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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When did my Filofax work best for me?

I've been using Filofaxes for years, but in recent years I can't make the personal size weekly pages work for me as a planner no matter how many times I try . When I first used my Filofax they worked fine, so why can't I make them work now?

Back in 2001 when I started using my first actual Filofax, those were the Glory Days of my Filofax usage. There was no struggling, my Filofax just worked for me. Or did it??

I decided to take a trip through my Filofax storage binders to find out when my Filofax weekly pages ever worked well for me. Below are my storage binders, they are vinyl binders from Mead that I bought a whole bunch of several years ago. I don't know if you can even find them anymore. I  labeled the spines (not very neatly) with tape flags covered over with tape.
I bought my first Filofax during Christmas break in 2001, so I really started using it January 2002. I was in grad school and my Filofax worked tons better for me than the day per page planner I'd been using the previous semester. Day per page planners don't allow me to plan ahead effectively, and I was having a hard time planning assignments and projects. So the weekly pages seemed super-efficient compared to that.

But how effective were they really? I used the week on two pages that came in my Filofax. I had never heard of a week + notes format back then, but I think that would have worked much better for me. Because look at the photo below. What is up with those tasks that never got checked off??  Did I ever do them at all? Who knows??
I was shocked to discover that the pages I had thought worked so well for me at the time didn't actually work well at all!

Meanwhile the rest of my Filofax did work well. I had sections for all my degree requirements and classes I had to take, which I marked off as I completed them.

I also used my Filofax on my research trip throughout Europe where I studied fossils at various museums. I had everything I needed in my Filofax: maps, train times, museum addresses, contacts, etc. That time is my favorite Filofax memory.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that, despite the rest of the Filofax working well for me, the weekly pages didn't at all!  Which made me wonder: had they ever really worked for me?

After grad school I worked in an office that required everyone to use Outlook. As much as that sucked, it freed up my Filofax pages for only personal use. I didn't have trouble synching my Filofax and Outlook since my work and non-work lives were pretty separate. My Filofax weekly pages (cotton cream then) held my social engagements and weekend trips, and later the schedule of my prenatal doctor appointments. My planning needs weren't too strenuous, and my Filofax weekly pages worked fine for the most part.

But my Filofax got fatter and heavier until I didn't feel like carrying it around in my bag any more, so I switched to a small day per page book, which I loved. So even though my Filofax technically was working well for me, I was happy to ditch it for a smaller daily book.

That daily book worked fine for me all year because I didn't have much to plan, but a lot to record (which daily books are best for). The next year I went back to my Filofax, this time the week + notes format (which didn't work all that well for me due to the small pages). I switched around weekly formats and finally ditched my Filofax for a spiral-bound weekly planner.

Then we went on a trip to the US (from Moscow where we were living) and I didn't bring my Filofax along on the trip. I quickly discovered just how much I relied on my Filofax with its years of accumulated information and contacts, which I was lost without. When I got back from that trip, I was desperate to get my Filofax back in my hands and make it work at any cost. I had to have my information and contacts with me wherever I went!

But no matter what I tried, I couldn't make the personal size planner pages work for me. So I upgraded to an A5 Filofax, which I discovered was too heavy for me to carry everywhere the way I wanted to, and after that my real planner journey began.

So, what have I learned here? My Filofax worked best for me when my planning was simplest: while I was working and before my kids were born. I only planned personal stuff in it, no work stuff. I didn't do cleaning schedules (our apartment was only two rooms, easy to keep up on). I only had myself to keep track of (my husband's schedule was predictable and low-maintenance).

Ever since then I've tried several times to use my Filofax as my planner, because it does make such a handy information/ reference/ contacts book and it would be so nice to have all that together in one book. But now with two kids to keep track of, after school activities, blogs, work, cleaning schedules, meal planning, and all the other complications of life, a personal size Filofax just doesn't work for me as a planner.

In fairness to the Filofax, I am very out of sight out of mind and after years of planner experimentation I've discovered I have to have my week schedule on the same page as my to-do list, which the personal size pages don't give me enough room for. The A5 Filofax has a bigger page, but the binder is just too heavy.

Which begs the question: is a Filofax best suited as just a "File Of Facts" rather than a planner?

When Filofax first started out, it was intended as a reference book. Does anyone know when they first started printing diary pages for Filofax binders?


  1. When I worked in a Neonatal Unit, we had a large A4 (very battered) book of lined paper which over time (years) had become known as TheGuide To Lost Souls.
    Important and often used stuf like blood gas analysis, bilirubin treatment levels and so on was taped into the inside covers. The rest was an amalgamation of years of accumulated wisdom, and when new Registrars arrived on rotation they rapidly realised that TGTLS was much more than a scruffy faded red book held together with sticky tape.
    It was a A File Of Facts in daily, nay, hourly use.

