Tag Archives: Malden

Launching a New Week, Part Two

My last post discussed how I use a “Weekly Launch” routine to prepare for a new week. Most of what I wrote yesterday wasn’t specific to my Filofax. Today, I will share how I sit down to set up my planner for the week.

I have three paper calendars or agendas, in addition to the dry erase weekly calendar I shared yesterday. Each serves a distinct purpose.

  1. Stapled monthly calendar – This calendar holds every event I need to track for our family. It’s thin, so I can carry it with me easily. Since this is the family calendar, the large size of each calendar square works perfectly for me. I use color to distinguish who does what…
  2. My A5 “Week on 2 Pages” layout – The WO2P tracks my personal schedule for each day. It gives me a chronological plan, and I omit activities that don’t impact what I’m doing or where I need to be. For example, if my husband is taking my daughter to swimming, I don’t include it in my personal schedule; it goes on the family calendar, though. I also include time-specific tasks. In between the two-page spread, I use a piece of lined paper for tasks that can be done at any time during the week. For 2014, I’m trying the layout with boxes, rather than the vertical lined days. Fingers crossed!
  3. My A5 “Month on 2 Pages” layout – I use the MO2P calendar to track my writing tasks for each day. I’m basically my own boss when it comes to working on my dissertation proposal, which is good, but I tend to run into trouble staying on track if I haven’t identified a purpose for my writing sessions. On Sunday, I set different goals for each day of the week to ensure I keep forward momentum. I wrote about this in detail in an earlier post.
  4. The weekly dry erase calendar – This calendar is not really for planning. It’s a communication tool. My husband, kids, and sitter refer to it to see what the day looks like for everyone. While my Filofax and calendar are personal, this is for the family. Plus, when I fill it out with my husband, we note scheduling conflicts and resolve them on Sunday by adjusting plans as needed. There are no unfortunate surprises like me having a late meeting and my husband being at the dentist when one of us needs to take our son to soccer, only to realize it the day of…

On Sunday, I manually “sync” them before I coordinate schedules with my husband or meal plan. It’s important to have a sense of the week before meal planning, because some days are more hectic than others. I plan the easiest meals for those days. Also, if we’ll be out for the evening, I know I don’t need to have food prepared that night.

I begin by making a cup of Jasmine Silver Needle white tea and laying out everything I need. This week, I have to mail a birthday card , so I pulled out my greeting card organizer and stamps as well.

Getting settled

My monthly calendar, A5 Malden, card organizer with stamps and Washi tape, laptop, paper supplies, and tea

Once I’ve hunkered down, I refer to my monthly calendar so I can complete my WO2P personal schedule for the week. I pull out events that need to be done each morning and afternoon/evening. Then I generate a list of tasks for the week that can be done at anytime. I also check my e-mail for any follow-up tasks that I should put on my calendar or task list.

Each night, I review my schedule before bed, making any changes as needed…including tasks that pop into my head. That’s my final “brain dump” (or in GTD terms: “mind sweep”) for the day. Establishing this routine helped eliminate my insomnia, because I no longer have a mental list scrolling through my head once I turn the lights out. I can rest easy because I’ve written down what needs to be done, and I can let it go until tomorrow. I put my Malden on my nightstand and refer to it every morning before I’m even out of bed.

I should mention that this week is pretty light for me since the children and my university are still on break. My son, however, has several projects that are due when he returns next Monday, so I added a Post-It to remind myself to nag him a bit 🙂 In the “this week” section, I’ve also added a few personal goals I’d like to keep front and center.

Once I finish with my daily schedule, I move to planning my academic writing on my MO2P. I don’t have a sitter this week, so it won’t be as productive as when my children are in school.

Jan1 writing

My writing schedule…I only plan one week ahead for this calendar. This allows me to be flexible.

Once I’m done scheduling my week, I’m ready to plan meals and coordinate schedules on the weekly white board I described in Pt. 1). If I am very concerned about remembering an appointment, I may add a reminder into my phone.

All told, this process takes me about an hour. I consider it an investment in the week ahead. It’s not just an exercise on paper; I’m mentally rehearsing for the week ahead. The Sunday routine allows me to strategize how to make the most of my time, and I no longer forget appointments or tasks.

What about you? Do you have a Weekly Review or Routine?

Weekly Layout

I decided to tackle my weekly review early this weekend. I’m a little anxious about meal-planning since we are going gluten/dairy-free for the next few weeks (my husband would note here something about my penchant for understatement) . Plus, I had a little time this morning since the kids are with their grandparents.

Immediately after trying to use the Personal size, I realized it won’t work for me. I left it at home. Didn’t look at it once after filling out the weekly overview. I just love the A5 size. I should heed my own advice about not being tempted to try other peoples’ systems when my system is working fine!

