My current planner situation

So far this blog has been mostly about planners and a few other paper products. How could I do anything else after the long hiatus than write about planners again. Here we go.

Did I solve all my planner problems in the last two years? Am I finally back to normal again, just getting one planner for the year and leave it at that? No sir, not at all. Just for this year I own and Erin Condren life planner, a midori business diary, a filofax pocket weekly refill and a weekly and daily personal refill. In the last two months I have tried all of them, as well as working with just a lined notebook, and am still going back and forth. And that is not counting my electronic calendars. Here is how my reasoning goes:

All of my work appointments are digital. This is by far the easiest way, as they change often, and we share calendars and send invites to each other at work. This way we can all see who will be where at what time. This works well, and will remain that way. I can access this in outlook when I am at my work laptop, or from my work phone.

My personal appointments are in the paper planner of the moment. I could put these all in the work calendar and mark them private if I want, which is what many of my colleagues do, or put them in my google calendar. This I can access from the same work phone, or from my personal phone. But I like paper better for this.

The only question is which one? Usually I use some combination of large weekly planner and a thin cahier-like notebook, or a filofax. Sometimes I try to use a regular notebook with my appointments in a digital calendar.

I like the filofax for obvious reasons: all in one, very customisable. But the persoanl one is too large and heavy, and the pocket one is very portable, only the pages are so very tiny. I have very small handwriting, but still. If I use one of these, it is for personal only. Work has its digital calendar, and a notebook in roughly A5 size (currently a dot-grid Leuchtturm1917).

What makes the other combination of larger planner plus thin notebook so nice, is the large amount of space on the weekly spreads. I use these for work and personal appointments and tasks, where I write the personal stuff as it comes up, and the work-related things at the start of the week. I edit as I go along. Both have notepages at the back for long-term lists like gift ideas and books bo buy. The thin notebook lives in the back of the planner, and I use that for planning my goals for this year into projects, and making notes on those and other projects. The downside of those systems is that they are quite large and heavy to carry, and I carry a lot of stuff I don’t need at all times. Also, while the life planner makes me very happy to look at, it’s bright yellow cover and colourful interior don’t look very professional, even when I only use a black pen.

As you can see, I have a problem with carrying too much stuff. I bike a little over 20 minutes to the train station, and the same way back again in the evening. I already have to carry my laptop, work papers and notebook, a water bottle, some food for lunch, and obviously some items like phones, wallet, keys, some pens, tissues, mints, lip balm etcetera. So anything I add is more weight to carry on my shoulder while biking, and standing on the train, and walking to the office and back.

I don’t just pop into a bookstore on a workday, so why would I carry around my book wish list? And I don’t need all my project planning with me all the time, as those are for the longer term. I actually would only need my weekly task list, appointments for that day or maybe week, and a place to make a note if I get an idea or make an appointment or something like that. Could I just use my larger planner at home, and carry around a pocket notebook in which I write my task list at the start of the week? I could use these as a small journal as well, and add some post-its for loose notes. God knows I have enough notebooks to last me a while. But would I miss my planners too much? And how should I organise my pocket notebook? Should the long-term lists go in it? And the project planning? Will it fit into such a small book?

And so the cycle continues. I am driving myself crazy with this, spending more time, money and energy on it that could be used for something else. Like any of my side projects.  Or work. Or something fun. Is the solution out there somewhere? If anyone finds it, please share….

Long time no see – update

So, that is quite a while ago since I was last seen or heard from on this little corner of the internet. Why? I am not completely sure. I always liked writing here, though I was never anything like a regular blogger. I liked interacting with other people. I still like all the things I wrote about, so no change of subject necessary. I just stopped doing it, then it became so awkward to write an update that I just never really felt like it.

