24 September 2015

Experienced User - Lois

Thank you to Lois for sharing the details of her set up with us today. Lois blogs over at Thoughts Along Life's Highway.

1. When did you start using an organiser?
I've been using an organizer for as long as I remember. Probably started really using one in high school or college in the 80's, as I was working while going to school and had to keep my schedule and tasks pretty organized to make sure I didn't forget anything.  My absolute favorite time of year growing up was back to school. Not just because I was going back to school - more importantly, all the supplies that were suddenly available on the shelves. I've been a stationary/pen addict most of my life and that remains true to this day.

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

It's pretty much always been my go-to for my life organization. When I was a stay-at-home mom for a few years when the kids were little I didn't use any type of planner. It drove me nuts, although I didn't realize it at the time. It wasn't until I started back working and I felt this "ahhhh" moment that I realized I had been feeling somewhat out of control without a planner to keep me straight.  I'd been using a little month at a glance calendar back then but I obviously need more to feel like I know what's going on in my life.

In the last four years, I've tried coil bound planners (a very popular colorful one) and a few lookalike coil bound planners, but I found that I was trying to make-do with something that really didn't fit.  Like wearing someone else's shoes. Even if they're the right size, they just don't quite feel right.

In one of my jobs as a corporate training manager I had the opportunity to evaluate several time management programs to determine what would work best in our culture for management training.  I took classes from Franklin Covey and from Time/Design.  While Franklin Covey was more popular here in the States, I liked the Time/Design system the best. I liked the idea of a master task list that you didn't re-write every day and kept separate from your schedule.

Both classes emphasized keeping one book for everything - personal and professional. I lived by that for years, but have moved away from that in the past seven or eight years. My professional calendar/diary is all online and it seemed silly to rewrite it in a planner every week as it would change so frequently. Consequently, I've migrated to having my planner be purely personal and my work-related tasks are kept in a notebook or bullet journal with the calendar online.  This seems to work well for my life right now.

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

I need a week at a glance these days. I am managing a household schedule, my own appointments and commitments for volunteering, etc. and my children's schedules.  I find that daily pages don't work for me as the overall rhythm of the week gets lost in them. I like to see what is coming in the week to balance out commitments and ensure I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off every single day. I find that one or two days out of the house for errands and appointments work well and I try to keep the others clear as much as possible so that I'm not overcommitted.  Working from home full time makes it easier to manage this as well.

I use my monthly pages to give me an even bigger picture of commitments and scheduled events into the future. That's where I do most of my forward planning.

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

Right now, I have a calendar section, finance section (monthly bills), family section (kids' schedules, vaction plans, meal planning, etc) and a "me" section (crafty ideas, books I want to read, wish lists, Christmas planning, prayer lists, etc) I also have a section for business cards of doctors, etc. and that's the closest to a "contacts" section I have nowadays. Most of my contacts are kept on my phone.  the final section (in my Personal size) is Shopping. I have really loved having an ongoing shopping list. I keep pages for each store I frequent and just jot down things as I think of them. I've even trained the kids to use these pages and it's really helped me to be more productive when I do go out to shop - less items forgotten and less return trips required.

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

In my personal, I use DIYFish v3 pages. These are a weekly view on the left side with a notes/habits section on the right side. In my A5 I use a Plum Paper Planner set that I punched to fit. It's a weekly vertical view across two pages and I've sectioned each day into appointments, to do, menu planning and habits.

I've tried so many things  but so far these seem to work the best for where I'm at right now in my life.

6. What routines and structures do you use?

Routines - I am sure I have them - I am very much a creature of habit. However, I've never really written them down anywhere. I just DO them.  For example, Saturdays are usually my forward planning days - looking at the past week and sorting out menus and commitments for the next week.

But I'm not one to develop and document a detailed routine for housecleaning, etc and track it in my planner. Those type of things I just do as I have the time and see the need.

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

Earlier this year, I invested in a Filofax Finsbury (Raspberry- A5) and a Day Timer Malibu (grey - personal). I've been switching back and forth between the two depending on how busy life is.  Right now I am transitioning out of the Malibu and into the Finsbury because the kids have started school and I need the extra space for tracking their activities and commitments. I am sad about moving out of the Malibu, though, because I love the buttery leather and portability. Seriously considering managing the two simultaneously  but the duplication seems such a waste.

I also have a few other binders that are waiting in the wings for their time to shine. I'm not a huge collector (not like I'd like to be) but I do have the full set of Kikki.k gold planners (all three sizes) and a few other Franklin Covey planners in both Desk and Compact sizes. As I used to use the Franklin Covey inserts religiously, I developed a pretty good collection of those binders. I keep looking at them thinking I should find them new homes now that I've moved into the Filofax six-ring system but I haven't done anything about that yet.

My other favorite binder is a Kenneth Cole personal sized zip binder. I thought I'd lost it earlier this year when we were in a wreck and it disappeared for a few months. I was so happy to find it wedged in between furniture this summer.  I love the leather and the setup - lots of pockets and a zippered closure. It makes the perfect shopping binder to keep coupons and lists handy.

Thank you Lois.

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


  1. Hi Lois, Thanks for the peek into your planners. You had me at the Malibu (I'm biting my fingers trying to keep from hitting the buy button) and then topped it with a vertical layout. Ohhh!

  2. Oops, forgot to mention the biggest nail biter for me, your Kenneth Cole binder. I'm a sucker for the "vintage designer" brands. The current fave is a Wilson's Leather.