Below is my weekly layout. The difference between this layout and my monthly calendar is that I only include items that relate to my responsibilities. My monthly calendar lists all family events and appointments. This allows me to focus on what I should be doing throughout the day. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a separate section that details what I work on during “writing” time slots.


I list my to-dos for the week on a lined page in between the two halves of the week. I add to this list as things occur to me, but this will get me started. When actions are time-specific, I write them on the day/time I plan to complete them. Wednesday night, I’ll turn the page and move any unfinished items to the back side of the lined page. That method serves as an additional productivity check, reminding myself of what still needs to be accomplished and allowing me to think about when I will get to the tasks.

My color-coding scheme is the same as in my monthly calendar: purple for me, green for my son, blue for my daughter, and pink for family. I write dinner plans at the bottom of the page. Major reminders go at the top.

FYI, I use the fine point FriXion pens for my Filofax. The erasable ink doesn’t show up on the other side of the paper as much as the other pens I’ve tried, and I often have to move events around as the week unfolds.

Carrying My A5

There are a lot of Filofax users who swear by the Personal size, declaring the A5 too big to lug around when they’re out and about. I’m an A5 girl at heart, so I thought I’d share how I manage to carry my Malden around with very little fuss.

I suppose that “too big” is a matter of perspective. Be warned, I’ve been a mom for over 14 years and was a teacher before that. Carrying around monstrous totes — or even crates of paper and books for lesson planning and grading – makes my current purse seem almost dainty. I’m sure if you’re 20 and not used to carrying around diaper bags and other parental accessories, this may not qualify as a “small purse.”

Purse & Malden

Purse loaded

I had no idea when I purchased the Malden that it would go so beautifully with my purse (a find from a TJ Maxx). I’m not a matchy-matchy girl, but it’s actually a lovely combination. It works well if I’m at the university, having coffee with a friend, or running errands. Nice, but not fussy.

Now that my kids are older, I don’t have to carry around supplies as if I am a survivalist preparing for the apocalypse; it feels so liberating! It used to take 20 minutes of packing and 15 minutes of kid-wrangling to make a few errands.

Below are the contents of my purse for a typical trip around town. When I’m writing somewhere, I transfer these items over to a tote that holds my laptop. On the rare occasions I want a smaller load to carry, I can just use my separate calendar and my phone. If I’m really living on the edge, my phone case holds a few cards, so that’s as slimmed down a profile as I get. The mom in me would never go out without my ID, a credit/debit card, or my insurance card! All in all, I don’t find the A5  the least bit cumbersome as a planner, though sometimes I prefer to use just my monthly calendar.

Purse contents

My wallet, monthly calendar, travel tissue (a winter-only item), my A5 Malden, pen bag, polka dot makeup bag, lip balm (that’s the weird ball thing), and a reusable grocery bag for when I decide to stop by the store. The side pockets hold my keys and cell phone.

My Filofaxes and Friends

I have been playing with my Filofax collection since I received my A5 Ochre Malden yesterday afternoon.

I figured now would be a good time to share my entire assortment of Filos, along with a few paper friends.

My A5s: Raspberry Finsbury, Purple Malden, Chocolate Aston, Wine Holborn Zip, Ochre Malden. My Personals: Dark Green Panama and Orchid Aston. Friends: Two large Moleskine Cahier notebooks with leather covers by Renaissance Art Leather, small Moleskine, Mead monthly calendar, and pens.

My A5s: Raspberry Finsbury, Purple Malden, Chocolate Aston, Wine Holborn Zip, Ochre Malden. My Personals: Dark Green Panama and Orchid Aston. Friends: Two large Moleskine Cahier notebooks with leather covers by Renaissance Art Leather, small Moleskine, Mead monthly calendar, and pens.

My first two Filofaxes were the Panama (discovered on clearance in a stationary store in SoCal while traveling) and the Finsbury. I decided that the Finsbury didn’t have the feel and wear pleasurable enough for use as my main Filo, and while the Panama had great paper, it was too small to track my family and work schedules.

Since then, I actually moved to a cheap monthly calendar that I can carry either alone or with my Filo. The calendar square size was much more conducive to tracking events (at least with my handwriting). After reading other Filofax/paper planner blogs, I decided that my Filofax could serve more as a reference than the calendar I haul to all my appointments. I still carry my A5 most places, because I have several gargantuan tote bags that make it easy, but I’m able to leave it behind if I’m just having lunch with a friend.

I used the Orchid Aston (also purchased on sale) as a wallet for about 6 months. This was a great solution for me because I have a billion cards – library, loyalty, gift cards, university ID, you name it – and I prefer to have them on hand in case I make an unplanned stop. I’m now going to experiment with it for a week or two.

