12 July 2012

Guest Post: In search of the ultimate compact A5 Filofax – Part 2

OK - so you missed yesterday? Where were you? Here’s a quick resumé! I’ve resisted switching to a personal size organiser and I've now made my own A5 “Filoflex”. It’s a standard Flex by Filofax cover fitted with a 13mm binder ring (ex. Time Manager). Now I’ve just got to decide what to put in it!

Big problem. How on earth could I get everything from my 25mm ringed A5 Holborn into a mechanism barely half the size? Put simply, I couldn't! So, I thought long and hard about what I really needed to carry around. I undertook a week long trial with my A5 Holborn, putting a little dot at the top of every page when I used it. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at the results. 60% of my pages were never looked at all week and a further 20% could easily be discarded if I used my iPhone (boo! hiss!) more efficiently and avoided duplication of information. In particular, why did I need to carry all my contacts on my 'phone and an identical set in my organiser in printed form? I think this one comes from the days when 'phone batteries were poor and likely to give up at a crucial moment!

I think some tasks still can't be done effectively on a smartphone. For example, a foldout year planner is a great way for your advance planning overview. It’s far better than trying to plan on a tiny ‘phone screen. Paper is the best way for structured thinking too - for example designing this post so it flowed smoothly. (hmmm!)

So I sat down and went through everything I needed each day and the best way - and indeed from now on, the only way - of carrying it around. I included everything I used on a daily basis – debit cards, credit cards, business cards, stamps, a pen, the need for pockets for money, receipts, tickets etc. As well as my A5 Flex and iPhone, I realised that I would ideally also have a new smaller-size wallet. I decided that a Slim Flex would fit the bill – as well as matching my grey slate A5 Flex.

Here's the list of things I went through and where it seemed to fit best (Time Manager fans will recognise my TMI thought processes!):

Flex A5 (with ring) - * indicates items to be held in the ring mechanism

  • Long-term planner – year/ month (Flex)
  • Short-term planner/ Journal*
  • Goals for the year (business and personal)*
  • Key areas*
  • Current projects (tasks and activities)*
  • Core information (passwords, overnight packing, grocery list etc)*
  • Blank pages*
  • Mind mapping pages*
  • Business leaflets and business cards
  • Pen (held in two Flex card holders)
  • Jot pad (Flex)

Flex Slim

  • Bank notes pocket
  • Receipts pocket
  • Jot pad (Flex)
  • Business cards
  • Credit/ debit/ membership cards
  • Rail and other tickets
  • Pen (in 2 Flex card holders)

iPhone4 (no photo needed!) Ed:I found one?

  • Contacts
  • Agenda (I use the “weekcal” app as it has a weekly and mini-month view)
  • Reminders/ to-do/ don't forget (I use the “tasklist” app)
  • Key dates - birthdays etc (reminders by “weekcal” synced with MS Outlook)

The only things duplicated are that both the Slim Flex and A5 Flex hold business cards, jot pads, Frixion pens and two card pen holders which also act as closures. So I can go swimming or shopping, mountain biking or down to the pub and just take my Slim Flex, using it as a wallet and still be able to make notes or give out a card.

It has worked brilliantly! So much so that I've hardly changed anything in 12 months. Initially, I originally also had a Flex fold out year planner in the Slim wallet. I quickly abandoned that as I found I only do long-term planning when I’ve got the A5 with me (i.e. not in the pub!)

Due to the number of cards we seem to need these days (loyalty cards, membership cards, discount cards etc) I added extra cards to the Slim wallet by cutting down a couple of clear business card holders. Each holds four (back-to-back) and they sit in the outside pockets with the pen holders (that also act as the wallet closure). This means I don’t even need to open the wallet to remove one of these cards and can now hold 14 rather than 6.

As you’ll have noticed, I’m still using the spliced and punched Flex diary pages in my A5. When these run out at the end of July (it was a 2011/2 academic year Flex diary which they haven’t produced this year), I’ll switch to printing my own using the Steve n’Ray “enhanced time management” templates (which I also had a tiny say in the design of!) CLICK HERE

This photo shows how the A5 binder normally looks on my desk. I have the month/year overview on the left and the diary pages open next to that. I can then flip directly to project or information pages as I need to. Two folds and I can pick up the binder with thumb and two fingers, just needing to fit the Frixion into the two elasticated holders and I’m off!

