How To Use Your Filofax And Stay Positive During The Coronavirus Lockdown

How to use your productivity planner during the coronavirus lockdown
Image by melinda257 from Pixabay 

Discover These Inspiring Coronaviris Productivity & Work From Home Tips

Is your mental health during lockdown suffering? Are you experiencing the "lockdown blues"? Is your planner-life suffering due to your current lack of a social life or work commitments? Maybe you are working from home now and desperately need some coronavirus lockdown tips? Let's explore some inspiring ways for you to be productive at home and stay happy in isolation, by adapting how to use your Filofax.

Thank you for stopping by to have a browse through my blog. I have been reading that some of you in the online planner community are feeling a bit lost in your planners, with Covid 19 taking away normal routines, school, work, and social lives. So I thought I would write this blog expressing my thoughts on the topic, and offer a few ideas to help you guys survive the coronavirus lockdown, by putting your Filofax, or other planner systems, to more effective use.

Stay Positive During Lockdown And Forget Forward Planning

Life in lockdown is all about living in the moment instead of planning ahead. There is such a dreadful sense of uncertainty about the future, that it can feel pointless and impossible to think about our lives in terms of what is to come. Instead, all we have is what is happening right now, in front of us, today.

But perhaps this is a good thing? Isn't this our chance to step off the conveyor belt and be mindful of the present moment, instead of always looking ahead? We are always too preoccupied with questions about the future; What is happening tomorrow? What is the schedule for next week? What about next month, next year, or even five years' time? Stop. Let us just think about today.

Now is your opportunity to live in the present moment, and experience the beauty of having a clear mind, instead of one that is normally cluttered with thoughts and worries about the past and the future.

How to use your planner during quarantine
Image by Miesha Moriniere from Pixabay 

Of course, this leaves those of you who love to use your Filofax to plan your lives in a bit of a conundrum. The whole point of using a planner is to help us organise the week, month, and even the year ahead of time, often scheduling days down to the hour when we have lots going on.

Something clearly needs to change about the way we use our planners if we want to look after our mental health during lockdown though because let's face it, looking at an empty diary is simply depressing.

How To Use Your Filofax During Lockdown

For those of you who have found that your weekly and monthly spreads are looking a bit empty and pathetic these days, this suggestion is for you. Forget About Weekly & Monthly Planner Spreads!

There is nothing worse than having a big and beautiful Filofax or life planner when you have no "life" - no appointments, meetings, deadlines, or project plans to fill your planner with. We have all lost our social lives, and many of you have also lost your work routines and commitments too. So why make yourself feel even worse by looking at empty weekly and monthly planner spreads?

We need to adapt the way we plan by mirroring the way we have had to adapt to a lifestyle that is no longer about tomorrow, next week, or next month. Because, my friends, it is all about today!

Daily planning while working from home during lockdown
Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

I don't know about you, but in the past, I have always avoided using those daily planner inserts that divide the day up into time slots. But these may be exactly what we need right now. If you don't have any, head over to the Filofax website and see what your options are.

Daily planner inserts, the ones that divide the day up into hourly slots, are ideal right now because they force us to look at exactly what we are doing with our time. It is far too easy when our normal routines have been knocked off the radar to act like we are on holiday and indulge in lazing around, especially when the sun is shining. But the fact is that we are not on holiday, and some sort of daily routine needs to be in place if we are not to find ourselves slumming around the house in our PJs feeling unmotivated.

The hourly slots on a daily planner layout encourage us to continue to think about maintaining a healthy structure throughout the day, scheduling in time for relaxation and meals so that we can stay focussed and energized instead of demotivated and depressed. If you find that your daily schedule is looking too empty, seeing those empty time slots on the page will encourage you to think about how you can spend some of that time more productively while you are home. You will also get that feel-good factor when you look back over your day and see how much you have been able to accomplish.

How To Avoid Lockdown Blues With These Stay At Home Tips

Daily planning is so relevant right now. If you think about it, each and every day, during the current global pandemic, has a special significance. The way we choose to function each day may have an effect on the bigger picture.

Before the pandemic most days were treated the same, we had the work and school week, and we had the weekends. But now there is so little to distinguish the week from the weekend, with our kids at home permanently and nowhere to go out at the weekends. Every day feels the same as the one before, and this can really get us down. Lockdown Blues are real.

It is so important for our mental health during lockdown to try and stay productive each and every day. We have to try and craft structure into our days as well as our weeks so that we can feel optimistic in these dark times.

How to stay happy in isolation
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay 

Luckily it can be surprising how much you can achieve in a single day when you put your mind to it. And the best way to put your mind to something is to get out your planner! Once you start brainstorming and making those lists that you so love to make, your daily schedule will soon start to fill up, and you will begin to feel busy and with a sense of purpose again.

