06 February 2014

Guest post - My Filofax - Helen

Hello Philofaxers!

I love reading set-up and system posts here on Philofaxy, and I have been working on simplifying mine, so thought it would be nice to reciprocate and share my Filo.

I am currently using a personal Plum Osterley, but also have a collection of others, including a cream Amazona, personal Decos, an ochre Malden and some pockets of various designs.

2013 was not a good year at Fennell Towers, there was a lot of change and things got a little out of control. The Delightful Mr F and I clung to each other as a storm raged around us. My blogging went out of the window, my exercise stopped and I was eating poorly. Crucially, I stopped using my Filo, which clearly didn’t help.

Around about October last year I realised I needed to get my self sorted out on the organisation side, so spent the last quarter of the year experimenting with different diary layouts, ways of tracking to-dos, note taking and general lists. It was an interesting exercise. I didn’t worry about what things looked like, or that I was mixing diary formats, I just experimented and I learned some useful lessons:

1. I need a diary format with lines.
2. I can’t deal with lots of colour as I find it hard to see things clearly
3. To-dos which are time dependent have to go in my diary if they are going to get done.
4. Anything which I need to focus on, such as my health needs to be in my Filo.

So here is a more detailed explanation of my set-up, which I have now used for a month and is working really well for me.

I have six sections:

  • Diary
  • Health
  • Info
  • Lists
  • Contacts
  • Blog

The Osterley has two pen loops. In one I keep a mechanical pencil, which I use to enter items which might change in my diary, so I can rub them out if needed. The other loop holds a Pilot G-TEC-C4 0.4mm pen. I like very fine writing nibs, and this is perfect.

In the front pockets I have vouchers which might be useful and some Fennell Books bookmarks which I give to folks as a little advert for my book blog.

I have a clear envelope with a card The Delightful Mr F gave to me, and some sticky notes stuck on the reverse.

I then have my “If Found” page just in case the worst should happen and I leave my Filo somewhere. I hope that whoever found it would call…

My first section is my diary. Each section has a little front page, this one has a print of an Agatha Christie cover which I am very fond of. I have a range of these and swap them out when I want a change.

For my diary I am using a lined week on two pages and carry a whole year. I have adopted some of the bullet journal ideas:

 = Appointments
O = Task

I tick the O when a task is complete, if it is no longer needed I put a cross through it, or if it moves I put an arrow through it and re-write it elsewhere.

Weekend task lists are very long, but always the same, so to save writing these out every week, I have a reoccurring task list under my lists section which I print out each month.

You will notice that there is no colour, no decoration, it is all very plain. I love seeing the creativity people put into their Filos, and I did try for a little while, but I didn’t enjoy it and I couldn’t see through the decoration to plan anything, so I stopped. Plain and simple works best for me.  If I have a very busy day coming up I will use an undated day planner slipped between the two sheets of the week to view so I can use that.

My next section is Heath. I have MS so heath is a big issue. I am also Primal, and to help me keep focused I have a couple of sheets printed out with Primal information such as the Primal Laws.

I keep track of my exercise and eating here to see if I can spot trends which aggravate my MS.

Section 3 is Info. This does exactly what it says on the tin. It is lists of information such as hospital numbers, coded passwords, holiday tracking etc. I also have a tube map and the Filofax London maps. I am up in London quite often and the Fiofax maps are really useful and save me carrying a separate A to Z.  I am very keen on printing my own pages for specific tasks, so I have a page that lists all the important dates I need to remember.

As you will have realised after my comments about a lined diary, I am not very good at writing in a straight line. To help when I am writing on plain paper, I have made up a guide sheet, like the ones you get with writing paper. I simply put it on the rings behind the plain paper I am writing on and then I can see the guidelines through the paper.

Under the Lists Section I have a series of lists with things to remember, but aren’t time critical. Eg. Long term health plans or ideas, things to do around the house, ideas for presents, books I want to read those sorts of things. A list I have found particularly useful is the “in the fullness of time” list. This has all the things I need to get round to at some point, but aren’t in any way urgent. I look at this when I have some spare time and pick one item from the list to do. It is surprising how much you get through.

This section also has spare note paper for quick scribbles. I dismantled some small notebooks I was given and punched them. These scraps are great for brain dumping information to be transferred to a section later.

My contacts section has all my contacts in it.  I used to have them handwritten, but it was a lot of sheets, so I made up some inserts myself and printed them up with all the names and addresses on them. I can get many more to a page now, and so my contacts section is only three sheets.

My final section is for my Book Blog. The first sheet is my reading plan for 2014. I won’t necessarily stick to this, but it helps me formulate blog plans when I can see roughly what I might be reading in the next few months.

After that follows my editorial for my blog, listing potential blog topics. I have used various systems in the past, monthly calendars, putting it on my weekly calendar and so on, but this year I have found a better solution. I have simply numbered each line on a page to represent a date and then a letter for the day, eg. 8W = 8th of the month which is a Wednesday. Then when I plan my blog at the start of each month I pencil in topics, and tick them off as I write them. I also have a list of potential topics and ideas.

