22 February 2015

Guest Post - My tempus planner in WT size - Jürgen

Thank you to Jürgen for his guest post. 

Before reporting on my current tempus planner, please let me briefly introduce myself. I have been using ring-bound planners for about 30 years, switched to digital, back to notebooks, index cards, digital again … - I think you get the picture. Since 2004 I am using tempus planners, besides some fILOFAXes.

Being a theoretical physicist at a university, I am heaviliy involved in teaching and in a lot of projects. Therefore, I am planning appointments and daily tasks on paper. Long-term planning is done on a computer.

My planner collection comprises three tempus planners (WT black with M-sized rings, WT brown with S-sized rings, and an A5 black with M-sized rings) and (too?) many fILOFAXes (Personal: Malden ochre, Malden grey, Kendal brown, Hamilton black, Active zipped black, Sketch grey; Slimline: Kendal black; A5: Malden ochre, Holborn black, and Finsbury grey). Currently in use are the tempus WT and the A5 Malden, the latter for meeting minutes and conferences.

tempus is a German company (http://www.tempus.de/zeitplansystem.html) which offers two lines of planners: A5 and  WT format (vest pocket, *Westentaschenformat*), the latter somewhat smaller than fILOFAX Personal. The calendars come in three flavours: week on two pages, day per page, and day on two pages (D2P). I’ll report on my WT planner with D2P calendar.

The WT planner’s size is between a fILOFAX Personal and a fILOFAX Pocket.

tempus WT planner (right) and a fILOFAX Personal Malden in ochre.

tempus WT between two fILOFAXes: Malden Personal and Holborn A5.
 tempus WT on top of two fILOFAXes: Malden Personal and Holborn A5.

The four rings are 20 mm wide. The planner has two elastic pen loops, that on the right-hand-side with leather reinforcement, as the Kendals have.  It lies absolutely flat out of the box, thanks to the »striped« back which also makes the planner somewhat floppy (which I like - Malden lovers would appreciate this, too). The leather is thin but robust - it shows only minute wear after several years of usage. Currently, I am using two pens: a 0.7 mm pencil (left, for appointment entries) and a black Pilot G-TEC-C4 0.4 (right, for anything else).

The yearly calendar package is available in German only. It is quite expensive, at first glance it costs much more than fILOFAX inserts. But the set comprises a D2P calendar, a monthly calendar, notepaper, planner for the actual and the upcoming year, project planner, page marker, info pages, motivational cover pages, and an archive folder. The paper quality is high - very thin but ink-proof, with the shortcoming that pencil is somewhat bright (low contrast). There are so many well-thought details which make using the planner fun.

On the left side you find four credit card slots, one of them with a window, and a vertical full-height pocket. The cover page provides a motivational quote and a picture.

Motivational cover page.

Then comes the monthly calendar.

Monthly calendar (left).

This is a booklet with plastic cover which can easily be »ripped off« the rings, like a »today« marker. There is a single line per day which is sufficent space for up to four, maybe five, appointments. Note the transparent divider with the blue tab at the bottom; this allows to open quickly the actual month. Futhermore, the calendar is tabbed for easy access. It starts with December of the past year and ends with February of the next year. On top of this it offers pages for the upcoming years (up to ten, with decreasing space).

For daily planning one uses the D2P inserts.

Day on two pages.

The left page exhibits a motivational quotation and space for notes. Note the lines with the fading background - these »sections« offer structure but do not disturb. The right page shows two columns: one for appointments, the other for tasks. The latter is divided into four sections; from top to bottom: to do by yourself (for me: urgent and important), delegate (for me: not urgent but important), phone calls (for me: contact), and email (same for me). On the top of the page you find a line for this day’s priority. Note also the day tabs for easy access; tabs for Saturday and Sunday are slightly darker (e.g. 14. and 15. of March). The rings are wide enough to hold five weeks of D2P pages, besides the other inserts.

The to do lists wrap around the divider with the green tab at the bottom and can be folded out, similar to the Professional range of fILOFAX. I do long-term planning on mind maps (week, month, and year), also foldable for more space.

Mind map and to-do list.

On the top you’ll find several dividers made of plastic. Those labeled 1 - 3 are for notes. I am using section 1 for projects, 2 for personal notes, 3 for ideas. The notepaper is pretty conventional.

Ruled and lined notepaper.

Then come sections for spare inserts: to-do lists etc, then notepaper. The info section is updated yearly and comprises about 80 pages. I pick out about 20 pages that suit my needs (e.g. holidays, time zones, etc.).

Information pages.

The back of the planner hosts a transparent compartment for small notes, recipes, etc.

Back of the WT planner.

The »today« markers come in three flavours.

Page markers.

The transparent one is similar to that supplied by fILOFAX but more flexible. The other two are made of cardboard - I am using them when travelling; so I have my schedule and travel information always visible. Or one could use these for notes, phone numbers, shopping items, … See them as kind of a dashboard.

The yearly inserts come in a handy folder, which gives a nice archive.

Archive folders in WT format (top row) and A5 format (bottom row).
As you can see, I switched from A5 to WT format in 2008.

