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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Planner Paradox

This is something we've been through before: the bound vs. ring-binder planner dilemma. I've been struggling with it myself, and should have known I'm not the only one; I've seen some online conversations from other folks who are struggling with the same issues. So, let's revisit this topic, shall we?

As you know, I've had a lot of success with bound planners. And over the years, I haven't had much success with using a Filofax as my planner (although it's excellent as an information and reference book).

But, I think most Filofax-users experience a certain period of time when their Filofax seems to work gloriously for them and they enjoy the wonderful feeling of having Everything In One Book. Planner, notes, reference information, contacts and everything else you need, right there in one grab-and-go book! Spectacular!

Except, here's a Planner Paradox for you: you can have Everything In One Book! But, you can't have EVERYTHING in one book. When you have other sections and pages, normally you can't carry the entire year of diary pages in your binder. You have to switch out diary pages periodically, and remove notes and other pages when they are no longer immediately relevant.

That's when keeping track of your pages and archiving well becomes important. And this is where my ring-bound system falls down. Back in the glory days of my Filofax usage when I only had one Filofax, I was pretty good at archiving pages into annually-marked storage binders. But now that I have several Filofaxes, I tend to switch pages around among them as I change my mind about which binder to use.When the pages are out of the binder where I wrote on them, they lose context and become hard to find. Not to mention, when I write a bit of information into my Filofax, I try to write it into the relevant tabbed section. But did that book title go under Lists? Me? Projects? Information? I don't know!

Contrast this with my bound planner usage. For a few years now I've been using a weekly planner to plan and a day per page planner to capture information and record my days. Here's an example of how well this capture system works for me: last year when I flew home for my grandmother's funeral, I really liked my sister's foundation and wrote down what she uses so the next time I need to buy foundation I can get the same. If I'd written that in my Filofax, it would be long gone. But because I wrote it on that day's page in my bound book, I'll always be able to find it again. Granted, most information isn't written on such eventful and memorable days. But, I use the monthly grid calendars at the front of my bound book as an index of events (like how Patty uses her Monthly Index pages in her Franklin Covey planner) so I can quickly find information and events chronologically.

So here's my own Planner Paradox I've been experiencing lately: even though my weekly + daily setup has been working well, I always wonder if it could be better. I admit, using two planners can make me feel scattered. Sometimes I miss that Everything In One Book comfort-factor. And, I never know where to write medium- and long-term lists.

So I busted out my Filofax and drew up a Personal size version of my Plannerisms planner format and switched over. And for a few days I enjoyed EIOB. Except, not really. Yes I had my weekly and monthly pages, lists, notes, household cleaning schedules, bills, car maintenance information, etc etc etc in one book. But, I didn't have my daily pages in there. I've been down that road several times before, and after much trial and error I know I absolutely must have my daily pages in a bound book. The stuff I write in there is way too important to float around on removable, easy-to-lose pages. So that meant I had two large bulky books in use. When I use a large daily and my weekly Plannerisms planner, I can carry them both in my bag (although I normally don't). But my Filo and my large daily went over the size and weight limit of my personal tolerance. No-go.

The biggest problem with using my large daily book and my Filofax is that it was my Filofax that was going everywhere with me in my bag as my capture device, not my daily book. Capturing information in my Filo is faulty, as I described above. And since I couldn't carry both books in one bag, my daily book became neglected. Empty daily pages are a dangerous thing for me. Important information wasn't being captured.

Also, I write tasks and relevant projects in the weekly and monthly pages of my Plannerisms planner so I see what I need to do when I need to do it. Tasks and projects languished behind tabs in my Filofax and were easily ignored.  With this combination of issues, my system quickly broke down.

So my solution is to go back to my bound Plannerisms planner (relief!) and I've ordered up notes booklets that will fit into the back of my planner (these ones, in case you are interested) for those medium and long range notes. Now I can keep everything in bound books, but still have a place to write information and keep it with me.

I admit, my ideal situation is a bound daily book for daily recording, a bound weekly planner for planning and a ring binder for information. I've done that before, and even though it's great to have all that information, it's way too much in my bag.

What's your current Planner Paradox?


  1. Thanks Alice! Glad to hear you're working out your system. I've found that Divide and Conquer (using different planners for different purposes like you're doing) can work very well when you need to keep business separate from personal, or for tracking certain things.

    If you haven't already, you might think about putting your binders for sale on Philofaxy's Adspot: http://philofaxy.blogspot.co.uk/p/adspot.html

  2. If only it was just the one dilemma! Yes, there's the rings v fixed planner dilemma with no simple answer. But then add the "one life, one planner/ organiser" vs several planners conundrum, A5 v Personal. lightweight slimline v chunky. One page per day vs WOTP, digital v analogue balance etc. etc. and it's enough to keep you awake at night!

