31 July 2016

Experienced User - April

This week I would like to welcome April to share with us how she uses her organisers.

I’m April Robinson, living in Michigan with my husband and our cats (rescues all.)  I work full-time as an accounting clerk and office manager.  My hobbies include reading, music, sewing, crochet, and gardening. 

1. When did you start using an organiser?

My first planner was a hardcover-over-spiral week-on-two-pages formatted calendar called the Administrator, circa 1993-94.  It wound up becoming a vital part of my recordkeeping (I was a new wife starting out in my own household), but I grew out of it. In 1995, I acquired my first ring-bound organizer, a Franklin Compact size with a leather and cloth (tapestry) cover.

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

I’ve been really consistent in the bones of my planner usage.  Franklin-Covey’s system of listing and prioritizing tasks with a separate column for appointments was a model that still makes the most sense to me, 20+ years later. Daily pages in a personal size has been my most frequent format, but in previous jobs, I’ve needed an A5 or even (in Franklin-speak) a Monarch-size.  

The latter two I used in a week on two pages format. Now that I’m only responsible for tracking my own work and appointments, the personal size is fine. But regardless of size, I’ve always used monthly pages, then weekly or daily (sometimes two pages per day.)  

Once I had discovered Franklin, I was permanently in love with ring-bound planners. I eventually took to Filofax by about 2002, after a stray catalog came my way.  I loved the variety of binders, page sizes, and, back in the day, all that variety of pre-printed forms.  

However, I did depart for a few years into the disc-bound world of Levenger’s Circa system.  I found it sleek and elegant and especially stuck with it for the superior paper quality (I’m a diehard fountain pen user.) Eventually though, I missed the ease of moving things around in a ring-bound system.  Looseleaf pages of the disc-bound system get hung up on each other, and those edges do fray after several cycles of moving around.  

By the time I was ready to leave Circa, Filofax had my heart once again…except for that thin paper quality!  Thankfully, I found Philofaxy and learned of customizable inserts I could order or print myself.

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

Currently, a detailed page per day in personal size is ideal.  For 2016, I attempted my own design for the first time.  Working off of Ray Blake’s generously provided files and his excellent instructions, I created a page that truly works for me and pleases me aesthetically as well (pictures attached.)  I will never have more appointments than I have tasks, so I made a smaller, general area for including those or for other noteworthy events such as important visitors at work, or special event or outing.

Below that are two columns for to-do’s, separated by office work or things for home and personal.  I also wanted to prioritize areas of creativity (I quilt, crochet and write) and study (Bible study and foreign languages.)  And finally, I track my water consumption and supplements. 

My monthly pages are for tracking travel (hubby’s as well), due dates, my vacation time, and appointments.  I’m currently loving the tabbed monthly pages from Handy Forms.  I must have lines in my calendar boxes, and the paper is wonderfully sturdy too. 

If I decide for 2017 to dispense with the homemade inserts, I’ll likely go back to DIY Fish, which I found to be exceptionally well done.

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

As I’ve had for many years regardless of planner system, I maintain tabs for Notes (subdivided by categories of info), Contacts and Projects. 

In front, I continue to retain Filofax’s pages showing international holidays (useful at work), and a year-at-a-glance foldout insert for the following year.  In a plastic sleeve atop all, I keep my basic information page.

I created a copy of the Filofax version of the “Personal Information” page in Excel, and print new ones as edits require.  I’ve found it invaluable to have some of this data with me at all times.  (I’ve heard of folks having concerns over personal information in their planner in case of theft.  But I don’t have any credit card, social security or financial information included.

My address, anyone could get online these days regardless, and the insurance policy details are harmless.  However when I’ve misplaced my planner, including one grim day when I distractedly drove off and it flew from the roof of my car, having my contact information right in front made it possible to recover my planner quickly.)

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

I’ve probably already stomped over this ground in my answers above.  But again, Franklin Covey’s method is tried and true for me and works seamlessly in my Filofax.  Beyond that, I do like the DIY Fish system, though am not currently using.

6. What routines and structures do you use?

I find a bit of inspiration in the old “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” approach.  Other than that, my only structured routine involves caring for my home, and I use the Flylady system.

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

I use only one binder for planning at the moment.  But I am likely going to appropriate one of my A5’s for a second planner, storing information I’m not likely to need when out and about…certain sections in my Notes area.

This would include things like lists of movies, books or TV shows I’m interested in, home maintenance activity, areas of research I need to pursue, things I need to sell on eBay, and so on.  This will thin out my “everyday carry” nicely.  But I will retain sections relating to my cats’ health, bills, an ongoing grocery list, and communication log in my EDC.

Other A5 binders are in use for garden planning and info, quilt patterns and fabric swatches, and I’m about to create another organizer for crochet patterns and yarn samples.  A fourth is dedicated to Bible study.  I’m in the process of converting my language study notes into a Travelers Notebook format, which will free up another A5.  One tip: the $20 I spent to get two reams of A5 paper into my possession have been more than worth it.  (Thanks, Amazon!)

Thank you April. You can catch up with April on Instagram @scribbles_and_bits

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


  1. April, thank you for sharing your planner insight and use. It's interesting to read about those who have been using a planner for many years and have found a tried and true method that works for the user. My favorite kind of "Experienced User" posts. Very enjoyable and thoughtful read.

  2. Hi April! Great post! I also love these posts from someone who has used a planner for many years with a system that has worked for many years! Always enjoyable to read to see if I can "borrow" something to use in my planner led life!

  3. Love your simple, functional daily inserts!!