{Filofax Friday} Using a Filofax in a Digital World

I work for my university’s Information Technology department. I’m constantly surrounded by all things digital. As I write this, I have my 27″ Apple display, a Macbook Pro with Retina Display, an iPhone 5, and an iPad all within arms reach on my desk. Sitting next to them all is my Filofax though. So how does someone in IT use both?

I’ve already given you a tour of my Filofax. Part one’s overview showed how everything’s arranged. Part two’s diary section showed how I keep track of meetings and due dates, and Part three showed how I use my daily pages. But… there was one thing missing – the backbone and brain of my system – how I keep everything scheduled, and how I remember to do things. I’d be lying if I said that I was super organized and my Filofax did it all. {I wish.} My Osterley does keep my life running smoothly, but it supplements my digital systems. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to use just a Filofax or just digital things. {This post is a little text heavy. Sorry.}

The Backbone – Google Calendar

My university has a contract with Google through Google Apps for Education, so I use Google quite a bit for work, but I even use it outside of work, because this system just works for me. I have calendars set up in Google Calendar for categories similar to the ones in my Filofax:

  • Social (pink)
  • Finance (green)
  • Personal (blue)
  • School (purple)
  • Work (orange)

I also have a few extras that either don’t need to be tracked in my Filofax, or  if they do, they get color coded as one of the areas above in my Filofax:

  • Student Employee Schedule (I make the schedule each semester for our student employees and this shows up on their calendar as well.)
  • Holidays (both my university’s schedule, and general US holidays)
  • Sports team schedules (Ravens, Orioles, Capitals)

The Google Apps suite is essential to the daily workflow of my department. We are all spread across campus so Google Calendar allows us to see everyone’s schedules and set up meetings. We use Google Drive to store the meeeting agendas that get attached to the meeting entry on the calendar, and send out meeting invitations using Gmail. Since Google is such an integral part of how we work here, it’s a good thing that this system works for me.

Each week, usually on a Sunday, I sit down and copy any new events to the monthly and weekly pages in my Filofax.  The calendars automatically sync to my iPhone and iPad. Depending on where I am, I pick and choose which way to view my calendar. If I’m out walking to a meeting across campus, it’s easier {and less attention-drawing} to pull out my phone and figure out where the meeting is than it would be to pull out my Filofax. When I get to that meeting, I probably have my iPad in front of me so that I can follow along with the meeting agenda online, but my phone’s in my pocket. In my office or at home though, I probably have my Filofax sitting close by. Either way, they all have the same information so I’m not missing out on anything no matter what option I choose.

The Tasks

When it comes to recurring tasks, I’d be lost without the Things app. I have it on my Mac, my iPhone, and my iPad so everything syncs. I’ll admit I hated the apps when I first used them. Little by little, I found ways to use it, and now that it’s set up properly, it’s fantastic.I use Things as my master list. I know some people like to write down a master list, but I don’t like how cluttered that can get. Pretty much anything I have to do goes into Things first, and then gets transferred to my Filofax each day. If I think of something I need to do, I can put it into Things and set a due date or when to follow back up on it. Every morning, I get a list of “things” that I need to do for that day from Things, and I write them into my daily pages because I like physically checking things off. Once they are done, I get to check them off in both Things which saves them to a logbook, and in my Filofax which looks pretty.

things copy

I have the following areas set up in Things:

  • Blog – Any posts that I post every week {My Filofax Weeks, Filofax Fridays, Sunday Socials} and anything I post monthly like goals are scheduled here. I also keep a running list of post ideas. When I’m looking for something to post, I can look at the list to schedule one of the ideas.
  • Work – I copy over any items from meeting agendas into this list right after the meeting. I also have recurring things like when to submit my timesheet or when it’s my week to complete a weekly review.
  • Personal – I’m a forgetful person, so here I note when I need to repaint my nails, whiten my teeth, change my toothbrush, refill prescriptions, etc.
  • Cleaning – I hate cleaning. Without a schedule, I don’t clean. I’ve tried Flylady, but it was so detailed it drove me crazy. I ended up setting up a less detailed cleaning schedule in this particular section and it helps to keep me on track. Everything is set to repeat “on completion” rather than a specific day, so if I don’t feel like doing something, it rolls to the next day.
  • Pets – Having three cats is a full time job in itself, but mine are spoiled so they get their own category to remind me to cut their nails, brush them, etc. {Random fact: they are toilet trained, *weird… I know* so at least I don’t have to worry about a litter box.}
  • Media (more about this further down)
  • Shopping – I keep a running shopping list and wishlist here so that I can check things off while I’m at the store.

As you can see, some areas mirror whats in my Filofax. Others are broken down a bit more. For instance, in my Filofax, cleaning and pets fall under Personal and are color coded in blue. I don’t know why I do it this way, I just like breaking it down more in Things. Also, since my school assignments aren’t recurring events, I typically don’t put them into Things, because I’ve found it’s a waste of time.