Right at the back I have a couple of business card holders for loyalty cards, and key services such as taxis.

Given how much I have got in there in terms of information, it isn’t particularly thick, and the nice thing is that it is really working well for me. I know what needs to be done and when. Key things I need when I am out and about are with me, and there is room for me to make notes when inspiration strikes for blogging, presents or anything else for that matter.

The time I spent experimenting was really worth it. I realised my system was far too complicated; I carried far too much stuff with me that I didn’t need and that was stopping me from using my Filo. Just the sheer bulk of it was off-putting.  I carry much less with me now, but what I do carry works really hard.  If I could get a lined Pocket diary week to view, I might even be tempted to downsize.

Thank you Helen for a very detailed look at your Filofax, do visit Helen's blog at Fennell Books. If you would like to submit a guest post about 'Your Filofax' please initially contact Steve steve at philofaxy dot com 


  1. Thank you so much for such a lovely and informative post. I love your idea of a re-occuring task list on the weekends and am going to recreate that for myself. I also see that the reading list will not go astray either.
    I am new to Philofaxy and am really appreciating the time and effort this community goes to in encouraging others and providing information that is useful

    Again Thanks


  2. Thank you for all the detail on your Filofax. I feel the same way about writing on lines. I use a pocket size Malden with week on 2 pages with lines. I purchased it from Filofax France.

  3. Thank you for posting this, Helen - there's loads of fab info here that I know will help me. I'm back to using a Filofax after several chaotic years of diaries and electronic gadgets. My brain loves lists, so you've given me plenty to think about and experiment with.

  4. Hi Helen,
    Lovely post. Hope you don't mind, but I would love to use your idea of 8W etc for dated lists. Great idea.... feel quite excited by that idea.So sorry to hear that you have MS. That must present some challenges at times. You've also inspired me to begin to take my health and well being more seriously.... so I'll be adding a health section too. In fact my Filo is soon going to resemble yours!!! Take care.... oh BTW my dad visited Agatha Christie's house near the River Dart and said it was a fabulous outing. A long walk uphill from the small ferry over the river apparently, but a lovely place he says. Thanks again for the post.

    1. Help yourself, the idea for 8W came from bullet journalling, so I can't claim the credit I'm afraid!

      I really want to go to the Agatha Christie house. I really should makes some plans.

  5. Thank you for your post. It's clear, efficient and effective. This is more my style and after a bit of experimenting after a few months I feel I'm almost getting there. Your post has reminded me to put in a health section I kept toying with and I love your way of planning blog entries; it could be used for so many things. And that primal page - I've got to make one of those! Brilliant Filofax. Hope it continues to work well for you.

  6. Excellent post. Several good ideas to consider!

  7. Thanks for the kind comments everyone! Setting aside some time just to experiment, and not worrying about outcomes was really helpful. This is the lovely thing about Philofaxy - sharing ideas, and everyone's Filo is unique to them :)

  8. Such a nice FF, and thanks for the great tips and ideas. I really like the lined week in your diary pages, does it have a name? I'm sorry if the question is stupid, but I'm just getting into the science of Filofaxing and I would love to have those lined weeks in mine as well. It crucial that I like looking at my diary pages for me to use them. :) Thank you!

    1. It is called Week On Two Pages Lined Diary: http://www.filofax.co.uk/week-on-two-pages-lined-diary-personal.html

      I realised that without lines I am doomed to wonky writing!

  9. Great post. I just love the Osterley. Has such a nice look to it. I'm quite surprised at your last picture. After everything you showed us, the filo is surprisingly thin. I'd love to have the ability not to over stuff mine. :)

    1. I think it is partly to do with the fact that I have the minimum in there, and that I don't carry things I really don't need. The printed contacts pages helped a lot too.

  10. A fabulous read on your system and there are a few things I'm going to try out for myself!

  11. Thanks for sharing. I like my pages on the plain side, too. Every now and then I get "wild" and put some decoration but it never lasts for long.

  12. This is a great post. I've been looking for a way to plan my blog posts for a long time, I've tried, diaries, year planners, to do lists, everything. Your method sounds perfect and I can't wait to give it a try. I also like the idea of puting a ruled page behind plain paper as it always annoys me when my writing runs off. I should also get much better at organising my health section too as I was diagnosed with Leukaemia last year and along with meds I have so many appointments I must remember

  13. This is a great post. I've been looking for a way to plan my blog posts for a long time, I've tried, diaries, year planners, to do lists, everything. Your method sounds perfect and I can't wait to give it a try. I also like the idea of puting a ruled page behind plain paper as it always annoys me when my writing runs off. I should also get much better at organising my health section too as I was diagnosed with Leukaemia last year and along with meds I have so many appointments I must remember