How to plan your planner

A5 Filofax Holborn

Even though I’ve been using a paper planner for years now, I realize that every once in a while my planner fails. I also get very fidgety and often change up my system, or even my whole planner. When this happens I go through my basic steps and re-evaluate what I’m doing.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is while a planner is meant to keep you on track, sometimes you need to keep track of your planner.

Whether you’ve been using paper planners for years or are a planner newbie, here are some quick tips that have helped me:

  1. Make a plan: List out all the things you will be using your planner for. Work or personal or both. I can’t have separate books. I’ve tried and failed miserably. I need to have just one.
  2. Decide on a calendar: Personally, a planner without a calendar is simply useless for me. I need to have dates. So the next thing you need to decide is a format of your calendar depending on how many timed appointments you have. I used to use the calendar to write out my to-dos for the day. I quickly realized that I was re-writing stuff all the time. So now I have deadlines in my calendar and to-do’s on a sticky note that I can move from week to week.
  3. Keep your to-dos with your calendar: Either try to schedule in time for your to-do’s or put them with your calendar. As I mentioned in the previous point, I now use sticky notes on my weekly lay out.
  4. Make sections: I always thought project sections that came with the Filofax were for people who did project-based work in the office. I realized over time that anything can turn into a project. For example, if you have a client that has multiple requirements and there’s a number of internal approvals / research required, this can be a project. Something like planning a birthday party can also be a project. I think the person who does this best is Giftie Etcetera. Please check out her website and YouTube channel to learn so much about how to get these things right and plenty more.
  5. Keep important info/ tel numbers written down in one place
  6. Make sure you have a place to stuff paper: We all have the burden of printouts and receipts. You have to ensure planning system can carry some scraps of paper until you can process it.
  7. Don’t make it heavy: While a stuffed planner looks beautiful, it quickly becomes a burden. Not just in terms of weight but also in terms of never actually finding things in your planner. Keep it light, clean out often and keep it functional.
  8. Don’t be afraid to change: Our lives change constantly and so do our planning needs. There will be periods of time when you need a heavy duty binder and other times when a simple pocket notebook will do. You don’t have to stick to one system. Change is good, change keeps things fresh.
  9. Have fun: For a planner to be useful, it’s needs to be used. If you think you’re planner is too ugly, too fat, too weird… you won’t use it. You have to love your planner, not be ashamed to pull it out in public. It must be comfortable to write in. If you think decorating will make you love it, by all means do that. But don’t forget, it’s meant to be a tool, not a piece of art.

Once I run through these things, it’s easier for me to decide how to switch up my planner and the flexibility I need.

I hope this is useful. I’d love to hear and learn more so if you have any tips, please do comment. Thanks!

Filofax Pocket – There’s a first time for everything 

*Warning: somewhat picture heavy post*

Ok so one of things I’ve been struggling with is the weight of my bag. My neck and back problems seemed to be coming back and they were definitely not pleasant when I had it in the past. So I did some downsizing and lightened the load. I did a post about it here.

One of the things I did was to move into a Pocket Filofax vs the Personal. I bought a Pocket Chameleon in black way back in 2013 but never successfully used it as a daily planner. I did use it to keep blog notes, book lists, quotes etc. So this time I thought let me give it a try.

I love the Chameleon. You can see how beautifully it still shines even after 6 years.

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I decided not to use a major diary but instead used printable monthly inserts from Ray Blake (http://www.mylifeallinoneplace.com/). Please check out his awesome website for free printable inserts in all shapes and sizes.

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I printed them out on this lovely A4 pad I had from Paperchase. I printed them in a way that the calendar is on the plain side while I can write notes on the patterned side.

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Finally I kept the bunch of notepaper and didn’t do much else. The notepaper is a mix of Filofax and Paperchase. I’ve kept the colourful ones on purpose so I can have different sections and find my note paper easily. I have my daily work task in a Levenger Circa Junior (something I’m trying for the first time).

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I love that the Chameleon has a full length pocket at the back so I can stuff even A4 sized paper.

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I’ve kept it simple. Now let’s see if this work.

Planner update- what’s working right now

If it’s one thing I’ve learned over my years of planning and having planners, it’s that there’s no one thing that works all the time. Sure, planning is a learning process but it’s also a process of adaptation. For a long time, I thought I need to stick one format for a year or for few months at least before it worked and then I realized that’s not true. My work and life changes. There are some weeks that are crazy busy and some weeks that are just plain busy. And all is thought of how to plan and what’s the best strategy was driving me crazy. So now I’m using a process that I feel is working. Who knows it may change tomorrow?

