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?


  1. Hi Amanda,

    Thanks for your posts on this subject - all very interesting! It would be great if you could post on the yahoo group with some insights comparing GTD to TMI, since most members there seem to be familiar with GTD.

    Thanks again, and best regards,


  2. @Gerard
    I would be happy to, except that the Yahoo site has driven me around the bend! I am sure it is just some odd setting on my laptop, but there never seems to be a 'handshake' between me logging in to Yahoo on the site and it remembering consistently that I am a member and so I get sent round and round in a futility loop of logging in again and again and then having to click on join this group and then logging in again and again...
    I have successfully managed to post one thing and then after that, the site has been so impossible to use I have given up.
    Any ideas as to what settings might be odd? The problem is consistent between IE and Firefox incidentally...

  3. HI Amanda - I'd really appreciate seeing a blown up version of you pictures for this post so I understand your system better as it looks really good. Are they on flickr or somewhere?

  4. @Alison,
    I've emailed you some pics and a fuller explanation. Hope I don't jam your email!

  5. Hi Amanda - I'd love to see the photos and explanation too, if you don't mind sharing. G

    gerardmccabe [at] eircom [dot] net

  6. I'm in love with your pink Baroque!

  7. Late to the scene, but really appreciate the post. Was wowed by TMI many years ago and have never found a digital equivalent. Can you believe I only discovered GTD this week! The book arrived today and I signed up with Evernote this week. Hope your systems' still working for you