The Maldens are recent purchases, influenced by my desire to be able to carry my iPad mini with me. I started with the purple and decided to splurge on the Ochre because I think it may look better as it wears. For instance, I’ll carry my Malden and iPad with me to meetings tomorrow and Thursday. I also purchased the Holborn zip on sale a few weeks ago because the ability to have my pages enclosed was intriguing; many others described their satisfaction with the feel of the leather. It can also hold my iPad, though not in the pocket of the rear cover.

I opted to show you two other paper and leather treasures: My large Moleskine Cahier covers. One holds my daily journal, and the gorgeous blue one I use for notes at university and conference presentations. It feels luxurious and yet it’s not too expensive to fill with replacement notebooks. I purchased both online from Renaissance Art about 7-8 months ago, and I love them!

I included the small Moleskine because I’m contemplating using it for a GTD inbox. I’ll post about that experiment in the next few weeks. I also shared my (gasp) non-Filo calendar. You can see in the post below that it helps me track all my family and work events, and I love the larger calendar squares. The lack of spiral binding makes it perfect for tossing in my bag without fretting that something will be knocked out of alignment. My life doesn’t allow me to be too precious about things like calendars. It – by sheer happenstance – looks lovely with one of my pen bags. I appreciate pen bags because I change purses or carry a tote bag, transferring a large number of pens in seconds. This is especially helpful because I use color coding in my Mead planner.

Most of the time I use just one A5 and the calendar for my planning needs, but I just transferred all the pages related to my son’s health and our new gluten/dairy-free life into a separate A5. I’m not sure if this will be a permanent arrangement. I’m also experimenting with the personal for about two weeks to see if it works in combination with my Mead calendar, thus allowing me to savor the cotton cream.

There you have it. My Filos and friends. I never thought I’d be one to amass a “collection,” but I’m happy with what I have right now. My only wish is for Filofax to create A5 inserts in Cotton Cream!

A5 Collection

Using My Filofax to Create My Academic Writing Schedule

I keep my writing schedule on a separate "Month on Two Pages" calendar. The only things on the calendar are my writing goals and any significant events that might mean I won't have time to write that day.

I keep my writing schedule on a separate “Month on Two Pages” calendar. The only things on the calendar are my writing goals and any significant events that might mean I won’t have time to write that day.

I use a planner because my life has a lot of moving pieces right now, and it helps me make the best use of my time. A few years ago, I left my job as an elementary school teacher and entered graduate school. I have completed my coursework, and it’s now time to write my dissertation proposal and prepare for my qualifying exams.

When I was a teacher, my day was very structured. My day was dictated by a bell schedule and lesson plans. As a graduate student, I work the same number of hours, but there is no bell to tell me when to sit at the computer. No curriculum dictates how I move forward…My first two years, I struggled to use that flexibility wisely. Somehow, I conflated “more flexibility” with “more time to do other things.”

I know. Trust me, I know. It was a naïve mistake. I have done well in school, but I would have liked to have started my dissertation by now. Something had to change, and like the Type A person I am, I just knew that lists and a schedule could get me back on track!

I learned — through trial and error, along with some helpful reading — that I need a writing schedule if I’m going to get my own grad school work done. Family and my employer’s work tend to come first. When I shuffled pieces around, I deferred work on my own research and writing. No more! Now I use the Pomodoro technique (funny name, I know) to help me get in a minimum of two hours per day on my own writing. I often get in more, but the minimum helps me stay consistent and write every weekday. I read (part of my research, naturally), go to meetings and seminars, and work on paid research for my adviser the rest of the time. Well, that and the whole raising two children, managing a household with my husband, and living a life thing 🙂 But that goes in my other calendar!

My Dissertation Proposal Task List

OmniFocus on my phone – My dissertation proposal task list

Putting Together My Weekly Writing Schedule  

  1. Every Sunday, when I do my weekly review, I put two hours (minimum) of writing time onto the schedule for each day of the week. It goes into my weekly agenda simply as “Writing.”
  2. Next, I think about what writing tasks I hope to accomplish during the week ahead. I use the OmniFocus app to store specific tasks (e.g., “Write about sample selection.”). Yes, I’m a Filo girl at heart, but I love to mix it up with a few digital helpers. The plan is only for one week. It’s best to be flexible in case something happens. My son, for instance, had some unplanned doctors visits and medical tests yesterday, so I fell a bit behind schedule. I’m going to try and catch up, but if I need to, I can move tasks to next week once Sunday comes around.
  3. I enter daily goals for my writing time onto a dedicated “Month on Two Pages” (MO2P) calendar. This has its own section in my Malden, and it speaks to how important this aspect of my work is to my life as a graduate student. I’m sure this system could work for people tackling other large projects.
  4. Each day, when it’s time to start writing, I open up my binder and review my goals are for the day. No time wasted on wondering what I should be doing; that was decided on Sunday. Just dive right in! Since I’m easily distracted, I should also add that I disable my internet during these sessions. It’s the only way for me to get the work done!
Each writing task goes into the square for the day I plan to complete it.

