Using a personal Filofax for grad school and life

My last post on this blog was back in January! Yikes! Suffice it to say that my planning system changed several times, unnecessarily, and now I’m back in something that’s very functional and I plan to stick with it!

After some inquiry on Facebook, I’ve been prompted to finally do that Filofax for grad school post I’ve had in the back of my head for a while. Since this is purely about the function of my planner, I’m not including as many pictures as I might otherwise. Words work just as well.

I am now employed full time, as well as being a grad student and having a family. I need to write things down in order to keep track of things. So, my planner has to handle a lot! I use a personal sized Filofax, as it’s the perfect size to take with me everywhere and place in front of a laptop on a small coffee shop table. Also, one can hold it in one hand and write with the other, something I’ve found quite difficult with larger ring-bound planners. I use Franklin Covey page per day inserts. The fact that they stick out of the Filofax doesn’t bother me. Filofax notepaper and to-do sheets make up the rest of my pages, along with dividers. I happen to be using ones I made out of scrap paper I was given.

First, my sections: Notes, Projects, Actions, Learn, Info, and a blank tab. I am using a GTD type set-up.

Notes is where I write random bits of information before I decide what to do with them. It’s also where I write non-day-specific information which I only need temporarily. I keep extra notepaper and to-do sheets behind this divider as well.

Projects begins with two project lists. If I have any multi-step actions I need to do which are not related to school, they go on one of these lists. “Me” is for projects which I can do independently, while “Others” is for projects which involve others. Both of these lists are on Filofax to-do paper, but you could just as easily use plain lined paper. Per GTD, the projects list is actually a list of *outcomes*. For example, I have “arrange babysitters for chats” as a project, *not* “chat babysitters.” It took me a while to understand this. If the *outcome* is listed, I am prompted to think of the “next action” just by reading what I’ve got listed and thinking for 2 seconds. If I have something more generic, it doesn’t work. After the project lists are notes pages with any information or lists that go along with any of the projects. One project has its own page, while others share a page. At the end of this section is my Someday list, on notepaper. This entire section is only 6 sheets of paper.

Actions contains 8 sheets of to-do paper which make up seven categorized “next actions” lists. If something needs to be done, but doesn’t have a date attached to it, it goes on one of these lists. My categories are Home, Computer (2 sheets), Materials (e.g. if I want to journal something it goes on this list), Talk to Husband About, Agendas (for those I know), Contact (for businesses and such), and Errands. I also keep my Waiting For list on a post-it on the back side of the divider.

Learn is the big one, and here’s where the pictures come in! This is where all my grad school information is kept, including assignments.

First I have the major assignments listed chronologically.

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Then my minor assignments, with due dates noted, in the order in which I find out about them.

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Then my reading lists — one for computer and one for books.
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After that, I have a page with my class information and professor contact information for the current semester. This is followed by page(s) for each class, with assignment information and notes on how the class works.

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After that, I have the page I used to plan out which courses to take when. On the reverse side I have my degree plan, along with my GPA for the semesters I’ve completed. Then some pages with school-related notes. At the end of the section, I have cheat sheets for the citation methods I’ve had to use.

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This section is 14 sheets.

My Info tab also contains 14 sheets at the moment. I have a list of current coupons/deals/gift cards, a to-buy list, gift ideas, a sheet with one car’s maintenance and events record on one side and the other car’s on the other, a sheet recording my daughter’s health info, our budget plan (we use a software called YNAB to keep track of spending and our budget in practice, but this is what I use when I budget every month to remind myself of our goals), a username/password list for some of our bill websites which I only use once a month, my goals, my health, and various other notes. Right now I have a sheet for “Filofax Wisdom” for example.

My blank tab currently has my list of books to check out from the library, categorized by fiction, non-fiction, Christian, and “action” (e.g. dieting books). I keep this in here because I work at a library!

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Then comes my calendar. I use Franklin Covey page per day inserts, which come with monthly tabs. (I picked less full days so that I didn’t have to block things out — my days and months end up far fuller than this!)

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I do color code. Bright blue is for school assignments and notes, while red is used for deadlines (both for big school assignments and for important non-school-related things). Oriental blue is for work, green is for my husband’s schedule and family events, and purple is used for special events, travel, and birthdays. Black is the default and is used for everything else. 

The monthly calendar gets monthly notes, odd work hours, due dates, and special things (e.g. dinner with friends, concerts, birthdays). Anything else just goes on the dailies.

I use my daily pages in a specific way. Appointments go on the appointment schedule. The notes area is used for day-specific information (e.g. due dates, confirmation numbers, addresses) and occasionally for recording something that happened that day. I put day-specific to-dos (pay bills, do homework) starting at the top and going down. Once the day arrives, if I have things I’d *like* to do that day, I put those on the list starting at the bottom and going up. I don’t use the priority box. Instead, I start the first line of a to-do there, and the second line where the to-do is “supposed” to start. Throughout the day, I will have to refer to my action lists and my school lists to get things done. That’s how I make the page per day work. If I needed to have everything in front of me, I would use the 2 pages per day.

So, there’s my set-up. I hope it’s helpful for students trying to figure out what they need!

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3 thoughts on “Using a personal Filofax for grad school and life

  1. Yay! I’m so glad you posted.

    I’m very jealous that you are able to use the FC inserts without issue. I can’t deal with them being wider than my binder and although I can trim and repunch them, it is a lot of work. I may end up getting them for next year if the ff dailies don’t work out for me. Currently I have a mix of dpp and 2 ppd so that I have full weekend sheets, but with the dpp, they are shared. So if that doesn’t work for me, I’m just going to suck it up and get the FC.

    Glad to see library school is going well!

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