and much hankering after a decent paper stock which doesn’t bleed through when a ‘proper’ pen is applied to it. Sadly, given Filofax’s current indifference to anything refill-related, this seems to be a pipe-dream rather than even being worth seriously proposing. But there is good money to be made out there by anyone prepared to invest in the project.

Also in Alison’s armoury of writing implements is a range of coloured Frixion pens – very cheap to buy, write like a rollerball, available in a wide range of colours, and…..eraseable! I tried this for myself and it really does work! I’m not sure if this is the solution for me (Alison does a lot of colour-coding, enough to justify carrying around a number of different pens), or whether I’m just looking for a single, really elegant looking writing implement, but I do recommend you check them out for functionality alone.

Soon it was time for parting – myself back to South London en route back to Somerset by car, Alison by taxi to her North London overnight business hotel, and I was left to reflect just what a lot of common ground there is between us, purely on the basis of our mutual interest in Filofax, and in all things organisational. Thank you, Alison, for being so willing to share your knowledge and progress towards organisation (which is, like my own, work in progress), and I look forward to meeting up again if the dates ever fall right once more.

Now, about that pen……any suggestions, anyone?......


  1. great write-up! I love that the Malden got you as well. it really is a beautiful piece.

    if I could have a nice pen right now, I'd want the pilot / namiki vanishing point on the limited edition matte black...

  2. Hi David,

    You might want to have a look at a 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 pen. And then I am not talking your standard BIC four color pen, but ones that offer you, depending on the model: two colors of pen, a 0,5 mm mechanical pencil, a text marker pen or a PDA-stylus. They are available from a wide variety of suppliers, have a look at them here:


    It's just a groe in the basket, there are plenty more, for example Rotring model "Tikky" etc. etc.

    I myself use a Parker Executive in Jet black (cost me 65,- Euros) and I'm perfectly happy with it, except for one thing: the capacity of the pens is on the low side given the small room available in the construction of the pen. So if you would want to try them, it would be wise to stock up on refills too. (They come in cheap: 1,50 Euros per piece).

    Also please keep in mind that those pens are larger in diameter then the average pen, again due to the mechanical construction that's necessary to make it work. So unless your binder has got a expandable pen loop, it might not fit. (My A5 doesn't and then I just put the clip through the loop.

    Hope this helps!

    Greetings from the Netherlands,


  3. Hi David,

    thank you for this great article! You both must be very happy to have made this meeting. And isn't the shop nice?

    As for the pen(cil) question: There is a wide range of multi-pens, even from the more sophisticated brands like Lamy etc. I have a Lamy twinpen with ballpoint and mechanical pencil. They have them with other 'ingredients' as well.

    I don't know if there are any multipens with a rollerball. Being a pen writer myself, I must say that there is nothing like writing with a pen, maybe except for a good pencil. But a good rollerball with ink might be a considerable choice...

    I hope you can find an appropriate on.

    Kind regards, Thomas

    P.S.: Welcome to the Club of Malden! ;-)

  4. Thank you David for sharing our meet-up. I must admit the Malden is a lovely piece of kit - very stroke-able! However I was not in the market for a personal just yet and the a5 version gave me no benefits over my current Amazona (which I love). The idea with the Adelphi is that I can just transfer and take the bare bones of my system when I have to travel. I don't mind taking the Amazona if I am travelling by car, but rail travel is a different matter. It really is a lot lighter than the other A5s andbof course it was half price! The shop had a lot of items on offer (many at half price) that are still full price or just 25% off online (but not new models) so if you have a hankering for something it might be worth a call as I'm sure they do mail order. Sadly this wouldn't add to the Philofaxy charity donation but for some people it might be the only chance you have to get a coveted item. By the way discounts were also on accessories. Sadly I couldn't run to a new briefcase or handbag!

  5. Bye the way, in the flesh the new Aston is really lovely - possibly one of my favourites so far. It's very like the Finchley but more 'edgy' with the seams and stitching. It's like very interesting daughter of Finchley! However because we were chatting so much I completely forgot to have a good look at the Osterley.

  6. Wow 1 minute late when your meeting someone to talk about time management hehe :-)

    I really enjoyed this post was so interesting to read about your meet up, Its alway interesting to hear what others think about other peeople Filofaxes :-)

    Thank you for sharing this with me :-)

  7. @David
    There's a nice pen/propelling pencil combo in the Zebra Sharpo Diary:
    It's pretty slimline (7 or 8mm diameter) and comes with a nice box and a set of refills.

    Glad you two had a nice meet-up. When are you (both) going to do a mega-post on the final Time-management solutions you adopt? It would be really interesting to hear about!