So let us have a look at some of the activities and tasks that might go into making up your day. They may seem mundane, but it's the mundane things that make up our lives. They always have, and they always will. It's just that now they are kind of magnified.

How To Use Your Filofax To Plan Your Lockdown Day By Day

I have come up with this list of ideas to hopefully inspire you to think about the kinds of ways you might like to use your Filofax in order to plan into your Covid 19 lockdown days. And if you don't own a Filofax or a conventional "planner", a simple notebook will do just as well. In fact, why not head over to the Filofax website after reading the rest of this article to see some of the awesome notebook options they have?

  • SHOPPING LISTS - Limited shopping trips are of course so important right now as we all want to help slow down the spread of the virus and ensure that we are not putting our loved ones at home at any unnecessary risk. This means extra planning is needed to make sure that we can achieve the fine balance of buying enough shopping so that we can last for a reasonable amount of time without having to go to the supermarket again, but we must do it without any selfish stockpiling, and that takes some serious planning ahead.

  • MEAL PLANS - Taking the time to plan meals helps you to keep on top of your "pantry" so that you can update your shopping list ready for the next time you need to make yourself vulnerable and head to the supermarket. It is also useful in helping us to keep on top of our health as many of us are not moving about and getting the daily exercise that we would normally get in everyday life. It is surprising how many calories we would normally burn using the London Underground system (if you live in the city) or just walking around in our jobs, and window shopping at weekends.

  • SCHEDULED EXERCISE - Speaking of health, planning exercise into your daily schedule will do wonders, not only for your physical health but also for your mental wellbeing. Staying indoors for long periods of time makes us feel sluggish and tired, whereas regular exercise offers fresh air and an energy boost, helping you to stay positive during the lockdown. We are being advised to allow ourselves one outing per day for exercise, so when will you schedule yours into your day? A morning cycle perhaps? Walking the dog after lunch? An evening jog or stroll with the kids or your partner before dinner? Don' forget that indoor exercise can be added on top of that, which opens up opportunities for yoga in the living room or skipping in the garden. I have a hula hoop, and it is an awesome calorie-burner, not to mention being a LOT of fun. Why not order a few funky hula hoops for the kids to help them burn some energy?

  • SCHOOL OR WORK TIMETABLE - Parents will have plenty of daily tasks to fill up a planner because kids rarely organise themselves. Those of you who are working from home will also have to work out a schedule with adequate breaks that work well around your family. If you and your partner are working from home, you might decide to divide the day into time slots that allow you both to have private use of a room in the house for video conferences or phone calls. Children will also need morning and lunch breaks if you have decided to adopt a more formal homeschooling setup.

  • FUN STUFF & QUALITY TIME - Quality time with yourself or your family is often something we forget to add to our planners. These are things that are all the more important now that we are all living, working, and playing under the same roof. Scheduling time into your day to get together with the other members of your household, perhaps to watch a film or play a board game, can really help to ease tension and provide everyone with a break and some bonding time. It is just as important to add in moments of me-time, whether it is setting aside an hour in the evening to have a soak in the bath, or an hour in the mid-morning to be alone and read a good book.

  • MORNING & EVENING ROUTINES - When we are living our lives in this day-to-day manner setting out a simple morning and evening routine can really help to add some structure and keep those lockdown blues at bay by stopping the days from melting into one another. If you have children, maybe you would like to take the time to get together as a family and read a bedtime story at night. Getting up an hour before everyone else in the house wakes can be the perfect opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee and reflect with a journal or your Filofax Planner to mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead and stay positive. Have you read my previous post yet? I have compiled some Journaling Tips for Filofax & Ring Planner Users.

  • WEEKEND PROJECTS - A great way of separating your week from your weekends when you have to stay at home is to plan weekend projects. They can be creative projects or hobbies, DIY projects, food prep or baking, gardening, or working on that novel you have always wanted to write. You can plan weekend projects to enjoy with the rest of the people in your household, or alternatively use them as a way to dedicate some time for yourself.

You Can Stay Positive During The Lockdown!

When we find ourselves in a situation that is challenging the only way to get through it is to find a way to make it work for us. The Covid 19 Lockdown may be the end of life as we knew it, but it is not the end of life.

We mustn't forget that social distancing, self-isolation, and lockdown restrictions are incredibly positive. They are tools that enable us as individuals to make a difference in the world.

Let's learn to embrace the changes and love the lockdown because in participating willingly and proactively, we are making the choice to help save lives.

How to stay positive and avoid the lockdown blues
Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay 

I hope that I have offered some useful ideas and that you are feeling a bit more inspired to use your Filofax organisers and other planner systems to visualise the different opportunities that each day brings you during this experience. Don't let the lockdown blues get the better of you just because you have to stay at home. There are some great ideas here on how to use your Filofax to look after your mental health during the lockdown.

