Stuck In the Middle with You

Ok, my first post about planners.

I have what I like to call a “thing” for them.

Do the finger quotes. You know you want to.

What this means is, my life is rather chaotic and has been pretty much since birth, so I try to create the illusion of control over my own destiny by planning the living hell out of it.

At least that’s what my therapist says.

I think that, as a writer, I simply have a penchant for ink on paper. Preferably really good paper, that smells the way good paper should smell, and the oh-so-satisfying scratch of a fine nib upon it.

You know what I’m talking about.

It is true that I can (and do) create adequately on a computer, but when I really get down to the kind writing that is like my very soul giving birth, I have to do that the old-fashioned way, with my favorite Montblanc, one of a stash of a zillion blank Moleskines and in my zany, loopy handwriting.

Similarly, you may find me extolling the virtues of Google Calendar on my iPhone while at the same time jotting down the very same meeting (but with more detail) in my trusty Day Planner.

I find the two balance one another fantastically – on the one hand, my Planner does not beep to handily remind me of an upcoming event which has slipped my mind, but on the other hand, nor does its battery run down at the most inopportune time.

One of my most profound planner challenges has been and continues to be choosing one system/page layout and sticking with it for an entire year. This year has proven to be no exception.

I began the year using a Filofax Pocket Malden with Filofax One Day per Page inserts for my daily planning, supplemented with a separate section of Filofax Month on Two Pages for overview planning.

This has been working fine, although I find it ridiculous that despite several other planner brands (Day Timer, Day Runner, Franklin Covey to name a few) providing for a tabbed monthly overview that can be used directly with each month’s daily planning pages, Filofax refuses to. In fact, their pages are printed back to back, so one cannot effectively hack a way to tab out the months, period.

Although it releases annual updates to its high-end, costly planner binders, Filofax insert calendars have been essentially the same since dinosaurs walked the earth. Also knows as the 80’s.

But I digress…

My Filofax system had been working just fine and I do enjoy that I can take the small Pocket size planner virtually anywhere with me, in any handbag, due to its compact size – and there is no denying that the Malden line with its scrummy vintage buffalo leather is mind blowing and reality altering all in one.

However, as Q1 became a thing of the past, I realized that a few key factors were lacking and, not only were they lacking, but they were niggling at me:

1. I really missed having the month tabbed for easy reference, right there with the daily pages at hand.  Turns out I used that quite a bit for very broad planning items such as recurring meetings, paydays, bills, etc. Items I don’t want redundantly all over my planner. Having the monthly pages relegated to a separate section somehow made them too much of a pain in the ass to use.

2. The Pocket Filofax is highly portable, yes, but the pages are also very, very small. See reference to zany, loopy handwriting above.

I had been writing appointments on the left side of the page and my To Do items on the right.  The small page size meant that a single To Do item typically used up several lines, and virtually no detail could be recorded with appointment items, lest it run to the next (or the next after that) hourly tick. Vexing. Messy. No good.

3. Since the beginning of the year, I have been keeping a separate daily Gratitude/Positive Thought list. As the year progresses I have committed to adding more and more things to each day’s list.  This book stays at home on my coffee table.  Quite often, however, I think of things to add while I am out and about and I end up jotting them down willy nilly in my planner.  I found myself wishing I had room in my planner to add this list to each corresponding day, so that when I look back over any given day for the year, I can see if and how the two influenced one another. Pretty neat idea, huh?

Long story short, I decided that, although the portability factor is indeed very cool, I wanted more space.

Although I adore Filofax binders, as I have mentioned I really do find their inserts to be lacking. My favorite inserts of all time are Franklin Covey. I like the quality of the paper, I practically pee myself over their Prioritized Daily Task List on each day, and I crave the…say it with me…tabbed months.

Trouble is, Franklin Covey Compact size inserts are approximately 1/2″ wider than the corresponding Filofax Personal pages, so while one can use FC inserts in a FF binder, they stick out pretty far and quite often having the pen in the pen loop will get in the way or cause the tabs to bend, or some such annoying thing when you have mega OCD like I do.

One thing I really dug aesthetically about the Filofax Pocket (that is not shared by the Personal size) is the fat/square factor. A nice, full FF Pocket is almost perfectly square (almost – truth is, it’s an inch off) and fat like a puppy’s belly. Think about it.

Filofax Personal…meh. Very rectangular.

