01 September 2019

Experienced User - Graham

This week we will see how Graham uses his organisers. 

Hi, I’m Graham, a self-employed data consultant and author currently based in Germany.

1. When did you start using an organiser?

Back in the early 1980s when I was at University and when Filofax became the accessory for yuppies and those pretending to be yuppies.

In those days when computers weren’t portable, it was an indispensable way of storing and carrying information – a real file of facts.

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

As with most of us, the amount of data I need to deal with is increasing all the time, and with the availability of different media for storing and processing that data, my organiser is now only part of my personal data management process.

As I’m a data consultant, how I deal with my own data has extra resonance (and is always of interest to my clients). I stopped using a paper organiser with the advent of the (much missed) Palm Pilot in the late 1990s, the simplicity of which made it a great replacement for a paper-based system. But as portable devices became more complex, often in unnecessary ways, I found that I was far more efficient for some parts of the process when working from paper.

 I moved back to a paper-based diary about 15 years ago. So now I have parts of my system on a PC, some on a mobile telephone, and some in an organiser.

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

I use a dual A5/A7 system. The A5 (Filofax Heritage) is large enough for my business and personal needs and I use a self-designed one week on two pages layout.

The days are all on the right-hand page (because I am right-handed and writing across rings is one of those things that drives me potty), all equally sized (because I am self-employed and don’t have “weekends” when less happens).

On the opposite side there’s space for recording dated todos, time use and multi-day events – this works for me in the Heritage because of the small rings. You can get a better idea from my YouTube channel.

However, I don’t like carrying around an A5 organiser – it’s too big and too heavy. So I have a mirrored system in a Filofax pocket slim Lockwood which I can slip into my pocket when I’m away from my desk. That’s also explained on my YouTube channel.

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

I only store appointments and dated todos in my organiser. Apart from a Filofax A5 Lockwood and some Filofax notebooks with some project-specific notes, almost everything else has found a place (digitally) elsewhere.

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

No. I’ve read about various systems, such as Getting Things Done and the Bullet Journal method and, when I break them down into what they are actually proposing, it’s basically what I naturally already do. I’m already ridiculously efficient, to the point of ennui – trying to be more so would be futile …

6. What routines and structures do you use?

I wouldn’t call them routines, but there are some things that do occur in the course of a day or week – I transfer recurring appointments sometime once per week to the new week and I write the next day’s appointments and tasks on a special A7 page before the end of the day before so that I can refer to it as required when on the move. And, around October each year, I assess my current layout, make tweaks, update my spreadsheets for the next year, and print the next year’s diary pages.

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

I have several. I can’t seem to get on with only one. I recently tried moving my diary to the A5 Lockwood which contains my project-specific notes,  but that just meant more to carry in a heavier package, and, with the larger rings, not being able to write on the left-hand pages. I gave that up as a bad job after two days.

Equally, I wouldn’t want to be carrying around my project notes when I only want to take a diary with me to make an appointment. I’m a great believer in using the best tools for each job, and for me that’s always meant storing data in many different places, including several different organisers.

Thank you Graham. 

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


  1. I loved your layout so much, especially the left hand page. Do you sell this, say on Etsy, I'd buy it!!? So interesting. You left me wishing I were as efficient as you to the point of ennui!! Being unwell, with back problems and zonk you out painkillers seems to throw my days out so often.Although I am a home bod now, I had the same heavy lug around A5 problem when working, and have moved to an A6, much better size for me and of course easier to size down my already saved A5 inserts. I use my A6 for everything and a slimline personal Filofax Regency for lists, for fun, books, films, favourite quotes,etc etc. Cannot bear to part with that one as it is beautiful in a classy and business like way and I love it, though personal is not really my size.You may have guessed I have tried out most sizes!! My A5s do bible study and hobbies nowadays.Loved this post very much, so hugest thanks.x Jane. x

    1. Thanks Jane! My layout is currently in Microsoft Publisher and uses a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for the data, so you'd need to be a bit technical to make use of it. If you are, you're welcome to the files. Otherwise I might be able to produce output to, say, pdf format, which you could then just print out. As this layout is very specific to me (my logo, local holiday days etc.) then it might be worth editing for use by others. If you (or others) are interested, just drop me a line: graham (((at))) grcdi.nl . And that'd be free - I wouldn't charge people when I'd be honoured that my layouts were useful to others!

