03 September 2015

Experienced User - Richard (Crofter)

Thank you to Richard aka Crofter for his contribution. I met Richard in Denver earlier this summer, it was a pleasure to meet him for the first time and to see how he uses his Filofax to organise his life in so many ways. 

When I don't write things down, my mind wanders off without me." I would like to take credit for that quote, but can't. It comes from an anonymous quote in my Commonplace Book. I am Richard, I reside in a small town along the front range of the Rocky Mountains a bit north of Denver, Co.. I am now retired, but had a career in several different fields within the construction and transportation industries, and also raised cattle for 40 years. Truth be known, the only reason for the outside jobs was to support my cow habit.

Growing up, I was always so impressed with my Dad. You never wanted to argue with him, he could go to his archive, look it up, and tell you exactly what happened, and more than likely, what was said, and who else was there. At a very early age, it was stressed that you never left home without 3 things; a jacket, something to eat, and a roll of toilet paper. By the time I was 12, two other things were added, to be responsible, and to that, be accountable. You should always have something to write on, and a hard pencil. Nothing has changed.

1. When did you start using an organiser?

I really didn't start to use a "formal organizer" till 1980, but was very much aware of how badly I needed something. This was during a period of time when I was Equipment superintendent for a large contractor based out of Denver, Co.. I was responsible for all the equipment from 200 ton cranes all the way down to small stuff, just not the hand tools. This included 75 pickups, 20 autos, 2 ton trucks, semis, trailers, and the list goes on ad nauseum.

I was also in charge of getting equipment and materials to jobs all over the state, to jobs with a contract value up to $50 million. At any one time, the average number of jobs would range from 25-35. It really was a huge challenge, and I really struggled with staying on top of it all. You would have all the plans set for the day, and one phone call of a major equipment failure, and your priorities would have to change.

I eventually settled on a 5x8 card system, in a folder that had slots for 21 cards on each side. I would divide each card into three columns, with a priority of 1, 2, or 3, according to the time needed to accomplish the task, as the deadline would draw near, the task would migrate into a higher priority until it would finally be checked off. It was a real stone age system, and had the portability of a boat anchor, but it allowed me and the15 employees I had responsibility for to stay on track.

It was during this time that I saw the first real "organizer" I had ever seen. It was a Day-Timer, and I was immediately thinking of how I could use it. I started with a wire bound monthly book, and was the start of a long string of systems, that all served the purpose I had in mind at the time, and since have been superseded by "new and improved" systems. You all know how that goes.

My next job was in the construction industry again, I was a manager of a company that rented heavy industrial and construction equipment in three western states. I was an application specialist, and figured out the best way and best equipment to solve difficult construction problems. My last position with this company was manager of a yard in Colorado Springs that rented 3500 porta potties, or port loos to the construction and military. What a crappy job----literally. During this time the main problems were the logistics, and just keeping track of everything.

I went to work for the Union Pacific Railroad after that, and really didn't need much of a planner, I did keep track of all my trips, including engine numbers in my consist, my conductor, and little notes about the trip. What a change, and a welcome one. It was a great job, and one of the few where you had a train of 137 coal cars, each hauling 100 tons of coal, with 5 engines, 3 on the head end, and 2 on the back, with 42,000 horse power at your finger tips. [100 US Tons = 90718kg ]

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

It was about 1990 that I got my fist Filofax, I was still on the railroad, but needed a tool to keep track of my cattle business. It was a challenge because during the summer I had cattle in Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming. It was during this time that I used the Filofax forms in addition to the day on two pages diary. I used the bank form for a cow record. Each cow got its own sheet, and on it was recorded both expenses and income for each cow. The regular expense of feed, vaccinations would be based on the total cost of feed, medication, etc. and divided up and each cow would be debited. Special medications or expenses would be noted for each cow, also the calf weight and what it sold for, or if kept for my feeder program, what the weaned weight of the calf was. This allowed a very accurate picture of the cost efficiency of the particular cow, and would determine not only which cows were culled, but also used to determine if that heifer calf she had should be retained and made part of the herd.

I also used , and still use a Filofax 'Motor Running Record' the form number is 537. I used these for each vehicle and motorized equipment for when maintenance needed to be performed, and to track expenses.

I also used graph paper and would use moving averages  for 4 items; gas, diesel fuel, corn, and hay. I would use week end prices, and run off the bottom of my supply when prices were high, and off the top or full supply when prices were cheap. All commodities are very cyclical in nature when it comes to price, and your profit can be greatly enhanced by just paying close attention to price points

During this period of time, my cow records were kept in a 5/4 Black Winchester. Everything else was in a regular 7/8 Filo, and later in my very favorite, a 1/2 5CLF Winchester, which is the predecessor to the compacts of today. This is a constant companion for me, and with the 1/2" rings, does not hinder my writing. The other thing I love about this Filo is the leather squeaks when you squeeze it, just like a good saddle, and believe me, I have spent a lot of hours in both.

