Pen and paper – reviving the Filofax

New year, new Filofax, and a commitment to getting things done

Paperless GTD aficionados will quake in their task managers at the thought, but the new year brings for me a new Filofax. Apps are all well and good, but I’m far from ready to dismiss pen and paper entirely from my arsenal of writing, note-taking – and task management – tools.

Filofax Cuban and Parker Urban rollerball
Filofax Cuban and Parker Urban rollerball

I bought my first Filofax in 1986, the year Microsoft Corp. held its Initial Public Offering, and Steve Jobs and Apple Computer, Inc. reached an out-of-court settlement following his departure from the company he founded with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne in 1976. Jobs was already knee-deep in a new venture, NeXT, Inc., which Apple would buy a decade later, opening the door for Jobs to return to Apple as a consultant in 1997. These were the early days of mass computing – even Windows had yet to see the light – and paper-based to-do lists, task managers and diaries were, for most, the only ways to keep records and get things done.

In the years that followed my Filofax lost favour as a contact manager, a task taken on first by a simple text file, then a Palm Pilot Tungsten T. I continued to use my Filofax as a diary till four years ago when I bought an iPhone. My pocket-sized organiser was put on a shelf and that’s where it has stayed to this day.

But I found I was still scribbling in notebooks; many of the notes took the form of reminders or records, the kind of notes that really should be organised. There are apps designed for that, I know. Teuxdeux, an iPhone app with a web interface, is one of the better ones for simple day-to-day tasks. But breaking the habit of a lifetime – picking up a pen and making some, occasionally coherent, marks on paper – is something I don’t think I’ll ever get out of my system. So I decided not to fight it.

The picture, above, shows the result, a new Filofax. Specifically, Filofax’s Cuban A5 organiser (£68.88), shown with a Parker Urban rollerball (£14.24), in rich, soft Italian leather. It’s big enough to cope and sturdy enough that I can throw it in a bag and use it as a ‘laptop’ when I’m visiting clients. I’ll never have to worry about losing charge, or lugging cables, or which direction the sun is coming through the window.

There are some tasks, however, that the Filofax is not suited to. These are the big projects I manage for clients day in and day out. Numerous tasks go into completing a single project, and the list of tasks involved remains pretty much the same from one project to the next.

That’s where project-management apps come into their own. Before Christmas, I trialled Things and Omnifocus. Midway through the trial, Omnigroup announced that it would be releasing a new version of Omnifocus at the end of January 2013. I decided to wait and find out what all the fuss is about.

Meantime, I’ll make do with my Filofax and a plain-text document.