18 August 2019

Experienced User - Franz

This week I would like to thank Franz for sharing with us how he uses his organisers.

My name is Franz Schimmelpfennig, 72, based near Saarbrücken in the Southwest of Deutschland, close to the French border (10 min. walk), not far from Luxemburg.

I spent my professional life in IT, started as a programmer working with punchcards up to being an IT Executive in an international US company in modern times: I’VE SEEN IT ALL!

When did I start using an organiser…I mean, everybody had a sort of note taking book/block (this was in the 70s!). Then, in 1986, my employer sent all staff to a Time/System training - T/S was supposedly the leading system in Europe. They were based in Denmark, I believe.

I remember very well the introductory sentence: „…today is the first day of the rest of your life…you better get organised in order to make the best use of your time“. It was quite revealing - a new view on time!

So, I invested in a nice leather organiser with a zipper and went on from there. Standard was A5 six rings - smaller formats came later.

I was a happy camper with my T/S - on the left side, there was a folded double page which kept the to dos; on the right, I had one page per day. At the end of the day, you would turn the day and hide it under the flap of the folded double page. At the end of the week, you would take the package out and store it in a box (and bin it - until today, I never go back to old timer records).

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

My organiser story is not different than that of many users that I’ve seen or read about:
  •     Paper
  •     Ringbook organiser
  •     Palm Pilot :-D all versions
  •     Psion (just because it was so cool)
  •     Compaq Handheld
  •     iPhones galore
BUT: I never gave up my ringbook. Writing something down / scribbling / drawing is so much more human nature…

Which diary format works best for you and why?

For many years, I was happy with my T/S until I got in touch with Franklin Quest. At that time, I was working in an international team and one of them had a Franklin Quest organiser. What I found intriguing was that FQ had a layout opposite to my T/S: the to dos on the RIGHT hand side and the day on the left. How much easier for a right-handed guy to keep track of the to dos rather than scribbling on the left page with the rings in the way!

So, I retired T/S and got my a FQ in classic Format (A5 like).

Some time later, I went to work in the US for a couple of years (early 90s). At that time, every upscale mall had a Franklin Quest shop with bookshelves full of binders in all sizes and leathers, papers, books, dividers, stationery related to FQ - it was haptic nirvana!

Over time, I went through many versions of FQ: classic, monarq (A4 like), Standard (teal) inserts, Monticello inserts; my monarq size book with the Monticello inserts looked quite impressive!

In 2000, I came back and worked in our Paris office for several years. What FQ in the US was Filofax in Europe: every decent warehouse had its Filo corner and in Paris, there was even a Filofax store!
Coming from T/S and FQ, I switched to Filo A5 (same Format and rings as the old T/S).

In the last couple of years, paper got less and less important - all the necessary information is on an electronic device: I tried to scale paper down.

One day, I detected the „Loehn“ method: Loehn is an engineer (professor) who developped his own method based on the  Grossmann method (developped in the 1930s!) very close to today’s GTD.
Loehn provides hardware in A6 Format and the paperwork that goes with it. Similar methods are Helfrecht (Germany) and Hirth (Switzerland).

A6 comes very handy since it fits in one’s pocket.

I’ve also tried to scale down to Filo Personal but I usually drop it after a couple of weeks because of the size: too thick/too big for a jacket - not much more writing space than my A6…

For my A6: Filo week on one page with notes, trimmed to 87x150mm.

For my Filo Personal: Exatime Étroit papier ivoire (yellow) 170x92mm, semaine sur 2 pages.

Currently, I keep calendars and project/information pages in both A6 and Filo Personal format for easy switching because I keep coming back: my Filo story is an on/off story - I really love Filo just for the Britishness and the venerable history. (regarding Britishness: I just had my 20 year old umbrella repaired by Swayne, Adeney, Brigg in London).

Now, retired, I play with different formats according to the occasion: day-to-day: A6, recently on travelling (vacation): Filo Kensington (it fits into the side pocket of my Fjällräven trousers!) with printed maps and paperwork, for more official use (club, authority): I put my A6 into my Filo A5 (zipped) for leaving an impression 🤓.

I also use a Finsbury slimline in black and a Holborn compact in red on occasion.

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

In the early days, everything went in - today, it holds only
  • calendars (Filo: week per page with notes; for my A6 book, I cut the Filo Papers to 87x150 mm and Punch new holes), 
  • projects 
Informations which I find useful for quick reference:
  • air pressure for the different tyres of the household (car, 5 bicyles, trailers), 
  • European countries with numbers, 
  • historic numbers, 
  • family gift list, 
  • checklist of my method (for occasional review and tuning), 
  • note papers for shopping / observations, 
  • checklist for emergency routines (what to pack: documents, stuff), 
  • emergency phone list, 
  • household procedures (for occasional review/tuning)
  • personal information.
Everything else is electronic (iCloud).

My method has developed over the years and is - naturally - close to GTD. My paper organiser is set up accordingly:
  • inbox: 
    • for paper, I use an A4 desk folder which I process in the morning
    • email. my mail tends to be empty since I usually process every entry asap.
  • calendar: 6 months of week per page with notes + monthly overviews
  • Projects: the daily nitty-gritty stuff; milestones are on the PC (I use „Agenda“ on my Macs). I do a daily review - new to dos go on the „notes“ page of the week.
  • Information as mentioned above.
Rule: there is only one calendar/agenda for a person! No split into private/professional life.

I don’t keep money (bills, change), stationery, stamps etc any more like I did 10 years ago :-D

No credit cards either - ApplePay and the likes make it obsolete.

Recently, I was travelling in Estonia and Sweden - completely cashless! A new experience…

And - I don’t decorate my planners (and no family pictures - they are on the mobile phone).

Best regards,

Thank you Franz, 

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


  1. Thank you for sharing. What an amazing tripp you have done in the planner development. I also had (have) a Palm Pilot, because it was cool. But I keep coming to my paper planner. For me the personal size is the best size. Saying that, I like the A6 only for note taking. It is a nice size for that. The A5 is not my favorite size, as it is too big for the back pack. And I do not leave my planner at work.

  2. You truly are an experienced filofax user! So many years with binders along the way :)

  3. Danke Franz. As you're based in Saarbrücken, have you tried any of the X47 products (https://www.x47.com/en/home/)? They are based there.

    Also, I think it's Hirt rather than Hirth for the Swiss method. For reference:

    http://www.helfrecht-shop.de (love the design of their folders … must resist must resist ….)


  4. Thank you all for your kind comments - @Graham: how could I NOT have given it a try...!
    I had followed the development in early stages (thie aproach had been discussed in publications here as a promising startup and so forth) and have met Herr Büttner in Person on several occasions privately (and visited his shop which is 5 km away form my place).
    I'm sorry to say that - for me - loose leaf is the way to go. With X47, I would not have the flexibiliy that I love to have. As much as I'd like to use some of the facier ones (eel leather?) for the look and feel - in no way want to fiddle around with little booklets. But - obviously - there are many users of his who appreciate the high-end products.


    1. Thanks for your take on X47 @Franz. I tend to agree with you. I love the slim, space-saving and luxurious design, but you get stuck having to use their inserts, which is almost like moving to a bound notebook.

  5. Thanks for the informative post Franz. I will be copying your good idea of recording tyre pressures.