Let me know if you would like more work from home tips to help you stay productive in isolation, and in the meantime, you can check out my previous post "Minimalist Planner Tips".

Please leave your comments or ideas below, because I love to read them, and I always respond to each and every one.

Have a great week... or should I say... have a great day?

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Filofax Planner A5 Ebony Classic Croc Product Review

I now have the ultimate pleasure of owning this stunner. It is the A5 Ebony Classic Croc Filofax, and I am officially besotted. Let me tell you more...

There is no better feeling than making your dreams come true, and this has been a dream of mine for a little while now. So you can imagine how eager I am to share the love. This is Filofancy's personal product review for the A5 Ebony Classic Croc Filofax. I'm going to tell you, in great detail as usual, what I love about it, and what I love a little less about it.

Filofax Packaging & Presentation

I did purchase this beauty unused on eBay for a lovely bargain price, it has to be said. I can't imagine why whoever had it didn't want it, because I think it is simply beautiful. Mine came in all of the original packagings so I am able to fully comment on what I think about the presentation.

The first A5 Filofax I purchased for myself about 10 years ago was an Aqua Chameleon and it came in a lovely hard board sleeve. You can see my quaint unboxing HERE, I was so young and silly :) So when I received this recent planner I was very excited to find that it came in rather smart dark blue presentation box, with a cute icons pattern printed all over it, and discrete Filofax branding in gold in the centre of the lid. I'm very pleased to have a box, they are super useful. I'll probably keep it to store any inserts and paper refills that I am not using but want to swap in and out of the planner every now and then.

When I opened the box the planner was wrapped in a thin sheet of padding, which was quite exciting, giving it an expensive gifty kind of vibe. And then the planner itself had the standard clear cover wrapped around the cover to protect the leather.

First Impressions Of The A5 Classic Croc Filofax

Once I had removed all of the packagings I took a moment to appreciate the familiar leather aroma. I love that smell. It reminds me of my father who used to run a leather factory. I didn't grow up with my father, and he wasn't around very much, but the smell of leather will always take me right back to those days. Like the smell of pipe tobacco, and that wonderful smell you get of the interior of new cars.

But back to the Filofax...

The leather cover was soft and textured as I held it in my hands for the first time. That matt croc texture just makes you want to caress it a little before you move on to open it up. I noted that it seemed a little bigger than my A5 Chameleon in my hands, and a little more flexible, but not so much that it is floppy. Overall, as I held it, it felt substantial, like it was an object of significance, an understated statement piece, classy, and not too bling for me.

I think the fact that the leather is matt and not shiny gives it that understated vibe, and it is the croc pattern that then brings it back into "statement piece" territory. So far so good.

Inside Layout Of The A5 Classic Croc Filofax Planner

I opened the planner up and placed it on the table. It doesn't lay flush flat against the surface due to a slight bulge of the spine, but it lays open fine and I don't have a problem with it at all. I think this is because the A5 size has enough weight on the wide cover flaps to hold them down by themselves. I don't know if it would act the same with the personal or pocket-sized planners, as I don't have them to compare.

The inside view of the planner is beautiful. It just looks like pure luxury. The croc design continues across the whole of the inside and outside of the planner, but inside each of the pockets, there is the black lining, which I like. You can't see the black lining unless you pull the pockets apart and peek inside.

I was drawn first to the zipped pocket on the left-hand side. The embossed gold branding says: "Filofax, Classic Croc, A5 Organiser, Italian Leather" and makes the inside cover look expensive. The zip is plain black and unobtrusive, with the zip hidden neatly behind a croc leather tab at the bottom that is part of the pocket material. When the pocket unzips it becomes apparent that it has a gusset at the base, unlike the zipped pocket on my A5 Chameleon. This allows the pocket to open much wider. I like this a lot because it expands the potential of this feature. I find myself wondering how I am going to use it when I set the planner up.

Next to the zip there is a pen loop, and I note that there is also another pen loop in the same position on the other side of the planner. I like that the pen loops are higher up on the planner instead of central. They are both fully elasticated, and the extra piece of croc leather sewn separately to the elastic on the outside in order to hide it is a nice touch, adding to the luxury of the product as a whole. It is always the small details that make such a difference.

Underneath the zipped pocket, there is a full-length pocket with the opening on the inside. I like the fact that the pocket feels nice and roomy due to the flexible leather. On the other side of the planner, there are two more full-length pockets with openings on the inside. The bottom is wider, with the one on top more narrow giving the impression of steps. The narrow top pocket also has vertical card slots positioned down the full length of the pocket. There are nine card slots in total, and again, due to the flexible leather, they are fairly easy to get into, although not the easiest design I have come across. I do find myself thinking it would have been nice if the bottom slot was deeper like in my A5 Chameleon, just for some variety. I don't have nine cards, so I will be thinking about alternative ways to use these.

