05 April 2012

My Filofax - Guest Post - 'Scoot'

Thank you to 'Scoot' for sending in the details of his Filofax and the pictures. 

The fax is an Aspinals “Executive” size which comes with 140x215mm pages, which are taller than the standard A5 pages by 5mm and shorter by 8mm, though I have largely used up the original inserts and just use A5. The rings match Filofax A5.

I don’t think my system is anything extraordinary …. it revolves around accepting that the fax is of limited capacity, which involves being quite strict about what I put in the “Personal Organiser” part of my fax, also realising that I require something comprehensive enough to manage work and life while avoiding duplicating any other work. The final piece of my system came into place when I stopped writing ad nauseum; ie mostly irrelevant information that was already elsewhere.

My detailed client/work files are A4 lever arch files and are completely separate, though due to professional/legal reasons they will usually contain some evidence of managing the affairs of the client themselves, from the Personal organiser that is the focal point (I believe some will understand it better as a “treffpunkt”) for managing my own work/life on a factual basis using purely relevant info; I emphasise a factual basis as it is too easy to pollute an organiser with non-factual/irrelevant info and therein confuse and therefore corrupt the management of your time/resources.

If people are unsure about my use of the word “fact” (as everything is a fact) then look at a news story and highlight only those words with important dates, important names, important locations etc. If you can tell what the story is by just looking at your summary highlighted facts then you’ve done a good job of extracting the key relevant facts; the type of fact that should be in the organiser. I’d bet the non-highlighted words in the news article amount to at least 90% of the words and are a waste of your time and irrelevant to future decisions/any factual or important record of events.

When I manage anything I look at the objectives (primary/secondary etc) and functions; being planning, leadership, organising and controlling. Failure to account for any of those elements results in a serious failure of management, though with these processes being so closely bound together (and the fax is of limited capacity) it is practically impossible and a waste of time (certainly confusing) to give a separate tab to each of the management processes. (I think it is a fundamental mistake for companies to produce organisers with separate sections such as “Objectives”, “Planning” etc; it should just be “management”). Behind each project tab I use separate sheets for whatever mind map/timetables/lists of deadlines etc but only include the raw facts that are relevant to my own process of managing. I record events and actions either by immediate entries to the diary, a “to do” entry (without any specific time entry) being the first sheet within my “project” section (split into “work” as in working for a living, household tasks, family tasks, and shopping), or by setting up a separate project behind its own tab. Currently I have 14 dividers that are tabbed at the top for projects that can be either work or privately related, covering subjects as diverse as client projects to a long-term dispute with a local authority.

Having reached this stage, and boy have I experimented, I can’t believe how stupid I was not to have seen it and done it right from the start.

Apart form the “personal organiser” side of the fax, there is another side that in terms of work just has a supporting role of referenced tax facts/information.

My own business and visiting cards are kept in the inside front cover, the inside flap has a piece of blotting paper.

1st section, tab at top left, is “Notes”; contains lined note paper, currently down to about 12 sheets.

2nd section, tab at top second from left, is “Projects”.
1st sheet is basically a list of “To Do’s” split into “work” as in working for a living, household tasks, family tasks, and shopping. Then I have dividers, currently 14, tabbed at the top for projects that are work or private related, covering subjects as diverse as client projects to a long-term dispute with a local authority.

3rd section, tab at bottom right, is a Diary (in the middle of the fax).
1st sheet is holidays for UK, USA, Europe, also Muslim, Sikh and Jewish dates.
2nd and 3rd sheets, year to view planner (each of 4 years on a folded A4 sheet) which I really don’t use and should scrap but is sometimes nice to look at the year in one go.

Then the actual week to view diary pages; appointments on the left, immediate to do’s on the right.
Last sheet in the section is a list of annual reminders.

4th Section, tab is second from bottom right, is Contacts. Not used anymore because I keep my usual phone numbers in my slimline, and all addresses and numbers etc on Outlook which is downloaded to my phone.

5th Section, tab is third from bottom right, is Reference. Has various sheets with measurements and weights etc for Imperial UK & US & Metric, engineering standards, periodic table, densities of materials, ph table, Euro conversion rates, Federal Reserve Bank details, Other bank details, Exchange details, tax facts from UK and around the world, Geographical and Nautical facts, Astronomical facts about the Solar System from the Sun to Jupiter, morse code, braille alphabet, greek and roman number systems, number systems like hexadecimal etc, clothing and shoe sizes, list of colours to mix to obtain other colours, flying times, road distance chart, time zones, Underground map, world map, money laundering fact sheet, grammar sheets detailing all the types of pronoun/the parts of speech/types of noun/listing difference between analogies/similes/metaphors/idioms etc etc, Royal Mail postage price sheet, mail box collection times, calendars with national holidays from 2000 to 2020, Insurances, lists of printer cartridge codes.
(I found that many of the standard facts, available with various organisers, were irrelevant to me and so I pulled apart a cheap Collins Gem ready reference and other similar product and re-sorted/cellotaped them into pages that suited my purposes . I then photocopied the patchwork of facts, reducing them to fit onto A5 paper.