Until now. I realised a while ago that I missed it. I want to return to writing here, or actually, I want to do it better and more regular than I did before. So here is the short update, in list format to keep it manageable:

  • I have submitted and defended my PhD thesis in February of 2013, so I am now officially dr. girl in maths; also the old tagline for the blog was “living the good grad student life” and that should be replaced now I think
  • the new job I started at the end of 2012 turned out quite well, I am still there and even though things could be better in some respects I am pretty happy with where I am
  • I (or rather, my husband and I) have moved out of our appartment and into an old house in a better city recently and while it was a lot of work and the process had more humps and unpleasant surprises than we had expected we are very happy here in our new hometown
  • I still like planners and stationery a bit too much for my own health, and still haven’t settled on a format…
  • I have tried yoga last year and really loved it and felt good doing it, so I want to look into yoga studios in my new neighbourhood

A lot more has happened that I may or may not share here someday. For now this list should do it.

What to expect from now on? I will do a post at least once a week; that should be manageable with my other commitments, but also be regular enough to keep this blog fresh for me and hopefully also to read. If I have more time I may post more, but no promisses there. I am also thinking of continuing the two series I had previously: monthly magic and spotlight on a website. Let’s welcome each other back, and I hope you will enjoy.

Planner fail, or rather planner indecision

As the new year is getting closer, I have been putting some thought into my planner system for next year. Also, since my life is undergoing some big changes right now, I am sort of having a struggle with planners at this moment too. Let me explain:

Last week my phd thesis was finally approved off by the committee members. This means that the actual examination is now passed. What is still left to do is turn the manuscript into an actual book, have it printed, and organise the official defense.( This is more of a fun formality here, it has not happened in decades that a candidate’s thesis was approved but he was failed at the defense.) There is still a lot to do, but nothing like the load of researching, programming and writing that I used to have.

The other big change is that I have found a new job, which I will be starting on December 1. I had my last day at my old job last week, so I am now in a kind of in-between state. I have some projects planned for these few weeks, apart from the finishing of the book. Some I have already done, like buying a car (I used to have a lease company car), and repaint our bathroom. Some are still left to do. I also took on a freelance programming project. But the thing is my planner needs now are very different from those I had at my old job. Now I have almost no appointments, but a lot of things I want to do. And there is no natural structure to my day, which was there in a sense when you go into the office or to university every weekday. We could set our own hours, but things like lunch together and appointments gave a rythm to the day. Now I have to make sure I structure my own time, and not waste it all on the internet.
And of course, I don’t have a good idea about what my needs will be when my new job has actually started.

So what is a girl to do? For this year, I have switched from my filofax to something slimmer and ligher. As much as I like my filo, it is just a bit too much right now. I tried a pocket filo for a week, but however cute, it is just a little too fiddly for me. And I wanted something with time slots and room for todo’s. I have gone back to my quo vadis space 24, which I reviewed here. It is just right for now, though I wish it was a little smaller. There may be better options for me right now, but I did not want to spend money when most planners for the new year start somewhere in December, which is just a few weeks away.

And then next year. Honestly, I think I don’t know enough about what my life and days will look like then to make a good decision. So I decided to throw a little more money at it than I would otherwise do and get a variety of planners. When we get to the end of December I will have a few weeks of experience at the new job, and I can then decide what to keep and which options to try and sell or give away. I do know that my system has to be light enough to carry through a few hours of train commuting daily with me (I will not use my car to commute because of traffic and lack of parking spaces, plus the office building is next to a train station and I will get all train fares reimbursed, while gas would be at my own expense.) I will no longer have to go to client sites but instead work in one place, have my own desk instead of a large desk where you would have to find a spot each day. This means I can have folders and a notebook and leave it at my desk and not carry around everything. And I will no longer have to carry around a laptop, the new office has actual pc’s. So these are the only things I do know about my new job situation.

So what did I get? First, since I have had quite some success with my personal size filofaxes over the last six years, I got myself weekly and daily refills for that. These, together with all the lined paper and todo sheets I have, will give me enough flexibility to get the set-up I want if I decide to use my filofax. A definite con for me is that this is heavier than my other options. Also, filofaxes tempt me to fiddle with them instead of just using them to get my job and life in order. I have mostly bought these just because every time a Philofaxy webfinds post goes up, I am jealous of all the people using their filos, but I think a filofax may be too much for me because my work life will be much simpler without the flexible workplaces and large research project on the side.