The extra back pocket runs along the full length of the planner cover, and it is slightly curved at the top, which I think is an attractive design feature, softening the lines. There is a lot of space in this back pocket and I am looking forward to thinking of ways to put it to good use. It is the perfect size to store A4 sheets on their side without having to fold a sharp crease down the middle.

The rings are silver, and I am surprised to find that they are so much bigger than the rings in my A5 Chameleon. I think my A5 Chameleon rings must be 2.5cm from the insides, and the A5 Classic Croc is 3cm. This makes the overall size and feels of the Classic Croc bigger than my Chameleon. It is fatter due to the rings and the back pocket. The width of the cover is ever so slightly wider too. I am very happy with the overall size. The planner also has a wide snap fastening, meaning that this is a Filofax that can truly be stuffed.

Favourite Features Of The A5 Classic Croc Filofax

If I had to choose one feature that I think sets this planner apart from the others that I have owned, it would be a very difficult decision because there are quite a few. But the top thing that stands out for me, perhaps, would be the leather.

I am a big "leather lover", which was one of the reasons I disappeared off the Filofax scene for a while. I fell in love with the raw leather of the Midori Traveler's Notebooks. I did use The Filofax Original previously (a personal-sized brown one) but the leather experience of that one just didn't really do it for me. Not like my TN did.

I am very pleased to say that the leather of this Classic Croc is quite unusual. I think its the flexible nature and the texture of the croc print design that makes it extra tactile, and that is one of the things I love about certain leather products. The other thing is the smell. So good. So familiar.

Another feature that excites me about this planner is the zipped pocket because it fits my brand new Kindle Paperwhite in it perfectly. In fact it is almost as if it was made with the Kindle in mind! I am absolutely thrilled about that. The kindle also adds a little bit more structure to the front cover, although I like it both ways.

I also think the large rings look great, as well as being extra functional. The size of the rings makes them look like more of a feature in comparison to the smaller rings on my A5 Chameleon. This Ebony version is also hands down my favourite of the colour options, although I haven't seen the others in person, only online. My impression is that the matt black is discrete, classy and expensive-looking, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

What Would I Change About The A5 Classic Croc Filofax?

If given the full power of the Filofax Gods to change anything I liked about the A5 Classic croc Filofax design, there are just a few things that I might like to point out.

The first concern is regarding the pen loops. I do love the fact that the pen loops are elasticated, and the extra detail of the leather piece that conceals the elastic really is lovely. However, I am always ever so slightly nervous about elastic pen loops due to the worry that over time, and depending on what pens I put in them, that the elastic may wear or expand.

I do realise that the elastic used by Filofax is very thick and seems durable, but this is just a small concern that might put me off using them altogether, for fear of ruining them. I am sure I am just over-thinking it though, and probably being a little precious because the planner is so new and fancy, and I don't want it to ever get old. I wonder if anyone else has had the experience of the Filofax fully-elasticated pen loops? If you have, please share your experiences in the comments below, as I would love to read them.

I also wonder if the pen loop on the left-hand side will get in the way of the zipped pocket once it has a pen in it? I probably won't end up using that one. I do have a rather nice black leather pencil case, so I may not even end up using the other pen loop. We shall just have to wait and see.

Secondly, I do wonder if Filofax has gone a bit overboard on the number of card slots inside the back cover? I can understand having more in a smaller planner that might be used as a wallet. I never use the card slots for cards, especially in the A5 size, but they do come in handy for sticky notes and things like that. For this reason, if I were to adapt the design slightly I might think about adding a bit of variety to the depth of these little pockets to make them slightly more versatile.

Another thing that I am finding to be a bit annoying is trying to open the rings with the top and bottom metal tabs. I don't know if this is down to the flexibility of the leather, the size of the rings, or a fault that is specific to my planner. Or maybe I am just really weak, or I don't have the correct technique. Opening the rings has not been an easy task for me though. It is even more awkward when there is paper on both sides. I didn't have this problem with my A5 Chameleon, the rings opened very firmly and I didn't have to faff. Maybe I just need more practice with the slightly bigger rings. I hope it's not a fault. Maybe that was why the eBay seller wanted to part with it? Thankfully there is no sign of gaps in the rings, which is always a blessing.

In Summary

My overall opinion of the A5 Ebony Classic Croc Filofax Planner is that it has proudly met my expectations and earned a permanent position in my collection. I just love it, and I am thoroughly looking forward to writing another post to show you how I am putting it to work. If you are thinking of buying one yourself, I think you should go for it. It is a real treat. In fact, I am even considering purchasing a smaller one as well. Perhaps the pocket size. It would be so adorable as a wallet!