Concerning planning, a tempus offers sufficient structure but is not too restrictive. It is flexible enough to fit to my needs, that is, it is close to my »sweet spot«. However, it is not as customizable as a fILOFAX which offers no guidance at all.

In my opinion, whether you prefer structure or flexibility is a matter of personal habit. I am using a GTD-inspired approach; but instead of running several »orthodox« GTD lists (@NextAction, @Waiting, @Someday, etc) I have a single to-do list in which tasks are marked according to the DashPlus system (http://patrickrhone.com/dashplus/).

Summarizing, a tempus planner is suited neither for scrap booking nor for decoration with Washi tapes. Instead, it is a professional tool you can trust on: awakening towards serenity (*Aufbruch zur Gelassenheit*). There is — of course — a drawback: it has neither the vintage style and the haptic of a Malden nor the patina of an old and often used Hamilton. I think I do not have achieved planner peace yet but I am pretty close.

Once again thank you Jürgen for your post. 

If you would like to submit a guest post to Philofaxy please contact us at: philofaxy at gmail dot com


  1. Thanks for an interesting post Jürgen.
    Science and engineering were primary focus areas for Lefax back at the origin of Filofax a century ago, so it's good to serious professional use continuing today.
    The system and usage you describe would have been well served by the Filofax personal range until the "crisis point" around 1990.
    I like the idea of the Tempus yearly insert packs and archive folders.

  2. Can I ask a question. What is the ring spacing of the 4 ring binder? This post might help:

  3. Jürgen, thank you for posting this detailed description of your system and its components. Very interesting!

  4. Wow! Another brand of organiser I hadn't previously heard about! The page size of the Westentaschen appears to be 145mm x 86mm. This compares with Flex Slim (150mm x 85mm), Field Notes (140mm x 90mm), Filofax Pocket and Flex Pocket (120mm x 81mm) and true A6 at 148.5mm x 105mm. What a shame they aren't all standardised at A6! As for the rings, they appear to be 6 at 19mm distance? If so, they would be compatible with modern Filofax Pocket.

    1. Tim, there are some more A6-types in the German speaking world: www.loehnmethode-shop.de and - from Switzerland - www.hirt-shop.com

      Both are the the toolboxes/backbones of the „Loehn- rsp. Hirt-Methode“ - GTD predecessors based on the works of the late Gustav Grossmann (+1973). His method - the „Grossmann-Methode“ - had been published in 1927.

    2. ...I forgot to mention the "Helfrecht"-planner:

      same roots as the ones before...

    3. Hi Franz

      This is completely fascinating (especially on a quiet Sunday afternoon!)....I see Grossman published a book in 1927, Sich selbst rationalisieren.....do you know, or can you tell me, if an English translation was ever published?

    4. It hasn't been translated, I'm afraid (at least, I couldn't find a hint); I do have a copy: the 28th edition from 1993!!! That's a long success story, isn't it? I also own a (rare) copy of his method manual (he used to license his method to the end user in form of a book - the "Glueckstagebuch"; you had to sign for confidentiality, i.e. not to talk about or publish your secret knowledge). The technical part of the method consisted of a loose-leaf A6 book - forms were on your own (handwritten). Later, the Grossmann users got together (by city / region) in a sort of a guild which evolved into the "Gesellschaft für Arbeitsmethodik" which is still existing.
      Gustav is in Wikipedia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Großmann

    5. Thank you Franz......absolutely fascinating stuff, although the Google Translate version of the German Wikipedia article into English is pretty incomprehensible.

      The 'guilds' concept reminded me that TM, in the heyday of the two-day courses, used to run 'user update sessions' on the evening of the first course day, when the new users had gone home. I used to regularly attend these update sessions twice a year (unlike everything else TMI offered, they were free of charge), and they were a great way of refocusing on goals, systems and methodologies (obviously with reference to use of the TMI system). It occurs to me that the majority of people don't take much interest in self development, but that those of us who use planners to actually plan (to plagiarise the Facebook group of the same name) are among those who are keeping up this excellent practice. f only I lived in a big City (in every other respect I'm profoundly glad I no longer do!) I might be tempted to organise such a 'guild'.........

  5. Hello all, thanks for the interesting information about these different systems! I think I have found a translation of 'Sich selbst rationalisieren':
    Not readily available, but sometimes libraries can scan a copy or partial copy on request, depending on copyright constraints.
    I recently bought a Van der Spek Senior size planner (pages 95 x 152 mm) and have enjoyed experimenting with different 'near a6' notebooks cut up to make note pages.

    1. Hi Ingrid

      Very many thanks for your research skills.....this is indeed the correct book. Not only that, but using this information I just located and ordered a copy via www.abebooks.com.

    2. @Ingrid: das ist aber selten, dass man auf jemanden trifft, der sich mit dem alten Grossmann noch auskennt!

    3. David, glad to help and to hear that you found it! I will look out for your possible future guest post comparing this with other methods you are familiar with...

      Franz, I did not know about him before today! I just like learning new things and using libraries. I think it is interesting to see the history of systems people have developed to manage themselves and adapt to change. I'm not a native German speaker but I learned some German in school and am trying to learn again, so thanks for the opportunity to practise! :) Also thanks to Jürgen for a new phrase I like - 'Aufbruch zur Gelassenheit'.

