Keeping Tabs

As the year winds down, I find myself really chomping at the bit to move into my new system for 2012.

If you’ve been reading along, you know that I’ve been narrowing down my insert options.  Well, I’m happy to report that after much thought (and mock-up fondling) my format of choice is going to be Franklin Covey 7 Habits 2Page per Day in Compact size.

I can fit a startling 6-month supply of these diary pages into my Filofax Personal Malden  (Ochre or Black, that vote is still out).

All that stood in the way of setting up my new inserts with the remainder of this year was sorting out my subject tab situation.  You see, I’m not wild about the FC blank set of 12 and their tiny, unreadable tabby bits, nor the fact that, in order to satisfy my OCD and achieve the look of a full complement of tabs, I end up with some wicked redundancy.

Right now, I’m using FC 1Day per Page in Monticello and I can fit 6-months of diary pages and a ridiculous assortment of 12 tabs just fine.  Thing is, I don’t need them all, I just have all 12 in there because I can’t stand the way haphazard tabs look.   It’s crazy, I admit it.  That being said, I don’t want to just carry a broken tab system forward into the new year.

My current tab situation goes a little something like this:

FC Tabs - full compliment of 12

Shopping Lists
Sharpen the Saw

Phew! That’s a lotta tabs.  Seems wasteful of space in my planner as well as synaptic firings in my noggin keeping track of a bunch of inserts I don’t really even need.

First I thought about creating my own tabs the DIY way. You know, getting some pretty card stock, cutting them out so I only have as many as I need, hole punching them, yada, yada, yada.

Problem is, I’m not creative AT ALL. On top of that, doing stuff of this nature is not appealing to me. I like to go out and buy planner stuff, but the thought of making my own? Yeah, not my idea of fun.

I tried hacking around using Avery NoteTabs stuck over the wee FC tabs…but that ended up looking horrid. They are 2″ long as opposed to the 1/2″ FC tab so having tiny FC month tabs mixed in with ginormous 2″ Note Tabs looked downright annoying.  OCD fail.

The only thing I could come up with, since I don’t need all 12 tabs yet still require a semblance of symmetry and order, was to divide the set of 12 by 3 and only use the middle four so that they would be centered in my book.

But how, you ask, can I go from 12 tabs to only four? Three little words:

Getting.   Things.   Done.

Don’t put your hands over your ears and run away screaming, I’m not going rogue and joining a cult.

What I did was take some basic principles from my old GTD days and incorporate them into my tab needs. Now, I’m not going to get into the whole GTD system (partly because I am lazy, partly because it’s already been done far better than I ever could a zillion times over, and mostly because I find the entire system far too cumbersome. For me. Personally).

But what I do like about it, I can break down for you quick & dirty, and without sounding too much like a nut. I hope.

GTD deals with our human brain and how it works to process information. Again, not going to delve into the science of all that here (you’re welcome).

The gist of it is that your brain can get overwhelmed if you try and cram too much minutia into it in a given day and that’s why you leave the house without turning off the iron, forget to pick up your dry cleaning for weeks at a time or take your multivitamin at each and every meal because you can’t remember whether or not you took the damn thing until you pee neon green for a week.

And by “you” in that sentence I of course mean me.

Too many little things careening around in your brain is what ties it up and causes us to forget the big things. So the first step in GTD is to empty it.

Thus, the ubiquitous capture tool. In your capture tool, you write down anything and everything that has your attention. And that’s all you do. Get it out of your head and onto the paper. We’ll get to what you do with it after that in a sec, but for now the focus is purging your mind. This part isn’t organized or neat or pretty, and it’s not about anything other than brain dumping.

Thus my first tab would be “capture”. But…and there always must be a but mustn’t there? That’s a long word for a 1/2″ tab and my label maker font only goes so small.  So I went with “UCT” (for ubiquitous capture tool).

Now that you have your mind-vomit down on paper and out of your headspace, comes the bit about what to do with it.

Is it actionable?  In other words, do I need to do something to make it go away? Yeah? Okay, then can I do it right now, or in the next few minutes? If so,  do it.  If it’s not a right now kind of thing, it’ll go in my calendar, to Siri for a reminder, or on my daily Task List (my fave aspect of the FC inserts by the way).