Filofax has not sponsored this review post, and I purchased the planner out of my own pocket. However, I have an affiliate link below that will take you to the Filofax website, and any purchases you make while over there will earn me a humble bit of revenue (which doesn't affect you at all). That would make me rather happy :) The other way to make me smile is to leave a comment below because I love to read and respond to them, they really do make my day.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my new love, and I look forward to showing her to you again soon.

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Minimalist Planner Tips

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You know you really mean business when you splurge on a fancy new Filofax planner...

Yep, I went ahead and did it. After much deliberation and guilt-induced delay, I decided to be totally crazy and purchase myself the DREAM Filofax planner. We all have a dream planner that haunts us until we give in to our self-indulgent desires. I could bear it no longer. So I just did it.

The Filofax I have chosen is an A5 Ebony Classic Croc Filofax, and it was a bit of a bargain on Ebay, so I don't feel toooooo bad. I wanted a large black planner for my business. I chose this one because it is both smart and stylish, which translates to minimalist and sexy, as opposed to business-like and boring. Its the kind of planner that makes me take myself seriously, but it also makes me feel kind of cool.

I won't go into too much detail about the planner itself, because I want to talk about my new minimalist approach to planning in this article. But if you would like me to write a product review on the A5 Ebony Classic Croc Filofax, with my initial observations and thoughts, let me know in the comments below!

What Is Minimalism To Me?

First off I just want to get one thing straight. I am not really a minimalist. At least not one of the hardcore extreme kinds of minimalists who have Youtube channels dedicated to their cult.

When we talk about being a minimalist, people often associate it with getting rid of everything you own and only living with the bare minimum of personal belongings.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Perhaps we imagine a minimalist's wardrobe to be sparse and consisting of just black and white and a range of grey tones. A minimalist's house is probably free of clutter and they like to incorporate habits into their lives, such as meditation, mono-meals, and judging whether or not to donate belongings that don't "bring them joy" when they hold them close and contemplate them.

The truth is that minimalism to me is really just a state of mind and a set of habits that allow me to keep my mind as clear as possible so that I can focus on the things that are important to me. 

There are no set rules, but the general guide is to be mindful and intentional of what you own and how you choose to do things. Essentially the mantra is "Less is more".

So no, I am not an extreme "minimalist", my wardrobe says it all, but I do like to adopt minimalist values and methods in certain areas of my life, like work, because it helps to clear clutter and calm my mind. It makes me feel better, and it helps me to more clearly visualise my goals, and be more productive in order to achieve the things that make me happy.

Why Be A Minimalist Planner?

When it comes to planning our lives or our businesses all we are trying to do is focus on our goals and achieve them. It is easy to get distracted though, and one of the reasons that so many people find planning and planners to be overwhelming is that these awesome binders have the potential to create organisation systems that are far too complicated than they need to be. In fact, sometimes they can make us feel seriously disorganised! Know what I mean?

I am the kind of person who easily becomes overwhelmed with ideas, projects, tasks and life in general. This is because I am very creative and I have high expectations of myself, which is probably the case for so many other women. Often my creativity is on overdrive and my expectations are unrealistic. This is where a minimalist approach to planning really helps me.

Being a writer and an artist makes it difficult for me to escape clutter because I love to express myself. Unfortunately, my self-expression and creativity can get in the way of my productivity. I get carried away, ending far off the road I was meant to take with an idea, task or project. A minimalist approach to planning, however, is a bit like having someone to reign me back in and get me back on task.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Are you a bit like me? Do you get carried away with all the possibilities, and the beauty, and the potential, until you find yourself wading in the middle of it all drowning? If you also feel like you could probably benefit from having your own personal assistant from time to time, keep reading for some minimalist planner tips from me. You can be your own awesome personal assistant.

Have A Planner Just For Work

This is a bit of a debate. To have just the one planner for everything, or to have a separate planner for everything - that is the question. You might think that a minimalist would choose to have just one planner for everything, wanting to own as few things as possible, and keep life as less complicated as possible. But I actually think the answer is to have a separate planner for work, school, or a bigger project.

The minimalist approach is linked very closely to mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about focusing your energy on one task at a time and tackling it with intention, even if all you are doing is making and eating your lunch. Enjoying the whole process of making and eating lunch should be an experience in itself so that you can fully appreciate it with all of your attention and senses.

The same can go for your work or projects. If you run your own business or have an ongoing home project that requires a lot of thought, planning, and execution, you will be more productive if you are able to separate it from other areas of your life.

Having a planner just for work or just for a project can help you to shut out all external noise and focus on your goals. For some people having a section in their main planner dedicated to that work or project is enough. But if you really want to focus on the growth of your business or the progress of a project, then having a separate planner can double as separate headspace.

