Friday, 13 May 2011

Trying to wed TMI with Filofax (but expecting a divorce…)

I’m not sure if this is really about Paper, Pens or Ink and is verging away from filofaxes… but, after exchanging emails and ideas with a fellow Philofaxer, I have been trying to adapt the Time Manager International (TMI) system for use in a filofax, although so far, without massive success.

Whereas in hell at work, I am well-organised and achieve my goals etc, on the home/personal front, I do less well and I want to try and improve on it. Hence me trying to plan the other areas of my life a little more constructively.

The crux of the TMI system (as far as I can tell) is to think of all the things you aim to do as part of a tree – the goals are the trunk, then coming from those goals are key areas (branches) and then under the key areas are tasks to be achieved in those key areas (twigs) and under this are the activities needed to complete the task (leaves). The activities seem to translate to ‘to do’ although they are specifically linked to the tasks and key areas. Anything else is a ‘don’t forget’ (like – don’t forget to pick up your dry cleaning).

Well, I’ve tried to write out some key areas (writing; Chimwemwe work; the garden; etc), and underneath those key areas the tasks (finish novel #3; raise £1000 for Chimwemwe by autumn; finish re-organising the big border; etc). Then I did the activities (short-term and long-term) that are required to accomplish the tasks (and ultimately contribute towards the goal) but now I’m a bit stuck. My gut feeling has been to put them all together in one ‘to-do’ section which would also have my ‘don’t forget’ stuff in and then transcribe activities onto weekly and daily lists. However, the TMI system seems to have the sections separated (from my reading of it, though I am happy to be corrected), where the goals go together, then all the key areas for that goal and then all the tasks and then the activities, but that is way too much filing for someone like me where out of sight is most definitely out of mind! I think I must be blending other systems into the TMI system because what I have done is to put the activities for the key areas onto separate sheets (one for each key area) and then file them behind the ‘don’t forget’ page in the ‘to-do’ section. The trick appears to be, to turn over the page and read through all the activities when planning the week and the day.

I know – I am an educated woman who, amazingly, holds down a well paid job and who can at times make OCD look slapdash. So (you’d think!) turning the page wouldn’t be that taxing. Well, it’s taking a bit of getting used to, because my usual method is to put a star-rating next to each work-related task when I’m in hell at work, and to do the *** ones first and the * ones last and so when I’m planning my work day/week, I scan down the big to-do list looking for the ***.
Although at work, that makes compiling my daily/weekly lists pretty easy to sort out, at home it’s taking a bit of getting used to. The trouble is that I find it hard with several pretty equal strands to rate which activity is the most important. Consequently, nothing has a * and certainly nothing has *** so I stare at my list and feel a bit lost. Then I write out far too much stuff for the day and don’t get it done and then I feel like I’m unproductive…

Only time will tell how well I get on with this.

How do others sort their ‘key areas’ and task lists? I honestly feel like I’m making this way harder than it should be!



  1. Oh dear! I don't use a TMI system. Everything that needs to be done is dumped in a weekly list or written in my 3 must dos for the day. I can't handle complicated.

  2. I might be heading back to that...! Why do I find it so hard to turn the page and read the to-dos in the other areas? I might try writing a better weekly list from all the 'area' lists.
    I just want to find a way to progress my long-term plans better.

  3. Have you sorted out your method as yet? I still can't believe your uni doesn't recognise so many bank holidays! Awful! Hope you are fine though.

  4. Ummm... sort of...
    I am also trying (not necessarily succeeding!) to do a weekly review where I do really check all the topic to-do lists. Only started that a week ago (which went fine) and then we've had a terrible week (sudden family death) and all structure has gone AWOL!
    I'm away to Malawi a week today so I imagine I will attempt to get into some system when I'm back!
    How're you??

  5. Hi, are still trying to adapt TMI to Filofax? I have also tried with little success. I have an idea now though. The companion inserts from TMI will probably fit into the personal size TMI. That is my idea. I have tons of TMI inserts lying around and want to try to fit them into the Pennybridge Compact I just ordered. Any ideas of how to turn TMI Original size: 180 x 110 mm to 95mm x 171mm? I will do an experiment soon and let you know how it goes.