6th Section, tab forth from bottom, is Codes. Has all codes for computer access, equipment codes, phone and broadband codes, email codes, software codes, professional registration codes, subscription codes, bank and credit card codes, passport and driving licence info.

7th Section, tab fifth from bottom right, is Private.
Has family birthdays and anniversaries etc, record of previous presents, light bulb ratings, sizes, peoples favourite foods/wines/flowers/perfumes etc, Hospital details, lawn cutting records, gardening diary, fertiliser proportions, firearm details, inspirational quotes, jokes, , animal feed prices, farm livestock guide, pages from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (part of a book that I keep meaning to finish off (if I ever get stuck on a train/in an elevator); downloaded from Guttenburg website).

End Section are two envelopes, one for postage stamps/stickers/spare tabs/2 elastoplasts, the second being post it notes and clear hole reinforcements.

Flap on inside back cover has three A7 cards with envelopes, which are good for little thank you notes and as cards for flowers etc (for women at least; can’t send them to men!).

Some pages are in the wrong section! (Another To Do, under tomorrow’s sunshine)

Thank you Scoot for a detailed description of your Filofax. 


  1. Wow, what an amazing planner! I do agree, it is essential to pare down the details to essential facts due to the finite space within the binder. At the top of the month I add more daily pages, remove old ones, and flip through page by Page to clear out the junk which accumulates, much of it is either obsolete or completed and can be archived or discarded. Sometimes I rewrite a few short, related lists into one comprehensive list on one sheet of paper. At the moment my Cavendish is at bursting, so I'm planning to do my review and cleanout this weekend. Already on the diary for Saturday! Thanks, Scoot, for the tour!

    1. Glad you like it, but considering what I sent to Steve, which I didn't think people would find interesting, he has actually done quite a good job. I was disappointed that I could not show some project pages, but they are full of confidential information relating to someone.

      A clear out is overdue for mine.

  2. Hi Scoot - snoopy question. Have always seen a Montblanc in Black / Silver / Gold, never in Burgundy. May I ask where did you get it from?

    1. The Burgundy was bought in about 1999, I hesitated for about two weeks about the price tag of about £160....but obviously relented, and since Alison stated that the model was discontinued...it sounds like ebay will be your best chance.

    2. Scoot, I have a burgundy ballpoint as well, bought as a present from my mom in the early 90s. I've broken the cap, but will replace it some day cause it's so expensive. Prices of Montblanc have tripled I think since then, I don't think I would ever shell out that much $ for them now.

      Great post, you're so organized!

    3. Thanks Doris98,
      Soon after I bought that Mont Blanc fountain pen someone seriously damaged it, I don’t know how but I returned to my Office (a young trainee having just left my Office, avoiding eye contact, and yet not saying a word; all very strange) to find that my Mont Blanc was not where I left it and upon examination found the nib bent and the rear end cracked. I don’t know how it occurred and couldn’t say anything to the trainee because she would have died a death and couldn’t pay for it anyway. I was quite upset about it though, though I think more about the lack of honesty/character of someone in the office, but it did somewhat take away the pleasure of ownership. However, I eventually managed to re-fix the end with superglue and then recoat with a hard clear lacquer, also the nib was eventually filed and polished into a fine italic. The damage is very hard to see for me, and I know where it occurred, so now just another incident of life.

  3. @Scoot - amazing binder - this one is on my birthday list so it's good to see it in action.

    Love the Montblanc Mozart - very pretty pen - I have a set in the black as they had discontinued the maroon by that time. I'm a big fan of fountain pens generally and use one whenever I can.

    Definitely going to copy your idea regarding the grammar - I write for a living (business writing, copywriting, bids and tenders) and still find some obstinate grammar rules which I struggle to remember how to explain so this would work well.

    Can I just ask - did you make the 14 tabs at the top yourself? Are they proper dividers (which can take up room) or just flags/post its stuck onto the first page of the project?

    A great read thanks!

    1. Yes a lovely binder, unfortunately no longer made with a lock and key. I’ve tried to keep the style, in terms of colour of paper and ink, the same as the Diarpell inserts that come with Aspinal organisers/diaries.

      I am always embarrassed about the standard of my grammar, so the sheets do come in helpful as a reminder. In a meeting you can secretly look at hand written sheets from a fax, but you can’t whip out a printed grammar guide for the things you were taught when 12 years old.

      The project tabs are made from A4 188gsm card, but it is thin for the weight (if it really is the weight claimed by the shop). I did use various flags but they kept coming off.

      For normal tabs I print onto A4, mostly using the guillotine to cut away excess paper, only using scissors for the point of the tab corners. I then use clear packaging tape to “laminate” the print on the tabs, extending it into the body of the divider as reinforcement; using a knife to cut around the inside of a semi-circle stencil to ensure that it looks clean/professional.