So my second option is a refill for my good old stand-by the quo vadis space 24. I ordered a set of the notes inserts as well, so I could have a place for things like my book wish list, gift ideas and personal goals. Both my lilac club cover from an old minister and the purple duo cover from this year’s space 24 are still in great condition, so I bought refills only.

The third set of options is from paperblanks. I love this company for their great and fun designs, and their lovely cream-coloured paper. The photo I took does not do  justice to the designs, please go to their website to get a good view. I love their midi size books for my journals. So in case I only want to keep my personal stuff in my paper planner, I bought a lovely midi size planner in the design blush pink. It is week-to-view and closes with an elastic. This has no actual room for notes, but for just personal things like planning runs, nights out etc. it will work fine. This would mean keeping my work stuff in something like outlook or ical. I am keeping this option open right now, although it would be a change for me. I said set of options at the beginning, so that means I got a second paperblanks planner, also midi size but day-per-page, in the design pastoral impulses. I could not find a Dutch-language planner so it is in English. This closes with a small magnetic strap. This would have room for todo’s and appointments for both personal and work on every day.

And the final option is not here yet: this will be the Laurie-designed plannerisms planner! I mean to get one in purple or teal when they come out. From what I have read and seen so far this planner might work really well for me. The only thing I am not so sure about are the lack of time slots. These are what made me ditch the moleskine weeksly notebook in favour of the space 24 (well, that and the boring black cover). But in a column design I migh not need them.

So, sorry for the extremely long post. I hope with all of these options I will be well prepared for my new job and the new year, and we shall see what will get used. And of course, what are you using next year?

Guest post by David: Digital envy, the myth of progress and staying clear in focus

Today I have a special treat for you: a very interesting guest post by David Popely on the eternal question of going digital or staying with paper for our organisation and time management. Please go over to David’s blog for more goodness, after you are done reading here, and also take a look at his filofax set-up posted here. Thank you David for writing such a great post!

I’m grateful to Paulien for the opportunity to write this post, and I’ve tried to make it as current to where I am right now in my personal organisation as I possibly can. If it has a sense of ‘work in progress’ about it, that’s because it is!

I’m a long time user of paper planning systems. I first got interested in personal organisation in the early 1980s, and quickly moved from an old fashioned ‘bound’ diary to a Filofax binder (my church minister had one and I thought they were super-cool), then to a duplex (two ring mechanisms) Filofax, and finally discovered the Time Manager International system, which I stuck with for well over two decades before lately moving back to Filofax – for how long I’m not sure. Along the way I flirted and experimented with a variety of electronic gadgets, early PDAs, computer software (I had a great program called Lotus Organiser which actually looked like a Filofax digitised on the screen), and more recently smart-phones (I’m in the BlackBerry camp). However, through all of the digital experimentation, I have always been driven to return to paper. Paper won’t delete, duplicate or corrupt your information (unless you drop it in the bath, which so far I’ve managed to avoid, unlike my smart-phone), it’s always quicker to access than a gadget, always on, is compatible across all platforms, can be used on trains, buses and in motorway service areas without regard for wi-fi availability, offers unlimited perspectives on the information within it (no toggling backwards and forwards between screens here) and is in every respect effortlessly superior to any electronic gadget out there.

And yet……

From time to time, like most of us, I suffer from Digital Envy. Those gadgets look so clever, so speedy, so……shiny……surely they must represent an improvement on my cranky old paper-based system? They’re so portable, and my Filofax (whether Personal or A5) is, well, not so portable. Surely I’d be better off with a gadget?

(This is, of course, precisely what the gadget marketers want you to believe. In reality everything I’ve said above is true, but they have a job to do…..)

A few weeks ago I found myself suffering from this Digital Envy, and so I made myself a Plan. I would transfer my organisation to Digital, the Cloud would seamlessly keep all my desks, computers, laptops, smart-phones etc in perfect sync, and I would enjoy a new freedom from having to carry around an organiser the size and weight of a house-brick. Or so I thought….

First step was to download Google Sync to my BlackBerry…..easily installed, and after a bit of a wait, duly synced. Google calendar and contacts duly synced.

