21 January 2013


What Tabs or Sections you divide your Filofax or organiser up in to are frequent questions I see on Philofaxy and elsewhere.

Some time ago I discovered a document about organising a paper planner as if you were starting from nothing. It was written by David Allen of Getting Things Done fame.

David Allen free PDF ORGANIZING A PAPER PLANNER is available on his website.

He recommends for Getting Things Done:
    • Notes/In... is a trusted place to freely capture input as it occurs, without having to analyse or organize it. It is the first section, because it can come into play instantly, anywhere.

    • The next most frequently accessed information will be the actions you need or want to take at any time. They are best organized in three sections (and most likely viewed in this order):

    • Calendar... is the first place you’ll look to know what has to be handled today, and how much time you’ll have otherwise to deal with all the other things you have to do, which you’ll see on your Action Lists.

    • Actions Lists... which let you know all the single actions and next steps on your projects, to be done as soon as you can get to them.

    • Agendas... hold all the reminders for items to discuss with people and in meetings.

    • When you are in control of all of the above, you will next want to connect and update all your actions by reviewing:

    • Projects/Goals... which will remind you of the final outcomes you want to accomplish. For some of these, you will want more detailed...

    • Project Plans/Notes... which will ensure greater comfort that you have all the right action steps needed to move things forward effectively.

    I adapted the above to my own requirements and I went with:
    • Notes In - Basically the same function as recommended above.

    • Planner - This is my Enhanced TM Week per View for all my future and daily planning requirements.

    • Journal - For this I use my Week on per View Journal insert which records all or most of the things I have been doing in the last day or so throughout the year. I don't keep all 12 months of this insert in the organiser though.

    • To-Do - I use these sheets for long term goals, so I have a 'House' sheet, 'Personal' sheet etc, on those I just list the headings and some details of things I hope to get done in the coming year.

    • Notes - Stuff I jot down for projects, Philofaxy posts, random websites to record them somewhere before I file them some where more appropriate.

    • Information - This is where I store my maps and reference information.

    • Address A-Z- All of my contact sheets printed off from the Filofax Address Book Software which I've been using successfully this last couple of years.

    Whilst most Filofax organisers come with pre-named tabbed dividers (Diary, Notes, Projects, Information, Financial and Addresses) are these the right titles and are they in the order you should have?


    1. Excellent post and info, Steve. Thanks for sharing it!

      Like your setup....

      Like you, I've used David Allen's GTD setup approach as a starting point and then modified it as it felt right for me.

      David's approach is great if you are really disciplined and take the time to follow his GTD system. However, I find in my busy worklife schedule that it's hard to do this regularly.

      Think main point is to have a good way to capture all your ToDo's in one place, so, they don't get lost or take up space in your head trying to remember them.

      From there, it's a matter of either doing them from your inbox or moving them to another more subject specific list or Next Actions list....

      It's an ongoing process.... ;-)


    2. Wowwww cool posting. Yesterday I went trough my planners and looking at the dividers, reading posting about other peoples dividers. I then look at how I use the planners and make the appropriate dividers form them. After your post, I am going to re looked at my divers. Thank you for this insight.

    3. Fantastic post. I purchased some Avery tabs yesterday, this has been so helpful, now I know how to layout my tabs so that they are functional and ones that I will actually use. :)

    4. I never use the dividers that come with the filofax.
      I use the flyleafs as dividers.
      1st: my month on 2 pages
      2nd: my 2 week on 2 pages
      3rd: my daily pages that i use for daily to do's and for journaling 4th: Lists like shoppinglists, wishlists, gift ideas lists, to do's, lastly my
      5th: divider has info..trainmap, contacts, websites, worldmap

    5. Great post & thanks for sharing, Steve :)
      I've never used the pre-named dividers & have always used sections based on David Allen's document. I'd already read Getting Things Done before I owned my first filo.

      My top tabs are:
      MITs (most important tasks to help me)

    6. I recently posted about my tabs setup (details here for anyone interested: http://www.plannerisms.com/2013/01/franklin-covey-2ppd-third-times-charm.html ). My tabs are:

      Home (the first time I've had a Home tab!)
      Blank tab for whatever I'm working on at the time

      I don't use an inbox, I function better when I write the action on the page of when it needs to be done. If it must be done on a certain day, it goes on that day's page. If it has to be done in a certain week, it goes on that week's to-do list. Information I need also goes where I need it: into my contacts, a particular tabbed section, or on the day's page when I'm doing the thing (directions to an interview on the page for the day of the interview, etc.)

      This works much better for me than a general inbox, where things get lost in the shuffle. I write things on the diary page of when it's going to happen, so when I do that action everything I need is right in front of me.

