01 February 2015

Reader Under The Spotlight - Nicole

Today I would like to introduce you to Nicole

I’m a Mom to two boys under two as well as working from home as a Project Manager.  I’m interested in lots of things, so I lose focus easily unless I have a plan to follow. I plan everything! Thus, I love spreadsheets, lists, Gantt charts, stationery, cute storage bins, stinky cheeses, and all things British.

1. When did you buy your first organizer and what was it?

I bought my first organizer in 2000 to celebrate my first job on Wall Street. It was a black, pocket Hamilton.  I loved everything about it: the oiled leather, the petite size, the contrast stitching, the satisfaction of hand recording, and the convenience of having important information in my handbag.

I was working on an Internet team, and at the time we felt that paper planners sent the wrong message, so I sadly stashed Wee Hamish in a box someplace as the team moved onto PDAs (which I hated!).  Years passed, and though I really missed my planner, I guess I internalized the message that it was unseemly to be a techie and use paper, so I continued to plan in Outlook or on my phone.

Last year I wandered into my Mom’s attic and saw my old pocket Hamilton sitting on top of a box with my 2001 inserts still in it.  It must have been sitting there for YEARS, just waiting for me to notice it.  One look at the dear, sweet thing and I was hooked on Filofax again.  Funnily enough, I went back to paper planning expecting to be an anomaly, only to find it’s more popular than ever!

2. What other brands have you used or considered using?

I am beginning 2015 with an A5 Van der Spek that I bought off a nice lady on one of the boards.  I wasn’t in the market for an A5 or a VDS, but the price was right and I loved the floppiness.  So far, I love it – though it is a BEAST in my handbag.

I also have a sturdy black leather Franklin Covey Compact with contrast stitching that I got second-hand on eBay.  It’s very Hamilton-y, and the rings are a gargantuan 1.5”.

Lastly, I have a gorgeous caramel leather planner from Bloomingdales circa 1991, into which I want to move if this A5 VDS overwhelms me with its beastliness.

3. Out of the organisers you own, which is your current favourite (Style and Size)?

That’s such a hard question.  Like children, I love them all!  I will hedge a little and say that right now, my A5 VDS is my favorite, because the leather is scrumptious, the covers are floppy and I have so much room.  But if I could only take one planner with me to a desert island, I’d bring a personal Hamilton.

4. How many Filofax or other brands of organisers do you own?

Let me describe my happy little planner family.  I now own:

2 Pockets:  a black Hamilton and a green/tan Chester

9 Personals: black Cavendish, black Kensington, red Portland, black Hamilton, brown Hamilton zip, purple Original, brown Connaught and a mushroom Aston

1 A5 Navy Original

3 Franklin Covey Compacts

1 Franklin Covey Classic

1 vintage “personal” from Bloomingdales

1 green nubuck Daytimer, and

1 A5 brown VDS

5. What is the oldest organiser in your collection?

The oldest that has been with me since purchase is my 15 year old pocket Hamilton.  But I own one planner that I know is older:  the 1991 Bloomindale’s planner.  It’s been with other owners before me, though.

6. What do you use your organisers for?

I have a GTD setup in my A5 VDS that is also my everyday carry.  I use my A5 Original as a tickler file (an idea I got from Alexis at Strange & Charmed). I use my red Portland as a budget binder and my Cavendish for receipt storage. My green nubuck Daytimer is my Christmas planner, and I use a vinyl Franklin Covey as a travel planner, because it needs no special care and is easily cleaned.

The other planners I rotate as everyday carries.  Every planner needs to be used to feel loved!

7. What was the feature about Filofax you like most?

Well, the straightforward answer is that the rings made my planner customizable.  The more nuanced answer is that I liked the refinement and British-ness of the Filofax.  If I may liken our planners to cars, I imagine that Filofaxes are like Jaguars and Franklin Coveys are like Volvos.  They are both high-quality, but you buy one for its panache, and the other for its stability.

8. If you could design your own Filofax what would it feature?

Here is the Filofax of my dreams:  rich brown oiled leather, contrast stitching, a zippered change purse, lots of card pockets, a floppy cover for maximum stuffability, and bigger rings in the Personal size.

