I have been a FiloFax Personal owner since around the age of the dinosaurs. Over the years I have had brief and unsuccessful flirtations with various other paper digital and organisers. I was a rabid Palm user, but they kept breaking. I also owned a couple of FiloFax Minis and Pockets which, ironically, ARE TOO BIG for your pocket. I even tried DIYPlanner‘s Hipster PDA, but I always found myself coming back to the Personal. The one thing, however, that I have never gotten accustomed to is its size, which is just too damn small for serious writing. This time though, instead of spending a stupid amount of money and buying into the larger FiloFax systems, I decided to get the monkey off my back, quit cold-turkey and strike it out on my own by replacing the whole lot. An-ar-chy! I first seriously considered A4, but the binders are big, too big for instance when flying Air Ripoff’s Economy Cattle Cage Class as I frequently do. So, after months of debate, I settled on a standard A5 2-ring binder.
Binders: Last year I bought a robust, rubber and plastic A5 binder from Staples for about a fiver (£5.00). This will be the temporary home for everything until I can order something posher like one of the nice leather A5 binders available from Earthworks or The Diary Shop.
Punches: Since I am now using a standard binder size, I can use any old punch. I bought a basic one at Staple’s (their own brand) for £1.50 this afternoon. It has a little paper guide thingy so you don’t put the holes in the wrong place, and is thus Roy-Proof.
Paper: You will also need some paper; 80+ GSM copy paper should be fine. Just cut it in half and punch to use. You can also buy a variety of pre-cut and punched A5 paper, though you don’t have as much choice as you do with its A4 big sister. (Hint: do not buy paper under 80 GSM, especially if you are a fountain pen user, otherwise the ink will bleed through).
Ye Olde Schoole Refills: You can make handwritten, blank refills too. This isn’t as difficult or as time-consuming as you may think. To make diary pages, fold a sheet of A4 in half and write the full date of the first Sunday of the week at the top. Then just run down the rest of the page writing Mon, Tues, Wed etc…-
What happened to Saturday?
Address books are even easier-
Ready-Made Refills: For something a bit more sophisticated, multi-punched refills do exist, but they are not easy to find online or in the shops. Here is one example from, incredibly, FiloFax being sold on Amazon, but it is rare and not particularly cheap. I couldn’t find it on the main FiloFax site, possibly because they have axed it by now to get people to use their proprietary system. The rotters!
Printable Refills: There are also free downloadable templates from a variety of sources, the most well-known being DIYPlanner, but I have always found these templates problematic to print. There is another site though, called PrintablePaper.net, that allows you to download simple, undated .pdf diaries for free-
They also have a vast array of other treats like blank music sheets and octagonal graph paper to name but a few. Check out their amazing polar graph paper-
Inserts: I found some bargain-bucket Martha Stewart A5 goodies like dividers and secure plastic pockets in Staples. Can’t find them? Make your own. Dividers are easy, just buy some coloured sheets of card from the local craft or stationery shop and cut your own, but remember that the tab has to stick out!
Other Inserts: You will have to shop around for things like credit card holders etc…, but you will find them. For cool stuff like London street maps, buy a paperback London A-Z and cut out the “Super-Sized” Central London section (usually around pages 84-85+). Punch them and you’re done! Okay, so it may seem like a bit of a crime to hack the book apart, but it will cost about the same price as FiloFax’s own London Map and, moreover, A-Zs are very easy to find. You also have the advantage of being able to use other pages from the atlas in your binder too, just don’t go mad and fill the whole thing up! For places outside the Smoke, you can usually find local maps that will fit in an A5 binder. In some cities, like Vancouver, these are even available for free.
Using FiloFax 6-Hole Inserts In A 2-Ring Binder: Yes you can! Just stick a strip of Sellotape over the holes on each side and re-punch. An even stronger solution is to glue a strip of paper across the holes first, then Sellotape and re-punch. (Hint: wallpaper edge glue is the best paper glue).
Dig the chocolate breakfast cereal carton coasters?