Because Google Sync doesn’t have a facility for syncing Google tasks (don’t ask me why), a secondary  option would be needed for that. Evernote is widely regarded  as being the best option for this, so Evernote too was duly downloaded and synced.

All set to go, yes? Ready to sit like a colossus astride the digital world, watching my data, diary, contacts and information seamlessly follow me, wherever  go.

Well, er…

It was about 24 hours before problems with my new digital setup set in. Firstly, Google Sync just doesn’t know how to handle repeating regular appointments. I promise you, if you have scheduled regular diary appointments in Google Calendar  and use Google Sync for very long, you’ll  end up with 32 (more if you try for longer than I did) separate appointments in each slot where there was once only one. This multiplication will take place on both your handheld and your desktop Google calendars, every time there is a sync – and believe me, that’s a lot of times in the average day. Trust me – I’m now an expert at deleting multiple appointments.

Secondly, Evernote has real issues with syncing – it downloads note headers only, so if you want to see the body of a note (maybe it’s a shopping list or list of things to do when in a particular city), you’re going to have to find a steady phone signal (on your smart-phone) or wi-fi signal (on your laptop) for Evernote to work at all.

72 hours into Project Digital, and I could no longer trust my digital data. Now – if I had had that data with me in paper form, in under 15 seconds I could have extracted the organiser from my bag, flipped through to the relevant page, ticked off tasks completed or items bought, and been in a new place of trust with my now-updated data.

No contest.

This is why I will argue with anyone who cares to, that a paper-based system beats a digital system hands down, every time, and that anyone serious about keeping control of their time and their life should invest in one, if they haven’t already. It’s part of the myth of progress as expounded by marketing people throughout the world to convince us that the new is always and unquestionably better than the old. Sometimes it can be hard to convince early adopters that their shiny new gadget (on which they’ve usually spent several hundred pounds and/or locked themselves into a lengthy contract to hire) isn’t actually going to be an improvement on the old, and sometimes not even on the very old, but that’s the way it is. Time will always tell, and class will out, as they say. My Filofax looks great, works beautifully, and I wouldn’t swap it for any gadget you can currently offer me. Except, maybe, another Filofax…..

In fairness I should add that like most paper users these days (although there are exceptions), I keep my main contacts database on my phone and nowhere else….the phone just provides such instant access that it’s not worth doing any other way. But for everything else, its paper, and I have every confidence that it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

So the next time Digital Envy comes your way (and it will) remember this – we tried it, we gave it a chance, and it failed.

And that’s without even beginning to consider what happens with a digital device when you want to look something up on the London Underground……

Happy organising, and remember….stay proactive.


Guest post by Imy: what’s in her make up bag

Hi everyone, this is the first guest post in the all stars tour on my blog, and it’s by Imy of the imysworld blog. Definitely go over to take a look if you love to look at wonderfully decorated filofaxes! So without further ado, I give you Imy:

I promised a blog post last year during the All Stars tour to Pauline, but for some reason I forgot to do it, I am not sure of the reason but there must have been something, so here I am this year for Philofaxy All Stars 2012 to make it up to her with a blog post about, What is in my Make up Bag?

Here is my make up bag, it is a cheap one from H&M, think it was £1.50 or £2.00?


Here is just inside:


Here is what is in it….


Beautiful but very dirty Model Mirror, it is amazing as when you open it there is a surprise!


It lights up as if you are sitting at one of those mirrors surrounded by lights, and when the batteries are new this lights up amazingly you can use it as a torch in your handbag too! (Tried and tested).


Here is my Foundation, brush, primer and lip gloss

Mac Prep + Prime – Primer
Mac Studio Sculpt Foundation
Eco Tools Foundation Brush – chewed on by me nervously
Chanel Glossimer 98 Galactic Lip Gloss, it is all glittery!


My eye area make up (Not quite sure how to name it)

Benefit Lemon Aid – Eye Primer
Benefit Erase Paste – Concealer
Benefit – They’re Real – Mascara
Lush Gold Eyeliner – Fantasy
Bourjours Intense Extract 3
Random pretty make up brush, with wand like detail
Tweaserman Ltd Tweasers


Close up’s of the pots!

