19 March 2015

Guest Post by Tim Edwards PART 2 - Filofax Time Management – The Professional System

Yesterday we took a brief look at the time management systems that were competing against Filofax in the 1980’s and I asked why Filofax had not entered that market.

It was almost the end of the century before they did – at a time that demand for paper-based time management systems was – surely - already largely exhausted. It came as a massive surprise to me, therefore, when I saw the launch of Filofax - The Professional System in a Viking stationery catalogue in 2003.

Overwhelmed with email and yearning for a return to the glory days of paper, I purchased the new A5 system, directly from Filofax.  It was the first official Filofax I had owned!  But, from where did Filofax Time Management originate?

James Noon (from ‘A’ Time) has provided the answers!  He tells me that his first connection with Filofax was in 1997 when Filofax bought the intellectual properties of his successful system.  Filofax also purchased the copyrights to his book, the ‘A’ Time trademarks, the designs of his ‘A’ Time pages and his customer database.  James wrote a book for Filofax in 1998 called ‘Start Time Forward’ which was all about planning forward from start times rather than planning backwards from deadlines.

He also ran the ‘A’ Time training courses for the first couple of years under Filofax ownership. Filofax acquired the domain name www.timemanagement.co.uk in 1999 and launched in 2003. They still own it, but is now defunct. Production continued of ‘A’ Time pages with Filofax branding. They had very pale red headings and feint grey lines on white paper. 

Big changes were planned and in 2003 Filofax re-launched The Filofax Time Management brand as The Professional System and with slogans such as “making time work for you”, “time for business…time for leisure” and “a dynamic tool for smarter working. (Note that The Filofax Professional Organiser was the name originally given to the Deskfax system – not the same thing!).

Comparison between 'A' Time page from 1995 (when brand still independent) and 2002 (when it had been acquired by Filofax, but before the 2003 relaunch) Photo: Lynn (Cloudberry)
The ‘A’ Time forms and accessories were redesigned and the colours changed to black and white, presumably to save cost. James disagreed with this decision because the three-colour printing was a basis of the ‘A’ Time brand. However, Filofax Group now owned that brand and references to ‘A’ Time were completely dropped!

Logo 1997-2003 when ‘A’ Time forms were being sold
Logo from 2003 with the launch of The Professional System
One thing that did not change was the discrete letter ‘A’ in the time plan column of pages and which was an important feature of the original system. It can still be found today on the dated products, but I had no idea that it related back to ‘A’ Time!

The only reference I could find was on page 8 of the 2003 user guide that just says “In column ‘A’, block out chunks of priority time on your appointment schedule with a vertical arrow or bar”. But as James explains: “by marking this column (say with a pencil scribble) ahead in time it signified that at that time you would be doing ‘A’ priority work even if you did not know what that work was at the time of marking. This helped to protect your time ahead so that when you arrived at that time ahead you did indeed have time to plan and focus upon very important work”

Clearly, a lot of work had been done leading up to the 2003 launch of the Filofax Time Management range. Brochures from 2003 and 2005 may be viewed here

At its height there were zipped and unzipped, leather and leather-look A5 options. There were two pages per day and two pages per week options and a Pocket Companion wallet and annual refill. Dated and undated stationery packs were widely available and each form could be purchased separately as you needed them. I found the Mind Map, Results Planner and Project Planner forms particularly useful.

There was a user manual and advice on setting up your “Key Area Sub-Division designed to capture and manage dynamic information relating to your work under the sub-dividers”. Training courses were offered (still sub-contacted), particularly the one-day Time Skills Open Course, held in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

I quickly discovered the biggest limitation of the system was size and weight. My leather look, zipped version was a standard A5 Logic Zip binder. Even with just the weekly contents, it weighed around 2kg!

Furthermore, I now had a mobile phone and laptop to carry around, which I didn’t in the 1980’s. I persevered for a while but soon went back to my relatively lightweight Time Manager Compact size for general use, with my A5 Logic tethered to the desk.

The last brochure I received came out in June 2006. The 44 page brochure of 2003 had become 22 pages in 2005 and just 10 in the final edition. Although the courses had been scaled back, the range was still intact.

After 2007, first to go from the product range was the Pocket Companion wallet. The selection then petered out as stocks became exhausted. In the end, in about 2009, it became just a footnote on the main websites. You would struggle to find it

All reference to the Time Management range (apart from three remaining items) disappeared entirely as the new Filofax websites were rolled out, starting with the UK. You can still find the odd overseas webpage for the system standing in splendid isolation with no links to it!

Also, three products are still available – at least in the UK - for existing users. These are: -
So, that’s it then? Well - no - it might not be quite the end! In 2010, James Noon decided to re-write ‘A’ Time, both as a new book (print and e-book) and as an e-commerce purchased self-training system. Part of that design will be that pages can be printed out in a format to suit an A5 ring-bound system and/or downloaded to a range of electronic devices (laptop, tablet, mobile).