    I've recently had a lot of success with a Moleskine Monthly planner in an A5 Flex cover, but have just had a short cycling holiday in the Scottish Highlands (I'm writing this on the train back!). Carrying panniers (saddlebags) called for a minimum of gear and everything had to be lightweight. So, I set-up a Filofax Flex slim for this holiday. I used Spray Mount to stick information pages in a blank notebook and that worked well for planning, journal notes and as a wallet too. I may try the same for my ringed info pages into the Moleskine when I return home.

  3. I don't have an issue with ring vs. bound because I have to have ring bound. But I can't decide on a size. I need the extra room (I think) from the classic or A5 but I hate carrying it around. And I definitely can only have one book. Everything has to fit in the one book. So I continue to go back and forth between sizes. I should probably just suck it up and use the bigger size since I have a LOT of things to keep track of and have to write everything down. But it's so big. See my problem? I can't decide. Could you just decide for me? Never mind. I had my husband do that and it didn't work.

  4. I finally bought the Erin Condren planner this summer and am totally surprised that it seems to be working pretty well for me. My personal Malden serves as a wallet with shopping list, goals and to dos, vital numbers, and notes. I carry both together in a medium sized bag and it's really not too heavy. Turns out that I really like having my goals and lists in a separate book to my calendar, so I can see them together when I plan. And I like the big Condren week page. I keep a notepad in the back pocket of the Condren to pull out for quick scribbles. It's really mind boggling that this system has worked flawlessly for a solid month now without any feeling I need to change a bit of it. Hope I'm not jinxing it by writing this comment!

    1. Hi Christine, that's great your planner system is working well for you! That is such a good feeling.

      I looked at the EC planners and I like their new features this year and that the weeks are no longer broken like they were when I reviewed it awhile back. It just seems so expensive for a planner you can only use for the one year. And the international shipping is prohibitive! But, someone who only buys that one would still spend less per year on their planner than I do trying different ones.

  5. I've never used a ring bound planner. I want to try one, but I'm staying away for now. I just have a feeling one will never work for me, but that I'll spend all my time and money on pretty binders and systems anyway.

    I'm finally back in a Textagenda, which makes me happy. One reason I have Planner Fail and Angst is because there's no good space for long-term lists in a daily planner. My self-drawn daily in a notebook was perfect for long-term lists, but it didn't work as well for daily planning. I've tried separate notebooks, but that never works. I'm experimenting with Wunderlist for all my long-term project lists. I won't look at the app everyday, but it will be there when I need it. It's basically a backup for my mind. Everything I need to get done at some point is there, and I can reference it when it comes time to schedule those tasks out on a daily page in my Textagenda.

    Now, the only thing I haven't quite figured out is where to best capture ideas and notes. I do love reading how other people solve all their planner problems. It gives me good ideas!

    1. I hear you, I also have problems with where to put long-term notes and lists in a bound planner. Glad to hear you are back in a Textagenda, that must feel good!! In case you didn't see the link, these little booklets will slip into the back of your Textagenda (this size will fit) and Quo Vadis UK ships worldwide:


      You can also get them in a pack of 2:


      That might be a good solution for you for lists.

  6. I've been in my ring bound for a while now (personal size/FC compact) and I am happy. I did need an A5 when I worked outside the home, though. However, I still struggle with where to put temporary papers. I used to binder clip things to the outside of my wirebound planners. (Examples: the payment for my kid's school tuition to pay during errands this week, a copy of my proof of CLE attendance that needs to be filed at home, or the directions to a birthday party next week.) In the ring bound, it fits in the front, but makes it very thick. :( I don;t know how I am going to solve this yet!

  7. My paradox usually revolves around what to keep in my planner and where. I've found my ideal diary layout now (ff 2PPD - if only they sold it on the UK store!), and get on really, really well with the compact size for day to day and personal for when I need to do a bit more planning. But... goals first? Calendar first? Do lists of scriptures to learn belong in 'reference' or 'goals'? Or somewhere else entirely? *sigh*

  8. Truthfully, ring or spiral doesn't bother me either way. Because I'm right-brained and only need a teeny bit of structure, my planner has to be as simple as possible. I ended up with an Arc, though I don't like the size. They have a small, a standard, and a desktop. I need a fourth size they don't have, which is 9x7, so I ended up with the desktop. But the month calendar is big enough to write in (9x7 would be, but the standard is too small). In this case, being able to remove pages to reduce weight is a plus, and I can add a few months of the new year when it comes out.

    But then my goal is also not to keep every single thing in there. I have the monthly calendar for the big picture. That includes appointments and upcoming writing deadlines where I have to turn a manuscripts in (a deadline where I'm thinking about one goes on a Post It). I also have the weekly section where there's room to record my word counts, mileage for research and critique group; a plastic business card pocket for cons and writers conferences; and a plastic pocket to stick doctor forms in. That's it.

  9. Oh yes, I am experiencing this pain now. I have very recently fallen hard for FFs, after having been in day per page bound planners for years. I love that I can personalise the FF to a much greater degree than the bound planners, but - as you write here - I am missing fixed pages and the space they brought. I have day per page FF inserts, but am struggling to fit much else into the rings! Dilemma!

    Please keep us updated! I am keen to see what happens next.



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