17 September 2015

Experienced User - Susan

My name is Susan, otherwise known as Kanalt around the Philofaxy community. I am from Long Island, New York and have been known to organize a New York City meet up or two. I have been a member of the planning community for many years and have been blogging at wellplannedlife.blogspot.com going on 6 years.

1. When did you start using an organiser?

Like many others, I started with a planner in high school – we were given a spiral-bound notebook, weekly layout, for tracking assignments. The book itself wasn’t spectacular, but I used it and saw the value in using it right away. I used it only for school assignments, no personal activities, as far as I can remember.

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

From that spiral-bound notebook in school, I continued to use a spiral bound weekly planner in college, mostly whatever I could find in the campus bookstore. After graduation, I moved on to “official” spiral-bound weekly planners, gravitating towards DayMinder’s Weekly/Monthly Executive planner (similar to this planner). I stayed with that for many years – I liked the spiral-bound type and didn’t want to try a ring-bound because I didn’t like their bulk. A friend, however, urged me to try a Filofax due to its flexibility. I did a little research, found Philofaxy, and the rest is history! I haven’t gone back to a spiral-bound planner since.

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

I originally started with monthly and weekly, which worked fine for a long time. Then I got a full-time job and switched to monthly and daily. I have since moved my work tasks to an online task manager (see why and how I use it here). With that, I no longer needed a full personal sized planner, moved to the compact, and have stayed there ever since.

I use the monthly pages for forward planning. My work schedule is done on a monthly basis, so I need that view to see which weekends I’m working and when I can schedule personal activities without over-planning. Since the monthly boxes are so small, I only indicate where I need to be on those; the details are kept on the daily pages. In addition to details of appointments and events, my daily pages also keep track of exercise, food, water, medications, personal tasks, and various notes.

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

Aside from the above, I use my planner for keeping track of blog topic ideas, journal topics, random notes like tracking any health symptoms, as well as my husband’s medications and allergies, any projects I have going on, a master to do list, and lists of items to buy.

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

If by “system” you mean GTD or FlyLady or the like, then no. I think those systems are a great place to start, especially if you’re a beginner – they give you structure and offer tips and tricks that you might otherwise not be familiar with. If you love them and they work for you, great! Keep using them.

However, I think they can be a little limiting. Once you start down your own path, you will see what works for you, what doesn’t, what you need, and what you don’t. It’s all about you – how you think and work and organize. If you’re not happy or comfortable with a system, or if it’s too complicated to follow, you won’t use it and will end up frustrated. Everyone is different; everyone thinks differently; everyone works differently. Your own system and method will develop organically, and it takes time, so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t come naturally or quickly.

I have a very organized mind by nature, so I pretty much know what I want and how to get there before I ever start. That’s not to say that I don’t tweak my system along the way – life changes, and your system should change as well to reflect the life you’re living now. A predetermined system might not allow for those changes. Pick and choose what works for you and make your own system.

6. What routines and structures do you use?

My structure basically consists of adding appointments and tasks as they come up. If I don’t write things down right away, I forget about them. I have several systems in place to help me get there, whether that’s using my email as a to do list of items to transfer to my planner or jotting down a note on my phone and adding it to my planner when I can. I love technology and believe it has a lot to offer. It’s especially helpful for keeping track of items on the go. But my planner is my hub, the place from which all tasks are completed and all activities attended. So everything eventually ends up there, and it’s from there that I work.
As for routines, I make time for daily, weekly, and monthly planning sessions. A planner will only take you so far; you have to do the rest. I can keep everything listed in my planner, but if I don’t actually look at it and use it, it does me no good.

Each week, I sit down and plan out the week ahead – I look at my work schedule and personal activities and add in various exercises and errands where they fit. I actually need a weekly view for this, and since I don’t carry that in my planner, I turn to Google Calendar for my weekly planning. You can read more about that here. Once I’ve planned out the week, I transfer all of my information to my planner.

Because I use a compact binder, and because it can hold only so much, I can carry only so much. Therefore I have to switch out my daily inserts each month, and that’s where the monthly planning comes in. I take out the new daily inserts, transfer anything from my monthly inserts to the dailies, remove the old daily sheets, and pop in the new.

My daily planning is a quick review at night for the following day to make sure I haven’t forgotten to do anything that day. It also helps me check to see what’s coming up the next day.

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

Again, because I carry a compact binder, I can’t keep everything in one place. I use a personal Filofax Malden for all of my “household” information, which basically means anything I want to keep track of but don’t need with me when I leave the house. You can read more about that binder here.

I also have other binders and notebooks for various purposes. You can read about those here.

Thank you Susan.

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


  1. I'm loving this series! It's always great to hear how other people use their binders. Thank you Susan/Kanalt for telling us about yours.

  2. Great post Susan! The fact that you've always been so organized by nature makes me more appreciative of your explanation of how your system works.

  3. I enjoy this series too. Susan, I'm a big fan of your blog and Flickr account, especially pictures of your neat daily pages. Do you archive them?

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  5. Agreed...it's what works for you. No one system fits everyone, all the time. Just because my mish-mash Franklinfaxruntimer works for me, doesn't mean it will work for Susie Homemaker or Joe Bloe. We're all different and need/want different things. Loved your post.

  6. Aww, thanks for all of the love! I enjoyed answering these questions, as it made me look at my system with new eyes.

    As for archiving, I do archive. I only started that in 2009, so I don't have too many at this point, but this post explains how I archive my pages: http://wellplannedlife.blogspot.com/2013/04/change-of-planner-archive-system.html

  7. Thanks for this great post, I get so much great information from your blog. Wish we could have another meetup in NYC soon!

    1. Thanks, Kitty! I typically organize meet ups in the spring. I think I tired a few fall meet ups -- the first one was well attended, but the second one wasn't, and fall is such a busy time for me that it's almost always impossible to find a date for it. I don't even try in the winter because of the bad weather (I live 2 hours away and travel by train to get there).

      Meet ups will always be announce here and on my blog, however, so keep a look out!

    2. Looking forward to it! The June meet up was my first one and I wish I had paid more attention to Steve's VDS samples...oh well

    3. And I specifically took note of his samples, seeing as I was planning on a purchase soon after, which I did!

  8. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I loved what you said about "my planner is my hub". That's how I feel about mine, too.

    1. Thanks! I couldn't run my life (well, at least) without my hub.