Image by Jess Watters from Pixabay 

The Filofax planner that I have bought is going to be solely for my personal creative business ventures.  These are the ventures that I want to focus on developing so that one day they might take over and allow me to give up the freelance work I do for other people.

I want to keep my businesses separate from my main freelance writing work. Freelance writing is what brings in most of my income, but freelance writing isn't my main passion. I love to write, but what I really want to do is write my own content on the things that I feel passionate about.

I also want to keep my businesses separate from everyday life stuff, because being creative at heart means that I always have new interests and hobbies. It can get pretty confusing when the line between what is "business" and what is "pleasure" gets blurred. I often end up trying to make businesses out of my hobbies, and that's crazy, seeing as I am essentially a one-woman-band.

I chose an A5 planner because I knew that I wanted to have plenty of space for brainstorming ideas, designing content and products, and organising projects. I wanted a ring binder in which I would be able to keep everything together in one place at home.

If you have a business or project that you want to start taking more seriously and dedicating more time to, I highly recommend using a separate planner. It really does help to keep things separate in your head so that you don't become overwhelmed. Planner overwhelm is still something that you might encounter though, and we will discuss this in the next section.

Start Afresh To Avoid Planner Overwhelm

When I got my first A5 size Filofax (that was the A5 Aqua Chameleon that sparked the birth of the Filofancy Blog - Read more about that HERE), I was subdued and frustrated to find that I couldn't seem to "gel" with my planner. I didn't feel at home with it at all, and in the end, I was never able to use it effectively, no matter how many times I came back to it over the years.

I now know that becoming comfortable in a planner of any size is a process. You have to get to know yourself and the way you like to plan. Just because you have bought yourself a pretty Filofax, or another planner system, it doesn't mean that all of your organisational problems are solved. It's actually quite the opposite, and you are only at the beginning of your planner journey.

Now that I know this, I am taking a different approach with my new A5 Filofax in order to avoid planner overwhelm. Anyone who is not used to using ring binders to plan their work or everyday lives can become subject to planner overwhelm, and it is simply because you are not familiar enough with your setup to use it to your advantage.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

The first step you need to take in order to combat your planner overwhelm is to gut your planner. Most Filofaxes when bought new come with a range of inserts. If you have already been attempting to use a Filofax then you will have accumulated a few more inserts. No matter how long you have been using your planner, if you feel like you are not using it effectively, take everything out.

We are starting afresh.

Create A Dashboard

The first thing you see when you open your planner is very important. This first insert is going to set the tone for your whole planner, so you want to consider carefully what to place here.

We all use our planners for different things, and one of the best things about them is how they allow us to express our individuality. Even if you are aiming to go for a more minimalist approach to your planning, you can still express your personality in your planner. Remember, minimalism isn't about stripping you of character, it is about clearing unnecessary clutter so that you can see more clearly and function more easily. You get to decide what that clutter is though.

So if you feel that a picture of your beautiful family or dog is what is going to inspire you most when you open up your planner, go ahead and create a dashboard that allows you to attach a photo onto it.

As you can see from the main picture at the top of this post, I have chosen a very simple and plain dashboard. It is a white sheet of paper inside a clear envelope insert, with the word "INBOX" printed vertically on the right-hand-side. On top of it, I have used a rose gold mini binder clip to attach a plain white sheet of personal-sized Filofax paper, and it is here that I will write a list of things that I need to do or remember.

For me, my dashboard is a space where I can clip notes before I decide what I need to do with them. For example, I might write a few tasks and clip them there until I have more time to think about where I need to schedule those tasks into my week or month in the relevant diary section of my planner.

Image by bluebudgie from Pixabay 

A dashboard is like a pinboard where you can temporarily pin things and take action later on. There are other ways you can use a dashboard though. Some people prefer to have a dashboard that functions only as an attractive cover page. Others like to have a pockets insert where they can slip sticky notes or journal cards for prompts and inspiration. Maybe you would like to use yours as a vision board for your project that will shift you into the right mindset when you open your planner do get to work.

Essentially your dashboard is your starting point. So take some time to think about what will work best for you. Getting your first page right will help you to feel more connected to your planner.

Design Your Planner System As You Go

The next thing I did with my Filofax was to fill it with plain white paper and a "Today" Filofax ruler/page marker. Because we are taking a minimalist approach to planning, we are doing things one step at a time. There is no need to get ahead of ourselves. We don't need to fill the planner with dividers and printed inserts yet, because that is quickly going to lead to planner overwhelm, and you will be back where you started. At this stage, we are still getting to know each other, and I don't yet know what inserts are going to be useful for my work.