    7. I have sixsections in my Filofax. First is Home, which contains a sheet of today's timeblocking, a tv and radio scheduler, a meal planner and today's prayers and meditation. Next is my A5 TMWPV diary, printed on gorgeous WHS premium white paper. Then MOTP- at the mo for job apps deadlines , also a horizontal Month at a glance for jobs activities done- applications sent out etc etc. Then an annual section to record any days worked, sickness absence, school hols etc. Then a lists section... medical stuff,passwords, a blog planner, reading lists and 1 page of most frequent addresses. Finally a jottings section for notes, eg control key reminders, how to mail merge reminders and just notes... usually notes not needing filing. So it's organised into daily diary, weekly TMWPV, Monthly, annual, lists and jottings. I also have a small Wilkinson London Skyline notebook attached to the front flap of my Filofax. An utterly ideal size and with squared paper. I use sticky dots to attach this and it is like a GTD capturing book. I also use jot pads to break down projects into smaller steps and insert them into the correct page for the week I'll be doing the project. I keep a GTD Personal Sketch for project to Dos, a dumping ground, from which I update my to dos when I do my weekly review and TM plans for the upcoming week and at the back of my GTD Filofax, I store Someday maybe and Horizon goals. Hope that makes sense!!

    8. I've just written my blog post on the results of my Filofax Dividers Poll, and later this week I will be writing a post on the dividers I have made in the past, and how I am using my dividers now!

    9. It is always interesting to see how people set up their filofaxes, since we all do it differently depending on what we do, and who we are.

      I have seven main sections, with four sub sections.

      1. Today (which is my calendar tab).
      2. Mission (my version of to-do, which applies to the entire week).
      3. Work, with the sub tab "applied to" since I am hunting for a job.
      4. Journal (I like having my journal in the middle of the filofax, since the rings do not get as much in the way).
      5. Blog, with the sub sections Topics and Drafts. I haven't gotten around to actually starting my blog, but when I think about possible posts they go here.
      6. Writing (for the book I'm working on). With the subsection "plot" and "characters". It is a good thing to have a quick to check character list, so that a character do no change eye colour all of a sudden!
      7 Cooking. Which includes a few recipes and my honey list of honeys I've tried. It is important since they keep changing out the offering in my store, so I need to remember which ones I did not like.

    10. Great information, Steve! Thank you! I haven't really changed my divider set-up in quite some time. I find that the current set-up works for me - four out of the five dividers are the pre-printed FF ones!

      Projects (with sub-sections)
      Information (with sub-sections)
      Fly Lady

    11. I downloaded that document about a week ago and thought it was really great! I'm trying to use it some in my planner.

      I have always had a bunch of tabs including:
      Bills to be Paid
      Business Acct (check register, etc.)
      Household Acct (check register & other info)
      Savings Accounts
      Work Calendars (for my husband's business)
      Info. (birthdays, anniversaries, car repairs, health, etc.)
      Food Journal
      I have a couple of blank tabs that I use for temporary projects - a while back I was speaking to a small group of ladies and I had a tab for that. I made notes about things I wanted to talk about there.

    12. I feel like an over (or under?) achiever here, using 40 dividers in my setup! From my comment on Kate's post:

      "I use FORTY different dividers;

      One set of 2-letter-per-tab A-Z index for notes and reference information (13);
      "Notes" (1);
      "Diary" (1);
      Month tabs (Dec 2012-Dec 2013)(13);
      another set of 2-letter per tab A-Z "slimline address book" for contacts (12)."

      This setup really works well for me as I can almost immediately get my fingers on whatever page I need to find. When I used more basic tab setups I would have to flip dozens of pages to get to the right one, this way it's just so easy.

      My newly setup Franklin Planner has a more efficient tab setup but virtually the same number of tabs in total: I use my A-Z (1 letter per tab) address insert to also file all my info, notes, and project documents. So there is just one A-Z index plus the 12 month tabs. I've done away with "Diary" and "notes" Notes comes after the Z tab and before the January tab. January starts the diary section. I now have 36 tabbed dividers and find it works beautifully. The beauty of this setup is that the single one-letter-per-tab index for my contacts and info is both more efficient (all "info" is sorted together) and more specific (one letter per tab as opposed to two with the exception of "W X" and "Y Z") so I can get to the precise page I need even faster.

      I found too that for many letters the 14 spaces for contacts right on the tab divider itself is adequate for my needs. If I need more space I add a sheet after the divider and before the info that files behind that letter.

      Might seem excessive but I find the simplicity and flexibility of this setup highly functional.

    13. I have the following:

      1.Planner and info - month on 2 pages and week on 2 pages my own adapted column version
      2. Spiritual - for my daily devotions/Bible study
      3. Home and Family - for menu lists (the actual menu plan is in my planner section), kids info etc
      4. Business - plans, ideas, finances
      5. Ministry - anything to do with work I do at church