Thursday, 28 July 2011

Why is Filofax paper so rubbish?

There was a wish-list on Philofaxy this week for what people wanted from Filofax and high on the list was decent paper, especially in the diaries.
I’m with everyone on that. My preferred pen is my Osmiroid medium flat tip soft (gold) nibbed fountain pen. If I use that on filofax paper, it bleeds right through to the back in a heartbeat. In fact, the shoddiness of filofax paper has been one of the things that has flipped me back and forth from a personal to an A5. I can easily print my own pages on A4 and trim them to A5 size and therefore can control the quality of the paper, but printing to personal size and trimming is a heck of a pain. My current favourite paper for printing for the A5 is Clairfontaine cream, which is silky smooth to write on and has no bleed through.

It’s not just the diary paper in filofax that’s rubbish though. Presumably they produce all their white-paper products on exactly the same paper and hence the bleed-through is equally appalling across the range. On the coloured paper, although there is no bleed-through, this is largely because the paper seems ink-repellent. That’s not an advantage! Fountain pen just beads up on the surface. It really is phenomenally incompetent to be able to produce ink-proof paper! Biros, ballpoints, Frixion (just) etc cope okay, but not my beloved fountain pen.
Other companies can make products that fit the filofax and which can cope with fountain pens, so why can’t filofax produce them too? Reluctantly, I have resorted to using my personal on a day to day basis with my Zebra Sharbo (combined ballpoint and propelling pencil), mostly because I like the combination (and the Baroque only has one pen loop), but heavily influenced by the fact that no other pen fits in the tiny loop in the Baroque! (Which is another gripe but I’ll leave that for another day!)
When I get to use my own inserts for the A5 (largely to do with writing), it’s a dream to be able to get the fountain pen out and write beautifully.

The other thing that came in for criticism on Philofaxy were the (lack of) diary formats. I wonder if Filofax have ever done a customer survey on what people want? When you buy from them, you are asked if you would like to be on their mailing list. Why not also ask if people would be prepared to fill in a survey? Maybe with a free giveaway as incentive? (Filofax… are you listening out there???).

A format I would like would be much like the cotton cream week on two pages (WO2P), with each day getting equal spacing, and a small notes section in the top right hand side, BUT, on white paper, with horizontal lines in the day spaces, more like an appointments diary. And of course, the paper would cope with all kinds of pens/inks.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Time and task management: how is the TMI-filofax marriage?

A few months back, I blogged that I was trying to wed Time Management International’s system with my Filofax (but was expecting a divorce). I produced a list of key areas/goals, then from that produced task-lists for each key area. Back then, I was stuck over whether to keep these key area task-lists together or to combine them all into one (erm, somewhat overwhelming) list.

Well. I stuck with the multiple lists and have tried to incorporate a weekly and monthly review. Never having done a weekly or monthly review quite like this before, I was initially a bit stuck for inspiration and all the ideas on the internet seemed very complicated (and therefore unlikely to get off the ground, chez moi).

I have settled on this:

My goals/key areas for the next six months are written out using mind-mapping onto one A4 piece of paper which is then folded and punched to go in my filofax, at the start of my diary section:

Sorry for the glare - poor lighting and flash combo!
It still folds up fine (with a bit of the bottom left-hand side snipped off) so can stay in the FF all the time.

Folded up in the filofax
Behind that is a list of my goals to achieve this month. They are on pink paper only because I have acquired oodles of that in purchases of FF. Obviously (and I think with good reason) no-one seems to use it up! Although it does colour-code well with the current FF... [When the autumnal equinox arrives and I switch to the blue version, the monthly goal pages might have to change colour too!]

Pretty in pink. Allegedly.
Behind that, are my goals for the week. You’ll see that I never did get on with the dreary, grey diary that came with the Gourmet filofax and so I am now using it for scrap paper, turning it upside down so as not to confuse my tiny brain.

I guess that diary had some use after all!
Then, weekly, I do this review:
  • Reflect on the last week
    • Did I get everything done?
    • If not, why not?
  • Review next week
    • What commitments do I have?
    • What preparation do I need to do for these?
    • How much (sensibly) can I do in a day?
    • Allocate things from my monthly goals/tasks into my time
  • Review the next 4 weeks
    • Are there things like birthdays/anniversaries etc that I need to prepare for?
    • What events are in there (and do I need to do anything about them?)?
  • Review goals
    • Make sure they have clear action points to work on (in monthly goals)
    • Edit out impossible/daft things
    • Make sure that there is a reasonable balance between the different key areas over the week
That sounds like a complicated list, but (so far) it has been taking me less than half an hour to do it. I do actually schedule into my diary a reminder to do a weekly (and monthly) review, usually on a Sunday! The monthly review just focuses on how the month has gone and to shift things from the overall 6-month mind-map into the monthly goals/tasks. So far, I am working with the next two months of goals drawn up. Any more than that, and there’s a strong possibility things will have gone awry and the month’s plan will be all askew.

My day-to-day planning then happens on my day per page (DPP) diary. I put daily tasks in on the RHS then at the start of each day, decide when I’ll do them. I colour-code like mad because I am a very visual person and it helps me to see if I am over-doing any one area.

What the days look like - tasks on the RHS, scheduled on the left
The other advantage to this system, is that I’m using up my DPP diary that I thought was just going to gather dust! I started using it early in the year but couldn’t get used to it. I like to see my week at a glance, so all new appointments go into the WO2P and then when I do my weekly review, I transcribe things into the DPP. Very rarely do new things appear in the week in which they’re happening and if they do, they go straight into the DPP. I realise that makes my WO2P a bit out of date, but the system is working for me so far (and tbh, I add anything that’s cropped up to my WO2P when I do my weekly review, to keep the records complete). I suppose the WO2P helps me to look ahead, but day-to-day, I work from my DPP. Once the weekly review is done, the DPP pages are redundant and removed from the FF and another week is added in. I’m currently keeping them, but I may well toss them out eventually!

Well, no divorce so far and despite a turbulent month, it’s working out okay.

How do others use their filofax for time/task management? Any hints and tips?