30 July 2015

Experienced User: Alice

​Alice de Sturler is a Dutch non-practicing lawyer/human rights defender. She works on unsolved homicides, wrongful convictions, and assists other human rights defenders and attorneys were requested. She has two blog:

On Defrosting Cold Cases, she posts unsolved homicides and wrongful conviction cases.

On Your Blog Coach, she writes about blogging and posts crime fiction.

If she is not writing, you can find her in coffee shops or on park benches observing people. If she’s not there either, she just might be off practicing archery.

You can follow her on Twitter: @Vidocq_CC, you can follow her cold case blog on FB, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

1. When did you start using an organiser?

I started using an organizer in the 80s. In the beginning of my law studies at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, I was swamped with schedules, dates, notes, and more. The small free agenda that we as students received could not hold it all. In that time, the magazine “Mademoiselle” was still around. There was an article called “Happiness is a worn Filofax.”

In it, several women described how they used theirs and what went in their planners. I thought it was THE solution to keep several schedules in one place without losing the overview. My then-boyfriend, now husband of several decades, gave me a personal size brown leather Winchester.

For years, this Filofax served as my planner. I did every now and then look at other systems but always kept coming back to it. And yes, I also tried digital calendars but got frustrated quickly. Paper just works best for me.

2. How has your use of an organiser changed over the years?

When it was just the university, sports, and our social life, the personal Winchester was enough. However, when I started working I needed more space to write. The use of keywords in the calendar wasn’t enough anymore so I started experimenting with the A5. My favourite is from the company Succes. It is a marigold A5 planner from the Dolce Vita line.

As you can see, the inserts are from Filofax. The latest calendar inserts that I bought from Filofax do not have the issues that made me look elsewhere for a while. I write with fountain pens and feathering/bleeding ink were a huge issue. The last two years, the quality has improved and I again write bleed-free with a broad fountain pen.

3. Which diary format works best for you and why?

I use the day-per-page and the week-on-two-pages with vertical columns. I have experimented with other formats. However, I need the week-at-a-glance overview. The columns allow me to see weekly returning responsibilities and give me a realistic overview of my time since they have an hourly schedule.

From the weekly inserts, I keep the whole year in my binder. From the daily inserts, I keep 3-4 months. If a month has passed, I scan it for missed items, schedule those, take that month out, and add a new one. Old pages go in Ziploc bags. I write the year on the plastic bag with a sharpie and store them in shoe boxes.

4. What other information do you keep and maintain in your organiser.

NEVER: passwords, user names, codes, pins, or anything else like that!

I have in the Dolce Vita: to-do lists (work, home, blogs, and private), an overview of meetings that I regularly attend (dates, times, places, etc.), sports, and projects.

5. Do you use a 'system' of organisation, and how does it work in your Filofax?

If you open my Dolce Vita you will first see the ABC tabs that I use as a notebook. To-do lists are under “T” etc. After that come the daily pages and last the weekly calendar. Since I write most on the daily pages, they are positioned such that the rings do not bother me. In the very back, I have plastic file folders with handouts, coupons, etc.

6. What routines and structures do you use?

In the week-on-two-pages, I only write an appointment by keyword such as “doctor” or “gym.” I block the time that I need to get to that appointment and back with a vertical arrow. Then I note on the daily page where to meet, why, what to bring, etc. I used to write it all in the calendar but it gets too cluttered. On the daily page I also draw the blocked time arrow so I have a realistic overview of what I can and cannot do on that day.

I prefer to have all appointments and meetings on a few days to keep the rest of the week free for uninterrupted work. For example, if I have a dentist appointment on Wednesday morning, I highlight that date in the calendar. If I need time for errands or meet friends for lunch, I try to use that same day as much as I can. I call those days “interrupted days” as opposed to uninterrupted days that are completely free of appointments and get blocked for projects.

7. Do you use one binder or several, and if several, how do you use them?

For my daily use, the Dolce Vita is best. The A5 format is perfect for notes and keywords. It holds several calendars with enough space for copies, cards, and scraps of paper in the side pockets. I still use the Winchester. It is now a notebook with blank paper that I use for notes and doodles. I do not carry the A5 with me unless I know that I will be somewhere where I will need to check my calendar. The Winchester is enough to jot down notes that get transferred later to the Dolce Vita, to doodle, and to jot down words or sentences that I can later use in either fiction or on my blogs.

Thank you Alice.

If you would like to take part in this series please email steve@philofaxy.com and mark your email 'Experienced Filofax User'


  1. Thank you very much for that interview, very encouraging for me!
    Would it be possible to make a slightly better scan/photo of that journal article and to share it with us?

    1. Thanks for the compliment. I will dig it up and see what I can do.


  2. Lovely post! I admire how you have kept up with your two original binders. If you can scan that article that too would be fantastic. Lori Loughlin featured in the article was also the inspiration behind buying my own Filofax. By the way your marigold A5 is beautiful!

    1. Michele,

      I love that binder. It is a real workhorse but I may need to give it some rest soon. With the years the yellow leather has gotten a little damaged and fades on some spots. It usually remains at the table/area where I work but on some days...

      I will try to dig up that article. I know I still have it. As soon as I can get a better scan I will email Steve.

      Thank you for reading!