  6. David & Ingrid, what an interesting exchange of information!
    it was really nice "talking" to you about methods; looking forward to hearing/reading you again...

  7. David, I'm so thrilled by your interest in Gustav that I've done a quick and dirty translation of the Wikipedia article - since I'm not a native English speaker, pardon my English!

    Gustav Grossmann (* January 2, 1893 in Gross-Jerutten, Masuria , † May 29, 1973 ) was a German inventor, writer , rationalisation expert and the originator of the eponymous Grossmann method.

    Life and Work [ Edit ]
    A WWI-veteran, he spent a lot of time in hospitals recovering from serious injuries. This led him to develop an easy to understand and efficient system of self-realisation and performance improvement, which he later passed on (sold) to "suitable people“ as the „Grossmann-Methode“ (GM).
    Grossmann is considered a pioneer of the methodological work and life organisation in Germany. He studied philosophy, economics, statistics and psychology at the universities of Berlin, Freiburg and Königsberg . In 1920, he got a PhD in Königsberg (Thesis: The essence of need satisfaction) and worked as an assistant to the psycho-technicians Walter Moede and Curt Piorkowski in Berlin. After various organisational and promotional activities, he became advertising manager from on 1926 at the Munich based R. Oldenbourg publisher.
    During this time, Grossmann perfected his method (originally intended for his personal use) and published it in professional journals. Due to the great interest he summarised these articles in a book „Sich selbst rationalisieren“ which was published on April 1, 1927. In the same year, he started his own business as a specialist in personal working methods.
    Throughout his life, Grossmann introduced over 30.000 people as licensees in his method by distance learning (snail mail, I guess ;-)). His main work has been revised several times by himself through the 1970s. The planning and problem-solving techniques, personal situation analysis (the so-called. Persitana), schedules for life planning down to daily tasks, „wieplan" (project plan), „Glückstagebuch“ (happiness diary) are the building blocks of a cohesive system based on the guiding principle of "benefit bidding“ (meaning that you focus on the advantage/benefit for your business partner). The development of life goals was a particularly important target, focussing on both the preferences and characteristics of the individual and the benefits to the community.

    Grossmann philosophical roots were Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, influenced also by the psychology of Alfred Adler .
    Many current systems of time- and self-management can be traced back as a whole or in parts to Grossmann. Some methods that are often attributed to Grossmann, however, are older and can be, for example, already found at Benjamin Franklin.

    Unlike many of today's systems, Grossmann put individual personality, attitude and emotion („the mood rules") in the center of attention. Grossmann saw his method as an organic system of life art with a scientific foundation.
    In a series of further writings, he dealt with single aspects of life and success factors and instructed the reader to develop the personal consequences and implement the appropriate activities using the methodology.
    To deepen the method, Grossmann founded for his former seminar participants the so-called "Grossmann-methodologists guilds". In 1954, members of this guild founded the „Gesellschaft für Arbeitsmethodik“ (GFA).
    After G’s death, the rights to the method were acquired by Manfred Helfrecht, which also protected „Helfrecht planning system“.
    He sees it as a contemporary development of Grossmann method and his marketing activities aimed primarily at medium-sized companies and freelancers. During G’s lifetime, in 1953, his student Josef Hirt developed his own corresponding course „Hirt method". This method is also attributed to Grossmann. Also, the Grossmann-pupil Josef Schmidt, author of a short biography of GG, founded his own system ("Unternehmer-energy").

    1. Thanks yet again Franz, your English is perfectly good enough, and a lot better than what Google offers when the page is translated automatically! interesting reference to Benjamin Franklin, who I guess we all know from the Franklin Planners and latterly from Franklin Covey. I have a copy (unread until now) of BF's autobiography, and will certainly go back to it now. My copy of Grossmann's book is on its way from Scotland (in English translation, I'm glad to say!). t was published here by Thorsons, not sure yet of the date or ISBN but I will post them here in due course.

      If you'd like to continue this conversation off-list I'm on davidcpopely (at) gmail.com

  8. As this post is a few weeks old, I know this is like a cry into the void - but I wanted to note the influence Jurgen's post has had on me.

    Through abebooks.com, I located an English copy of "The Formula for Success" from 1957, and I'm looking forward to reading it. While I don't speak German and don't have access to the printed inserts Jurgen highlighted, I'm interested to interpret Grossman's writing into my own methods and habits.

    My own Filofax use, in its own way, is _all_ about productivity, whether in my professional life or my creative one. Jurgen's post was both inspiration and reminder to never stop looking, always refine and stay flexible.

    Like David above, I would be glad to continue a discussion of Grossman privately. I'm always available at johnlmiller620 [at] outlook.com. Thanks!

    1. Hi John....coincidentally, only this morning I pulled my copy of the Grossmann book off the shelf to begin reading it. You're right - we should *never* give up trying for improvement, even when we seem to fail over and over.

      I'll email you offlist

    2. Forgot to say that my copy of Grossmann is a 1957 Thorsons first UK edition and predates ISBN numbers (and their predecessors) by a considerable margin!