04 April 2018

My simplified set up - by Anita

I've been using my Getting Things Done based set up consistently since getting my first Filofax back in 2009. I may buy different binders, but my cardinal rule is not to mess with the system as I know that way leads to chaos and madness! Too much choice for me inevitably leads to procrastination and perfectionism, so I tend to leave it alone as it works. I did briefly set my Kensington up based on the Strikethru system, but whilst I do like it, I quickly changed back to the GTD one as I didn't feel the benefits were enough just for the sake of a change.

However, after 9 years I decided that it was time to have a go at using a more simplified layout. In general, I've been craving more simplicity in my life so decided to apply that to my beloved Winchester.

My sections are:
1) Inbox with spare paper
2) Lists
3) A-Z for everything else.
I don't have a diary section as I use Google calendar, which I know is less common in the Filofax community. I work set hours each week, so our combined calendar is fairly simple. I think I would go back to using a Filofax as a diary if I needed to keep track of more appointments or events though.

As I have so few sections, I realised that I could do away with my normal dividers, so I have two clear Filofax rulers to help me easily find the start of my Inbox & then the Lists section. I use an Oli clip to bookmark something that I'm currently working on.

One big change for me has been improving my to-do list pages as I used to always use either lined or blank paper, like this:

When the list is newly written it's fine, but I've been finding that as I cross items out it becomes harder and harder to see what is still outstanding.

Whilst I've been decluttering, I came across a to-do list pad from Muji which I had forgotten. After chopping off a little extra length at the bottom, they are perfect. The Oli clip is also strong enough to attach papers to the front of my binder to help me focus, if I need it.

Instead of a to-do list with items all squashed together, this is what I now see when I turn to my Lists section. So much easier to read! As the sheets are slightly narrower than Filofax inserts, I snip across on them to the hole punched holes so that I can pull a page out easily, rather than trying to write on them on the reverse (like the slits that are on a Filofax ruler).

Sadly the pad is not double sided, so the other side is blank. I treated myself to a Hobonichi stencil and some Staedtler Triplus fineliner pens, so I draw the boxes and separating lines on the blank side in a different colour. The Winchester only has one pen loop, but the Staedtler pen fits in nicely next to my fountain pen once I close the fastener and stays in place (as per my first photo).

I normally only use my Kaweco Sport fountain pen, so I'm finding that a bit of extra colour helps brighten up the page and to make things clearer to read.

Once I have used up all the Muji sheets, I will then move onto some lovely Raymay Davinci to-do inserts that David P. kindly gave to me.

Next up is my A to Z section which is still a work in progress. I had some different types of A-Z dividers, but chose these non-branded ones as they're very thin and I like the colourful tabs.
I'm also using up some small notepaper stuck on with some washi tape.

My current project notes are filed under P, but my master projects list is in the Lists section. In my old set up, these were both together in my Projects section, so I may reconsider how I approach this as time goes on.

Some examples of current items in my A-Z:
1) Notes on aikido (the Japanese martial art I practise)
2) Notes on the book Do It Tomorrow by Mark Forster.

 I think as time goes on, I will need to look at what I keep in the A to Z section, but at the moment I feel I have lots of spare capacity after removing the laminated dividers.

The final item in my binder is my faithful Getting Things Done workflow diagram. I scaled it down in size on a photocopier, laminated it and stuck on some washi tape so that I can quickly turn to it. It's been chopped down and hole punched for when I was using A6 size, but it's in every binder that I've used for many years.

So, that's my current set up which I've been using since the beginning of the year and I'm very happy with it. I feel that it's simple, but has enough flexibility so that I don't need to think about where to write something.


  1. Great post!
    Recently I’ve been looking for alternatives to the 5 divided sections of a Filofax planner. You’ve given me several helpful options with your post, and I want to thank you for sharing them with us!

    1. You're very welcome!
      It's working really well for me & I love how much we can customise our binders, depending on our individual needs.

  2. Thanks for sharing your latest setup, Anita. Great to see it!

    Like the simplified approach. Always the best to keep it simple...


    1. Hi Mark,
      You're very welcome & I agree that sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go!
      The great thing is that it's very easy to return to my GTD one if I want to.

  3. Love the post! Very great idea's

  4. Your posts are my favorites here. Simple and functional. No decorative distractions. I'm such a fan of just plain paper with writing and scribbles on it. My planner is my workhorse and it's rare to come across ones that are like mine rather than all the ones that are prettied up just for photos. I've been using my pocket malden as a planner/wallet for 2.5 years now and, as you say, I don't mess with the setup/system. Consistency keeps me sane. I had gone through the phase where I was changing this and that, trying this and that and all it did was confuse me. I also use my a-z as sort of a filing system as well as for contacts (hubs meds list under M, utility account info under U, bank account numbers under B...you get the gist!) I do have a personal sized Malden (rare vintage pink I got in auction) and may upsize to it next year. My only gripe is that - for some reason - the personal sized A-Z dividers only come in multi-color rather than the cotton cream with plain black lettering. I don't mind a bit of color, but I don't care for them. Will scroll back to check out more of your older posts. Thank you again for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I enjoy looking at other people's planners with more decoration, but personally I find that it's too busy & distracting to my eyes so I keep it plainer. Sometimes I am tempted to try out different set ups, but I always resist as I need that consistency, especially when I have lots going on in my life.

      Filofax do sell cream A-Z dividers... not sure which country you're in, but they're definitely for sale on the UK site.

  5. Lovely post and Winchester, Anita. I also admire the simplicity of your approach. Thank you for sharing it!

  6. Was re-reading this again, and saw my original comment didn't post. This is truly fantastic, Anita. I love how you share your simplicity goals, and I am so incredibly inspired! Thank you for sharing and helping me on my journey to planner peace!