9. How do you carry your Filofax?

I have a Lily Pulitzer neoprene case for my A5 sizes and a fabric pocket for my personals that I bought from a shop on Etsy.  I only use those if the planner is going somewhere particularly treacherous.  Otherwise, it just gets tossed in my bag along with everything else.  Scratches build character!

10. Which Filofax in the current range do you like the most? Are you going to buy it?

If I was going to buy a new Filofax, the only one that currently appeals to me is the Ochre Malden (though I'm a bit curious about the Lockwood).  However, since I like my Filofaxes a little broken-in, I prefer to buy older models.  (I would use the term “vintage” but I know it’s a controversial adjective ‘round these parts.)

11. What is the most you have ever spent on a Filofax or other brand of organiser? Which model?

My Van der Spek A5 is my most expensive planner, which is why I am forcing myself to use the lovely beast!  However, I take comfort in knowing that I bought it secondhand, and I like to remind my husband that it still cost less than a new Malden.

12. What's your favourite Filofax tip or hack?

I would tell a planner newbie to relax and embrace the ugly planner! (hat tip to Giftie Etcetera for the concept) There are some truly talented people in the planner community, and their pages are labors of love and mini-works of art.  But if you don’t have those talents and inclinations, don’t worry!  I love planners that are held together with duct tape and rubber bands and which have pages that are stuffed with old recipe cards and magazine cutouts.  Is it Patty Gardner at Homemaker’s Daily who has those busted up Franklin Covey contacts pages that she keeps migrating from planner to planner?  I love that!  And Sophia at My Great Challenge has a cleaning list in her planner with holes all over it from all the times it’s been repunched during a planner migration.  I have so much affection for old planners and busted inserts.

13. Turning to Philofaxy, what do you like the most?

Definitely the community.  People are so helpful with information and advice and gifts!  It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before in the virtual world.  I also love the Web Finds, Reader Under the Spotlight, and the free printables. There’s so much goodness here.

14. And what do you not like about Philofaxy?

There’s nothing I don’t like, but there are a few things on my Philofaxy wishlist.  David Popely’s GTD posts are among my favorites. I’ll bet there are a lot of non-bloggers out there with great planner set ups, and I’d love to see some of them featured on Philofaxy.

15. What was the last music track you downloaded or bought?

A Kids Classical Christmas – fun for the whole family!

16. Have you ever attended a Philofaxy meet-up? if not do you intend to one day?

I’ve never attended a meet-up before, but I really want to.  Do they have them often in New York City?  How do I find out about them?

17. What was the last movie you watched?

I wish I could write that it was something intellectually challenging or artistically risky, but I have a toddler, so it was Finding Nemo.

18. What was the last book you read?

The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers.  I love a good English stately house mystery.  (Or in this case, stately church mystery)

19. George Clooney or Brad Pitt?

The better question is: Mark Wahlberg or Benedict Cumberbatch? And the answer is: both.

Thank you Nicole. As you know we are constantly looking for new people to appear in our 'Reader Under Spotlight feature, you don't have to be 'well known' or a long term user to be considered to appear in this 'spot'. So please contact Steve philofaxy at gmail dot com today. Thank you.


  1. Enjoyed your interview. As a newbie, I liked your answer to #6, what you use your planners for. I just learned about Tickler files. That's a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I think a tickler file is a great way to put a dormant planner to use. Mine is no where NEAR as pretty as Alexis'. It's a hot mess of taped-up and repunched Avery folders, Staples sticky labels and leftover inserts. But it totally still works.

  2. Loved the article. As a Filophile I would have loved to see pictures of these different organisers. Am not familiar with many of the brands you mentioned.

    1. Thank you, Maxine. I've promised to contribute pictures of my Chester to Robert's Filowiki, so at least one of my planners will do a little modelling :)

  3. Hi Nicole, thank you for a great insight into your system. I see you're using a GTD based setup in A5. I've been using a GTD setup in my Personal for a couple of years now, but am gradually becoming less happy and more drawn to A5, as I go back to previous interests, unfinished plans and goals, and stuff I need to 'get back into', across my wide range of interests. I'd love to hear more about your *actual* system, either on-list or off-list via davidcpopely (at) gmail (dot) com. Hope this isn't asking too much! Thanks in advance.

