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Sunday, May 1, 2011

How many notebooks/ planners do you need to use?

This is a topic that has come up a lot recently here on Plannerisms and on other blogs. How do you manage your schedule, to-dos, and notes? Should we expect to be able to handle all of this information in one book?

Below is a breakdown of what you need. These don't necessarily have to be separate entities; under the list I have some combination ideas. Everyone needs:

1) A place to write down appointments. This can be in a planner, or electronically.

2) A place to keep your addresses and contacts. This can be electronically, on paper, or a combination of both.

3) A place to write your to-do lists. Today's list, longer term to-dos, home projects, etc.

4) A place to capture notes, numbers and ideas on the go. For most people a pocket size notebook works well for this. Review captured information often and move it to the proper location for action or reference.

5) A place for detailed notes. Usually you'll need a separate notebook for each major project, kind of like how you used a separate notebook for each class in college. You need a separate notebook specifically for work notes.  If you have more than one major project at work, you should keep a separate notebook for each so you can have each project's timeline, notes, and actions all together.

6) A journal book, if you journal.

Sometimes you can combine two or more of these:

A Filofax can have it all, up to a certain point.  But people run into trouble when they think they SHOULD be able to fit everything in their life into one binder when actually their needs have outgrown the one binder and really they need to branch out into multiple books.  I had this issue with my first Filofax, and finally realized I needed to break out into separate Filofaxes or notebooks for some things.

Planners with a week + notes format like the Moleskine weekly notebook can combine appointments with weekly lists and notes. But again some people run into problems when they expect the weekly notes page should be enough space for ALL their notes for that entire week, when really they need a separate notebook to capture detailed notes and ideas, especially at work.  I am adamant that you should have a work notebook separate from your planner, and the work notebook should stay at work (if at all possible).

A day per page diary can combine some of the above items as well.  Laura Reyna uses her large Moleskine daily diary for her appointments, daily lists, food diary and journal (which you can read about in my post Experimenting with Large Moleskine Day Per Page Planner). I love this idea! If you use a portable day per page diary, it can also serve as your inbox/ capture notebook where you write all the little bits of information that come in each day, to be processed later.  (Note again: work notes need to be separate!)

You might wonder why I'm so insistent that work notes should be separate from your planner. I've seen issues with several readers who feel like their work notes should fit into their Filofax or planner. In my opinion, you should keep your work notes in a separate notebook or binder so that 1) you are not limited in the amount of notes you can take, and 2) your planner can stay portable enough to go everywhere with you while your work notes stay at work.  For your work notes you might prefer a steno notebook or other bound book, or a loose-leaf binder. I like using a full-size loose-leaf binder for work projects because documents can be slipped into a clear pocket that goes on the rings, keeping documentation and reports in with your notes.

Awhile back, Time Management Ninja addressed the issue of how many places you should keep information in his post The Power Of 1.  (You can read my disagreement here.) I think his approach would work if you kept everything electronically, but for those of us who are mostly on paper we have to divide and conquer.

How many planners/ notebooks/ Filofaxes do you actively use at once? Do you have a separate notebook for each hobby and project? Do you prefer to keep things together? And the big question: how do you manage work notes?


  1. For general life stuff I have:

    a large moleskine notebook that is my journal (front to back) and my planner (back to front) with moveable post-its for my to-dos.

    My address book is electronic (in my phone) and in a pocket moleskine volant (incase my phone decides to not work for any reason) AND I keep a master paper copy in my fireproof safe at home (paranoid much?).

    I then have separate pocket cahier for work notes and general on the go notes & lists.

    For specific hobbies / projects I have:

    multiple filofaxes each used for specific purposes, i.e. 1 for the gym, 1 for my 101 things in 101 days

    cahier combination for geocaching

    notebooks for holiday journals & childrens journals

    and it goes on and on

    Work doesn't require much in the way of notes so a pocket cahier is perfect and I can carry it only when needed

  2. Laurie:

    Thanks for this post. I love love love my Filofax, and just ordered another one as my birthday present to myself ;O), but sometimes it drives me crazy with its limitations too!

    I don't have many appointments, or an appointment centered life. Laura Reyna's comment was a perfect description of how I use my planner (except for the food diary part, I don't do that, I don't have room on my Filo's daily pages).