If you love carrying a big A5 Filofax and having everything in printed paper form, then this isn't for you. If however, you largely use an iPhone (or other smartphone), iPad or whatever, but still love paper and just need to keep a few core pages of overview, journal, project management info and blank pages for jotting down ideas, planning and making notes, then this type of approach is certainly worth thinking about.

Finally, if you’re still not sure I’ve done the right thing, here are the size and weigh-in comparisons - all with contents:

Filofax A5 Logic zipped (black)

265mm x 205mm x 48mm = 2,607,600 cubic millimetres.

Typical weight: 1650g

Filofax A5 Holborn (brown)

235mm x 195mm x 38mm = 1,741,350 cubic millimetres

Typical weight: 1320g

Flex by Filofax A5 First Edition as modified (grey) 

223mm x 165mm x 25mm = 919,875 cubic millimetres.

Typical weight: 425g

..and for those of you that think an A5 Filofax is a bit like carrying a brick, here’s a comparison with one!

British Victorian Housebrick 

200mm x 115mm x 79mm = 1,817,000 cubic millimetres

Typical weight: 2700g – so about the same capacity as a loaded A5 Holborn and twice as heavy!

Hope you’ve found this of interest. All the photos except one, have just been taken, so show the set-up after 12 months of daily use. So, even though it’s vinyl and not leather, it has worn pretty well.

I wrote to Letts Filofax about my experiences and made a few suggestions. Sure enough, I didn’t even get an acknowledgement! Their customer service is good but their attitude to product development and lack of interest in suggestions from serious and enthusiastic users, staggers me!

Thank you for reading. Thanks too for all the hard work the editorial team puts in and to everyone for all the banter, e-mail exchanges and helpful tips I’ve had from members of the Philofaxy community over the years!

Tim Edwards – Yorkshire Dales UK

Thank you Tim, I hope it has given some of our readers some ideas to help create their own Filoflex (TiM)


  1. Brilliant set of posts! Really ingenious set up. Particularly like the joint set up between planner and wallet. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks Iain - I hope other ordinary members of Philofaxy might feel inspired to write about their system!

      For me the problem has always been what to carry around with me. Like many folk, lugging a big A5 around everywhere, just didn't work. Now I have an A5 system that really is portable and forces me (due to ring size) to keep it streamlined and minimal. I've then also got my satellite Slim Flex for when I'm just out-and-about. Anything that crops up can be transferred when I'm back with my A5. It has worked for me anyway!

  2. Love the 'phone photo Steve! My first Motorola portable was like that one. We didn't call them mobiles" (or "cellphones" USA) in those days!

    I reckon such 'phones date from the mid-1980's - just when I was on my first paper organiser system!

    1. Transportable I think is nearer the mark I think with that one!. And despite having a big battery those things only lasted a day if you were lucky!

      I had the pleasure to test one of the first GSM portable phones made by a UK company, that was quite chunky by modern standards!

  3. I thought it would be interesting to note that the A5 Luxe is lighter than the A5 Adelphi and the personal Deco. Their empty weights are; Luxe 298 gm and Adelphi is 373 gm. This surprised me because the empty weight of the Deco is 317gm.

    1. Hi Saffy - Gosh! What a difference! I've just emptied my A5 Logic Zip. That weighs 535g empty!

    2. Ouch! 535g empty! I can feel my shoulder dragging and back aching at the thought of the full weight.

      Filofax weight is a big issue and I am constantly weighing my collection to try and reduce what I lug around with me. I now have a list in my stay at home Filofax just with empty weights so I know what can go in my handbag and what can become a stay at home filo. The inserts I carry are almost always the same so it is the binder that makes the difference for me.

      Really enjoyed reading your 2 part post by the way :)

  4. Tim - this is one of the most thoughtful and inspirational posts ever on Philofaxy. Well done! It has given me lots of ideas to revive my own failed planning system.

    Just one question - would you have done the same knifework if it had been an expensive leather binder?

    1. Hi Ted - thanks for that lovely comment! Yes, I would certainly do it again - and will - when a leather version eventually appears!

      I think the main aim of Philofaxy must be to motivate each other to get the best out of our planners - whatever brand or size. Above all we can help sufferers of the dreaded "planner fail". (I've been there more than most!). Good luck with your efforts!

  5. Hi, Tim, thank you for two fantastic posts! I absolutely agree that especially long-term planning and `thinking`works much better on paper than digital (for me also to-do list´s don´t work digital - I just keep pushing them to the next day - and out of my mind). But paper + leather+ ring-mechanism is a lot of weight to carry, as you have shown. Your solution is right: just carry what you really need and customise your tools if necessary (in a very elegant way, I love your Filoflex!). I am looking forward to see your leather version of FiloFlex.