    1. David, I'd be happy to share more details of my system! I really like GTD, but I find there is no place in it for things that are not projects or "to dos," such as habits and routines, or (in my case) meal planning and lesson planning for the kids. So my system is what happens when a GTD planner and a home management binder have a baby, and I find that A5 is a good size for that.

    2. "When a GTD planner and a home management binder have a baby" :D That's cute

    3. My GTD system is already detailed here, so I won't repeat all of that.....what I do is to treat what used to be 'goals' as projects (if I've already committed to them) or Someday/Maybe items if they are still pipe-dreams. I do agree, though, about the difficulty of accommodating routines, and additionally to that, although I still keep the GTD lists up to date, I've developed a preference for carrying forward follow-up 'ticklers', of which i have a lot in my work, to future dates, at the time when I send the first email/ask the first question. I've found a DPP diary enables me to do this, and the A5 FF DPP 'Professional' diary works best for me in that respect. For that reason, mainly, am getting drawn away from Personal at the moment, although on the other side of the coin, portability is a big issue (probably the biggest), which keeps me 'strung out' between my A5 and Personal options!

  4. Hi David,
    FYI, you can get A4 Tomoe River Paper from nanamipaper.com if you would like to try it for your A5. I have no idea how it would work in a copier being so thin. If you try it, please let me know. Many thanks.

  5. Fabulous interview! We DO have NYC meetups and Kanalt usually writes an announcement which is published on Philofaxy well in advance. Would love to meet you and chat! I also have an A5 VdS which I love but stopped using due to it's enormous size; I take my planner everywhere and that was just a whole lot of planner to be carrying all over with me. Did I mention I am on foot 90% of the time? So I am settled back in my personal but keep pondering the VdS...

    1. Josh, I remember living in the East Village, and walking all the way down Broadway from 14th Street to Wall Street. I can't imagine doing that daily while lugging a bulging A5 around! This is great news about NYC meet-ups! I will keep my eyes peeled for an announcement from Kanalt. It would be great to meet you all.

    2. Have you considered buying a Standard VdS, Josh?

    3. There will be an NYC meet up in June, and I will be there! Just finalising our travel arrangements and I will be making some announcements about New York and other cities in North America for June/July.

  6. Hi Nicole, I enjoyed your article. I especially liked your car comparison. Other than the colors, I love my FCs best (currently using a FF Raspberry Saffiano, but am eyeing the FC Magenta Quinn) and drive a Volvo.

    1. Thank you, Carla. I am terrible at analogies, so I am delighted that my one about cars was on point :)

  7. Lovely post, Nicole. What is it about those pocket Hamiltons?? I love mine to distraction and can't imagine a day without it. I'm always searching for binders that look "Hamilton-y".

    1. Lisa, even though I'm not using a Hamilton right now, I still sometimes take it out of the box just to "check on it." I agree, there really is something about that model.

  8. Hi Nicole! Lovely post. I too am a Project Manager and live on Long Island. I have attended some of the NY meetups.... The only time I've missed is when I'm away from the boards too long! My 2015 resolution is to get back in the swing of visiting Philofaxy every day. I currently am trying to stay with just one filo for the year and that is my red personal lizard which my boyfriend bought me a few years ago..I barely used it for a year and they he gave me a pocket ochre Malden which IMMEDIATELY put the red lizard into non-use! All things British? Yes, that's me too. My boyfriend is from the north of England, West Yorkshire, so I get to go every few years to visit family. A few years ago here on Philofaxy we were talking about the "names" we have for our filofaxes.. That year I was given a personal green Tejus (circa mid 80s) so I called her "Bronte". The red personal lizard is so fancy I call her Lady Grantham (due to the bright red lipstick that Elizabeth McGovern wears in public). Looking forward to meeting you at the next NY meetup!

    1. "Bronte” is a great name for a planner.