But there always seems to be stuff that requires action but that have too many steps to just jot down on a Task List or Calendar.  GTD calls these things projects and then proceeds to make them uber-complicated. I won’t be doing that, thank you very much. I’ll just be noting them in their own section, along with pertinent information, until they’re completed.

So Tab #2 will therefore be “ACT”; stubby tab code for Action.

For items in the UCT that are not actionable, like reference material, the name of a new wine someone told me was worth trying, things I want to research (and conversely, things I already have researched that I don’t want to have to look up again because I’m a ninny), or important facts like the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow, my third tab will be “INFO”.  Mercifully, that did fit on the 1/2″ FC tab. Though, it was pretty tight.

And that’s it for my relationship with GTD.  Do it, or know it –  then when it becomes irrelevant, toss it.  Pretty simple. In theory.

Remember, I’m trying this tab hack out for the first time in an attempt to streamline & avoid tab over kill. It may be genius…or it may fail on an epic level. I’ll let you know.

By the way, my fourth tab will be for quotes (“QUO”), because I’m always coming across a good quote I want to remember, or that helps me on a given day. When my Quotes section gets too full, I transfer them to my Commonplace Book to avoid clutter and start fresh.

FC Tabs - the middle 4 of a set of 12. I can fit 3-4 letters on each w/the smallest font my label maker can manage














What do you think? Will this simplified tab system work or is it too minimalistic? How do you handle tabs when you can’t quite find the ones you want? Or, do you always just use the ones that come with your planner?

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. SNARLing
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 01:04:21

    nice one! I also only have 4 tabs based somewhat on gtd (after many innard redeux – this is my third i think):

    expenses (which was refererence at one point)

    it’s easier to have only a couple of tabs and if i need to further sub-divide i use either a transparent flyleaf or those coloured post-it tabs on the top or bottom.

  2. vgrovpro
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 01:59:03

    Like the minimalist uct/act/info/quo structure. May I borrow from you uct?

  3. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 02:12:07

    @snarlilng: yes, i have seen your use of the transparent flyleaf and admired it. if only FC had those…

    @vgrovpro: have at it…my uct is your uct : )

  4. Hannah C.
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 02:33:34

    But you are already part of a cult….The Filofax cult. 😉

    Thanks for sharing your setup! My current setup is going to be completely revamped when I switch to personal size for my main planning. I did some posts on it a while back though. I’m currently looking for new ideas and I may end up using some of these!

  5. Aliandra
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 03:03:16

    Due to living 45 blinking miles from a grocery store, going shopping is a major undertaking for us. So I have a tab for “Shopping” and one for “Next Trip to Town”. Then I have “Incoming” (which is my brain dump) and “Projects” which is just a list (per GTD). Actionable items get a time frame and go on monthly or weekly schedule. And then a tab for “Agendas” which for me means “next time I speak with…”. For 2012 I’m using Classic size Franklin Covey Simplicity pages – Month on 2 pages, week on 2 pages, and page per day set aside as inserts for especially busy times (to avoid planner fail).

  6. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 17:14:54

    @hannah: you make a good point…this is a bit of a cult (though a very, very fun one!!).

    @laiandra: wow, that is SUPER organized! will you be using a franklin covey classic binder too (if so, which one…inquiring minds want to know!) or trimming & re-punching to use in a filofax?

  7. aliandra
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 01:29:05

    I’m using a Day Timers binder – Leather, Desk sized, 1″ rings, free form distressed leather. I’ve had it for a couple of years now and it’s nicely broken in. Every once in awhile the weight of it overcomes me and I stick it in a drawer and use a bound book for a few weeks until I realize I can’t manage without my lists and take it out of the drawer again. Have just purchased an Uncalendar to tide me through these rebellious periods in which I believe I could actually get through life without carrying a leather brick everywhere – as they are undated they’ll be more economical than the Plannerpads i was buying every year. But the ring binder rules. Total organization is not optional in a crisis (I have learned this well) and life seems like one little crisis after another.