  8. Thank you for this David and Alison. It's always nice to meet up and even if it's just two people.

    David if you haven't yet decided on a pen. There is my previous post on the topic.


    And welcome to the Malden Club...


  9. or, maybe even more useful... a multipen you can customise to what you want:

    Any use?

  10. Ok, now I`m going to be the weird one. I've just received Malden A5 in grey and I don`t know what's wrong with me, but I don't like it. I`m seriously thinking about returning it. I soooo loved the pictures, but in reallity I really don't like it at all.

  11. @katka
    If you don't like it, you don't like it... don't feel bad about returning it.
    I know there are lots of people who love their Finsbury FF and I was very taken with the colour of the aqua, but when I saw it for real, I hated the feel of the thing.
    Send it back. They're too expensive to hope that they'll 'grow' on you!

    (Hmmm... I feel like the opposite of an enabler here!)

  12. Well, the pen is here! Pilot slim Frixion in silver, courtesy of Steve's recommendation (thank you)....and it writes beautifully and can be erased with the 'other' end of the pen. Outstanding!

    It was good to see another afficionado, even if it was brief, and the fact that we have GTD aspirations in common as well added to the pleasure.

    Thank you for all your pen advice and recommendations - but the Frixion is a great little pen and fits (and matches the ochre Malden very well - thanks, Steve!

  13. Cross makes a very nice pen that has 2 ink colors and a pencil. It looks nice, and it fits the pen loop of a personal Finsbury.

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  15. Then Mr. Popely and Mrs. Reeves went on and started a forum, to discuss the thrills of personal management approaches, and the challenges of making them work.

    Mr. Popely and Mrs. Reeves, after consulting with some advisors, started a group on Yahoo, that immediately evolved into a forum - http://timeandtaskmanagers.proboard.com.

    At the forum, participants can share ideas and experiences on TMS, GTD, goal setting, weekly reviews, project management, paper based vs. PC/Mac/BB/iPhone based systems, and other relevant and substantive ideas on this relevant subject.

    Care to join?


  16. Hi David,
    What a lovely post! You made me feel as if I was there with you two.

    JetPens has a great selection of multipens and great service:

  17. Did they start the forum at:
    or have they been conning us all about their time-management and have just headed off surfing??

    [If you miss that S off the end of Proboards, then you go to a surfing site!!]

  18. Definitely proboards.com!

    David (can't surf, won't surf.....)

  19. Just to confirm, the forum can be found at http://timeandtaskmanagers.proboards.com/

    Anyone who enjoys their conversation in 'forum' format is very welcome to register. It *did* start as a Yahoo email group, but migrated almost immediately to Proboards by majority decision. The Yahoo group will most likely disappear completely over the next week or so.....

    Discussion is focused on time and task management issues generally, not just Filofax issues, and all are welcome.

  20. Mrs. Amanda, thanks for your timely and precise correction of my typo.

  21. Thanks for the write-up David and Alison.

    There are some odd write-ups about the Frixion ink: leave your notes in a hot car and your writing may disappear; pop it in the freezer and the ink may reappear. Hours of fun ahead there David, and you can put your trusty Bic up on eBay!

  22. Great post. Thank you for sharing :)

    I use the Frixion 0.5mm pens which are good, but not alwawys as "dark" a pigment as I'd like. I did recently splash out on an OHTO "Raconte" ceramic rollerball which is lovely, but not quite as smooth as I'd like. I hope it's just "settling in"!

  23. David, thanks for this excellent post!
    And just wanted to point out that the smaller frixion point 0.4 refills also fit the Slimline FriXIon pen, just like the regular 0.7 friction ball refills!

  24. Great post, how wonderful it is to be able to share common interest on FF, GTD and pens with someone in person. And thank you for all the pen suggestions. I would also prefer a multiple pen but the ones I found do not fit the non-expandable pen loop. Now I have pens to shop....

  25. I think we should plan a one day conference!!!

  26. This was infinitely cool! Thanks so much for letting us in on your meetup!

  27. Oh please do a write up of your GTD systems, I would love to take a peek inside those filofaxes!

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  29. @terriknits What a cool experiment! I love the erasable nature of the Frixion pens (as well as the product name! Robin is a nerd!) but have recently discovered writing with a super-fine point - something like a 0.4 or finer. It makes my handwriting look rather attractive, too. LOL.

    It took a little getting used to - and good paper is a must! Right now, I'm using a 0.4 Hi-Tec-C in ultramarine. Beautiful! And a nice contrast with bronze snakeskin!

  30. Terriknits - i really loved reading it, and i have read it 5 or 6 times now, but i need to get some as ive lost mine! I WANT TO TRY hehe xxx

  31. Love this post! what a magnificent example of Filofax comradeship.


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