  4. What a great binder Scoot. A very professional and sophisticated finish to it. I love the way you have pared everything down to just what you need and no more. Food for thought there for me..... and boy would I love a Mont Blanc pen one day. Sigh!!!!

    1. Thanks. The Mont Blanc certainly matches the fax. Otherwise I actually do most of my writing with Manuscript fountain pens, very cheap, with nibs filed and polished to a fine italic. It is often mentioned on the fountain pen network that the writing experience is 1/3rd paper, 1/3rd ink, 1/3rd the nib; the "nib holder" not being so important. There is no way that I would pay RRP for a Mont Blanc pen today, too much money for what they are; or am I becoming tighter? Pilot 78G's are nice looking pens, nice colours, quite cheap on ebay.

    2. @Butanben - I've been a fountain pen fan for many years and have a collection in different price ranges. I do agree with Scoot about the experience - an expensive pen does not necessarily secure this. I love writing with my Lamy Safari pens which (if you are not too fussy about colour) you can pick up at a very cheap price on ebay if you are prepared to be patient and keep looking. The nice thing about these pens is that you can get a new nib for as little as £4.50 so you can easily swap it out for the nib of your choice. I have in the past had very broad nibs, but actually favour medium and fine ones these days for writing in my filofax. Email me or give me a call sometime if you want to talk about it more - I think you have my details.

      Just one more point - I had been hankering after the new Mont Blanc white fountain pen - but I just couldn't justify the price tag. However for Christmas my husband bought me a waterman pen (all white). It was on offer at the time with 20% off so not too expensive (I have a feeling it was around the £50 mark with the discount). It has a medium nib and is a real joy to write with! Considering all the much more expensive pens I own, it's odd that this one still seems to be my 'go to' pen! Of course it helps that it fits into the pen loops on my black A5 Amazona!

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Alison, thank you so much for your help. You are a dear friend. I will look into pen usage again once I've got that job of my dreams and I am back in employment again.... hopefully I'll be able to afford a few treats by then. One hears so much about the Mont Blanc pens being THE best, that I just hanker after the loveliest and most divine of writing experiences..... smooth ink flow an unscratchy feel and a pen, like in the Goldilocks story,which feels JUST RIGHT to hold. The trouble is I am into colour co- ordinating my diaries and so I am using gel pens at the moment for that, which to my surprise I am quite enjoying. But for my 2013 diary,approaching Christmas time, I shall re- investigate my pen usage.

  5. Hi Scoot

    Apologies, I didn't get a chance to look at this excellent post yesterday due to my own work commitments....hopefully you won't mind me posting a comment (maybe more than one!) 'after the event.

    I'm interested in your summary of the tasks of management as planning, leadership, organising and controlling. This seems like a *very* good summary....do you have a source for it please? Is it Drucker? And if so, which Drucker? I'd be really interested to know as it's taken my 'management thinking' (as someone who only has to manage himself, thankfully!) in an unexpected direction. Many thanks in advance!

  6. Scoot, thanks for sharing your gorgeous binder!
    I love hearing about when other peoples' systems are working :)

  7. That binder is gorgeous! Aspinal has just brought out a lockable five year diary in the purple croc. Not as nice a lock as you have though.

    I have had a burgundy Montblanc Melisterstuck since 1997. I got it very cheap at Dublin airport duty free. It has formed itself to my writing and just gets better with age. I love it! Would definitely recommend it as an investment especially if you write a lot.

    1. Glad you liked it, lets hope they bring out the lockable versions again.
      Yes, the bugundy Mont Blanc is classy, a nice change to the black. These days, Mont Blanc have some very unique designs that aren't to my taste.

  8. Glad you like it Anita.

    Having just found Drucker on Wikipedia, with one of his core concepts being management by objectives, I can understand why you thought I was influenced by him. Though strangely, Wiki states he disliked command and control management.

    In fact it was drummed into me, and a team of others, by a consultant who was hired by the USAF to rescue/push along projects. I don’t think we ever knew his full name but he like the other consultants like him were shockingly intelligent and we thought must be from Harvard or Sloan MIT; though the words planning/leadership/organisation/control are common to many such business schools concept of management. He went through all our tasks, making us think and reason everything we did, forcing us the change our ways, though at the time our brains were exploding. Even tough I wasn’t among serving USAF personnel, there were still orders and objectives of varying importance. I don’t think there is one single “style of management” that suits all circumstances at all times.

    1. Thanks for clarifying - Drucker was just about my first introduction to the concept of management as a skill-set (something I still don't think everyone 'gets'), and I certainly agree with your final sentence there - pretty much all of my management is about self-management, since am a sole practitioner....

      The best and most useful course I ever attended was the Time manager two-day course, paid for by an (at the time) beneficent employer....possibly the best thing ever to happen in my personal business development, and of no mean value to my personal development as well. I still have a soft spot for TMI principles, as will be evidenced by some of my posts here....even though I seem to be becoming more GTD-based in my ways....