One of my current obsessions is watching Filofax tours. If you search ‘Filofax’ on YouTube, you’ll find hundreds of videos of people talking through the contents of their Filofaxes. They’re fascinating, and strangely comforting. Seeing how other people organise their lives, what they choose to record about their daily activities, the tools they use, and their planner customisations, gives an odd core-sample of their personalities.
My obsession started a few weeks ago, when one night, just before going to bed, I thought about my old A5 Classic Filofax and felt a strong sense of longing. I stayed up late to unpack one of the deeply stuffed cupboards in my attic and reach it.
I stopped using my Filofax years ago, the day I got my iPhone – all the functions of the Filofax seeming then to be handled in a more sophisticated, more convenient, lighter, brighter, sexier, more futuristic, more interactive way than my big beast of a planner. Firing up the iPhone for the first time and touching that ultra-responsive glass, the Filofax seemed suddenly antiquated.
But recently, I’ve been returning to no-tech tools. I returned to these slim Moleskine notebooks for recording ideas and thoughts over Evernote. While I continue to read on my Kindle, my preference has switched back to paperbacks with margins I can scribble in. And now I’ve given up iCal and the task manager Things for my Filofax. It was while looking online for customisable printable inserts to repopulate my Filofax that I discovered the Philofaxy blog and then all the Filofax tours. There’s a whole sub-culture of Filofax fans out there, and as an organisation-nerd and fetishiser of fine stationery, I count myself among them.
I probably overplan. My planning system looks more like that of the CEO of an international corporation than that of a freelance writer who works alone, in an attic. But I’m a big worrier, and over-planning and over-anticipating makes me feel comfortable. It’s how I maintain some kind of grip on the world.
Electronic notetaking, reading, calendar- and task-management are super-convenient on my phone and computer, but the level of customisation is minimal. The thing is, the text is uniform and so makes only a shallow impression on my brain. Stylistically, this week in my iCal looks almost identical to next week and the week after that and so on. There are different coloured events, they are in different positions, but at a glance, they’re indistinguishable. But this week in my Filofax looks totally different to next week. There’s a little doodle I did of Godzilla to remind me that the new movie premieres next Friday. I’ve used coloured Japanese Washi tape to highlight big events and away days. There are colourful sticky notes for things I have to remember that week. It feels like MY calendar, and not the calendar of GENERIC BOY. It’s a tactile pleasure to use.
For notebooks of fiction ideas, scraps and thoughts, I’m scanning the pages into Evernote once each notebook is complete so I can access them them anywhere and use Evernote’s ability to search handwritten text – this is a best-of-both-worlds solution.
But there are downsides to no-tech tools too. My Filofax weighs a tonne. Alone in my messenger bag it’s manageable, but add a book and a bottle of water and suddenly the strap is cutting into my shoulder. I’m not sure what the solution to that is – the smaller Filofaxes don’t appeal to me because the pages aren’t roomy enough for my big paws. With a phone in my pocket, I always had my calendar and my project and task list on me. If I don’t have my Filofax with me, I can’t access them. I don’t want to duplicate the system on my phone and my Filofax – that seems hopelessly inefficient, and anything that wastes my time makes me feel ill.
For now, I’m using the notes app of my phone as a bucket to record things I need to remember while I’m out and don’t have my Filofax with me, then adding these items when I get back, but it’s not ideal. It’s another bucket to remember to process regularly. So I guess there’s no perfect system. Except maybe to get a hardier shoulder. Is that why everyone in the 80s had such big shoulderpads? I wonder if I could just stitch some wadding discretely into the shoulders of my t-shirts? That would be cool. Or, as my 9-year-old would say, that would be boss.
I won’t give you the full 25-minute tour of my Filofax, but here are a couple of pics.