    I put the appointment or event specific things on the month on one page, and/or the week on two pages depending on how much I need to write.

    But the daily pages are where I record EVERYTHING; the weather, what happened during the day, my gratitude list, things my kids say, etc, etc. Problem is, the personal size pages are SO small! I don't want to move up to A5 because that's just unwieldy to carry around. BUT! I sure wish I had more daily space!! For now, I will stick with just adding a blank sheet of notepaper in between the days, but if I found something I loved that had adequate daily space, AND was portable, I would probably "cheat" on my Filo!! (Sshhh, don't tell the Enabler's Club...lol)

  3. No you need this many... http://philofaxy.blogspot.com/2011/04/my-filofax-family.html


  4. No seriously I am going to attempt to get down to using two organisers for my everyday things by the end of this year, most probably my Maldens.

    With the others for specific functions, but not as planners really.


  5. I love this post! I did the same thing when I bought my Domino, but am realizing everything just CANNOT fit into one space.

    Right now my Filo contains most of my personal life, save for my separate journal. It also contains some main work notes that I like to have with me.

    I keep a separate work notebook, right now just a legal pad. Although after reading SNARLing's recent post, I might check out the Arc notebooks at Staples- they are supposed to compare to the Levenger system!

  6. I can see so many different combinations that might work. It's such an individual thing, too. Appointments for example - some might need something that can handle many appointments per day, where others can get by with a Month-At-A-Glance for appointments (or even a simple calendar). I *really* agree with you, Laurie, about separating work from everything else, if for no other reason than we need a break from our workaday lives and there's no need for work-related information to be anywhere close to notes of creative inspiration, for example.

    I personally have a journal, a notebook that I use to capture anything and everything, and a planner that incorporates all my contacts, projects (task list) and appointments.

    Great post!

    - Mike at twitter.com/papernotesblog

    1. That's the best set, in my opinion, Mike!!!! I am keeping my notebooks in ipad, and those are exactly the ones i have going on for my planning and note taking!!!!


  7. Excellent post, Laurie! I, too, outgrew the "one planner mindset." (Thanks, Philofaxy!) I have too many interests and projects to pursue, calendars to manage, and activities to track to squeeze Everything into one planner. And, my memory serves me just a little less well as the years fly by more and more quickly.

    I now use 6 (!) Filofaxes on a daily basis: A5 work, A5 home, personal Brain Central, pocket for lists of shopping by store, pocket fitness tracker, and mini as wallet. There are more Filos lurking, but most are not for everyday use until summer break when things slow down a bit.

    I don't prefer to keep things together and on my person at all times. Too much to carry, and I try to compartmentalize my work and home time. Separate planners help me to do that. On that note, though, I do NOT rewrite personal appointments in my work Filo unless there is a really good reason (or the reverse). I can open and look at two calendars at once. Really.

    As for work notes, I write action items identified within a meeting or such within my work Filo on dates suitable for completion or in front of the due dates. In the past the sticky note/crumpled legal pad for work notes was a huge fail for me. I found GTD style inserts for teachers on DIY planner, and knew I had found a better way.

    Arc notebooks, you say? Hmmn. (I won't tell, Rori!) A friend swears by plain old spiral notebooks (gasp!) to keep her teaching materials organized. I just can't relate to that.

  8. I use a Midori Traveler's Notebook. I keep two refills inside, one for notes (I mix personal and work notes) and one "free diary" for daily appointments, to do lists, random things, moon phases, weather, etc. I keep appointments all appointments in Google Calendar and copy them each day into the notebook. I keep all contacts in Google Contacts. Both of these are sync'ed to my iPod touch. I also use Evernote as a storage system for long-term reference and documents.

  9. putting all into one notebook has gotten me in the mess I'm in! Can't find info, feeling disorganized, etc.

    So far the page-a-day format in a faux-filo is working well. I have sections behind the daily pages for my extraneous notes so they're easily accessible.

    I hope my Filofax order of the page-a-day refills comes this week!

  10. As usual I am late to this topic but I totally agree with you Laurie. I compartmentalise my life and have a work filo, family filo, master filo, quilting/sewing filo, personal filo and an everyday take with me filo.