  8. kanalt
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 13:10:12

    Ah, the old tab debate. I like these. I had “middle” tabs for a while, and it drove me insane. I too have to have the full set even if I’m not using them (though I use the Filofax tabs, and so there’s only six).

    Your and J’s posts are stirring my desire to tweak my 2012 system just a little. I really want to take a day off from work to play with it. But alas, my work load right now won’t allow for that. Ah well…

  9. J
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 21:44:27

    I like this! Not sure how long it’ll last, but I like it! I too only have four tabs- Lists, Blog, Me, and Etc. Between the four I seem to be ok. Plus, the first three are subdivided with thinks like shopping list, wish list, etc.

    Who knows, I will probably still move stuff around for 2012 anyway!

  10. David Popely (@davidpopely)
    Nov 24, 2011 @ 08:31:03

    A brilliant post – thank you!

    I too am trying to focus down on my 2012 system. I have three binders – a Personal Filofax Malden in Ochre (it’s beautiful), an A5 Filofax Finsbury in black and an old ‘Original size’ binder from Time Manager International. Time management interested parties of A Certain Age will know that Time Manager International’s system is really that – an entire self-contained philosophy and system in its own right, with more than a passing resemblance to GTD (although it’s really the other way round, TMI has been around since the 1970s at least….David Allen doesn’t mention that very often. Or ever).

    These three binders each come with their own (large) set of inserts, the result of which is that I now have a LARGE transfer box FULL of different inserts from different systems.

    Its time to simplify.

    I really appreciated your four-tab approach, and I’m going to try something similar with my own system. I’m goign to base it on the Personal Malden, a) because it’s a lovely thing that I love to carry around, and b) because i) the TM system is massive overkill for me these days, and ii) because the A5 Filofax, when fully loaded, is heavy enough to make me walk with a limp and look like a planning officer. Basically I just can’t bear to have it with me, roomy as it is.

    The main problem with the Personal Filofax is that of internal space – I run a business and have numerous personal interests I want to track through my system, and tabs and dividers have become a real issue for me also. I’ve tried using the basic 5-tab standard Filofax system, and I’ve tried a 1-10 index which a friend very kindly sent me over from the US (I don’t know the make and I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere in the UK), but like you, the surplus dividers worried my borderline-OCD brain. Also, to use a 1-10 system you need an index in the front and I *hated* having an index in the front. I want the definitions to appear *on* the tabs, because I’m lazy, and having to look them up before turning to them is a task too far.

    I’m going to try this four-tab system. I have a six-tab plain set of dividers, plus a 1-6 set (but see the comments above, so probably not), and see what happens between now and 31st December. My binder takes a Filofax notepad in the back cover slot which I use as my UCT (although again the OCD part of me would like this brought into the ‘main’ system if possible, and I use yellow paper for this. No reason – it just appeals. It’s a bit like a yellow legal pad only in Filofax size.

    When I get the system properly set up in its first draft form, I’ll try to send photos, or post them to the Philofaxy Flickr stream, for comment.

    Thanks again for the post – it really made me think hard about what I want from my system, and how I approach that within the context of the various system options I’ve got available – because I’m definitely *not* going to go out and buy another system this time round!

  11. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 14:39:56

    wow david…what an awesome comment! thank you! i feel your tab pain…i really do. i would love the size & functionality of an a5 but it is such a brick!! and now i use my malden as my wallet too…don’t think i could pull that off with an a5.

    i have ended up adding 2 more tabs to my little set out of necessity from a couple life changes. one is a “projects” tab because i am moving in three weeks, the other is “lists”, which is mostly related to the move as well. i will probably go back to the 4 tabs in the new year but for now it’s nice to know i can pop a couple tabs on either side of the chunk of 4 and still be okay.

    thank goodness we all still have a few weeks left until we really must buckle down and figure out what we’re using for 2012 ; )

  12. Trackback: Contemplating a new Filofax set-up | Bluebonnet Reads
  13. Trackback: Mid-Year Tweak (You Knew it Was Coming…) « the zeitgeist of zoe
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