If you already know that you are going to need a calendar, a monthly or weekly diary insert, or contact lists, then go ahead and pop those in next. I have filled mine with blank paper because I know that I am going to want to design and make my own inserts as and when I need them. I have already decided that I want to have a way of scheduling in blog posts to be published on my three separate blogs, and so I am now thinking carefully as to what is the best way of achieving this. I am contemplating a calendar on one or two pages, but first I want to make sure that I design one that will serve all of my needs. If I don't get it right, it will annoy me, and ultimately distract me from my goals. This is going to take some research first.

Image by Miesha Moriniere from Pixabay 

When you want to develop a connection with your Filofax and build a planning system that really works well for you, take your time, and get to know your needs before filling your planner up with pretty things. Because if you don't think it through properly, then you risk choosing inserts that won't work well for you, and that can be very frustrating. there is nothing worse than having a planner that isn't functional for you.

Find Inspiration From Other Planners But Don't Just Copy

I really enjoy reading blogs and watching videos to find out what works for other people. It is so satisfying to find little tips and tricks that will inspire you to create a planner system that you love. But it is very easy to get carried away and try to make your Filofax look and function just like your favourite blogger's or vlogger's planner. You will end up adding lots of very pretty but useless accessories that only function to distract you from your goals.

The trick, when adding something new to your planner, in order to keep your planner minimal and functional, is to always ask yourself - how will I use this in my planner? There is no point in being seduced by cute sticky notes if you don't really have a functional use for them in your planner. Not everybody uses sticky notes after all.

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay 

Maybe you don't even need to use standard dividers in your planner? A standard set of 6 tabbed dividers can add too much pressure if you are not ready to commit to having 6 sections in your planner that you will legitimately put to good use. If this is the case, you could try only keeping in two or three, and adding the rest as, when, and if you need them.

It is also important to stay true to yourself. You will never bond with your planner if it doesn't feel like "you". I have done this so many times in the past, and I have ended up with a Filofax that just doesn't feel right. It might be down to the colours, the fonts, the accessories, and sometimes even the planner cover itself. Always try to be honest with yourself about whether or not your planner is really speaking to you, or whether you liked the ideas better when you were admiring them in someone else's planner online.

It is easy to lose yourself when there is so much creativity out there to inspire you. Minimalist planning is about cutting out the clutter and getting to the bones of what YOU need and want. Create a planner that is going to help you realise and reach your goals, and not one that is just going to look attractive but distract you from your true desires.

My Top 3 Rules Of Planner Minimalism

  1. Start with a blank canvas and only add functional things you love, when you need them
  2. Declutter so that you can see your goals more clearly
  3. Don't try to be somebody else. You are the best version of yourself.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, and taken a few tips away with you. Please feel free to leave your comments below as it always makes me happy to read and reply to them!

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Journaling Tips for Filofax & Ring Planner Users

Be your own therapist with these great journaling tips for Filofax & ring planner users.

If you have ever had professional therapy you will know that essentially therapy provides you with a safe space to explore yourself and your experiences. 

In the therapeutic space, you have the opportunity to empty your head of all confusing thoughts and feelings, laying them out for self-reflection so that you can clearly analyse your actions and reactions, or those of others. Then you can understand what has happened and work out a plan to improve things so that you can be a more productive and happy person.

Well isn't that exactly what the function of a journal or a planner is? Record, reflect & resolve!

Writing in a journal is a great way of connecting with yourself. In my opinion, it is the next best thing to having your own therapist. And I have had a professional therapist (a human one, not a paper one), so I know what I am talking about.

I have put together a few tips to help you develop a journaling habit that is both functional, therapeutic and fun. Keeping a journal doesn't have to be a struggle or a chore.

Carry Your Journal With You

The wonderful thing about your paper therapist (or journal), is that you can have access to it whenever you need to, without having to wait until your next therapy session. (I distinctly remember a week feeling like a very long time to wait.)

Why not keep a section in your Filofax or other ring planner system dedicated to jotting down thoughts, and then at the end of the day or week you can transfer them to a home binder? This will encourage you to read over what you have written for self-reflection too, which is an important part of productive journaling.

I have a separate notebook dedicated as my "journal" that I keep alongside another notebook that I have set up as my everyday diary with yearly, monthly and weekly spreads. Both of these notebooks live together in my Midori Traveler's Notebook, which is a good size to carry around with me if I need to. 

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay 

Keep Journal Entries Short

It can be difficult to think of what to write in a journal, especially when you are new to it, and this can put you off writing regularly. It is important to be consistent when forming new habits though. 

Writing a short journal entry every single day is much more productive than writing a long and rambling one every now and then, at least while you are establishing your new journaling habit.

Why not decide on a time and place to sit down and write in your journal every single day? The morning is a good time if you would prefer to contemplate the day ahead. The evening, on the other hand, is a good time if you want to reflect on the day you have had. You don't need to ramble on for ages, just set aside ten minutes, or aim to write a couple of paragraphs.