Due to the page size being wider, Franklin Covey binders in Compact size also have that fat/square thing going on;  being about one inch off from perfectly square.

Thing is, I seriously don’t care for many of their binders. Most zip – I hate that – and the leather isn’t nearly as nice as a Filofax.  Sorry FC, it simply is not.  Yet they are still pretty pricey in their own right.  Right now there is one Compact binder on the FC website that I could tolerate, but $80 is steep to merely tolerate.

I have a FC Compact binder, of course I do, from a previous lifetime when I used their products.  I probably switched due to my inability to collect FC thanks to their selection. Or lack thereof. Who knows really. I certainly don’t and it’s my own brain we’re talking.

Anyway, it is black leather (decent leather, thankfully), has a snap closure, a cute neutral flowered interior, a stretchy pen loop and adequate pockets. I forget the model…it is several years old and you can’t get it anymore.

Long story long, I ordered up some 2011 Day on Two Page Original refills for the sucker and made the executive decision to do a Q2 switch.

They arrived yesterday and the re-copying of the entire year (including the year to date of my Gratitude/Positive list…can you say hand cramp) thus far has now officially commenced.

You know me, I obsess until stuff gets done. I should be fully re-copied by tomorrow.

Insights so far:

1. Love, love, love the larger page size as well as the layout. Having the entire right page for Daily Notes allows plenty of room for my happy list and anything else I feel compelled to write down. I know it has only been one day, but I find I am stretching out into the added room and jotting a lot more details about my day.

2. Totally missed the FC paper. The Original refills have a pale green/white coloring that is very easy on the eyes. The feel is that of a more substantial weight and it does not bleed through.

3. This binder isn’t so bad. Does it have the trendy, yuppie factor of Filofax? No. But the ring capacity is also greater so it holds more pages and it is undeniably fat & square, which somehow makes up for the lack of British coolness.

And, should I come to eschew fat/square for retro 80’s chic, the whole shebang will fit into my Personal Malden if it must. Eventually, it probably will, who am I kidding?

Once again I find myself stuck in the middle between these two.  In the stage of hell I like to call FiloFrank.

Check out the Flickr set here.

I love Filofax, I do.  For everything except their inserts. And I really don’t care for Franklin Covey; not the (IMO) sub-par binders nor the cult like manner in which they imply theirs is the only way to plan. But I cannot deny that their calendar inserts are what roll my socks up and down.


I’m sick of all the constant switching around and re-copying, for reals.  I’m sure you are too. I know I’m not the only one who does it. We need to get tee-shirts made or something. Seriously.

Perhaps the lesson is that, just as life is not a static thing, planning is not either. And perhaps just as we don’t unreasonably expect life to be perfect, we should not expect our planning system to be.

No one thing ever remains that same one thing for very long. Change is life and life is change.  Like all things that exist, we as well as our planners, can be no more than a work in progress.  An evolution.

Maybe the best we can do is simply continue to adapt.

And learn to ice our hands…

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steve
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 04:27:03

    Stealers Wheel

    Great song!

  2. Steve
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 10:32:41 in case you didn’t make the connection!

  3. Laurie
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 15:31:28

    I’m right there with you, sister. You know I feel your planner pain!!!

  4. Robin
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 17:56:50

    I agree – the pocket size *seems* like it would work, but the page size is too small. (However, it makes a great wallet!) I do like the chubby size, though. Sigh!

    If you get a personal size Filo, the DayTimer inserts and tabs fit fine. The inserts are blah, but the monthly tabs are pretty! You can kind of see them here:

  5. Rori
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 14:49:16

    “What this means is, my life is rather chaotic and has been pretty much since birth, so I try to create the illusion of control over my own destiny by planning the living hell out of it.

    At least that’s what my therapist says.” LMAO!!
    This part gave me that “oh yessss” shoulder shudder…

    “I think that, as a writer, I simply have a penchant for ink on paper. Preferably really good paper, that smells the way good paper should smell, and the oh-so-satisfying scratch of a fine nib upon it.” YEAH BABY!!

    I like the FC paper WAY better too. Then I can use my LePens willy nilly!

    Yeah, my t-shirt will say “Filo ho”. God, I have a problem, I really do. Maybe I need to see your therapist?

    I love your writing style! Very talented. Thanks for the post, and the great pictures to boot! Happy blogging!