So if any of you are still with me, congratulations. You’re almost to the end.

I have a Media list in Things but it isn’t for recurring events or tasks. I subscribe to Netflix for streaming and BluRay discs. We also have DirecTV at our house, and I happen to have a DVR. Each week, I look to see if anything in my Netflix queue might be coming on TV any time soon. If they are, I set my DVR to record them and remove them from Netflix, that way I can make better use of my subscription. I put an entry into Things with the title and time of day and set the due date as the day it’s coming on. I also remove them from the queue if they are going to be available via streaming soon. On the day it’s set to record or be available to stream, it comes up as a task (which I don’t put in my Filofax). If it doesn’t record due to conflicts or some other issue, I know to add it back to my queue on Netflix.

So that’s the last part of my system that keeps me organized. I like using them both for their own reasons, but a huge benefit is that information is always backed up in two places (online and on paper). I hope you enjoyed reading. Tune back in next week for some Filofax enabling.



12 thoughts on “{Filofax Friday} Using a Filofax in a Digital World

  1. Patty@homemakersdaily.com says:

    I need to read that again after I’ve had some caffeine. I’m definitely a paper girl all the way although if I worked in IT, like you do, I’m sure it would be a different story. My daughter manages to combine technical and paper. Seems like that could be extremely efficient – the best of both worlds.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Andrea says:

      I hear you on the caffeine. I do feel like it is the best of both worlds, but it took a LONG time to figure out a happy medium between the two.

  2. Danielle says:

    After 2 years of using my smart phone instead of my organizer I decided I missed it and was less organized than i was so i switched back and i haven’t regretted it yet. I’ve found so many amazing ideas on how to set up my organizer, so happy with pinterest and the filofax bloggers, my set up is similar to yours actually. Thanks for sharing !

    • Andrea says:

      Phones are great for some things (reminders, quick notes, etc.) but as for planning, paper is the best in my opinion. I still stalk the internet for Filofax inspiration still, but more because I’m nosy and like to see people’s planners. I’m a big believer in finding a system that works for you, instead of finding trying to make someone’ else’s system work for me. It’s the reason I got out of planner fail.

  3. Leslie says:

    Andrea, I am loving your blog. I’m so impressed that a young woman like yourself can be so organized! I just bought “Things” for all of my mac devices, I really like the GTD system and I did use Omnifocus for a while- plus I am currently using 3 filofaxes! No, I’m not obsessed (well, maybe slightly) – they all have good reasons for existing – pocket as a wallet, personal for me (out and about), A5 for my family (3kids, husband, and dog).

    • Andrea says:

      I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed reading my blog. I wouldn’t say I’m terribly organized, but I do like to trying to be as much as possible. I’ve read the book on GTD a couple times, and I’ve picked up a few of the practices along the way, but I wouldn’t say I’m a true GTD person. Things is loosely based on GTD so you can really customize it to how you want it. As for Filofaxes, I’m slightly obsessed too {I don’t think you can’t be once you buy the first one…}, but I can only use one at a time. I have a pocket, 2 other personals, and an A5 should I get bored of my Osterley, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  4. Nigel Bowles says:

    Hi Andrea, love the article! Similar to you I am a bit of a technology geek, but use my Filofax for Gtd despite have iPhone, iPad, etc. I wrote an article about it entitled “Filofax Productivity and Post-it Ninja’s in a Digital GTD Landscape” here…


    Mine is just the first installment, but you article has inspired me to write a follow up, so thanks. 🙂
    Have Fun & Love What You Do,

  5. Ian Morrison says:

    Hi Andrea. Every so often I ask google a question and it regularly takes me straight to you! I accidentally dug up my Lefax (vintage 1988, long since abandoned) from the garage and decided to bring it back into use because I never quite feel on top of things just with electronics (similar to you: macs, iPhone, Google Apps, Things 3). Anyway it’s a nice feeling. For a while now I’ve been using Rhodia 96 page A5 dotBooks for general notes — great — , so it made sense to fill my Lefax with dotty paper, which can so easily be adapted to any use from to do to diary or whatever. So — Anyway — I’m reading your thoughts on the above with interest. Wishing you all the best and thanks for what you do, it sure is appreciated! Ian

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Ian,

      Every so often I get an urge to dig up my old Filofaxes, but I just know I’m stuck with digital at this point. That itch is definitely still there though because digital is just not the same. Maybe I’ll just pull them out and keep them nearby so I can admire them for a bit. 🤣

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. mark evans says:

    These days a paper & pen note can really quickly join the digital world. You can enjoy the simplicity & tactile joy of hand writing on quality paper. You’re free of all the distractions of an electronic device at work or in a meeting. Then quickly scan the pages into a note keeping app, for digital convenience.. with OCR technology many apps, can recognise & search handwriting. I useEvernote which has a superb scanner.

    • Andrea says:

      Yes. Things have definitely changed in the 10 years since I originally posted this. I use the built-in scanning tools that are now part of iOS and MacOS.


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