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

It varies, I use the month on two pages with tabs, then as of late, just a week on two pages. I have gone to all Tomoe River Paper, and make them my self, and that gives me a great deal of flexibility, if something comes up and I need a day on 2 pages, no problem. I will eventually make my own finance pages, right now I am working through a substantial supply of Filofax forms, so I guess there are two reasons I am not making my own now, I'm both lazy and cheap.

In conjunction with my week/2 pages, I use a modified bullet journal. I admire people that can successfully use GTD, takes a lot of self discipline. I am a fan of Bill Westerman's Getting Sh*t Done. I can pretty well judge how I am doing with the progress I make on my Monthly list. I have found that doing a weekly review on Fridays is very helpful. (Thanks David)

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

I have a finance section, I keep track of a checking account, 2 credit cards, and cash. We installed a solar system last year, and I keep track of how it is doing. I have a project section, currently we are doing a major rebuild project on a rental property we own. I keep a lists section, mostly of places I would like to go have a meal at, books to buy, and lists of need supplies.

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

I think that has been covered above.

6. What routines and structures do you use?

My routine is the same one I have used for years, reminds me of a sign on the Alaskan Highway, "Choose your rut carefully, because you are going to be there for the next 100 miles". Ok, I am very comfortable in this rut. My Filofax is the last thing I look at before I go to bed, and the first think I look at in the morning. It is either in my hand, or right beside me through the day. It is just a very nice crutch.

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

I use just my 1/2 5CLF since I retired. I carry only the facts I need to have at hand, not much for decoration, and am a firm believer in keeping things as simple as possible including my life. I think Ray and David have the right approach, 1 life, 1 planner.

In closing, I would like to thank Steve for including me in this, and to the rest of you who make this blog possible. I think it is a wonderful community of people and ideas and I enjoy it. If I may, I will leave you with another quote from my Commonplace Book, "I am indebted to my notebook for the happiness of my whole life." Benjamin Franklin.

Thank you Richard.

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


  1. Fascinating! I love learning about job histories.

    You mention creating some of your own inserts on Tome River - are you drawing them like the bullet journal style days above? Or printing them?

    Also, what is the significance of the highlighting?

    1. Hi Bree,
      I color code things so that a glance I know what is coming.
      Pink is for my bride,
      Green is a church function,
      Yellow is for friends,
      Blue is for family,
      Orange is for business, and items that have tax implication.
      I use either Micron, uniball or 2h pencil, everything else will smear, and the paper has no bleed or feathering. Because it is so light, it gives me about 40% more capacity on my rings. Great stuff.

  2. Beautiful Filofax, fascinating insight. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Beautiful Filofax, fascinating insight. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Beautiful Filofax, fascinating insight. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Richard, I think this may be my favorite Experienced User post ever! I loved hearing about your job history and your systems. I especially loved hearing about your "cow habit" (love that!).. My father was a cattleman; he passed away almost two years ago, and I miss him dearly, so reading about your business brought back some great memories for me. Thank you for sharing!

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  7. A well-worn Filofax is so beautiful And I love the idea of making your own week-on-2-page spread on plain ol' lined paper. Thank you for taking us on a journey of your work history (and your planner!)

  8. My Dad was a cowboy (I grew up in Eastern Montana) and he always had a planner. His inspired me to get my first one and the rest is history. He passed away 9 years ago and I treasure going back and reading his planner pages. He recorded may similar things as you and ALWAYS the weather. Thank you SO much for sharing your story! What a delight!

    1. Hi TNT, My planner has very high mileage on it, I think it has the most horseback miles than any Filofax in the world.

      Glad you enjoyed my guest post, thanks.

    2. I have my Dad's journals, and my Granddad's journals, and each of them have weather. Mine also have weather recorded. Grandpa's journals go back to the late 1800's. If I had the time I would go back and check, should prove global warming!

  9. Very interesting post, thank you. Do you have a photo or link to the Motor Running Record for? A quick Google did not bring anything up.

  10. Very interesting post, thank you. Do you have a photo or link to the Motor Running Record for? A quick Google did not bring anything up.

    1. I do, if you will send me an address to send it I will do it in the next day or so.

      Thank you for your interest.

  11. I have learned much from this post, thank you!

  12. Fascinating post. I've read it four time already! Slimlines are a great size for making entries without the rings getting in the way. I love mine (a Holborn and a Cuban). I just wish I had the dedication to log everything in the way you do!

  13. Thanks Tim. I would rather err on the side of inclusion than exclusion. I use these pages for a regular journal entry as I have time. I can always go back and re-construct any day.

  14. What a great post. I loved reading about all of your different jobs--and how you used your Filofax to record info about your cattle. And your Filofax is beautiful--so well worn and well used. Thanks for sharing.

  15. This was a really beautiful post. Thanks, Crofter!

  16. It is great to have a post like this. With a real thinking person whose system is so functional.

  17. It is great to have a post like this. With a real thinking person whose system is so functional.

  18. Richard, what front range town, if you don't mind my asking? I'm in Loveland.

    1. Crazy! We may have crossed paths at some point, as I worked on fifth street in Windsor for several years.