    I work part time and from home so when I am not working I don’t want to see anything work related in my family or personal filos. Likewise, work is only for work, no personal information what so ever.

    I used to keep my sewing/quilting info in my personal filo but then could not find the info when I needed it so the need to keep all such info in one spot came to light.

    Likewise my family information. I can now find the Dr’s phone no., daughter’s school phone no. and the vet no. all in one filo. Before I started this filo I had business cards with vet, plumber, hairdresser etc on the fridge. When it came to the school and Dr's I had to Google it every time. I now know when my daughter has a party to go to, my husband goes to the dentist, I have a hairdresser appt or the cats need de-fleaing/vaccinations. And what’s more so does the family. If I am not home they can look so see where I would be.

    How could I possibly keep all that info in one place and find it when I need it? I tried but it just didn’t work. I know exactly where to look for things and in what filo to find it.

    It might sound complicated but really it is not. I don’t work every day or sew every day so I use the relevant info when I do need it.

  11. Excellent post Laurie. After much struggle I've settled on the following for now: 1)Filofax Malden pocket for appointments, to do, contacts, notes on the go, reference info. 2)Franklin Covey Classic Giada (slim) for extensive notes, quotes, project details, permanent reference and info, poetry - a commonplace book of sorts and paper supply. 3) A Moleskine La Petite and Watson Guptill sketchbook for journaling, some short poems and doodling. 4)Filofax Kendal slimline for notes and diary of issues I'm working on (bad habits). I'm also trying to use up alot of excess books and papers from past trials as scrap paper and capture and have a Bosca compact that is currently a mess of old addresses and numbers. I need to stick to something because alot of data is inaccessible to me now from switching around and are stuffed in a large Kipling bag.

  12. I'm still using my 1)daily Moleskine as my main planner-- daily appointments, to-do list, food diary, regular journal.

    I also have a separate 2)writer's notebook. I've also been using 3) a "catchall" notebook for jotting down quick thoughts and info when I'm reading a book. And I occasionally use index cards, too.

    Thanks for the mention! :-)

  13. I use just my one Filofax for daily use (appointments, to-dos and general lists) and I do journal, so I have a bound notebook for that. Then I have 3 other Filofaxes for different purposes - one Happiness Binder (keeps information on things that make me happy and to combat anxiety, a lists of gratitudes, health information, lists of things that I enjoy), one Reference binder (for informational lists - books, movies, etc), and a soon-to-be knitting binder (lists of projects to do and done, supplies, books, patterns).

  14. Laura I'm glad to hear you are still enjoying your Moleskine setup!

    Thanks everyone for your comments on how you use your planner and notebook systems. I'm always on the lookout for inspiration and new ideas! :)

  15. Hi Laurie,
    I recently switched to iphone for all my planning and calendar. Also bought apps called awesome note for $5 (perfect for to-do-list, shopping list and appointments) and the weekly icalendar (can show the iphone calendar in weekly view). I also carry one moleskine for writing down long thoughts.

  16. I also moved my work appointments to the iPhone for the simple reason that they keep changing too quickly and too often to keep track of them in any paper diary.
    My non-work appointments to into my Moleskine 18 month planner together with my @home to do list, thoughts and ideas I have and I want to keep for later (jounraling).
    Then I use a Moleskine for all my work stuff, differents context lists (starting from the front) and meeting note and project information (starting from the back of the notebook). It will be interesting to see when I have to transfer some of this information to a new notebook.
    For my conference calls and Webinar notes I started using a Moleskine Volant notebook.
    I do agree with you that work related stuff should stay at work, so this is what I do. I tried have work and non-work all in one notebook - it did not work for me so I made the split which works great for me.

  17. I have 2 planners.

    A daily appointment book for work - A4/ A6? size
    A Moleskine weekly - small size

    I stopped using the Moleskine starting Sept and has started using -

    Personal-planner weekly - A5 size

  18. I am new to Filofax and loving it! I bought a pocket first and loved it but needed more space. Went and bought an A5 for my main planner and I now use my pocket for on the go notes, work notes (I work part time from home and go in the office one day a week; it's important I track when I go in and how long I work daily) and appts after reading all the comments. thanks


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