That is all that is in my make up bag, I do not really wear too much make up on a day to day basis, so I don’t need much!

I hope you enjoyed this!!!

Thank you for letting me do this post Pauline!!

Update and goals

I happened upon a nice idea on one of my favourite blogs latele, a new take on the popular 101 goals in 1001 days lists. It is to do 10 goals in 101 days. This seems easier, but if you would do the same thing ten times in a row you would end up with the same number of things done (save one, so almost). The good thing about it is that is gives more flexibility to make up new goals. How would I know what I would like to accomplish two years from now, I don’t even know what my life will look like by then.

So I am now thinkin about my goals, and to plan it so that it finishes on December 31. Here are some ideas I have now:

  • Defend my phd thesis. This is definitely a goal, but as it is now under revision by the thesis committee, I have no control over how long the process takes. Also the time and date of the ceremony depend on when the auditorium is available, and when all committee members and my supervisor can make it. So I will try, but it is uncertain when this will happen.
  • Find a new job. I do have some time left to do this in, but ideally I would like to start something new on January 2. So I am busy writing letters now.
  • Run a 5k. This I have been thinking about for a long time, and it might just be a good time to do it.
  • Choose a great planner for 2013, with my new job in mind. I want it to be fund and professional at the same time.
  • Find a yoga studio in my neighbourhood and try it out.
  • Knit a scarf, which would mean actually learning to knit first.
  • Seriously work on my Archimedes translation. This did not get enough attention lately.
  • Fill up my cd and dvd lists with new suggestions, by asking recommendations and poking around on the internet.
  • Regularly post here. I think the all stars tour, which I am participating in, could help me do that. I already have a few posts scheduled.
  • Host a tapas party for friends. Something I have been planning to do for ages now.

Ok, this is not yet my final list yet, but there are more than enough ideas. When I have settled on my 10 goals I will share them.

Does anyone have experience with this, or with the larger 101 in 1001 version? I would love to hear some stories on how it went.

Finishing while filofaxing

Since I am almost at the end of my time as a graduate student, I thought I would write a bit about the setup I am using in my filofax and how I use while finishing my thesis. Alternatively, think of this as procrasinating on said thesis.

Anyway, the filofax I am using right now is my pretty purple finchley in personal size. See it here with some of the post-its I use inside:


Inside of this I have six sections, divided using the plain dividers from filofax. They are unmarked as I do not have a labelmaker and pencil marks keeps rubbing out. The fist section is my weekly diare, which is the lined Dutch version. In here I keep a whole year, and I write appointments and reminders on here.


The pen you see here is the sparkly swarovski pen I mentioned in the previous post. Aren’t they pretty together? On the pen loop you can see a few marks where the colour has somehow come off a bit. I haven’t done anything about it yet, but they don’t appear to get bigger.

The next section is my daily diary, where I keep about two to three months in. In here my make daily todo lists. I write these once a week for the upcoming week when I decide what to do in the next few days. I also mark appointments and things like travel time, so i know when I have time available to work on the things I need to do. I block larger time slots for bigger tasks, the rest of the tasks go on the right side without a time.

The next section is my todo lists. Here I keep three lists, one for personal tasks, one for research related tasks and one for work tasks. These usually contain only tasks that are unrelated to the bigger projects.


After this I have my notes section, where I keep lists and information of various kinds. In the picture you see my book wish list, but there is also a list of clothes I need to buy, plans for redecorating our house and house repairs, gift ideas and so on. These are on pretty lilac paper to match the purple of the fincley.


Note the pretty postits, which I got from russel and hazel. I have a few more nice ones from them, and they actually deserver their own post. The final section with papers in it is the project section. In here I keep first a list of all current work and research projects, and then one page per projects with info, ideas, tasks etcetera. Personal projects go in the notes section. The projects are on yellow paper, just because I had a lot of that. Here is an example, the page for the cover of my thesis. You can see that I still need a design (any photoshop wizzards out there?), find a printer and figure out how to get an isb number.


The final section contains my world map, and a few plastic holders for business cards and stickers and such.