Writing journal entries in a section of your Filofax or other personal organiser is a great incentive to keep entries short and to the point, as there is often not a lot of writing space in personal or pocket-sized planners.

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay 

Don't Write Every Day

I know that I have said it is important to develop a habit of writing in your journal, and that writing every single day can be a way to establish this habit. The problem is that if you don't have enough to write about every single day you can end up using your journal as a "recording" device rather than a "reflective" tool, and this can make journaling feel pointless, repetitive, and unfulfilling.

Don't forget that the point of journaling isn't really to record all of the activities of your day, it is to reflect upon how you feel and evaluate how productive you are being. It is also a way for you to solve problems and grow as a person. 

Not all of us have something we need to mentally or emotionally work through on a daily basis. If this is you, then maybe you should think about a journaling schedule that suits you better. For example, journaling at the weekend might be more useful. Or just journaling when you feel you need to.

Journaling is a very personal activity, so you should do what you have to in order to make it work for you.

Image by free stock photos from from Pixabay 

Journal In A Cheap Notebook

Normally I would suggest choosing a beautiful leather-bound journal and an expensive pen to write down your thoughts, but when you are new to journaling this can actually make the whole process so much more intimidating. It may even put you off writing altogether because you don't want to make a mistake and ruin your beautiful setup or waste expensive ink and paper.

Cheap notebooks or loose sheets of paper in a Filofax or other ring binder can take away that sense of pressure and expectation, giving you more freedom to focus on your thoughts than your handwriting. I quite like Field Notes and Moleskine notebooks because they can easily fit inside a personal Filofax or TN cover.

Once you get into journaling and become more confident there is nothing to say that you can't upgrade to something more special and dedicated if you really want to. Alternatively, if you take to journaling like a fish to water, then why not invest in the tools that are going to make you want to write all the more?

One of the reasons I use Traveler's Notebook Refills for journaling is that all of my journals are the same size, which makes for easy storage. They are also very simple in design, which I find less distracting.

Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay 

Use Journal Prompts

There are so many inspirational books and blogs that provide useful journaling prompts to help with writer's block. If you don't have a life that is brimming with events, drama and relationship issues, then journal prompts may be just what you are looking for to expand your thoughts and find new things to ponder about your self and your life.

I love journal prompts that encourage me to think about the way that I choose to live and how much time I dedicate to my physical health and mental wellbeing. I think that in a busy and modern world it is all too easy to get lost on a conveyor belt and forget to be mindful.

Why not create your own list of journaling prompts as a reference to keep in your Filofax or planner? You could even create a set of questions that you can ask yourself in order to help structure your journal entries.

For example:

  1. What happened to you today?
  2. Why did it happen?
  3. How did it make you feel?
  4. What will you do next?
  5. What have you learned from this experience?

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay 

Journaling Vs. Mind Dump

If you are becoming disillusioned with your journaling habit, due to your entries feeling repetitive and sounding more like a regurgitation of your day or the day to come, then you are probably confusing journaling with a mind dump.

A mind dump is basically a way of getting all of the rubbish out of your head. Many people use a "mind dump journal" to clear their head of mundane thoughts, worries or tasks so that they can get on with putting those tasks into action.

Image by athree23 from Pixabay 

I use my journal in this way quite a lot, and I wish that I didn't resort it to because it does make journaling feel repetitive and without purpose. I like to keep all of my journals, but so many of them are just full of daily activity records that are largely the same from day-to-day. There is not much in the way of profound thoughts or revelations, and I often dread the thought of anyone finding and reading my journals and realising that I am just a very dull and predictable person indeed.

There is nothing wrong with having a mind dump though. In fact, they are very useful tools, and I do recommend practicing a daily mind dump exercise, as it is a great way to start the day with a clear head and focused mind. A little more investment should be put into your actual journaling habit though, so it is important to distinguish the difference between the two.

A daily mind dump can easily be something that you dispose of at the end of a week. I can't really see why you would need to keep hold of mind dump notes. your journal, on the other hand, is very useful and interesting to look back on, as it can show you what you have learned and how far you have come.

The to-do lists section in your Filofax or planner is the perfect place to execute morning mind dumps, and perhaps make them more functional. In fact, bullet journaling is essentially an ongoing to-do list in which you tick off, put on hold, cancel out, or pass over tasks from one day to the next. If you have never heard of bullet journaling I highly recommend you to Google it!

Alternatively, a cheap jotter pad at the back of a planner can act as the perfect place to dump thoughts that don't really need much reflection.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

What Journaling Tips Would You Like To Share?

If you have any thoughts about my journaling tips, or if you have any of your own that you'd like to share, please do leave them in a comment. I love to read your comments and I always do my best to reply to them all.

Alternatively, if you have a blog post that you would like to share, leave your link and I will pop over and have a look!

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