Each writing task goes into the square for the day I plan to complete it. The notes may not make sense to others, but I know, for instance that today I need to plot out different options for my research design. I also need to write my research questions and read an article by Judith Warren Little, one of the members of my dissertation committee!

My goal now is to use the list on the side to record my total writing time each day. The two hours is a minimum, and I want to be accountable for meeting that goal. Perhaps I’ll identify patterns of when I’m most (and least) productive.

Some might wonder why I dedicate an entire A5 MO2P calendar just to tasks related to one part of my life. First, my research is an important part of my life. Before I gave it its own “space,” I found myself putting it to the side when family or work tasks demanded my attention. I probably added an extra year on to my doctoral program because of overcommitments in other areas.

It also helps take a big project and break it down into manageable pieces, all while allowing me to see the bigger picture. Adding family or other work events would be visually distracting, and it would be difficult to quickly gauge if I’m making appropriate progress toward my qualifying exams. It doesn’t clutter up my family calendar with tasks. The tactile and visual nature of writing in on the MO2P format helps orient my work for the week.

I’ve been a lot more productive since starting this system. The 2 hour minimum is a big factor, and the calendar allows me to avoid getting bogged down in planning what to write each day I sit down in front of the computer. This mix of paper and digital works well for me. Navigating between the two formats allows me to do the real “thinking” about what I want to accomplish before the start of the week, and it sets a productive tone for my writing sessions.

I add my writing schedule one week at a time. This is part of my weekly review each Sunday, so I have an idea about what my week looks like.

I add my writing schedule one week at a time. This is part of my weekly review each Sunday, so I have an idea about what my week looks like. Disregard the pink and blue stickers. I repurposed this calendar, and I struggled to cover some old entries.

A5 Malden and iPad

I love to plan on paper, so I’ve used an array of planners over the years. For the past two years, however, I’ve been settling into a system that works for me. It evolved into a combination of paper and apps…even a white board, but that’s really intended to communicate an overview of the week with my family…not plan.

In the past two years, I’ve been lurking on blogs that discuss Filofax and other paper planners. Midori. The illustrious Gillio. EC. FC. You name it. From those, I’ve taken away a few things…none of them original, but they have been helpful lessons nonetheless:

1. There is no one correct way to use a planner/calendar. We all have different needs for our systems, and we have different preferences. The best system for you is the one that supports your lifestyle and goals.

2. For me, the use of a planner or “system” is ultimately about function. I adore looking at people’s photos of their gorgeous Filos; they appear to be serving multiple functions: journal, creative outlet, and planner. If it brings you joy and doesn’t get in the way of actually doing what you want to do, I think it’s a beautiful way to record details from your life and express your personality. For me, at this stage in my life, I am not opting to decorate my pages simply because my purpose in using a planner is being able to keep on top of all the details for my family, my work, and my doctoral program. Functionality first…for now. The funny part, of course, is now I’m opting to spend time blogging about my Filofax and organization. That’s my current form of expression, though there is a roll or two of Washi tape around here somewhere.

3. I think better on paper, and the process of writing helps me work things out. The apps I use support my planning, but they complement one another. I love OmniFocus because it allows me to deal with repeating tasks and it syncs with my electronic calendar. I have a paper planner, and there is some redundancy, but it doesn’t take much time now that I have so many tasks and appointments set up to repeat. Since I do a weekly review each Sunday, I haven’t missed items.

4. I love people’s ideas and layouts, especially on youtube. That doesn’t mean I need to change my system when it’s working. Part of the joy the blogs and videos bring me is watching people find their own system…I’m a qualitative researcher, so I derive a lot of pleasure from the way planners are used by different people. They’re glimpses into people’s interests and personalities. Yet I learn about what works best for me by viewing what people do with their own systems.

I’m saving my current set-up for a post when I have more time. Here’s a quick peek to tide you over. I can’t wait to share it with you! I purchased the A5 purple Malden because it holds the iPad mini that I received as an early Christmas present. Steve (of Philofaxy fame) and I chatted via e-mail about what A5 binders would hold the tablet, and this was all the motivation I needed to finally take the Malden plunge! I can’t wait to share it with you.