Sunday, 8 July 2012

OTF: Guest post no. 2, Nia's system

Hi everyone!
I'm pleased to say that my OTF series has got off to a great start! 1 fantastic guest post already, another one here for you today, and I have noticed recently the phrase I coined, 'one true filofax', is being used on philofaxy in conversations on Free For Alls! Exciting!
Anyway, here's a guest post from Nia all about her lovely compact Osterley filofax! I'm really interested in how she manages to fit everything she needs into the tiny rings of a compact!


My first ever Filofax was a pocket red Finchley which was bought for me before starting my A levels at school, and which I used consistently throughout the two years. I have always been a great believer in the ‘One life, one planner’ philosophy, and find it reassuring to know that everything I need is neatly organised in one place.

I dabbled with various sizes from mini to personal, and many different diary formats along the way however I have always favoured a week-to-view diary. My search came to an end once I discovered the Dodo Pad personal diary insert earlier this year, and absolutely fell in love with it. I can say with confidence that there is no other layout that lets me organise my time quite as well as this one.

In terms of binder size, I waited with anticipation for the compact Filofaxes to become available and finally settled on the compact Osterley in grey. The compact is the ideal size for my needs – as I use a weekly diary layout, I always found the 23mm rings got in the way of writing comfortably in a personal Filofax. This is probably an unusual dilemma amongst Filo-addicts, but I could never fill up a personal sized binder enough in order to make it comfortable to write around the rings!
Oh, and I love that the compact Osterley has two pen loops – I keep a black and red slim Frixion in these.

Kate was curious as to how I use my very slim compact to organise so many different areas of my life, here is an idea of what I keep track of:

·         Part-time job – shifts, holidays, overtime
·         Part-time business – client contact details, website, jobs
·         Study – working towards an AS level qualification, and a diploma through work
·         University – preparation for applications, work experience, revision for entrance exams, deadlines, interviews
·         And I try to leave some room for a social life!

Here’s how I manage it:

This is the dashboard of my Osterley: it’s where I keep general information that I need to access like my business cards, post-its, any receipts I need to keep.
Inside the clear envelope is a photo of my dog, a London tube map and some old Moleskine stickers.
Behind the clear envelope I also have a world map, and all of my important phone numbers just in case I lose my phone and have no access to the Internet.
Oh and I just have to show off these sticky notes:

The rectangular sticky notes are a new find from Muji, and I love them! I use the one with the four blank boxes on my front page, and write in my four most important tasks/reminders to focus on, it feels less intimidating than a huge long to-do list! The speech bubble post-its are by Tiger. I also use sticky notes for ongoing tasks that I might need to move from week to week in my diary.

Next up is the 2012 yearly planner within my Dodo Pad diary insert, this is where I keep track of annual leave, days I’ve taken off work and any overtime I do. The spaces are absolutely teeny but they do the job, and I have miniscule handwriting.

Behind my first ruler is the current week in my diary, here is how I use the grid-layout to organise my time each week. Each cube is a 3-hour block of time, so the first 5 columns cover the time period 8am-8pm.
The arrows are my shifts at work and longer periods of study that I plan around these times, around which I slot in any dog walks or pet-sits that I’m doing that week, as well as exercise and other fun things.
As you can see I don’t write masses of detail in the boxes, my work rota stays mostly the same week to week, and I know which animals I’m working with at any one time so I would just write their names in the appropriate time slots and refer to my ‘Pets’ section when necessary.
I use the 6th column of the grid for any reminders or things I mustn’t forget that day.
The blank left hand page is for any more detailed notes on jobs or appointments that week, and for keeping a record of any important tasks completed/phone calls made/letters sent so that I’m able to chase things up.

My next ruler is a make-shift tab, and is labelled ‘Uni’. Here are some reference pages with UCAS log-in details, information on application deadlines, feedback I received from last year’s interviews, notes that might help me for next year etc. Just in case you’re curious, I am re-applying to study Veterinary Medicine which is possibly the most (or at least one of the most) competitive courses to get onto in the UK. There are a lot of deadlines and hoops to jump through, so this section is to help me keep on top of that. I also have information on overseas courses and their application deadlines as well.

After this I have my ‘Pets’ tab where I keep all of my reference information relating to my little business. I have client addresses and contact details, pets’ names and things I need to remember for regular clients. I also keep a list of my up-to-date prices in case I get a call when I’m away from my computer. This section only contains around 5 sheets of paper so it takes up hardly any room, and yet has all the information I might need on the go.  

My last two tabs are dedicated to study. The first one is ‘Maths’ and is where I record my progress through the AS Maths course that I am studying for independently. One thing that has helped enormously is discovering It allows you to create multiple to-do lists with as many sub-sections as you like, to tag particular tasks with a certain word or a person’s name if you’re working on a group project, or just to keep track of which items you complete along the way. The way I use it is to enter the raw information into it (module name, chapter numbers, exercises within each chapter) and print it off to put in my Filofax. I then cross through items as I complete them which seems almost too simple, but I find it an effective way of working.
This way I can always see how much I have left to cover, and work steadily through my list. I also write the date I start and complete each section, so I can see that I’m still on track.
So every time I write ‘maths’ in my weekly diary grid for example, I just refer to this section and carry on where I left off.

My final section is where I record my progress through the diploma I’ve just started with work – It’s a distance learning course, so I do something similar using Workflowy and enter every single task within each module to create a huge long bullet-point list. I also printed my full course specification so that I can refer to this when I need to.

The key to making this system work for me is just keeping it really simple, and figuring out what I need my Filofax to do for me. The Dodo Pad allows me enough space to organise my day in chunks of time so that I feel like I’m getting the most out of each day, and the blank page still allows me to write a fair amount of detail each week which is useful to refer back to.
My uni and business sections are needed mainly for reference, and my study sections are just for keeping track of my progress in a neat, easy way. It all requires very little effort to keep on top of, and there’s no need to sync information between different Filofaxes.
I use my iPhone for a couple of things like keeping track of money; it makes more sense to use a clever app on the go than having to whip out my Filofax each time I buy something. Everything else however is written down in my Osterley.

Thank you for reading!


  1. Good Luck with your application to vet med! Where are you thinking of applying too? I'm a gateway vet at the RVC :)

  2. Thanks! I'm applying to RVC, Bristol, Glasgow + Edinburgh. Keeping fingers crossed for RVC though! I got to interview stage with them last year so hoping it's second time lucky.

  3. Stuck with limited internet access at the moment, but I will definitely be coming back to read this post in full. I love how you use the Dodo pad diary - I'd never thought of that :o)

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