  2. That is a lot of faff for you!! I would only want the left hand page once, but as a right hand page in A6, as I would repeat print. Just to trial it prior to the 2020 big print off!! But again, even just 1 page to scale to A6 on the right in my printer would be a lot of work for you, so feeling mega guilty here!! Please feel free to say no. Just loved your set up. Very clever and a long time since I have gone oooh, I would like to try that planner layout,trial it for a few weeks. Anyway. Been lovely to say hi to you. I will watch your YT vlogs tonight. My e. mail is je.mccourt@talktalk.net if you need it, but do feel free to say no to the print out. Warmest blessings xJanex

    1. Don't worry! I always plan for faff time :-) . I'll play around with the files and contact you by e-mail.

  3. Aww Graham, thank you so much. Typing this quickly from my bed. My back is in incredible pain, just taken painkillers and feeling nauseous too, not sure whether with pain, or nerve blockers and pain relievers!! Will get into my e. mails soon hopefully. Terribly kind of you Graham,terribly so. Needless to say only 1-2 essential to dos actually got done today, ie not much at all!! Am thinking my 2020 diary usually started in September for the next year, may be starting its print run nearer November this time. Hey, ho!!!! Thank goodness for elastic time as my dad calls it, that extra marin of time built into plans, in case of hold ups. Mind you I prefer anything to be done early rather than rush and flap around usually. You say you have a company logo in your planner. What is your company and line of work? Sounds like highly organized and a full on load is part of your necessary work day. Warmest blessings x Jane x

    1. Ah. Well. I can kill any party by trying to explain my work, but I'll give it a go. It's rather specialised. Basically, I specialise in learning everything there is to know about anything that might be different when you cross a country border: names, addresses, numbers, time, currency, languages, language-scripts etc. I then use that knowledge to help companies understand their own data and how they can use it. This sort of work does have advantages when it comes to organising myself, because I don't have to work in a corporate environment so I don't have a lot of fixed deadlines or appointments (e.g. meetings) that I have to plan around. That means I can shift projects around, which really helps to keep me on track. Get well soon (apart from creaking when I move I haven't been ill beyond a few snuffles for years (even decades), so it's always sobering for me to hear about people in not such rude health. And, e-mails sent ;-) )

  4. Hi Graham, thanks for an excellent post!

  5. Great post, Graham. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Curious about your usage of page on left side....

    The circular forms are where you shade in (?) blocks of time spent on certain tasks?

    The stacked set of squares to the right of the circle is where you list To Do's ?

    What is the larger square in lower left of each section used for ?



    1. Thanks Mark.

      The circular device is something I designed to show at a glance how much time is fixed (e.g. a meeting, dental appointment etc.) or semi-fixed (e.g. times I need to be at home because I'm expecting a delivery). It mimics clock faces minus 6 hours when I will almost always be asleep. I use this to make sure I don't overload myself on any one day. I describe this system at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXoAvmlittE, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fEUK7x5xP0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM0QOq8hl68 if you're interested.

      The stacked square are, indeed, for dated to dos.

      The larger square to the bottom left is where I write down the shift times of my better half - very specific, which is why I love being able to create my own inserts! The space bewtween the Zirkuluak (which is what I call that circular device) and the day name/square I use to record multi-day events.

      This layout is described as a whole at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p_zmariyvE

  6. Thanks for the detailed explanations, Graham. Very helpful!

    Will check out your videos....

  7. Hi Graham, very interesting post, thank you.