For now this setup is working well enough. I am tempted every now and then to remove the weekly section and just use only the daily ones. I could use a pen for the appointments and pencil for todos. The downside will be the lack of a good weekly overview though, and I’m not sure yet if I want to give that up for the sake of some less rewriting. To be continued…

Six months gone by

I can’t believe it, half a year has gone by without me even looking at this blog. Why? Probably a combination of thesis and job-searching stress, me being unsure what to write and just plain forgetting about it. Now I will have to have a good think on what to do about this, and how to keep things going along here.

So what did get done in the meantime? My thesis is just about a month away from being sent to the thesis reading committee, which has been assembled as well. Then I just need to think about designing  a cover and find a good printer to make me some books. I have no idea about designing book covers, not even what program to use for it, so any ideas on this are very welcome!

I did reorganise my book case and all papers, partly redecorated the living room, been to London for a long weekend, been to two weddings and one funeral, got myself an ipad, tried out a million (rough estimate)  new recipes and much more.

Also, I have found a few new stationery loves:

  • russell and hazel, and especially their post-it notes. Their daily adhesive notes are the perfect companion for a weekly filofax diary. And I am really tempted by their binders too, but they are so expensive and not compatible with the standard A4/A5 systems.
  • Speaking of perfect filofax companions, my sister gave me a purple swarovski pen that fits in a filofax loop and looks great with my purple finchley. Love!
  • I am loving my yellow square notebook by bookbinders design so much, that I dare not use it. But I want to journal in it! Any advice on how to break this spell? Until then, it looks great on my desk.
  • And last but not least, the Leuchtturn1917 notebooks and pen loops. I am using a purple pocket notebook in my purse now, and a cornflower dotted A5 one for my research. Highly recommend them.

This will do as an update for now, and I will try my best to post more regularly from now on. I may even start scheduling post ideas in my diary, because honestly, if I had really wanted to,  I could have found time to post.


monthly magic: november

November has come, and now it’s less than two months until 2012. What a short time! Especially since January 1 is phd thesis due date for me. But let’s not forget to have a good productive time in November. I like this month, because it starts with a great occasion: on November 3 2001 I met my husband! So this year we will be celebrating our ten-year anniversary being together. We have not been married that long, only 18 months now, but still we are going to celebrate with a special dinner out at the restaurant we had our wedding dinner and party at. Looking forward to that!

Now what could you do to have a good time this month? I am thinking:

Set a regular schedule for important things For me this is obviously my thesis, but it could also be an exercise schedule or novel writing schedule. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that setting a regular schedule helps meeting goals. For example setting aside two hours every morning for writing my thesis will hopefully be enough to change my journal papers into chapters, or scheduling three running sessions a week might be good for training for a race. Having a set schedule will make you more likely to actually do things, and now is the time to make the final push on your 2011 goals.

Take a long walk outside followed by hot chocolate All the trees have beatiful colours right now, so when the sun shines, or at least it doesn’t rain, take advantage and go for a long walk. I do not like walking except in fall, and it’s the colours of the leaves that makes the difference. And the hot chocolate doesn’t need an explanatin I think…

Start a new craft project Making something, even very siimple, is a great way to relax. You could do some paper craft like card making or visual journaling, knit your new winter scarf or make a collage out of your holiday pictures. I just started a cross stitch project that will keep me busy for quite some time.

NaNoWriMo alternative

This month, I am participating in a great endeavor started by the website PhD2Published: AcBoWriMo or academic book writing month. It is the idea to write a certain number of words or pages each day for your academic book. I interpret this a bit wider, since I am taking book to mean thesis. It is going to be bound as a book and get an isbn after all. Other people are aiming for a research proposal or an article. Anything goes I think.

My goal is to work on my thesis for a certain amount of time each day. I take this amount to be one hour, or alternatively 3 pomodoros. This last part refers to the pomodoro technique, and means that I will write for 3 intervals of 25 minutes each. I prefer this over word count for two reasons: words are not counted by my latex editor, and words don’t say all that much about effort needed when mathematical equations are involved.

You can read more about this idea here, and follow the twitter hashtag #acbowrimo. Who is with me?