So, what’s working for me right now. 

I have a Filofax Personal and a Moleskine. Here’s how they work:

The FF personal is what I carry with me everywhere. It has MO2P and WO2P for appointments and dates. A few colored pages for personal notes and budgeting. A pages of reference info I have had for the last 5 years and switch from binder to binder. 

The Moleskine serves as my to-do and notes because I feel it’s more accessible. Every week I list everything that comes to my mind with boxes next to it. I color in the boxes if something is half done, like sending an email. If the item is done, I cross it off, like I got a response and the issue is closed. Every week I will copy across everything I couldn’t get done. 

It’s simple and it’s working. I don’t have to remember codes or anything like that. I run through my list twice or even thrice a day. This way I’m always familiar with my list and I don’t have to fret about missing anything. If anything is urgent or has a deadline I put a box  around the item and put it in my FF weekly. 

True this means having two books open on my desk, but it’s helped me save a lot of headache. 

My Filofax combo


It’s been a while since I decided to change up my planning tools. I did change a few things in between but mostly I’ve been using the A5. I’ve been switching between using the Filofax A5 and the Clipbook.

Most of my planning revolves around my work with a few personal chores in between. So I’ve always focused on a planner for work and just put in some of my personal reminders. This is why I’ve been going back to using the A5. It’s a lot more convenient to use for work. I’ve tried separate binders for work and personal life but I end up writing almost nothing in the personal and eventually shift everything to the work binder. Then the problem is, the A5 eventually become bulky and pretty heavy to carry around. By now I have some info in the A5 that I use as reference and I don’t want to have to transfer everything again to a personal.

So here’s what I’m trying out….. Using 2 Filofaxes again – a Personal and an A5. This is dangerous territory for me. I’ve never been able to make two planners work. I know so many bloggers out there do a fantastic job of keeping things in sync and using two planners, but I’ve always failed miserably at it.

So what’s different this time?

I’m thinking I’ll set some ground rules.

  1. No duplicate calendars. I’ll use just one calendar with appointments and to-dos in my Personal. I may have a yearly calendar in my A5 so I can refer to dates
  2. Contacts and personal info like expenses will go in the Personal
  3. Meeting notes and work reference go in the A5
  4. Any loose paper can be transferred to the A5
  5. Any meeting action points to be transferred to the Personal

This way I can carry my Personal with me while I leave the A5 at work or in the car. Sure, this also means I would occasionally be carrying both but, the goal is to make sure it doesn’t happen often.

So here goes my attempt at changing my planning technique. I know many of you have mastered this art perfectly and for many it’s still work in progress. Either way, I would love here your thoughts or tips.

Planner Stress

Planner stress is a very real issue for many… yes, I meant planner, not planning. While planning can be stressful for a great many, I think planner stress have far fewer victims. We are an elite niche group of people who stress about things like which binder to use, which size to use, which colour to use, washi tape / no washi tape, diary insert format, et cetera, et cetera.

We love fretting over these little things and deliberating over our choices, all the while getting encouragement and support from our lovely little community of bloggers.

Every few months I get the urge to change my planner. It’s not that I constantly crave change. On the contrary, I like being in my comfort zone. When I find something I like, I usually stick to it. But not in the case of planners. And when I get the urge, I start stressing out. It’s a weird feeling only few will understand. You’re not sure if you want to make the change, not sure if you can, not sure if you should.

This time around, I’m thinking of making a major change. I’m thinking of ditching the filofax / ring mechanism system! I’m using my favourite Personal size at the moment, and truthfully there’s nothing wrong with it. But, I just want to see if I can make the change. I ordered a really nice DPP Moleskine, the special edition ones and now longing / dreading for it to arrive next week. I really haven’t made up my mind yet!

Well, even though we count planner stress among our problems, to me it’s a great thing that I have a little world, full of wonderful people who share the same “stress” that I do.

Happy planning!

Filofax in the 80s

Watching L.A. Law all over again and it’s fun to see a Filofax in almost everyone’s hands. It was such a status symbol.

I’m glad it’s one of the few things that survived past that era, unlike shoulder pads, ugly fabrics for suits or even short ties! ☺