  2. Eeeek, please correct my speelingg and typing, Laurie!

    1. LOL Blogger doesn't let me edit comments, only delete them. We know what you mean though! :) And wow, what an amazing book! These are the types of Books with a capital B that I love.

  3. Laurie, I did the exact same thing with my Franklin Covey a while back. I went back through my 20 years of archive books to see when it had worked for me. I was shocked to see that it didn't! At least the to-do list part. There were lots of pages that didn't have anything written on them at all. I'm not sure what that was about since I didn't use any other planners during that time. And when I did make lists, they were - well, incomplete. What I used my planner for most effectively was keeping information! I had lots of details on my notes pages and information in the sections, but for a to-to list, it didn't ever work! I continue trying to make it work but it doesn't. The Filofax to-do pages don't really either. They're technically the same principle. So I've been wondering if I need something completely different for my to-do list.

    When I first started staying home, 27 years ago, I had an 8-1/2x5-1/2 notebook I used for "information". I had a separate week-at-a-glance spiral bound calendar. I quickly realized that as a full-time homemaker, I needed a to-do list. So I got a steno pad and made a list of what I wanted to do that day. Nothing special - just a random list. I chipped away at the list all day. There wasn't any pressure to complete it - it was just stuff that needed done. But as the kids got older, the list didn't work anymore. I think it was because I needed to prioritize at that point. I'm not really sure. When I saw a FC planner, I thought it was the answer. It did help me keep track of things but not get things done.

    So now I'm trying to figure out what it is I need. Maybe something completely different. Not sure. But I need something because everything's swimming around in my head! And right now I'm so sick of trying to figure it out that I don't want anything at all. But that definitely doesn't work either!

    1. Patty that's exactly my problem with daily pages: they are excellent for recording, but I just can't plan ahead on them. I have to use a weekly view with the days as vertical columns, and my task list alongside it, so I can see what I have to do and when I have time to do it. This also keeps me from overloading any particular day, and helps me be realistic about what I can accomplish in a day and the week. I have separate weekly lists: Must Do This Week, Non-Urgent, House (cleaning), and Blog. That way at least I can see what's most important, and what I can let slide if I need to.

  4. I have been pondering this all day long. No short answer but my "planning" has pretty much always been a long to do list and very few actual appointments. And I do not put items from the to do list into time slots because both at work and at home my schedule is too subject to change for that to ever work. I haven't thought through it all yet but what I do is sort of like a weekly rather than daily Getting S-t Done with the addition of a calendar for the few things that do have times attached. This is one reason week plus notes is a good format, except day spaces on portable ones are too small and/or don't have lines.

    I'll quit now as I am beginning to babble

  5. There are no daily to do lists in my filofax. The FF has my year planner, WT2P diary, general notes, food diary, sections for on the go notes for various major projects and phone numbers The only to do list it holds is the 25 hours a day list, ie the jobs that must be done, and will be forgotten if I don't write them down but are not a priority right now (eg Buy dress pattern, fix harp string).

    My planning is done online using BestYearYet and I print out monthly and weekly goal lists which are pinned inside my Uncalendar. This combined with the 25 hour list and anything that has occured in the last 24 hours or must be carried over from the previous day are used to create a daily to do list in the Uncalendar. The UC also has a tally of daily disciplines to be ticked off (meditate, read Lent book etc). Notes from meetings/calls. Lists relevant to that week (agenda items for a meeting and a list of stuff that has to be done this week but not on any specific day.

    Both FF and UC live open on my desk all day every day. The FF goes with me everywhere, the UC only to meetings. But I don't take notes in anything other than the UC. Everything is in either the UC or FF.

  6. I've found my challenge is that I need to keep tasks and schedule in the same view, but cannot intermingle them in the same space. They need clear delineation. Consequently, the filofax week on two pages will work only if I insert a tasks page between the two faces of the week. At the end of a week, I review the daily task lists and any incomplete items get forwarded, deleted, or delegated as appropriate, so I can feel confident that everything will be done or reviewed.

    As much as planning in a filofax can be somewhat frustrating and imperfect, I absolutely must have everything in one book. It is totally essential. The magic of the filofax, for me, is that if I know where my "book" is, I know where everything is. That's the secret to my personal "filofax mystique."

    1. Josh that's definitely the best thing about a Filofax is having everything you need in one book. That's what draws me back to it periodically.

  7. Hey i love your post...i am also finding that i am flitting from A5 to personal but cant seem to find a format to suit me...i even ordered and A5 Dodo pad but am still not happy :\

  8. I finally ditched my FiloFax today! Huzzah. I wrote an article about it here if you are interested-


    1. Great article! I left a comment. And, now I'm perusing the leather binders from your links, they look excellent!


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