As part of this strategy, he asked for the rights to ‘A’ Time to be released back to him by Letts Filofax and this was granted. So it is James Noon who now owns new trademarks in the name ‘A’ Time (only in the UK at the moment).

James describes his new venture as a ‘swansong’ (he reckons to be 70!). He reports that the book is already half completed and is now looking at the paper and electronic possibilities for using ‘A’ Time.

Even in our digital era he remains convinced that we all need assistance/reminding that simple ideas can make a substantial contribution to personal and organisational productivity. However, James recognises that it would need developing as an app in order to have modern widespread appeal. “Ideally, I would like to licence out the development of the electronic side of my plan. An entrepreneurial app developer/e-commerce developer would have the worldwide exclusive rights to ‘A’ Time. So, if you know of any such person or business then let me know!”

I’m sure there are many Philofaxy readers who would be very interested in his re-vamped time management system in paper or digital format and we wish him well in developing this venture.

With many thanks to James Noon for his very helpful and interesting answers to all my questions. www.jamesnoon.co.uk.

Thanks too to David Popely and Cloudberry for the background information that enabled me to contact James.

Copyrights to all material acknowledged.

Tim Edwards, Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire UK

Thank you Tim for a brilliant two part guest post, now I know what that column is on those inserts!


  1. Tim, many thanks for another interesting article. That ‘A’ on the Filofax forms always makes me smile. Few people knew its origin. It’s a joy to see the old Time Management systems. It was a pleasure to help out on the ‘A’ Time history and the early pink Filofax pages. I started using the day per page but switched to week per page to cut down the weight. Like you, I couldn’t carry laptop and A5. Good to hear that James is planning an update – if he gets the App right, it could be winner. I’d always need paper to scribble notes, but a tablet Filo would be amazing!

  2. Another great post, Tim....

    Thanks for sharing all this with everyone!

  3. I should add: the date is barely visible in the ‘A’ Time photo as I had covered it in white correction fluid and sticky labels so that I could photocopy the page.

    The Wo1P-with-facing-notes is copyright 1992,1993. This rings a bell as up to 1991 I used the 'A' Time Do1P-with-facing-notes. Sadly I never kept any samples from that era.

  4. Thank you Tim, for such a brilliant exposition of the history of these systems. I could write a very long reply, but I'll try to keep it sensible!

    As you know I was a very enthusiastic TMI customer from around 1982 until 2005, and then a 'residual' user until last year, when I sold my entire holdings of TMI binders, inserts and dividers, which were considerable, to a lady in Skandinavia. Unlike you I had a beneficent employer who sent me on the two day course, which was superbly done, and also attended the periodic customer update sessions, which TMI used to hold on the evening of day 1 of the two day course, in London, twice a year, as part of my own professional updating. The TMI system (binder and updates) is still available online, to order, as is the T/S system. Both are now shipped to the UK from mainland Europe.

    I'm lucky enough to own a copy of Start Time Forward, as well as a copy of A Time, and SF is fascinating reading. A Time I found to be showing its age rather more than STF, so a rewrite would be more than welcome. I'm interested to hear that James Noon is planning a 'relaunch', and I'm sure it will find a ready market among those of us who value planning tools above nicely-decorated binders for making notes in (reference to Ms Bloomer entirely intentional).

    You're right - the A5 is a beast to carry, especially if it's a Bridle, one of the weightiest binders ever made! However, there are lighter options. I wonder if Filowiki includes binder carry weights......

    Thanks again Tim, for all the careful work which has gone into these posts.

  5. Thank you for the post Tim. At the risk of sounding like a drug addict, your posts have left me wanting more, in a good way, really excellent thank you.

    Incidentally have you shared your system in the past? IT would be interesting to learn more. And sorry for spotting this six rings on your last post ;-)

  6. Thanks Tim for your hard work in producing these great posts.

  7. In an alternate universe where planning is considered sexier than baccarat: "The name is Noon. JAMES Noon."

  8. Cool post, Tim. I prefer to manage my time on computer as it's quicker and I guess, more comfortable way. I use TimeCamp (www.timecamp.com) and it works good for me. Do you know it?

  9. I've been trying to track down a copy of "Start time forward" by James Noon - disappointingly absent from Amazon.co.uk - do you happen to have the ISBN number off the back of the book you featured in this article?

    1. Start Time Forward was privately published as it formed the foundation of the short-lived and ill-fated Filofax Time Management project so it is not available and has no ISBN number. I have a copy which I obtained from James on request and I'm sure he wouldn't mind being approached again. His details are on the internet

  10. also... any chance of a follow up with James about the update to "A Time" mentioned in this article? I wonder if he's finished the planned re-write of his book.

  11. Ditto my reply above - ask him!

  12. Thanks for the valuable post on Time Management. This blog post has so much information that helps me.
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  13. Very helpful, even five years later.