  6. Hi Tim, I love your result with your slimline A5! This is exactly what I'm looking for. I could keep my weekly and monthly pages and relevant notes pages, and switch out pages into my big A5 binder at home as needed.

    And I'm not surprised that you got no reply from Filofax! They are neck-deep in the fashion industry these days and seem to have little interest in those of us who like to use binders for time management.

    Well done creating your ideal system!

  7. Thanks for these two posts Tim - very inspirational!

  8. Tim,

    Thanks for a fascinating and very well-written couple of posts. These are great examples of what most of us come to Philofaxy for, to hear new ideas, learn new methods and to exchange info. Brilliant idea, and really well described. I've had my A5 Finsbury for the last three years, and it has steadily got heavier. I decided to weigh it, after reading your second post. I was very surprised to see it weighed 2.1 Kilos. That's more than the laptop my company gives me. It just prompted me to make the switch back to Personal and to be more ruthless with what I need. I decided on the spot that I'd make it a "no going back" decision, so I just emptied the A5, and put it on Ebay. Decision made. I think I'm tempted to have a go at creating a Filoflex like you described, and keep a slim folder for work info, and use my Personal as my main filofax. By the way, I have seen just the filofax ring assemblies for sale on Ebay at various times, by someone in the UK, and they were only a couple of pounds each. I haven't checked for a couple of weeks but there were a few 3 weeks ago, in (I think) pocket, personal and A5. Your post shows what some thought, some imagination and some patience can result in. Keep the innovation coming!

  9. Absolutely cracking posts, thank you VERY much!

    I especially liked that you've been using this sytem for a while now, so it's not just a theory, and the detailed photos are very helpful.

    Thanks for taking the time to share!

  10. Thank you for all the kind comments and questions. I always enjoy reading guest posts myself. It's not fair that the core editorial team has to do everything! So, I hope other Philofaxy readers will now be tempted to put pen to paper, write a post and let's exchange more ideas to help each other!

  11. I love Filo-DIY and this is more extreme than most. Well played. I'd be interested to see how far away from this the A5 compacts are when they become available.

  12. Tim thanks for this it was the inspiration I needed ... I've just taken the knife to mine to create my version .... I used the rings out of a slimeline Finsbury which clip and slide in rather than riveted like some filofaxes.

    I then bought the new leather version from CityOrganiser and was going to do the same to that but they've changed the layout on the leather version so it doesn't have the credit cards slots ... so that's gone back and I'm waiting on a 'smooth' version arriving which I will then apply the same surgery.

    Thanks for the tips.

  13. Hi Stephen - Well done! How about a quick Guest Post on your version? We don't have too many Flex posts on here!

    Sorry to hear the leather version hasn't worked for you. My understanding is that all the non-leather models (including the new "Smooth leather look") will keep the 1st Edition pocket layout. Let us know how you get on! (ps to other readers: see also post of 30th August 2012 for related comments)

  14. Tim,
    This is exactly what I need.
    So I am very tempted to take out a knife and do the same :-)
    Only issue is finding the fitting ring...
    I am using time system papers (which match the FF A5 holes).
    Would a FF 20mm ring system also fit in the flex cover?
    (then I would look for a second hand 20mm FF to rip out the ring system)

    1. Only just spotted this as it's been a long time since the original post.

      In brief, NO! 13mm - maybe 15mm - is the maximum size that will work and still be able to use the Flex pockets and comfortably close the cover. The other problem you'll have with a standard Filofax A5 mechanism is that it will stick out of the top and bottom of the Flex. The cover height is 200mm and a standard ring mech. is 225mm. Sorry!

    2. Flex cover just purchased via Amazon.
      Hole puncher available in correct ring sizes.
      Ready to remove 12mm ring system from a small Success agenda.
      With this manual at hand, I hope to succeed in copying your masterwork... ;-)

  15. Phone batteries are returning to 1980s levels of performance! My smartphone has a day's battery life in it at best, although I only carry essential contacts in my Filofax (my flatmates, my boss and lecturers, and cab companies).

  16. Filoflex mission accomplished :-)
    Thanks Tim, for the inspiration and the wonderfully detailed how-to!

  17. Hahah that's so great you compared it to an actual brick, that really made me laugh😂👍🏻


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